Thursday, 30 April 2009

Captain Useless: An apology


Of all Barnets well known Tories, in my opinion the most sensible is "Don't Call Me Dave" Miller. If they all followed his example, I suspect that my blog would be a rather different and less political beast. If David says I've been unfair, then I listen and think long and hard as to whether he's picked up on something I missed. He has claimed that I missed some "hidden gems" in Matthews sailing blog and that I rather rashly dismissed it, in his latest BLOG.

I thought I'd have a closer look at Matthews sailing blog. Sure enough, it's crammed full of hidden nuances that my rather sledgehammer like approach to Matthews nuts had missed.

First Matthew says :-

But most of all sailing as a crew teaches leadership.
Now I thought back and who was the most high profile British Prime Minister with a love of sailing? Surely it must be good old Ted Heath, who was famed for his exploits on "The Morning Cloud". Ted Heath was the Prime Minister who took Great Britian into the EEC and made the Tories into the party of Europe. Is Matthew a secret Heathite? We could be on to something here. He starts the blog with the following quote :-

A criticism of politicians (yes, I know there is a list) is that many do not have any interests outside of politics – making them very one-dimensional.
Now which Prime Minister was famous for being obsessed with politics, to the exclusion of all else? Margaret Thatcher. If you contrast Heath's interests with Thatchers on their Wiki entries, you will see the stark contrast.

Matthew also say :-
One reason I don’t like The Apprentice is because on the occasions I have watched the show everyone is trying to get one over the other contestants.
This is a very interesting comment. At a recent Council meeting, Matthew rather put one over Councillor Andrew Harper, blaming him for the cock up at Aerodrome Road, where millions of pounds have been lost due to contractor overruns. Given that Matthew had negotiated the contracts, this was, shall we say, a bit unfair.

So what can we deduce from Matthews coded messages? Well I guess he hopes to be a good a Leader as fellow Yatchsman Ted Heath. I look forward to the powercuts, three day week, strikes & Inflation should he ever get his dream and make PM.

As to David's crticism. I apologise to my readers for my original blog. I should have been much harsher on reflection.

The Gourmet Burger Kitchen


Here's a new column for my regular readers. Every Thursday (well nearly every Thursday), I meet up for lunch with a friend and we take it in turns to select a venue. The deal is that we take turns to pay. It's a good way to start the weekend and it's become quite competitive as we try and select ever better and more different venues. As he's a greedy sod who likes his food and we give all meals some lengthy analysis, I thought I'd share this with you all. If like me you are always on the lookout for new places, I hope this helps.

Todays lunch was at the "Gourmet Burger Kitchen" at St Pauls in the City. As I was paying, I'd waited until they had a 2 for 1 voucher on their website before selecting the venue. Being a tightwad, I generally try and pick somewhere with an offer on.

The Gourmet Burger Kitchen prides itself on being the funky burger chain for those who like a high quality 100% beef burger. Not having been there before, we got rather caught out by the method of ordering. You are shown to your table, given the number and then you have to go to the till & order. Being thick, this took a while to sink in & even though we got there at Noon sharp, we found a lengthy queue had formed by the time we twigged the protocol.

Anyway, I ordered the Cajun Beef Burger and my friend had the Buffalo burger. We ordered a starter of Chicken kebob. By the time I'd ordered, the queue stretched out of the door. "It must be good was the comment". After a suitable pause, the drinks arrived. Faced with a heavy afternoon, I'd settled for Tea with milk. £1.90 for a relatively small cup, where you do your own bag, did not strike me as great value. After another 10 minutes, the Kebob showed up. The chicken was delicious. Sadly it was gone all too quickly.

We sat, we waited. We waited. To the left and right, diners who'd entered after us had rather tasty looking burgers turning up. Eventually, at 12.40 our food arrived, 40 minutes after we'd sat down. The chips were fantastic. Proper big chunky chips. My friends Bufallo Burger at £9.85 was, in his opinion, excellent. I was slightly disappointed with my Cajun Beef burger at £7.40. I expect a Cajun burger to have a chilli kick and this had none. The sauce was slightly sweet, which was not to my taste at all.

