Friday, 22 June 2018

The Friday Joke - 22/06/2018

My good friend Jeff told me a sorry tale of woe. Jeff comes from a very priviliged background. His Father set up a major hedge fund, now worth billions. Jeff's Dad, was a believer in hard work, never gave Jeff a penny and told him that he'd have to make his own way. I met Jeff at my old Comprehensive school, where his father insisted that he worked like a trojan whilst we all partied. Jeff was lucky because his mum was kind and loving but his dictatorial Dad thwarted him at every junction, insisting that it would make him strong and teach him to deal woth the world. Five years ago, Jeff was heartbroken when his beloved mum died.

When I met him I asked how things were going, he nearly cried "My Dad was told he has cancer and only has six months to live".

I replied "That's terrible Jeff, I am so sorry"

Jeff replied "That's not the problem Rog, I was out six weeks ago celebrating. In six months I would become a billionaire and I can finally move out of Burnt Oak and quit the job. I splashed out and was buy rounds of Champagne. I met this absolutely stunning woman. She was fascinated when I told her I was soon to be a millionaire. She wanted to know the whole story, exchanged numbers and two weeks ago I introduced her to Dad as my  new fiancee".

I replied that "That sounds great, Jeff what's the problem".

Jeff replied "Not really, this morning Dad married her. She's my new stepmother!".

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Housing in the Borough of Barnet - Mismanagement and financial problems hit the homeless and vulnerable

Tonight we have a meeting of the Barnet Council housing committee. There are some interesting key facts in the reports. Some of these are very worrying.

There appears to be a crisis in provision of Temporary Accomodationn for vulnerable people, with costs spiralling

The papers report that Barnet council is having severe problems housing people in emergency temporary accomodation (This has a RAG status of Red which means that it is in the highest risk category on the councils monitoring system). The reason is in part due to financial constraints meaning the council cannot secure accomodation.

BH/S1 Numbers in Emergency Temporary Accommodation (RAG rated RED) –
244 against annual target of 175. Numbers have risen due to reduced supply of available longer-term temporary accommodation (TA) due to a high volume of 58 properties handed back to the provider and due to reduced procurement of longer-term TA for financial reasons. However, overall numbers in TA reduced for the fourth successive quarter to 2,579 due to focused TA reduction activities, which include providing hand-holding support to assist clients with move-on opportunities. Over the past 12 months the average time spent by clients in emergency TA dropped to 38.7 weeks (from 67.8 weeks last year).

When financial problems impact the most vulnerable people in Barnet, clearly there is a crisis that needs to be addressed. The papers also show that homelessness remains far too high. This is a disgrace. It also details that there has been a 7% reduction in the council accepting cases. I personally object to the council referring to homeless people as "customers", but I guess I'm just old fashioned.

1,554 homelessness applications were made (compared with 1,583 last year), of which 506 (33 per cent) were accepted (compared with 632 (40 per cent)) last year. Mitigations focusing on early intervention, prevention, family mediation and reduction in the use of temporary accommodation (TA) continued to deliver positive results. Homelessness preventions stand at 1,140 in 2017/18 (compared with 972 last year). The piloted Family Mediation Team saw 88 applicants who faced eviction from family or friends’ accommodation for reasons of overcrowding, relationship  breakdown and affordability. The Team prevented homelessness in 24 of the 88 cases, and mediation work resulted in only 9 out of the 88 customers moving into TA. Overall numbers in TA reduced to 2,579 (from 2,757 last year). The team prioritised moving customers who were  entrenched in Emergency Temporary Accommodation (ETA) and the average time spent by customers in ETA fell to 38.7 weeks (from 67.8 weeks last year).
One other disturbing feature is that it appears that the contractors building the Moreton Close scheme have bodged the laying of the foundations.
"Providing suitable housing to support vulnerable people – the contractor for the new build extra care scheme at Moreton Close reported a delay due to the foundations of the scheme being under-engineered. Remedial work was undertaken and construction fully recommenced on the remainder of the scheme unaffected by the potential loading issues. This resulted in a delay in completion until December 2018. Clients are being identified to move into the extra care scheme and units are being allocated. A  communications plan and information about the service is being developed so that the scheme can be promoted to staff and potential residents."
This has impacted vulnerable people hoping to be rehomed. This appears to be the second major case of "under engineering" by council contractors impacting local residents. There was a huge impact on residents when refuse collections were affected by a badly laid floor in the new council depot in Oakleigh park. 

