Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Saturday List #151 - The ten sayings that can get me through anything

I've got through a few things in my time. Job interviews, bereavements, medical procedures, relationship break ups, band break ups, professional disasters, football disappointments, etc. Over the course of my life, I've built up a collection of little sayings that I tell myself, when I need some inspiration to do something which seems impossible.

I thought I'd share my top ten with you.

1. "Faint heart never won fair lady". My Dad used to say this, whenever a situation required a little courage (as opposed to Dutch courage). Whenever I am about to do something scary and daunting, this is what I tell myself.

2. "If you don't try, then it's goodbye". This was the last line of a chorus of a False Dots song written by Allen Ashley and myself. As a songwriter, it is one of those really frustrating songs that has a great vibe, but just doesn't really work as well as it should. But the chorus is great. This is what I sing to myself if I need to run for a bus, or when I've been doing charity 10k runs and needed to push myself on.

3. "I may be old, I may be past it, but I don't quit". These words were spoken by Judge Dredd in an 2000AD comic strip, as he was battling a younger, stronger assassin who was taunting him. Most useful in 5-A-side football against the young whippersnappers.

4. "Think like a king, live like a king". My Dad once said this to me whilst purchasing some ham at a delicatessen shop in Mill Hill. He always bought ham, cut thick from the bone. I'd foolishly asked him why he didn't simply buy a packet. He said that he only bought the best, because anything else was false economy. He said that you should give yourself the very best, because no one else will. I have always lived by this. Always good advice at the Deli counter.

5. "Don't look at the splinter in your brothers eye, when you have a plank in your own". This is a biblical phrase from Jesus. He was berating hypocrites who can see everyone elses minor faults, without seeing they are the biggest problem. When I get cross with people, I always try and ask myself whether the plank is in my eye. Whenever I hear people sounding off about religion, if I don't see a degree of humility and self criticism, I conclude that they are the hypocrites that were being referred to.

6.  "Feelings may change, we're helpless they must". A line from a song by Richard Hell and The Voidoids (Betrayal takes two). This song got me through a very bleak time. Feelings do change. If they didn't we'd never move on. It is strange how I find one of the most cynical songs ever to also be one of the most inspirational. I often sing myself this song when I am feeling down.

7. "He thinks he's Picasso!". I used to work for a Hungarian painter and decorater called Mickey Domegal, who passed away many years ago. Mickey believed that a good job was a job done as quickly as possible, where he could collect the cash and move onto the next job. I was once carefully painting the eve's of a house in Golders Green, when Mickey looked up and made this exclamation. His view was that I should slosh the paint on as quickly as possible and get on. He explained that it was idiotic trying to get the same finish on something 30' up that no one would ever look at, as you would on a front door. Whenever I see someone pointlessly over elaborating, I think of this and it makes me smile.

8. "No one has dignity on the toilet". This was another one of my Dad's gems. We were chatting and he told me that when he arrived in the UK as an Aussie bomber pilot, many stuffy RAF officers looked down their noses at their colonial counterparts. My Dad found this condescending attitude insufferable. He told me that he once accidentally walked in on the worst of the lot, sitting on the throne. The poor chap was mortified, but my Dad thought it was hilarious. The next time the guy irritated him, my father replied "at least I know how to operate a doorlock" and the guy never bothered him again. He said he realised that if someone was a pompous jerk, all you had to do was visualise them on the loo and they suddenly seemed rather ridiculous and harmless. It works.

9. "He's faster than you, more skilful than you, but he can't do anything when he's on his backside". This was the advice I was given by an old manager of a football team I played for. I always played in defence. The team we were playing had a superstar striker. My manager wanted me to kick him off the park. He felt that if I could impose myself at the start, the guy would "disappear". He said that "fear is a great tool". It was a lesson I took on board. Useful on a football field, less so elsewhere.