All in all, pleasant enough food, but a bit slow & hassly. I wouldn't go there if you just want a quick bite. At £22.85 (inc £7.40 off meal), Ok value. I don't think I'll be rushing back.

Best Thing: Chicken Kebob Starter.

Worst Thing: The queueing & waiting

Other items of note : Good Veggie options

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Captain Useless - A blog on the ocean waves


A couple of people have asked me why I call Matthew Offord "Captain Useless". Well all can be revealed. Knowing I've done a bit of sailing in my time and that various siblings of mine own boats of various sizes and shapes, a well meaning Tory suggested I should have a chat with Matthew Offord, as he does a bit of sailing. I jokingly replied "With old Captain Useless at the helm, we'd probably hit an Iceberg and sink, even if we were in the Welsh Harp".

Imagine my joy to read in the Barnet Tory Bugle, sorry the Edgware Times, that they've given the good Captain his own sailing blog. Now when I read this, I was actually quite excited. Before the children were born, I did quite a lot of sailing. Many notable and amusing things happened on various trips. Probably the funniest was when we sailed from the Hamble to Alderney, in the Channel Islands in 1991. We set off for Cherbourg, but due to wind & tides, diverted to Alderney. I'd taken along my Russian brother in law as extra crew. Whilst he had a visa for France and Great Britain, he didn't have one for Alderney. He was rather worried by this. In Russia, minor transit infringements are costly and time consuming. All my reassurance that nothing would happen could not calm him. As we arrived at Alderney, his worst fears were realised as the impressive German wartime battlements loomed into view. Igor is from the Russian naval port of Kaliningrad, so he could spot a well defended naval installation a mile off. I suspect he feared I'd landed him in a secret British Gulag for hooking up with my sister. When we arrived, he insisted on going to the customs post, to throw himself at the mercy of the officers (I'd said this was not necessary, but he didn't believe me). When we arrived, it was 4.55pm. I went with him, to make sure he didn't get into any scrapes. I explained that we'd been headed to Cherbourg, but the wind/tide had taken us to Alderney. The crusty old customs man sternly looked at Igor and exclaimed - "Come back in ten minutes". Igor replied "Why". The officer replied "Because I knock off in 5 and I'm going for a drink and there will be no one here". Igor said "What about the paperwork?" The officer replied "That's why I'm going to the pub". End of story. Igor must have liked it as they bought a boat and sailed it back to Kaliningrad.

I was rather hoping for a few such tales in Matthews blog. Unfortunately all we got was that he felt ill sailing to Cherbourg and that it will help him be a "great leader". I'm going to make a bargain here with Matthew. Give us a few salty tales, don't spend the whole blog telling us how marvellous you are and give us some indication that you have a love of the sea rather than just indulging in a character building exercise, and the I won't mercilessly rib you for writing such a load of old tosh.

It would also be nice to see a bit in the blog about local sailing such as at the Welsh Harp, given Matthews professed love of the sport. Excuse my cynicism, but it looks to me as if this blog is just an attempt to make our Captain more appealing to the voters of Hendon, if we get a few decent tales, I'll post a blog saying I'd got him wrong.

How much dosh has Mike Freer lost in Iceland?


It seems that Mike Freer and his Mates (Mates is a brand of condom designed to keep a dick separate from nasty things and stop unplanned events further down the line, as well as being a slang word for a friend) are still spinning the old porkie that he's lost no money in Iceland.

I thought we'd do a bit of analysis on the situation (on the back of a cigarrette packet).



a) What Mike has definately lost - if he'd invested the £27.4 Million in banks which hadn't gone bust, at the same rate of interest, he'd have £913,333 in the kitty in interest. Whatever happens, that is gone - that is the figure as of today. Every day that the money is frozen figure goes up by £6,005.00

b) What Mike will optimistically won't get back - The most optimistic figure is 80% (and this is the most optimistic by a country mile) = £5.48 Million lost (along with with the interest on top) - I believe the Council have set a 25% probability on this being the likely settlement.

c) What Mike has realistically lost - The consensus is less than 50% will come back - So probably more than £13.7 Million. I believe that the Council have set a 65% probability of this being the likely settlement.

d) What Mike Could lose - The lot - £27.4 Million + interest - if it all goes wrong for Barnet.
I believe that the Council have set a 10% probability on this being the likely outcome.

e) The costs of dealing with the fiasco - accountants etc, travel to Iceland, staff, expert advice - a little birdy told me that the cost is well above £150,000 - but I've no idea if that figure is true. Former Councillor Richard Weider confirmed to me that the average cost of these consultants is well above £1,000 a day.

