Thursday, 3 December 2020

A year is a very long time in the Covid world

It has been a very, very difficult year for everyone I know. In December, I usually have a round up of various things from the year. Around this time, I start reading through blogs posted in the intervening 12 months, trying to work out what sort of year its been. Today I took the first tentative steps towards putting those blogs together. I thought I'd start by looking at the blogs from early December 2019.  I started with the blog from this very day last year. It seems odd that back then the story was the election, Jeremy Corbyn and whether the Lib Dems could oust the Tories in Finchley. Both the Lib Dems and Labour have new Leaders as a result of the election. I was told by someone who works at the hospital where Boris was treated, that the Tories also nearly got a new Leader due to Covid. Some have cast doubt on how ill Boris really was, imagining a conspiracy to boost his ratings, but from what I've heard, if anything his illness was underplayed rather than overplayed. I think that in hindsight it is a massive loss that Luciana Berger failed to take Finchley and Golders Green from the Tories. It may not have changed the maths of the general election by much, but I genuinely believe that she would have done a far better job of representing the local people than Mike Freer MP ever will do. The local Labour Party, which was never warm on Corbyn, should hang their head in shame that they did everything they possibly could to prevent a Tory loss in a seat they simply couldn't win. But that seems a long time ago.

We now have Ed Davey and Keir Starmer running the Lib Dems and Labour. I genuinely can't make my mind up about Starmer. One has to admire the way he forensically dissects Boris Johnson on a weekly basis. It has got to the point where Boris Johnson has seemingly given up even trying to win. He simply trots out fairly mindless slogans such as "Captain Hindsight". This may be effective if Starmer hadn't predicted the problems in advance. If he called him "Captain Smug Bastard Know it All Mc Told You So" it may ring truer. It puzzles me why Boris doesn't pick Starmer up for his smugness. If I were Boris, I'd take the tack of saying "it's all very well standing there looking smug just because you occasionally get something right, but I've got a country to run". It would also help if Boris bothered to do his homework. If just once, he learned all of the facts and figures and actually answered a few questions properly at #PMQ's it might actually cause a problem to Starmer. My big problem with Starmer is that he looks exceptionally good at shooting dead haddocks in a barrel. I have struggled to work out my reticence to like Starmer and I think part of it is that I have a very British urge to support the underdog, even when it is a complete knob like Johnson. I'd actually like to see Johnson do a bit better so we could see what Starmer was really made of. My worry is that he's Tony Blair MkII. A man who always is assured at the despatch box, a man who commands a very good team, but also a man who believes in nothing at all. As my blog from last year recalled, the problem with Jeremy Corbyn wasn't that he was a Marxist ideologue, ruthlessly prepared to do whatever it took to get his hands on power. The problem was that he was a rather like a radical left wing geography teacher, who had his head in the clouds and no clue how to run a party. Like a radical lefty geography teacher, he would obsess on his pet causes in far flung parts of the world, whilst his own party and campaign fell apart. A ruthless Marxist would have sacked anyone who stood in their way and made sure they controlled the levers of power in their own party. Corbyn did none of this, which is why his own team undermined and destroyed him.

It always seemed to me that the threat posed by Corbyn to anyone was massively overstated, because with all of his lack of organisational ability, there was no chance that he'd ever win anything. Many were spooked by the result of the election where Theresa May lost her majority, but there was never the slightest chance that Corbyn would be Prime Minister without an unmanageable rainbow coalition, that would never have done anything, apart from pork barrel the Nationalists in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. 

I fully expected Boris to be a disaster as a PM. Sadly, as none of us foresaw covid, I didn't expect that the depth of the disaster would be 60,000 deaths within a year. We are less than a month  from Brexit with no idea whether there will be a deal. As a business owner, for the first time in 41 years I look forward to a New Year not knowing if my business will still be around in a years time. By my maths, if the current situation of lockdowns and restrictions on live music goes on much beyond April, then carrying on as we are will be impossible. What that means I don't know, but you can only carry on with a 50% drop in turnover for so long. When we start having to pay rates again, we will see a crunch. We are not the only business in that position. I know of several studios that have cashed their chips in now, whilst they still have cash in the bank. The sad truth is that if there is no live music, then few musicians will be able to justify the cost of paying for rehearsals. I was talking to one professional drum tech today, who was telling me that he's got a 'proper job' for the first time, selling insurance for new kitchens. I asked him how it was going. He replied that it was OK, he had finally managed to get a mortgage. A sad reflection on our society. Don't get me wrong, I won't go down without a fight, but a business is only a business if it has customers. The only small ray of light, and it is not one I say with any joy, is that many of our competitors have closed, so we are getting new customers from all over London, who have lost their regular studios. I suppose if things come back by April, we may even have our best year ever, but I won't be placing any bets on that.



Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Covid isolation and a lesson in friendship

 On Sunday, I had a bit of a wake up call. You think you are doing the right things, then you get a rude awakening and you realise that you've been living in a happy bubble and that many people, some good friends, are in a very different bubble, a bubble that is neither happy or easy. 

Let me explain. I am the deputy group leader of a group which operates under the auspices of a charity, which most years takes a group of people with disabilities to Lourdes in France. Most of the people who need assistance are what we designate for the purposes of covid "vulnerable". This year, as luck would have it, we were not going. We normally have a break every third or fourth year and this was our break year. This spared us a lot of wasted work. The whole idea of such a trip is simply unfeasible in the current circumstances. In a normal break year we may have one or two group reunions. These, too have been impossible. About a month ago, I suggested a virtual get together, using Zoom. I offered to host the get together. The invites were sent and last Sunday was the day. 

If I am being 100% honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. I have always disliked 'virtual meetings'. I understand the necessity, but my experiences of them over the years has been one that has lead me to develop an aversion to the process. In the business environment, I always felt that it offered far too much scope for people to hide, who did not wish to be productive. I was also concerned about people not being able to join, given the issues some of the group face. It was important to me to ensure that the people who most needed the get together were not excluded. The group leader made a lot of efforts to ensure that this happened. 

Much as I had feared, when the meeting started, some key players had issues joining. But all in all, 28 of the group participated and we did iron out the problems, so everyone got on in the end.  About half way through the get together, it hit me that for some of the group, it wasn't just a nice little get together. They had been looking forward to this for weeks, and even in the difficult medium of Zoom, it was something that they not only enjoyed, but needed. People shielding as they are at high risk have had virtually no social contact outside family members for the best part of nine months. Just the act of seeing friendly faces on a screen and having a bit of banter etc gave them a massive lift. I've been working since the end of the first lockdown. My business is allowed to operate and I've seen the friendly faces of customers  old and new on a daily basis. Some of the people in our group are confined to wheelchairs and have only seen carers for the whole period. The meeting gave them a little glimpse of normality and it was also a demonstration that we cared. 

In normal years, people in such a position still have a social life. They get out, they go to the pubs, see friends, etc. This year none of that has been possible. When I'd been discussing the meeting, I'd envisaged it as I envisage the normal reunion in a year off. But this year, it had a very different significance for many in the group.  For some, it was perhaps the first tenuous link with normality for almost nine months, beyond the mundane rituals of daily life. It was a reminder that we will get away, we will see each other and we, as a group, haven't forgotten anyone.

One helper, who's mum has been a very long time group member, was telling us of his mums struggles. She has dementia and is currently in hospital (non covid related) awaiting a care plan to return home. He told us that whilst coming to terms with her dementia has been difficult, he has come to realise that their relationship now has no side, no edge. All of the silly things we bicker about no longer matter and everything he takes from the relationship is good. They just laugh, joke, watch films and listen to music. He told us that once you can reconcile to the fact that you are living entirely in the present, it is something that you can take enormous positives from. 

It was suggested that we have another pre Christmas get together, to sing some carols etc before Christmas. It was clear that there were people who this really would make a difference for. 

The reason I chose to write a blog about this is because I am sure we all have friends and family who at the moment are feeling forgotten. We have the technology in this day and age to address this. The meeting gave me a lesson in friendship. It is a two way thing. We put our efforts in, but we also get much out of it. When the meeting finished, I felt uplifted. I got several messages after to tell me that people were extremely grateful that we'd put the effort into pulling the whole thing together. 

We really all should think about whether there are any friends who would benefit from a phone call or friendship groups where a member might enjoy a bit of banter and a Zoom call. I'm glad I had a reminder of what we should all be doing. 

One final thought. One of the key members reminded us that the people we help are looked after by professional carers. Back in Lockdown one,  we were out clapping them every Thursday. Now, in the second lockdown, the government have told many they don't deserve a pay rise. That can't be right, can it?