10. "The only good reason to not do something you want to do, is because you physically can't". I spent a hell of a lot of time with my mum in her final years. She'd had a stroke and lost the ability to communicate effectively. Strangely, I found that if I had a couple of Guinness with her and she relaxed she'd become quite lucid. One of the last conversations I had with her, she told me that she had no regrets. She said she was so pleased that before she had a stroke and became housebound, she'd travelled and seen everything she'd wanted to. She said that she'd have hated to have been stuck, living with regrets. I asked her if she had any. She said the only real one was that she'd not persuaded my Dad to retire a couple of years earlier. I think she was probably right. I always let this advice guide me, when my wife, who is far more sensible and cautious than I, tries to inject some financial realism into our relationship!

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Friday Joke - 20//10/2017

It's Friday. The weekend beckons. So in accordance with tradition, we start with the Friday Joke

A man is at work one day when he notices that his co-worker is wearing an earring.This man knows his co-worker to be a normally conservative fellow and is curious about his sudden change in 'fashion sense.'The man walks up to him and says, 'I didn't know you were into earrings.'
'Don't make such a big deal, it's only an earring,' he replies sheepishly.
His friend falls silent for a few minutes, but then his curiosity prods
him to say, "So, how long have you been wearing one?"
"Ever since my wife found it in my car."
(I always wondered how this trend got started.)

Have a great one!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Chaos at the Council - The Freedom of Information systems goes haywire!

Yesterday, the Barnet Eye tried to check up on a few Freedom of Information requests. The first we looked at was one concerning expenses around council hospitality for dignitaries from Morphou in Cyprus.

This is the request and the link
3929896Hospitality costs for Morphou visits03 October 2017

Rather bizarrely, the link takes you to this request

Granville Point Building Control Application F/10/09886

We tweeted the issue to the council, who acknowledged the problem and are investigating. Since Barnet Council outsourced its IT systems to Capita there have been repeated cock ups, malfunctions and problems. These have been raised in audits and recovery plans have been drawn up to resolve the issue. A couple of years ago, we even saw the CEO of Barnet Council, Andrew Travers, get the boot following a spectacular IT failure the resulted in botched voters list being sent to polling stations on Election Day.

There is a simple reason for all of this. Changes to council systems and procedures are not being properly tested. Anyone who has ever worked in IT will know that if systems are properly designed, built and tested, they work well. If corners are cut to save money, they go spectacularly wrong and cost far more. If you have handed control to your supplier, they actually make more, as you have to pay them to fix it. You also have the reputation damage and the inconvenience to taxpayers. We have a council that is badly run by complacent councillors. The FOI system cock up is just the latest chapter in the litany of shame that Barnet Council IT has become.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Happy Birthday to Us! Nine years old

The Barnet Eye is nine years old! This was our first blog  - Hello, Good Evening and Welcome - we published it on 11th October 2008. Yes, I confess, I completely forgot about our anniversary. I didn't think it would last nine weeks, let alone nine years! I didn't anticipate the huge scandals we'd uncover. I didn't anticipate that I'd be joined by a team of other Barnet bloggers, who would become friends and colleagues and would make Barnet a quite unique place in terms of political commentary. I am not going to dwell on the negatives. I believe the Barnet Eye has been a totally positive thing for myself, for the Borough of Barnet and for the global army of readers, who have viewed the blog over 2,100,000 times. It's not just the local politics, it has helped me and other people (who have written to thank me) deal with cancer and dyslexia. Our annual awards, have become a key part of the social calendar and we've had a ton of fun on the way. The good news is that we're pleased to announce that our annual awards are on the 10th December at The Chandos Arms in Colindale. We are delighted to be hosting them at the National Community Pub of the Year!

We will shortly be consulting on who we should be dishing out the gongs to this year! So if you know a charity, a person, a restaurant, a volunteer or anyone else who deserves recogniotion, please leave a comment and we'll get in touch!

Finally, thanks for all of your support over the past nine years. If no one read this blog, I wouldn't bother. This year we've seen our biggest ever story in terms of hits, so it is great to know we still matter!