However you look at it, the figures are huge. Has Mike apologised for this? Nope. Has he even admitted there will be a loss. Nope.

Mike and his Mates, know my email address. If they dispute any of these figures, then they can email me their revised and more accurate figures and I'll put them up here. If anyone from the Council want's to use this blog or any other blog to give us an honest council estimate of the situation, then fine. The claim that "Nothing" has been lost is a porkie. This information isn't commercially sensitive, it's not as if there is any competition in collecting council tax. We pay it, the we elect the council, but they have told us nothing, given us no figures and just indulged in Damian McBride style spin. The figures I quote above are back of the fag packet estimates based on information in the public domain. They may be wrong, but until the council come clean they are the best figures I've got.

Now let me just clarify one last thing. The source figures I've used are partially based on information given to me by someone very close to the matter at the council in a conversation. I trust that person and believe the information to be accurate, but there have been comments that the Council are deliberately leaking porkies to blogs - If it is wrong then I'd be more than happy to post the correct figures.

Oh and always make sure you've got your Mates close at hand. It is just as important to be safe with your sexual health as it is for the Head of Resources at the Council to Be Safe with our money. I recall Mrs Thatcher's AIDS campaign. Let's hope that what we're being told isn't the tip of the Iceberg !

It made me snigger - Guess who?

Yesterday I posted this blog The Great Masturbator with the following comment next to Dali's masterpiece.

If you want to shock people and be controversial, having talent makes it far more effective.
Now I would have thought that it would be hard to argue with that statement. I noticed that someone had checked the "Rubbish" box. I wonder who thinks that they are talentless and that I am having a go at them? Truth hurts !

Cock Or Vain


I love the assortment of "foodie" shows on telly. They are compulsive viewing. Top chefs are must watch TV. There is one aspect that worries me. It seems that bullying, arrogance and abuse is part of the package. People are not treated with dignity and respect. Whilst people will take it from Gordon because he's a genius, I do worry that jumped up, talentless middle managers will think this is the way to run a good company.

It isn't, it's just TV. Good TV, but TV.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The great masturbator


"The Great Masturbator"
by Salvador Dali

If you want to shock people and be controversial, having talent makes it far more effective.

Monday, 27 April 2009

20 Firsts Meme......


Iain Dale has suggested that all bloggers do the following questionaire, he says send it to five other bloggers you know. Enjoy :-

First Job
Actor, Tizer commercial - 1966

First Real Job
????? Dunno what a real job is ?????

First Role in Politics
Canvassing on Stonegrove Estate whilst at school with Boz Boorer & Phil Bloomberg out of the Polecats for Labour in 1979.

First Car
A white Hillman Hunter. Bought for £50 in 1979

First Record
Probably Band on the Run by Wings

First Football Match
Spurs Vs Crystal Palace - 1971 (I think)

First Concert
Wings 1972 - Red Rose Speedway Tour - Hammersmith Odeon

First Country Visited
France - Pilgrimage to Lourdes with my Dad in 1967

First TV Appearance
Tizer Ad - 1966




First Political Speech
I used to do a bad stand up routine on the tube whilst drinking a whole bottle of vodka, putting on a fake Russian accent and explaining the superiority of the Communist system over capitalism and fascism to the other passengers. I don't know if it was because I was the looney on the train, but I used to make loads of money and most people agreed with me. Often ended in drunken brawls with skinheads though. I guess they didn't get the humour.


First Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Kissed a girl called Samantha when I was about 7 whilst doing an advertising shoot for toys. I've always told everyone it was Sam Fox, but that is just guesswork as I didn't know her surname.