Monday, 30 November 2020

Why taking a vaccine is a sociable and sensible thing to do

 Why would you want to listen to me on this subject? I have no qualifications beyond an A level in biology taken 40 years ago and a short holiday work placement in the immunology dept of the National Institiute for Medical Research, as a lab porter, which I took over the Xmas holiday in 1979 to assist with a project. So in short, I know marginally more than someone who knows nothing at all. If you want to tell me I am talking nonsense and have a more impressive qualification, can demonstrate your argumenst with peer reviewed studies and research, I will quite happily update this blog. However I am thoroughly sick and tired of people who know even less than I do making pronouncements on Twitter and Facebook, talking with the faith of a Pope from the middle ages on the subject, claiming that we should not take the vaccine for a variety of reasons that at best are rather dodgy and at worst seem to be based on evidence posted with malicious intent to put people at risk. Here is my take on it.

1. Are vaccines safe? I doubt there is anything that is 100% safe for everyone. Every day someone is killed by bad reactions to peanuts, coffee, alcohol, flour etc. But the whole point of medical trials is to ensure that such reactions are extremely rare. Just about everyone in the UK has been vaccinated at some point and the eradication of diseases such as Polio is a direct result of this. My eldest brother had polio in the 1950's and still suffers as a result. My grandmother was killed by TB in 1960, two years before I was born. Vaccination has ensured that neither TB nor Polio will kill me. Several years ago I had to travel to India for work. I had all of the vaccinations required, mandatory and optional. A colleague didn't have the optional Japanese Encephalitus vaccination. He caught it and is now medically pensioned off. As an individual there is a small chance that you will have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Should you catch the disease, there is a statistically far higher chance of severe harm or death. As far as I can see, the most sane and rational thing to do is to be vaccinated as whilst nothing is 100% safe it is far safer than the alternative.

2. Why should I have the vaccine if I am not at risk? There are three aspects to this. The first is that you have to ask yourself how you would feel if you passed it on to someone else, maybe a loved one who died as a result? I know if I did that and I could have avoided it with a vaccination, I would find it a difficult thing to live with. The second thing is that the higher the uptake, the quicker the population will have 'herd immunity' which means the virus will be deprived of hosts, on whom it can find new victims. The third is that not everyone who is vulnerable actually  realises they are vulnerable. Whilst it seems rare for young, fit, healthy people to die of covid, it is not unknown. I would take the view that if I was going to get a bad reaction to a vaccine, I may well get a much worse reaction to the real live virus. I have no way of knowing if that is a correct view, but it would seem likely to me that if there was some element of a deactivated virus that upset my immune system, the real thing would be worse. Of course if everyone else takes the vaccine, you won't be at risk. But that simply isn't going to happen.

3. Is the corona virus vaccine part of some massive conspiracy? This is the one that really gets me. I've yet to understand exactly what Bill Gates is supposed to want to achieve and what the "Bill Gates Vaccine" is meant to do, but if those 'in charge' really wanted to do some dastardly deed, I'm sure there are far easier ways. Given that we smoke, drink alcohol, eat all manner of illness inducing foods and sugary drinks etc, it seems to me that we don't really need Bill Gates help to harm ourselves. Any casual observer would conclude that Boris and his government are doing a fine job trashing the economy but I believe anyone who thinks this is anything other than ineptitude has been smoking something I could use right now. 

4. The vaccine cannot have been properly tested in such a short time? I'm not qualified to comment on how a vaccine can be safely tested, but science has moved rapidly over the last twenty years. Modern IT systems allow results to be collated and analysed far more quickly than when things such as the polio vaccine was developed. Scientists also know what they are doing to a far greater extent. Vaccines work by generating an immune response. For a vaccine to work, your body will have to develop some degree of immunity to whatever foreign agent is contained in the vaccine. I'm not aware of any cases where some monstrous side effect kicks in ten years after a vaccine has been administered as there is something 'lurking there'. 

5. Will the politicians be taking it? I have no idea. I hope so and I would not vote for any that didn't.As I beleive it is the sensible thing to do, I would have to conclude that any politicans who don't are not sensible people.

6. Do I need the vaccine if I've had corona virus. My understanding is that once you've had the virus, you are immune for a period. I doubt that people who have survived the virus will be offered it any time soon.But there may be reasons, such as different variants that make it desireable. I'd ask a doctor if you are unsure. 