As a little present to you, we've prepared a London Playlist of some of our favourite London tracks  in the sidebar. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein is not a sex addict

I suppose that a few people may be shocked by this statement. However it is a100% clear to me that Mr Weinstein is not really someone who has a love or addiction of and to sex. His addiction is to control and power. The description of the encounters I have read have nothing at all to with having sex. It is clear that what Mr Weinstein enjoys is being in a situation where he can behave appallingly and without consequences. I contend that rape is never really about sex. It is a serious  act of violence and should be treated as such. By classifying Weinstein as a sex addict implies that his violence and bullying is in some ways a forgivable compulsion. It isn't. It is merely the act of a despicable man who believed he could do as he pleased.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Join our campaign for a better cycle network in the London Borough of Barnet

The Barnet Eye has long been supportive of safer cycling provision in the London Borough of Barnet. To us it seems perverse that it is now safer to cycle in central London than in our leafy suburb. The reason for this is not rocket science. It is because the Mayor of London has been proactively installing segregated cycle lanes. The Barnet Eye currently has an office near New Bridge Street. We've been based their on and off since 1986. Over the last few years, the installation of proper cycle lanes has transformed the area from a cycle free zone to a mini Tour De France on a daily basis. We shot a short film one morning to illustrate the point.

You will see a scene like this any weekday rush hour morning. In Barnet, there has been minimal commitment to make cycling safe. Sadly as we see rising teenage obesity, we see less and less children in the cuburns cycling. This is for the perfectly good reason that it is dangerous.

Installing dedicated cycle lanes is expensive and disruptive to other forms of traffic, as anyone who has seen the massive infrastructure spending on the cycle superhighway project will know. It does however pay off. Cycles use far less road space, produce no pollution and require far less space for parking. In short, you get more road for your money.

So what can be done? What practical steps could be taken in the London Borough of Barnet? We've spoken to various campaigners. At a recent council meeting, one informed us that the council hadn't even understood the meaning of key facts in its own plan!

The Barnet Eye has some suggestions. We are not experts on cycling, however expert advice is what is needed. Our first suggestion is that Barnet should appoint a cycling Tsar.This should be someone who at the very least would be able to spot the errors in the council own plans.

The second thing should be to draw up a proper Barnet plan, in conjunction with local cycling groups. One key aspect is that all large developments should have a proper cycling plan. This does not mean a few bike parking spaces. It means proper safe routes. We believe that every rail and tube station, every school, every shopping centre and every large medical facility in the Borough should have a safe dedicated cycleway. This cannot be achieved overnight, but the first step is to identify the key sites that generate journeys, then work out some sort of schedule of priorities. We need to look for a few quick wins.

My suggestion would be to transform the old, disused Mill Hill the Hale to Edgware railway into a dedicated cycleway. This would provide a safe cycling route between Edgware Station/Shopping centre and Mill Hill Broadway. We believe it should also be possible to link the route to Edgware Hospital. This would make a statement that Barnet is serious about cycling. It would link two major transport hubs, a housing estate and a hospital. We'd also like to see a Boris Bike scheme rolled out for Mill Hill Broadway, The RAF Museum, Colindale Station, Hendon Station and Middlesex University. If this could be integrated with a rollout of safe cycle lanes, then even better.

There are all sorts of other improvements that have been made in central London, with changes to traffic light configurations and timings. One of the biggest risks to cyclists are motorists opening doors in front of them. It has been suggested that part of the Highway code and driving test should be to always open the drivers door with the wrong hand (in the UK the left hand). This may sound strange but it forces you to look around.

We find it rather strange that recently we had the sad case of a cyclist hitting a pedestrian and all manner of calls for legislation. I've lost count of the number of cyclist killed or maimed by HGV's but there is never any call for changes to the law. I believe that technology is available to massively reduce the risks to cyclists of HGV's but the road transport lobby have done a wonderful job of closing down such debates.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 15/10/2017

Here we are again, our most popular weekly feature! What have our local twits been up to?