First Encounter with a Famous Person
David Bailey photographed me in 1967, although I didn't know who he was. The first bloke who impressed me was Joe Mercer, then Manchester City manager, who my dad arranged for me to have tea with. Also present was Billy Wright and one of the Beverly Sisters.



First Brush With Death
The day I was born, had 4 blood transfusions.

First House/Flat Owned
Still live here, so I'm not telling the nutters where to send the poo to :^)

First Film Seen at a Cinema
2001 a Space Odessy with my dad.

First Time on the Radio
Stockholm, 1981

First Politician I Met
Rather embarrasingly, Margaret Thatcher. She was the president of the Hendon Overseas friendship association in the 1960's. My mum was the secretary (she was a Socialist, but got on OK with Lady T).

First Book I Remember Reading
1984 by George Orwell in 1974. Being Dyslexic, I never bothered till then, but it's a great book so I made the effort.

First Visit to the London Palladium
Never been there.

First Election
Stood for the school Council at Finchley. Came last - some things never change

Exclusive : Top Barnet Tory says Vote Lib-Dem !!!!


I've a couple of questions for you.

A) In Westminster, which opposition politician has proved the most effective in holding the governments record to scrutiny?

B) Who in Barnet has been the most effective srutineer of Council Leader Mike Freer's disasterous Icelandic investment policy?

You may have your own views, but as far as I'm concerned, in Westminster the Lib Dem spokesman, Vince Cable has been head and shoulders above anyone else. I was out for a beer with a friend a couple of weeks ago who is a very senior Tory and he was bemoaning the lack of a Vince Cable in the Tory front bench. He went as far as to say that if Cable was a Tory they'd be 25 points ahead in the polls (admittedly after six pints and a splendid curry at the Rajasthan in Monument).

As to locally, anyone who went to watch the Council debates would know that the Lib Dems destroyed Mike Freer. I'm a Labour member, so it doesn't really fill me with glee to say that it was the Lib Dems who administered the duffing up, but it was true. Wayne Casey, Jack Cohen and Monroe Palmer have lead the way in forensically examining the Tories disasterous policy, exposing the fact that Mike Freer should have known from the reports that he had last Autumn, that the council had breached its own policy.

In todays Barnet Tory Bugle, sorry Barnet Times, there is an article on the forthcoming Euro elections. As seems to be the current policy at the paper, only Tories are interviewed, but in this report, Barnet's cabinet member for policy and performance, Councillor Richard Cornelius, said: "This is the opportunity for residents to choose representatives who will scrutinise decisions made in Brussels that affect Barnet."

If you want an MEP to voice Tory views, then vote Tory. If you want an MEP to voice Labour views, vote Labour. If you want effective scrutiny, I'm sorry but from what I've seen you vote Liberal Democrat at local and National levels. It couldn't be clearer to me that if you trust Richard Cornelius and follow his advice about good scrutiny, the Lib Dems will be getting your vote. It has been widely reported that the Barnet Tories have done everything in their power to circumvent the scrutiny of the Icelandic investment strategy, to protect their leader and head of resource management, Mike Freer. I think that Councillor Richard Cornelius has done us all a favour by drawing our attention to how important scrutiny is. He may not openly say it, but I'm sure he knows every word I've said here is true.

The UK Hotline for reporting illegal website content


Those of you who read my blog detailing blog content I felt to be inciting the violent abuse of children will be aware that a reader felt I was just being humourless. Now I clearly felt that my comments were justified. I'm no expert on the subject, so I said that I'd refer it to the NSPCC and if they felt I was just being a po faced twat, then I'd donate £100 to whatever the author of the offending blog suggested. I reported that I would keep readers of this blog updated. I got the following response from the NSPCC :-

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Mr Tichbourne

Thank you for taking the time to contact the NSPCC with concerns for children.
It has now been decided that it would be more appropriate to pass the concerns you have detailed on to the Internet Watch Foundation www.iwf.org.uk as oppossed to CEOP.