7. The incidence of Corona virus is low in my area so why do I need it? I guess the answer to this is that it is a contageous disease, the incidence is low everywhere until it is not low. 

8. There is no proof the vaccine works, why should I take the risk? I've seen a few tweets claiming this. The amazing thing about science is that there is proof. The trials ensure there is. The science of vaccines has been developed over  acouple of hundred years. The rules for releasing vaccines on the public ensure there is evidence. It may not be good enough to satisfy you, but that is a different thing altogether. The gist of what I've read is that virus sceptics believe the results are somehow faked. Like the lunar landings, the death of Hitler and the round Earth. There are some people who will dismiss all of the evidence that doesn't suit their viewpoint. .

If the whole thing is a great big scam, then doctors, scientists, public health officials etc are part of the conspiracy. Members of mty family, friends etc are part of it and are allowing friends and family to fall victim. To me that is just too ridiculous a concept.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 29/11/2020

 The last Sunday of lockdown, the last Sunday of November, the first Sunday of Advent, the Christmas season, the weather is grey, the football has been exciting. But what have the tweeters of the Borough of Barnet been up to? Find out here (some proper top nothc tweets this week).

1. Perhaps Mill Hills favourite son, friend of my Dad, a legend, tragically lost 45 years ago today. He has a blue plaque in Parkside. RIP Champ, still racing on the big circuit in the sky


2. This looks worth a watch for all of you transport history nuts. It always amused me that the Trolleybus to Burnt Oak was the 666!


3. Edgware used to be the world epicentre for manufacture of musical instruments. Sadly manufacturing i this part of the world is almost non existent now. Nice tweet!


4. If any of you are stuck trying to work out what to get me for Xmas, one of these will do. Looking fantastic in Hampstead


5. This reminded me, must head on down to Wing Yip soon. One of our local gems, if like me you fancy yourself as a bit of a Fanny Craddock (younger readers ask your Grandma what this means!)


6. Good to know that the pitch will be in top notch condition for the resatrt at our local football team. Head on down next Saturday to support the boys. Grassroots football must survive


7. Regular readers will know I love a good map and what could be better than a map of local pubs. If there are any budding mapmakers out there who want to make an updated version, let me know. This is wonderful


8. Wonderful picture of a Short Eared Owl at Darlands Nature reserve by Finchley Birder


9. I'm endebted to Mark Amies AKA @Time_NW for digging out this picture of me on my bike in the mid 1970's and Ian McGreevy for telling the tale of the the road contractor who couldn't go round corners! Classic tweeting!


10. We had proper reggae royalty in Mill Hill this week!


Thats all folks!

Saturday, 28 November 2020

The Saturday List #288 - My top ten funny moments from the movies

 We all have favourite moments from the movies. As this is the final Saturday of the second lockdown, I thought it would be a good time to post these, as we all need a good smile. 

1. Life of Brian -  "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy" This film is full of great moments. I'm not a massive Monty Python fan, but this is classic.

2. The Producers - "Where did it all go right" - The original with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. An amazing film, I love the pathos of this scene. Couldn't find a good clip of this. Watch the film

3.  Kind Hearts and Coronets "The confession". The final scene where a reprieved Alec Guinness, remembers he's left a full confession in his cell. A classic twist. Coulnd't find this either, use the end of lockdown to check it out

4.  Some like it Hot - "Well nobody's perfect". The film ends with Jerry (Jack Lemon) revealing to Osgood (Joe E. Brown), who has the hots for his character (played in drag), that he is in fact a man. Osgood is totally undeterred, announcing "Well nobody's perfect".

5. Up in Smoke - "Lardass". As a teenager I loved the stoner humour of Cheech and Chong. There is a scene where they go to the Police station to buy weed off a bent cop. As the cop goes off to retrieve some from the stash of confiscated weed, the Cop who is supposed to be staking out Cheech and Chong radio's in to report. He is operating under the codename of "Hardhat". Having access to the radio Cheech replies "Hey Lardass!". The cop then repeats "This is Hardhat" to which the same response is received. It always makes me snigger.

6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There is a scene where Steve Martin and John Candy wake up in a double hotel bed, which circumstances have forced them to share. As they awake, they have forgotten who they are sharing the bed with, the scene is both embarrassing and extremely funny. There reaction when they realise is classic.