1. We'll start with what I think is a lovely picture from the Nepali community Diwali celebrations in Burnt Oak.

2.And another slightly older Burnt Oak institution was also celebrating this week.

3. 2nD Edgware Scouts out on their first ever hike! Lets give all the group leaders, helpers and volunteers a big shout out for organising such great community activities

4.Nice shot of the Phoenix from Finchley Mums

5. Good work from Barnet Police volunteer specials

6. Mr Reasonable thinks this sign at Chipping Library needs some TLC, we agree!

7. We rather like this tweet!

8. We always like a great historic Tweet and this one fits the bill

9.Bee Keepers never sleep! Great Tweet from Finchley Horticultural society

10. And lest hear it for a special volunteer at Stephens House

That's all folks!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Saturday List #150 - My Top Ten Saturday Lists!

Today is a big day for Saturday Lists! It is the 150th Edition! I never thought the series would make it to 150. I didn't realise that there were so many things that I could make a list about. To celebrate reaching 99 lists, I made a complete list of my lists, so if you want to pick and choose your top ten from the first 99, it's quite easy.

The Saturday List #99 - The complete list of Saturday Lists

I always enjoy putting the lists together (well not always true, sometimes if I have a hangover I'd rather not bother).

I was pondering what my top ten lists were for this edition. Here is my pick, in no particular order.

1 - The Saturday list #83 - My ten favourite tasty snacks in London

A good list makes the reader think and ask the question "what would mine be". I think this one works really well on that level.

2 - The Saturday List #39 - Ten Great Protest Songs

It's always good to put a list of great songs together. This is a good one. I love a good protest song.

3 - The Saturday List #12 - Ten shops win Mill Hill Broadway which I really miss

Always good to have a bit of nostalgia!

4 - The Saturday List #22 - How I will spend my lottery winnings

We've all made this one!

This one attracted a few comments from friends!

This one always makes me chuckle

This one was fun and got a few comments

I love  a bit of pontification!

The secret of my success!

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Friday Joke 13/10/2017

A group of Barnet politicians recently attended a session on sexual health and wellbeing. The rather charismatic course leader said 
"The first thing we always do is a little icebreaker, to try and work out what the group is like and what their interests in the subject are. So we will start with a little question for all of you.  According to a survey we just completed, ninety percent of all people masturbate in the shower. Interestingly, the ten percent  that don't sing a particular song by The Beatles"
The group sat back in thought. 
The therapist shook her head course leader then said "So can any of Barnet's finest tell me what song they sing?"
The group all scratched their heads and one by one exclaimed "No."
The course leader then said, "I didn't think so."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Can someone explain to Matthew Offord MP what an MP's job is supposed to be

There is a marvellous website where you can find out all about your MP. I have just used it to look up my MP -

All you need to do is put in your postcode and you can find out who your representative in Parliament is.  MP's are elected to represent you. There is all sorts of interesting information on this site, such as who has been giving donations to local MP's and their local parties. Sometimes it is quite interesting. Sometimes it is banal, here are some recent examples of donations to Mr Offord and his party. I am sure a few local residents will find some of these mildly interesting.

Register of Members’ Interests

Last updated: 11 Sep 2017.
2. (a) Support linked to an MP but received by a local party organisation or indirectly via a central party organisation
Name of donor: Mr Daniel Green
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £5,000
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

Name of donor: Mr Andrew Reid
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £700
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

2. (b) Any other support not included in Category 2(a)
Name of donor: Bestway Wholesale Ltd
Address of donor: 2 Abbey Road, Park Royal, London NW10 7BW
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £2,000
Date received: 10 May 2017
Date accepted: 10 May 2017
Donor status: company, registration 01207120
(Registered 04 July 2017)

Name of donor: Mr Andrew Reid
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £3,000
Date received: 11 May 2017
Date accepted: 2 June 2017
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

I personally think it is rather touching that people think Mr Offord is doing a good job and feel inclined to donate cash towards the expenses he has incurred running his campaigns. There are more historical donations here -

Sadly for Mr Offord, not everyone in the Borough is quite so impressed with his efforts. I was alerted to one such person by none other than Brian Coleman, formerly a local Tory bigwig, until he rather blotted his copybook. Brian posted the following tweet yesterday.