There are some rather interesting slides detailing the what is happening in Barnet and why housing pressures will increase.

We are due to see massive population increases in the Borough between now and 2041. It is interesting to note that the Council expects Barnet to get less diverse between 2015 and 2021. I wonder if this is due to their policy of gentrification?

What is clear from these figures is that there will be ever more pressure on the green belt, ever more large scale buildings and ever more rabbit hutch flats.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Wednesday Poem #48 - The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair

Sunday Lunch.
It's so unfair.
I want my Dad.
Not an empty chair.

Copyright Roger Tichborne 1988

My Dad
My Dad passed away in 1987. I didn't realise for a year. Sure I went to the funeral, but I didn't really get my head around the fact that he'd gone. I thought he was indestructible. Fathers day in 1988 was one of the first times it really struck me. The Missus' Mum invited me around for lunch to celebrate fathers day with their family. 

I'd bought our family home from my Mum shortly after Dad died, Clare had left early as I had said I had things to do. To be honest I didn't want to go and only agreed to be polite. Before I left, I opened a can of Guinness (one of my Dad's favourite tipples) and poured it into two glasses. I sat and had a conversation with an empty chair. Then I asked him if he'd mind if I finished his drink, as it would be a crime to see it go to waste. I got no answer, so I figured he didn't mind. I scribbled these words on a piece of paper and stuck them into my "songs in progress" shoebox. It has sat there ever since. 

I then realised I was late for lunch. On arrival at the in laws, I was given the skunk eye, as they'd all been waiting for me before starting lunch. I explained that I'd been busy. When we got home Clare noticed the two empty glasses and asked who I'd been having a drink with. I couldn't (or didn't want to) give a satisfactory answer, so she simply assumed I'd been boozing with a mate and as such was being even ruder than she at first thought. We had a row and didn't speak for a couple of days. There are days when nothing is right in the world. I've hated Fathers day ever since. I was going to post this on Sunday, but felt it was disrespectful to all of those celebrating your Dads. God bless them all.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Rog T's Cancer Blog - You can't spend a penny in the digital age!

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 54years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October  which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive.  I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture? 

Guys, we gotta talk. Seriously. There are many downsides of having prostate cancer. Perhaps the biggest of these is a premature death. Then there are the 3i's Incontinence, Impotence and Infertility that can follow a radical prostatectomy and other procedures. All of these are pretty scary to think about. Fortunately for me, I suffer none of the above. But far and away the most common symptom is increased need to do a wee. It can be a real nightmare for many sufferers. As someone who is sociable and likes a drink with friends, it means that I have to spend an amount of time planning journeys out. You have to think strategically. As you leave a pub or club, you may not need to go to the toilet, but how will you feel in an hour's time, as you are stuck on a bus or tube train? 

Last night I had to suffer a strange and unusual torture, courtesy of the worlds worst train company, Thameslink. As regular readers of this blog will no doubt know, the Thameslink service has been upgraded, with a new timetable and new Desiro trains. For men such as myself, the new trains are wonderful. They have not one but three toilets. That means that I'm pretty well catered for if the need takes me on a journey home. Sadly nothing in London when it comes to transport is ever quite as it seems. I watched the footie in The Rack and Tenter in Moorgate with friends. When the match finished, a quick check of the Thameslink App showed that there was a train at 9.46 from Farringdon to Mill Hill.  It also showed that the next three trains were cancelled. For me, this meant that the pint was finished and we had a short hop to Farringdon on the tube. At the time, I didn't need the loo and I new I'd be on a marvellous new train in 15 minutes, job done. 