7. Stir crazy - The Jail Scene. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder are put in a cell with some rather mean dudes. The first time I saw it, I nearly cried with laughter watching them arrive trying to look bad and the whole thing unravelling in a matter of seconds. 

8. Kes - The football scene. Brian Glovers performance as Mr Sugden, the over enthusiastic Manchester United supporting games master, who joins in with the kids game is comedy gold. 

9. Four Lions. The bleach  scene is classic. Very dark humour but hilarious


10. Crocodile Dundee. "That's not a knife". Hogan at his finest, a lesson in how to deal with muggers



That's all folks.


Friday, 27 November 2020

Why we need a risk based approach to beating Covid

 Now we all know what tier we are in and how we will be spending Christmas. We have to recognise that the government has a nearly impossible job in balancing the measures needed to keep people alive against the needs of the population to exist and the needs of the economy to pay for the measures. I've restricted my criticisms to when it is absolutely clear that the government is making a terrible mistake, such as the 'eat out to help out' scheme. There are several things we've learned. The first is that lockdowns do work in their goal of bringing down the rate of transmisison of the virus. We all hate the concept but the reason we have to some extent contained the outbreak is because the government has made us all lock ourselves away. It is pretty clear to me that both times, the government did it too late in the day, meaning more damage was done to the economy and our mental health than needed. A lockdown is a very blunt instrument. It is like using a sledgehammer to bang in a nail, it will bang the nail in but there is bound to be all manner of collatoral damage. Any sane person would only use a sledgehammer to bang a nail in if the nail had to be banged in and there was no more appropriate tool. 

Given that the first lockdown was implemented in a panic when it was clear matters were getting out of hand, we can't blame Boris for grabbing the biggest tool in the toolbox and whacking away. For the second lockdown, the government sort of manufactured the crisis itself, with its cash bung to get us all socialising. As a business owner, I watched with horror as the government spent hundreds of millions getting us to do the least sensible thing possible in the middle of a pandemic. what bemused me was that the scheme was not tied in to the launch of the track and trace app. A cash bung to get us all using it would have mitigated to some extent the effects.

Having got us all merrily reinfecting each other, once again a lockdown was inevitable and once again it was done too late. Once again they haven't learned the lesson of "Eat out to infect your Granny" and are set to repeat the fiasco with the easing of restrictions over Christmas. Much as it would be lovely to see people, I can't see any way another spoke and another lockdown can be avoided, once we've all travelled around spreading the virus along with peace and goodwill. 

The more I think about it, the more I am reminded of Margaret Thatcher and her response to the AIDS epidemic. AIDS coincided with the period in my life when I was most sexually active. After the sexual liberation of the 60's and 70's, it was a very bad hangover. Thatcher never struck me as someone who felt comfortable publicly discussing sex. Her section 28 laws were highly repressive for the LGBTQ+ community. When it became clear that AIDS was a major threat to the population, Thatcher put her Victorian morality to one side and followed the science. Her government set about educating the nation about risky behaviour. They realised that telling promiscuous people not to have sex was ridiculously stupid, so they educated us with how to mitigate the risks. The condom was the primary weapon. Many people have different ideas abut what Thatchers greatest achievement was, but for me it will always be persuading sexually active people to wear condoms. Whatever you may think of Thatcher, that probably save half a million lives. 

Fast forward to late November 2020. Where is the condom (so to speak)? Well there are two main 'condoms' one is a facemask and one is sanitising your hands. These are the measures that scientist are advising are the best way to combat transmission. I don't really recall anyone saying that wearing a condom was an infringement of your rights back in 1984. What is clear is that the government has got the message about masks completely wrong. It spent months saying they were useless before doing a massive U-turn. I've read things that suggested that the initial reluctance was all about the lack of available PPE for health workers. If this is true, it is a damning indictment. They should have levelled up with us.

There seems to me to be a marked reluctance to 'trust the science'. I recall back in 1984 there were conspiracy theories about AIDS. It was allegedly manufactured by the CIA to wipe out Gay people and black people. I shudder to think what would have happened if Bill Gates made condoms back then. 