I was intrigued. A few months ago, Local Mill Hill Councillor Val Duschinsky had told me that "there was a person with mental issues who had launched a malicious complaint against Mr Offord". I had sympathised with Val, as clearly people in public life and MP's especially are at risk, as the the tragic Jo Cox case demonstrated. In light of this I was intrigued and clicked through to the article.

What greeted me was not what I expected at all given the headline and quite interesting. The headline in Mr Coleman's tweet implied that Mr Offord had been cleared of all bad behaviour. On reading the article, the detail painted a slightly different picture. The commissioner had said that the complaint was outside their remit. This is a completely different to being cleared. I was intrigued. I looked up the name of the complainant and found they were on Twitter. Not only that, they were a University Lecturer. As a blogger, it struck me that there may be a story. So I pinged the person a message and asked if they would talk about it. In light of Vals comments, I was a tad surprised to find out that the reply I got was sane and rational. I enquired what she wanted to discuss with Offord in general terms. The reply "Some issues with our street, some issues about local business development, and his voting record - particularly related to welfare reductions."

 It all sounded very run of the mill, I couldn't for the life of me see why Offord and his staff had become so difficult. And how did the Times hear about the complaint? This is answered by the complainant in a comment. 
"I contacted the Times as I was hoping that as a local paper they would be interested in the refusal of Mr Offord to respond to requests for a meeting, or to give details about his surgery hours. I am university lecturer (having worked at Middlesex University for a long time), a mother of a small child how goes to School in the local area, and a long-time resident of Hendon. When I contacted Mr Offord's office I said that I did not want to share my concerns over email, but would rather meet personally. I was never told that this was the issue preventing Mr Offord from giving me details about this surgery hours - and I have emailed this morning (12.10.17) giving three specific reasons why I would like to meet with him. This should calm Mr Offord's fears about his personal safety. All Hendon residents should be concerned about the lack of communication from Mr Offord about a simple request for surgery hours. They should be more concerned that the parliamentary complaints commission CANNOT follow up on MPs who refuse to respond to or engage with their constituents. Finally, I will be contacting the IPSO if the title of the article is not changed - as to suggest Mr Offord is 'vindicated' is misleading."
So it seems that the matter was as simple as a constituent trying to contact an MP, not getting a satisfactory response and making a complaint in frustration. The Times clearly realised that the original text was misleading and changed the text & title, giving Dr Sanders-McDonagh her correct title and removing all reference to Mr Offord being vindicated.

I do hope that Matthew Offord now makes the effort to meet his constituent. The reason the information portal for finding info on MP's is called "TheyWorkForYou" because they do. It took me five minutes to find out that Dr Sanders-McDonagh is a well respected University lecturer. I would have thought this is just the type of person Mr Offord should be chatting to. Given his staff stated they had declined the request on the grounds she is dangerous, surely this is now not a sustainable argument.

Back in 2008, I requested a meeting with my then MP, Andrew Dismore. I had decided to quit the Labour Party and I wanted to discuss the reasons with Mr Dismore. There were many issues, with him, with the constituency and with the Labour Party that had disillusioned me. I wrote to him, explained my issues and requested a meeting. It was a very difficult meeting for Dismore, at the end of which I informed him I was leaving the Labour Party. It is fair to say that we did not part on good terms. Despite all of that, I still respected him as he had made the time and bothered to listen. In short, he did his job and explained in detail his actions.

Mr Offord should learn from the example of Dismore, who has never ducked out of difficult meetings, hid behind staff or misused police guidance to avoid difficult conversations with clever academics. He should do his job and if someone who is much cleverer than he is, gives him a hard time, he should embrace the opportunity to learn something. After seven years it is sad that Mr Offord still doesn't seem to really understand what his job should be.