Thank You for contacting the NSPCC

Yours sincerely

Margaret Dooley
Assistant Children Service Manager
24 hr Helpline
NSPCC
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I would suggest that all readers of this blog bookmark www.iwf.org.uk, just in case you stumble upon inciteful or illegal content. If you are not sure, then refer. They are the experts and they do what is required. I feel that if the NSPCC feel strongly enough to refer this website, then my comments have been vindicated. I hope that the author of the offending blog pauses for thought and removes it. I am sure he can be funny without inciting violence against children, if he puts his mind to it.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Barnet Council : The Good, The Bad and The Ugly



They fell into my carefully laid trap!

You may notice (until I decide to put another one on) a little poll at the side of the blog, with suggested menu's you might wish to serve up for the Barnet Council cabinet.

Now the fact that 8 people wanted the rather tasty & delicious one and as was pointed out to me I didn't offer a Kosher option, we can fairly safely say that the cabinet must all be reading my blog !

Well if nothing else, that shows they have some good taste. Now I've got their attention, I thought I'd analyse how they are doing. Lets face it we all benefit from some 360 degree feedback. As a lover of a good western, I thought we'd have a look at some of their keynote policies and classify them as good, bad or ugly.

Sorry to anyone who was hoping for a rating of their looks, suffice to say that I don't think any of them really float my boat (and I'm sure they are equally grateful of that fact).

The Good. Barnet generally provides a good standard of education to its children (despite it's current difficulties in finding enough places). It is no coincidence that the cabinet member for education is Fiona Bulmer, who isn't a publicity junkie and just gets on with the job. The in house bin collection team also do a fine job.

The Bad. Well a few to chose from, but the top of the list must be the resource committee's decision to lose millions of pounds in Iceland. Councillor Mike Freer holds the resource portfolio. His colleagues have found a novel way to get shot of him and are hoping he becomes MP for Finchley, so they can get rid of him without having yet another coup. There is also the multi million cock up at Aerodrome Road, put together by the Candidate for Hendon, Matthew Offord. He's rather cunningly trying to pass the blame on to Andrew Harper who was given the portfolio when Matthew realised that the project was starting to resemble Brigit Bardot sunbathing.

The Ugly. Only one contender here. Lynn Hillans scheme to sack the vast majority of sheltered housing wardens. These caring staff provide vital support for the old, infirm, disabled and other vulnerable people. The crazy thing is that wardens allow them to live independently, so the savings will soon disappear when the support for these people goes. People will lose independence and costs will rocket. The ugliest thing is the fact that Lynn Hillan moved her mum to a flat where the wardens are being retained.

It's quite strange really, it seems that the more quietly Councillors go about their business, the better a job they do. Do you think it's because the quiet ones are more interested in doing the job than promoting themselves so they go up the political ladder? Just a thought.

They're crafty old sausages, those Hendon Tories


Those Hendon Tories are a crafty bunch. If you visit their website :-

http://www.hendonconservatives.org/

There is a link which says :-

PEOPLE - How to contact your Conservative Councillors and representatives

Now if you want to tell Matthew Offord or any of his cronies how useless they are, actually clicking the link is a bit of a waste of time, because it doesn't do what it say on the tin. It just gives you a list of Conservative principles. I suppose they've twigged that there won't be too many people telling them how marvelous they are !

I've made a point of posting Nice pictures of our local Tories, taken from their website, but they've told me that they are copyright and so I'm not allowed anymore. If you want to see some nice pictures of Matthew, I'd suggest that you google Hendon Conservatives blunder using Google images. There are some crackers !

Horace Cutler saved my life !


If you are one of Barnets Top Tories, next time you get all cross about something I've said, just remember this. If it wasn't for the last Tory to run the GLC, Horace Cutler, I probably wouldn't be here.

I hadn't really appreciated this fact until yesterday at around 12.30pm. I was driving my boy to a Gaelic Football match in East London, listening to Ken Livingstone on 97.3. He was talking about the London marathon and he said that everyone had forgotten that it was Horace Cutlers baby. He pushed through the idea, against fierce opposition, not least from Ken. Ken admitted that Horace was right and he was wrong on this one. At the time of the first marathon in 1981, I had no interest whatsoever.