The reason the UK did well with the IADS epidemic and so badly with Covid is because back in 1984, the government treated us like adults, laid out the risks, told us sensible mitigations and spent a lot of money making sure the message got through. We learned what were 'risky behaviours'. My greatest criticism of the government of Boris Johnson is that we've not been treated like adults in the same way. Pubs are shut /opened not on the level of risk they pose but because they are in areas with a high transmission rate. The figures show that going to the supermarket is far more risky, but they've had no restrictions placed on them.

I regularly go to all sorts of pubs. Between the two lockdowns, I probably visited 20 different ones. A couple had no mitigations at all in place, some were completely covid safe (given my understanding of the rules) and some were somewhere in between. In my view, every establishment that is open to the public should complete a risk assessment and submit it to their local authority.They should have it readily available for customers to review and any that do not perform the mitigations properly should be closed. Establishments that are safe, conversely, should be open. It is far safer to meet friends in a regulated, safe pub than to sneak around to their house. The government should be able to identify risk hot spots. I would refuse entry to all public places if people do not have the track and trace app (unless they have a very good reason). By plotting peoples movements, hot spots should be identified. The app should also be able to identify where establishments are not enforcing social distancing rules.

The bottom line though is that most people will not die of covid, even if infected. Most will have symptoms no worse than a bad cold or flu. The vulnerable groups are well known. They have had no proper protection from day one. This is where the risk is. As our knowledge of the disease has evolved we should have improved our methods of keeping the vulnerable safe. We havent. Any risk assessment should identify how people at risk will be managed in any environment. If we knew the hotspots where people with the disease are most likely to pass it on and we identify those who most need protection, we should be able to mitigate these risks.

What we have is rules that state you can't drink eight pints of Guinness and eat a pickled onion in a pub, but you can sink six bottles of Malbec and have a pasty and chips. If you think that is a science based approach to managing the risks of covid, I'm afraid to say I think you are off your trolley.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Open letter to John Hooton - CEO at Barnet Council regarding problems with the Barnet Council pension scheme

 Dear Mr Hooton,

I have been contacted by several former employees of Barnet Council who are having serious issues with their Barnet Council pension. The scheme is administrated by Capita and it is clear to me that the mismanagement of the administration is causing real pain and financial hardship for people who dedicated their career working for Barnet. 

Unfortunately, much as I would love to be able to help these people directly, my only role in this matter can be as a blogger who is in a position to disseminate information and suggest to these poor unfortunate people how their issues can be resolved. It is quite clear that the 'usual channels' are not working, therefore can I ask you to do the following things.

1. Provide contact details for a council official who can act as a direct go between and will be in a position to actually resolve the problems rather than just fobbing people off.

2. Reslove to take whatever actions are necessary to resolve the issues with your suppliers. I would appreciate an update on this matter.

3. Provide a date by which you expect measures to be put in place to ensure that all former Barnet Council employees who receive a pension can expect the issues to be resolved. 

4. A personal assurance that you will personally accept responsibility for ensuring that these issues are resolved. 

I would appreciate an update that can be posted for the readers of my blog. If however this is not possible, please pass on whatever information you can, so that I can pass this back to the people who have contacted me. I am sure you appreciate that many people are under severe strain at present. It is most important that Barnet Council treats its former employees with the respect and courtesy they deserve and ensures that they receive pensions that they are entitled to in a timely manner.

Regards

Roger Tichborne

P.S. I have cc'd the Leader of the Council into this for information

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Don't feel guilty for being happy

 It has been a tough old year so far. In a months time it will be Christmas Eve. For our family Christmas Eve is a special time. We have developed a set routine. We meet up with family, go to Mass at the Sacred Heart for the Xmas service. This is always a joy. For me, hearing children sing 'Away in a manger' around the crib is special. It always brings a tear to my eye. It's been a long time since I was a small, innocent child, doing that, but it takes me to a special time and place. I feel close to my long departed parents and being surrounded by family is a lovely thing. After mass, we adjourn to a local restaurant. It always used to by Leyla's for a Turkish meal, in recent years, we moved over to Prezzo as there is a wider range (Leyla's shut last year) and some of thre group pereferred Pizza's etc. We then go home and exchange present with those we won't see on Xmas day. A few libations are despatched. I always have a note in my diary for today to remind me to order the Turkey, think of a present for Clare, arrange an Xmas beer with a couple of friends that I've not seen through the year. It gives me a month to get myself in order. 