That is where things started to go wrong. At Farringdon we found that the train had magically been transformed into a fast service to St Albans. On enquiring with the Thameslink staff, I was informed that the quickest way home was to go to St Albans and then get a train back to Mill Hill. Farringdon is 12 miles from Mill Hill and Sta Allbans is 16 miles. So to do a 12 mile journey I had to do a 32 mile detour. 

At this point, I also realised I needed the loo. The logical thing to do was go to Kings Cross and get a tube to Burnt Oak, but this would mean a loo stop somewhere. I suggested to my companion that we get the Thameslink to St Pancras and transfer onto the Tube. This would mean I could use the loo on the train and that would see me through.

So on we get, what could possibly go wrong? Well as soon as we boarded, we found all three loo's were locked and out of service. One of the downsides of such occurrences is that as soon as you realise there is no loo, then you become absolutely desperate. But no worry, we had to change at St Pancras, and there is a loo on the platform. Fortunately, the journey was only five minutes. As we disembarked, I made a quick, leaving my companion on the platform waiting. As I emerged, suitably unencumbered, he was screaming at me "Quick jump on the train". He was on the carriage and the beeper went. I don't recommend this, but he put his foot in the door, allowing me to board. I asked "are we going to St Albans then?" He replied "No, it's now all stations".
For once, my need to go to the loo had worked in my favour, as if I'd not needed the loo, we'd have left the platform and been waiting for a tube train.

This is not the first time a Thameslink collapse has severely impacted me. A couple of weeks ago, I was travelling from Blackfriars and again all trains were cancelled. Then I decided to take the tube. I was also pleased to remember that there was a loo on the station. So I made my way down. Then I found there was a problem. You had to pay 30p in cash to use them and I had no cash. Only my contactless card. No worries, I'd get some cash out of the machine. So I go to the station cash machine, it isn't working. Eventually, I remember there is an RBS machine on New Bridge St. So I go up to that with a tenner. The next thing is to get some change. So I go to WH Smiths "Can I have some change please. I need to use the toilet". I am told "Sorry, we can't open the till unless you buy something". The only thing is I don't want anything. So I look around for something. I see a packet of polo's. They are 60p. I hand over a tenner and get £9.40 back. that is made up of a £5 note, a £2 coin, two £1 coins and two twenty pence pieces. As I look at the change, I say "sorry can I have two ten pence pieces instead of a twenty". The young man says "sorry, I can't open the till to give you change". At this I get a bit irate and say "Sorry I don't want the polo's, can you give me a refund". At this, the guy snarls and takes them, returning me three 20 pence pieces". 

At this point, I realised that there were only two options. One would have resulted in a jail sentence and the other was to pay 40p to use the loo and by now I was desperate. I opted for the non custodial option. I was by now quite irritated. Not only had Thameslink cancelled my train making me half an hour or more late home, their coin operated loo had given me a detour to RBS and a potentially explosive encounter with a member of WH Smiths staff. I'd also had to overpay to use a urinal that would have been free if the train was running.

For those of us living with cancer, they say that stress should be avoided. I have no idea how one can possibly avoid stress with the current state of our commuter railways. What I do know is that for people in my position, trains should not have all of the toilets out of use. I do not believe that all three loos were broken, I believe that the company locked them to reduce costs. As to charging for a public toilet in a train station which is required because they can't run a service, it is daylight robbery. As with many things related to cancer and other chronic medical conditions, it is the mundane that grinds you down. I don't know if the bosses of train companies ever stop to think what the real life impact of locking train loos is on people who need to use them due to a medical condition. We (us men) don't like talking about when we wee. That is why these companies get away with this. 

Monday, 18 June 2018

When will our local MP speak out about the Thameslink fiasco?

The Boss of the Thameslink Rail networks is standing down following the companies failure to run the new timetable. CEO Charles Horton said: "I recognise that passengers have been hugely frustrated at the significant disruption caused by the introduction of new timetables. It is the right time to hand leadership of GTR to a new pair of hands."