In 1987, I decided that I would run it, the following year. I started a harsh regime of training, based on a Seb Coe plan. My goal was to run in under 3 hours. By February, I was well on the way to achieving my goal. I had managed to get a great level of fitness and in those days, didn't have an ounce of fat. Then disaster struck. I had arranged to go to watch Plymouth Argyll vs Man City with an old friend. I got up at 7am to get a train and whilst crossing the Edgware Road at Burnt Oak, a car jumped the lights, travelling at 40mph & hit me.

It was a rather strange experience. Realising the car would hit me, time moved very slowly. The strangest thought that wen't through my head was that it would be great to see my dad, who'd died the previous year. Then survival instincts kicked in & I jumped. The car hit me on the thigh, my feet went through the windscreen, I rolled over the roof and landed on my head. Strangely I was still alive. I got up, jumped in the car and demanded to be taken to edgware general. The driver complied.

Until this point, I'd not really understood the concept of extreme pain. I was given a blast of Morphine a head X-ray (no damage) six stitches in my little finger and a general look over. By the time a policeman turned up to tell me that the driver had admitted jumping the lights at 40mph and was in pieces I was as high as a kite. He asked if I wanted to press charges. No I said, "HE'S A LOVELY BLOKE". I was just pleased to be alive.

By 4pm, I was back home, alone with my pain killers. The Doctors had told me that only my extreme fitness had saved me. The thick muscle on my thighs had protected me and spared greater damage. My thigh swelled to three times the usual size. Subsequently I found I had a stress fracture of my L2 vertebrae and a hairline fracture below the knee. I became a left footed footballer, as I can't really use my right leg properly. I also probably lost 1 hour off my best possible marathon time. Since then I've cared passionately about road safety.

If it hadn't been for Horace Cutler and his mad scheme, I'd at best be a cripple, more likely dead. The Doctors at Edgware told me that they'd never seen someone walk in who'd been hit by a car travelling at 40 mph before. Sometimes being unique isn't that great really.

Dan Hope's filing cabinets


It seems that in the inner echelons of the ruling junta at Barnet Council there is much mirth and merriment at a Youtube video of Tory Ex Councillor Daniel Hope trying to flog a few rather tatty filing cabinets. Mr Hope used to be a Barnet Councillor, but was deselected and replaced by Councillor Andreas Tambourides wife, to make up a husband and wife partnership.

Now I rather like Councillor Tambourides, not for any reason other than he looks and acts a bit like Sid James (I've noticed at Council meetings he has a roving eye, especially when Councillor Caroline Margo used to walk past him, although to be fair she's a bit of a looker. I'm not for a second suggesting he's up to any naughtiness, not least because his wife is sitting next to him, ready to dispatch a well aimed handbag at the first sign of any misbehaviour). As such he brings me much joy during dull council meetings, but I do wonder whether these husband & wife teams deliver the same value for money & independence that two people who don't share a marital bed would.

Anyway for reasons I don't know, Ex Councillor Dan Hope was deselected. He clearly is not what one might call a Freerite Tory and has been a big critic of the Tory groups policies, being of the opinion that they are not Conservative. Dan Hope thinks that in effect the Barnet Tories are New Labour under a Conservative banner (I suppose it is fair to say that as a Labour supporter, I disagree and think they are just plain old useless under Tory banner).

For his sins, he's been excommunicated from all but the fringes of the Barnet Party (although rather strangely for such an apostate, the local member seem to quite like him). Now I don't normally step into the fray to defend right wing Tories, especially not ones who I've clashed with many times in the Edgware Times, but the sniggering at his video is worthy of comment, for a wider issue.

The Barnet Tories find it hilarious that he is earning a few quid in this way. "Oh how the mighty have fallen, they snigger". Well I'm a small businessman. In the early days of my studio business I used to have another job where one of the tasks was organising an office move from Tottenham Court Road to Buckingham Palace Road. The new office had brand spanking new office furniture. The old office was full of shabby desks, worn out carpet tiles, bashed up filing cabinets etc. My then boss asked me to get a quote to get rid of them. The drummer in my band at the time, big Gray Ramsey, was into a bit of wheeling & dealing so I asked him how much to remove the stuff. He replied that we could sell it and make a fortune. I spoke to my boss and said "I've got a mate who'll pay us cash & take it away" He replied. "Well if he can sell it, you split the money with him, and treat it as your bonus". Anyway, cut a long story short, we pocketed £800 each for a weekends work. Not only that but I got enough carpet tiles, ash trays, etc for the studios to probably save me another £800.