As I am sure you are aware, this year that note is largely redundant right now. I doubt those beers will be had. It seems likely that London will be in tier 2 or 3 of lockdown. It seems that we might see the family, but mass and a meal at Prezzo seems unlikely. In a normal year, I'd be in the middle of planning a few things right now. Since the Barnet Eye became established, we've always had the Barnet Eye community awards and The False Dots Xmas party in December. That isn't happening. There is the annoual Pogues/Pogue traders gig. That isn't happening. There is the Xmas trip to The Etihad for a match. There is my sister in laws Xmas party in Notting Hill. There is our post Xmas break with friends. You get the picture. 

When the reminder kicked in, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I decided to laugh. As I'm writing this blog, I'm tucking into a rather tasty pasta dish prepared by Clare. I am seated in the reception of my studio, which has a few pro bands rehearsing and recording this week. There are a few with online streamed shows this week. The fact that clubs like the 606 club are having live streamed events is a very good thing and I've heard some of the artists rehearsing for the shows is a really positive and uplifting thing. 

I was thinking long and hard about the issue of no Pogues this year. It occured to me that the reason that humans are a successful species as we are clever and adaptable. There are a few rather good videos of the band in their pomp. There's no reason we can't watch these, even if it is with friends in the garden (of course observing the social distancing rules whatever they are) on our projector. Get the Guinness in and make the best. There is a law that says we can't do certain things we enjoy, but there is no rule that says we can't be happy. We just have to put some thought into it. I was chatting to a friend who is making a Christmas cake. He is feeding the fruit with Brandy. We deserve a good Christmas this year. This doesn't mean being irresponsible or stupid. But it should mean that we be happy. In some ways we are lucky. We can do the Zoom catch up. The power is still on. The lights are working. Boucharie Gerard are still selling Turkeys and Sausages. We can have the best feast we've had all year. Put in some planning. Have the nicest beer, the best bottle of wine, make up a play list of your fave songs. Put the extra effort in. Find everyones favourite Xmas songs and versions. 

But also spare a thought for those who might not be in such a good position. This is the time to donate to your local foodbank. Charities like the local Age UK are also doing great work with loneliness. We should never feel gulity for enjoying ourselves and feeling happy. Heaven knows this year has shown how much we need some laughter and joy. But lets spread it around a bit.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 22/11/2020

 Here's this weeks tweets. A few interesting nuggets in there, even if I say so myself. We live in a wonderful part of London, even in these strange and difficult times there is much of interest. Please follow any of these tweeters who tickle your fancy. 

1. Looking forward to the restart of grassroots football


2. Some things just make you smile. Not much good has come out of covid, but this might just catch on!


3. Nice bit of local history


4. Are you a beer fan? You can get beer brewed in Finchley delivered straight to your door!


5. Sadly the tour didn't make it to Finchley Catholic when I was there! I loved this


6. Need a calendar? This one looks pretty cool to me


7. Mark Amies has been on top form with his @Time_NW account this week. If you like local history, follow this account


8. Very nice shot of Golders Hill Park


9. Congratulations to Copthall School and it's wonderful head Evelyn Forde. My family has a long standing association with the school. They deserve the plaudits


10. We'll end it with a rather nice picture of Mill Hill from today. There are some great walks in the Borough of Barnet. Arrendene is one of the best.


That's all folks!

Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Saturday List #287 - Ten reasons why I love the Pogues

 I will not be the only one having a rather low key Christmas this year. One key feature that will be missing will be my fix of The Pogues. For many years, the official start of my Xmas celebrations was to see the Pogues Christmas show. This was always a raucous night of drinking, dancing, singing and generally over celebrating. Following the passing of Phil Chevron and with Shane's health problems, the band stopped touring, but fortunately on of my friends, Paul Evans, joined a Pogues Tribute band, The Pogue Traders. I don't need much of an excuse to check out a band, and Paul joining was the perfect excuse. To my delight, they were rather good and their Xmas show at the Dublin Castle was a more than suitable substitute. The band are more a celebration of the bands music than a Tribute, where the band actually pretend to be the characters. The lead singer Lou has the voice of Shane, but doesn't pretend to be the man. Many only really know the band through that Xmas single and through the notoriety of Shane as a hard drinker. The amazing body of music the band produced has been over looked in the hubris. I know Spider Stacey as he's a good mate of Boy Boorer and has done a few recordings and rehearsals at the studio. I had a pleasant evening a while back watching The Rails with Boz, Spider and his wife a while back. He's been on the wagon for a good few years, but he's still good company. 