Here are just a few of the Tweets from passengers this week showing just how chaotic the service is. That is bad enough, but the Thameslink App doesn't event appear to be giving the right informations.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

How can your app be so misleading @TLRailUK ? I’m on this train and we are only just leaving Mill Hill Broadway, 11 minutes late. If the app isn’t going to work or be even mildly accurate then maybe add yet ANOTHER apology to the dashboard??

It is a shame that Thameslink haven't issued an apology or even a press release on their website for the benefit of customers about Mr Hortons departure. The Leader of the RMT Rail Union, General Secretary Mick Cash called for GTR to be renationalised.

He said: “Mr Horton may now have gone but the rotten franchise he was steering remains in place and no change at the top will alter that. This whole basket case operation is a failure on every level.  The Horton resignation opens the door for this sorry chapter to be bro‎ught to a close and that means sweeping GTR away and returning the services to public ownership with safety, access and quality the guiding priorities."

We find it hard to disagree. Sadly our local MP, Mr Matthew Offord, who likes to boast on his website about how he wants to get a better deal for Thameslink users (note that it is dated 2012, Matthew doesn't like to work too hard) hasn't actually bothered to post anything about the fiasco. What he has done is ask residents to fill out a survey on his website. So if you are suffering from Thameslinkitus, we suggest that you tell Matthew. 

One of my priorities is a better deal for public transport users. Living locally and using public transport, I am aware of concerns about Thameslink, the Northern line, station access and facilities, cycle routes and bus services.
Many residents are frustrated by delays, overcrowding or cancelled services. This can badly affect working lives, recreational activities, holidays and visits to family and friends.
To help me make the best representations possible to public transport providers - Govia Thameslink, Network Rail, Transport for London (TfL) - I would like to hear about local residents' views and experiences. Please therefore support my campaign by completing my Transport Survey below.
We rather hope that this stirs him into doing something.

With regards to Mr Offord, we are pleased to learn that he has been made chair of the Parliamentary group to prevent people from drowning.

As his constituency has one of the most dangerous stretches of inland waterway in England, I think it is a testament to his hard work that no one has drowned here for a while!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 17/06/2018

It's Sunday so it's time for the Tweets of the week. Don't forget to follow any tweeters who tickle your fancy.

There's a bit of a theme this week, can you spot it?

1. No comment needed

2. No comment needed again!

3. What can I possibly say about this one?

4. No comment needed here also.

5. No comment needed here either

6. We like to keep you updated with forthcoming events of interest, so maybe a comment here is sort of needed!

7. A picture is worth a 1,000 words!

8.  We really should mark these events

9. This is why we need strict planning laws!

10. Pleased to welcome some great young people to Mill Hill this week!

That's all folks!

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The destruction of the National Institute for Medical research and the risks we need to consider

This week, we've been filming a video for our band around and about in the London Borough of Barnet. One of the locations we've chosen has been the former site of the National Institute for Medical Research. As I was editing up the video, I used some of the out takes and spare footage to put together a very short little video commemorating the sad demise of a well known landmark. I hope you enjoy it.

I happened to be up at Finchley Nurseries this morning and showed the video to Mr Laurence Bard who runs Pond Life, the onsite aquatic centre. Mr Bard told me that the demoliotion is a serious matter, he forwarded me several rather disturbing emails, that seem to suggest that a building that housed dangerous pathogens and radioactive Isotopes may not be a completely safe site.

Here is the text of an email sent by a safety officer working in Environmental Health at Barnet Council to Mr Bard

Mr Bard,
Thank you for your email.
I have every sympathy with you and your businesses situation. I would just like to clarify the LA  was not informed about the SBS exercise in late March. Unfortunately  there is not any enforcement activity I can take retrospectively that can recompense you for the damage to your business. You can consider private action against the Developer demolition company and the MOD.
Anna Cane has been asking the developers about their vibration monitoring and seen the results since the 18th May. The vibration levels are significantly  below the levels that cause damage to surrounding buildings, however there was one event that vibration levels were just above the British Standard  for nuisance.In my experience vibration can be experienced well below the British standard levels which understandably leads to complaints by residents, but LA have limited enforcement powers if this is the case. The vast majority of hazardous materials have been removed prior to demolition. Further to my recent email, during the drier weather an Officer visited on the 1st June and saw the 2 dust busters in operation, and water sprays from the JCB pecker see first 3 photos above. The road condition was good and largely free from dust. The weather was hot and sunny over the weekend so an officer visited yesterday morning and noticed there was good spraying on site and watering from a bowser, however there was a dust problems on the road as there was some mud turned into dusty earth near the access where lorries wheels were trundling through causing dust on the road.  The jet wash facility was being used but  not satisfactory as the lorries were going over dusty ground after their wheels were washed. See 4th photo attached.The 5th photo shows the dust suppression yesterday. The officer spoke to the site manager on site to rectify this and it was agreed there will be a dedicated wheel wash facility  installed in a couple of weeks when the access to the site changes. In the meantime the developer will be told to sweep the roads more than twice a day with their road sweeper and use the Jet wash closer to the exit to clean wheels if practicable. I understand your concerns about the dust levels when the site is closed on Sundays on Sundays, to be fair to the developers it is rare on any site when it is closed to be watered down and I note your concerns with effectiveness of the water suppression out of hours- we will ask the developer to use coagulants in the dust suppressors if it’s hot ,windy or prior to when the site closes as this takes 4 times longer than water to dry out.  Anna Cane visited the site in the afternoon and took more pictures of the site which show on site there was not a lot of dust from the demolition area but there was still dust on the roads from the materials being removed from lorries dusty wheels. we will monitor this for nuisance. The case law for statutory nuisance states that clouds of dust from sites have to visibly affect the habitable part of premises to be a formal nuisance, unfortunately dust on the road or cars is in itself does not constitute a nuisance. From the 3 recent visits officers did not witness dust clouds affecting habitable parts of neighbouring premises to have the power to take formal action. However Environmental Health completely understand residents’ concerns about dust and will continue to monitor site activities. Anna Cane has written to the site with our above concerns regarding the dust from lorries leaving the site, and has asked for the  records of the vibration monitoring prior to the 18th May, however the incident at the end of March was prior to the main demolition and monitoring may not have occurred.Please contact the case officer if you have further concerns.

Kind regardsRalph Haynes Group Manager Consultancy and Scientific Services, Environmental HealthDepartment of Development and Regulatory ServicesLondon Borough of Barnet, Barnet House, 1255 High Road Whetstone, N20 0EJTel: 020 8359 7448 Barnet Online: 

I worked at the Medical Research in the late 1970's. Among the diseases being studied at the time was "Green Monkey Fever" which is one of the most deadly pathogens on the planet. The protocol for entering and leaving labs where these pathogens were present were enormously stringent.

 When Mr Haynes says "The vast majority of hazardous materials have been removed prior to demolition" what exactly does he mean. Combined with the fact that dust is being spread out all over Mill Hill and their is a primary school within 100 yards of the site, I cannot understate my concerns.

In short, there is a potential for risk. Mr Haynes and Barnet Council need to urgently explain what hazardous materials remain and reassure residents that there is zero chance of any of these posing a risk to residents.

Mr Bard is extremely upset that there seems to be a less than serious regime of safety at the site and he is not at all reassurred by what he has seen.

If you look carefully at the above video, you will see that the "dust suppression spray rises no more than three floors high, which means that dust from the upper floors can be blown far and wide around Mill Hill.

I have seen many buildings in Central London which have been demolished, due to issues with Asbestos. For these buildings, the whole building is wrapped in a polythene cladding to ensure no dust escapes. I am not an expert in such matters, but I think it is only fair to ask whether this would be appropriate for a building such as the NIMR.