This week, the Pogues have been in the news for a crushing put down of right wing poster boy Laurence Fox. Fox had tried to whip up a storm about the BBC censoring 'fairytale'. It inspired me to put this list together.

1. Regular readers of the blog will know that my Dad was an Aussie WW2 bomber pilot. For him ANZAC's  day was a solemn day. He was born on 1st April 1917, as the war to end all wars raged. We were taught the story of Galipoli at his knee. We were taught that whilst we should be prepared to fight and if necessary die for democracy, justice and fairness, we should never trust the establishment that would sacrifice fine men in such reckless missions. Whenever I hear this song, I think of my Dad and I shed a small tear. I know they didn't, but I always feel that they played this song just for me.



2. I'm not entirely sure of the exact moment I wanted to play guitar in a rock and roll band, but when I was a small child and my two elder brothers were at home, back in the mid 1960's, they would have their friends around for a 'sing song'. My brothers are twins and had a sublime musical understanding. They would harmonise and bounce of each others playing. As we come from a Roman Catholic, North London background, Irish songs and skiffle were a big part of the equation. Songs like The Wild Rover and The Irish Rover were a massive part of my youth. When they got married and moved out at the end of the 60's that departed the house, but my love of what you could do with a guitar was firmly established. I lost touch with the music, when the Pogues first formed, I wasn't really interested, but given Shane's punk credentials, I went to see an early gig out of curiosity. I instantly got it. This song always transported me back to our living room, in 1967, my brothers and their mates singing songs and us all joining in.



3. My mum was born in Oldham, a suburb of Manchester. She moved to Kentish Town when she was about eleven, he father was seeking work. She still had aunties in Lancashire well into the 1980's. She would tell fascinating stories of her youth in Oldham, trips into Manchester with her brothers, bunking into Maine Road to watch the mighty Manchester City. My mum had no interest in football (unlike her brothers) but loved the atmosphere of the ground and the hot bovril. She told tales of deprivation, of not having shoes, of not having heating, of how her mother had her teeth removed as a 21st birthday present from her mum. This song, about Manchester, reminds me of my mum and her tales of youth.




4. Soho has been a part of my life ever since I became an adult. I've had good times and bad times there. It has changed since I worked around the corner from it in the early 1980's. Nowadays it is rather sanitised. But I still have a romantic love of it. No other song captures the feel of the area in the way this does. It is a fantastic piece of songwriting. Shane doesn't so much sing this song as live it.


5. The North London of my youth was a town of immigrants working on building sites, railways, roads and other trades. Friends Dads would come home in overalls. Pubs would have bars for the workers and separate bars for the posher clientele. The beer was cheaper in the public bar. The railways we use were built by Irish labourers. This song is a celebration of those fine people who made Britain great. The Pogues are one of very few bands that really celebrate the people who made us what we are.



6. If you are in a band and you have a platform, you should use it to fight injustice. There have been few worse miscarriages of justice than the Birmingham Six. To my mind, this is the sort of songs bands should write. Not all the time, but once in a while a band should nail it's true colours to its mast. The Birmingham six were 100% innocent and were fitted up by the Police. Supporting innocent men who have been victims of injustice is something we should all do



7. No celebration of the Pogues could possibly avoid the subject of alcohol. This just happens to be my favourite of their drink songs. I'm not a Whiskey drinker, but this is such a joyous celebration of the culture which has made our lives such fun.



8. Religion is a massive part of Irish culture. This song rather haunts me

'If I should fall from grace with God
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I'm buried 'neath the sod
But the angels won't receive me
Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry'

I do think that anyone who was born in a family of Irish Catholic ancestry has a very difficult relationship with religion and faith. I happen to think that religion and faith are two very different things. I have a problem with religion, the Church has rather let us all down, but none at all with faith, that will see us through. It is a shame that the Irish People don't really have the church they deserve.



9. My missus has the most beautiful brown eyes. Nice of the boys to write this for her. It is one of those songs that won't change the world, but always makes me happy


10. This!



That's all folks - And no, I didn't include the Xmas song because I guess you know that and if you don't then I suggest you google it. I do love it, but it sometimes saddens me that it is the part of Kirsty's legacy that she is best remembered for. But that's another story