As for my boss, I bought him lunch from the profits, he was more than happy, he got a nice lunch, the stuff went and I'd had my bonus without him paying a penny. The point is that, as the saying goes "where there's muck there's brass". A shrewd small businessman, with an eye on costs recognises this. He will seek to cut expenses, maximise income, turn a profit on a deal. People who've never had experience of anything other than cushy desk jobs, where hands don't get dirty, have no concept of this. This is why Council projects such as Aerodrome Road have gone way over budget. A councillor such as Dan Hope would surely go downto the site, walk around regularly and ask awkward questions. I suspect that the desk jockey councillors who laugh at him, sit waiting for management reports, saying "due to unforeseen circumstances, we are £4 million over budget". I asked Council Leader Mike Freer, on his Leader Listens blog, how often he turns up unnanounced at Council sites to check things. He didn't answer (he didn't even post the question up).

I've already pulled up one local Tory candidate for deriding hard working small business owners. This is yet another example of the disdain which those who can't stand the concept of getting their hands dirty hold those who do in. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is why they keep losing money.

Yup, I'm stupid !


If you've been following my blog, the you'll have seen that I took exception to some statements posted in someone elses blog on the subject of parenting methods.

Anyway my 13 year old daughter saw the offending blog and suitable chastised me having read it. "Dad, why are you getting so wound up. I don't think he's got kids and he probably hasn't got a girlfriend"

Yup she's right, I'm wrong. Ignore them, no one reads their blog.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Barnet Eye Exclusive : Freer snubs local Jewish voters


Let me ask you a few questions :-

a) Name an area of London with a large Orthodox Jewish population?

b) What do Orthodox Jewish people usually do on a Saturday Morning?

c) Who is the Conservative Candidate for Golders Green?

d) If you were the Conservative Candidate for Golders Green, what would be the worst possible time to hold a Council funded meet the public session in Golders Green?

I kid you not, Leader of Barnet Council, Conservative Candidate for Barnet, Mike Freer has decided that the best time and place for his Leader Listens roadshow to visit Golders Green is Tomorrow (Saturday 25th April) between 10am and noon, at Sainsburys.

Read all about it here :- http://www.barnet.gov.uk/press_releases.htm?id=1956

According to the press release, voters can tell Mike how to improve Barnet. Leader of the Council, Councillor Mike Freer said:

“The Leader Listens programme has been instrumental in allowing residents of the borough to interact and share their views with the Council outside the normal channels, therefore expanding the scheme to make the Council more accessible makes perfect sense.”

Well it seems that a rather large and rather important sector of the public have been excluded. The question is whether this is pure incompetence from Mike Freer or whether it's a deliberate snub to the religioulsy minded Orthodox community. I recently attended the Bahmitzvah of my friend and local businessman Lawrence Bard's son and I asked his opinion of Freer's choice of venue and timing? His response "I'm speechless. It is awful." He added "It will exclude a whole section of the community which has many issues it would like to raise with the Council".

I would say that the appearance or otherwise of a grovelling apology from Mike Freer would indicate whether this is conspiracy or cock-up.

Child abuse

**** This blog has been edited since first published. The author of the blog which I refer to in it has claimed that by reproducing his rantings, I've breached his copyright. As I'd generally support an artists copyright and protection of revenue, given my job, I've removed the paragraphs. I've taken the view that I really can't be bothered arguing with said individual as on reflection he really has nothing to say which I want to propogate. I've added his now deleted comment to the end of the blog, as I don't want his name appearing. Personally, I don't mind my blog being quoted as I stand by what I say and if it portrays me in a poor light so be it - anyway, I've tried to paraphrase it so you get the drift ******

Recently I deleted several comments on my blog. I didn't do this because I took exception to the comments. I did it because when I looked at the blog which the author of the comments was writing I found it to be offensive in the extreme. Having had another look at the blog today, I thought that I really should further clarify my views on the subject. First let me quote the NSPCC's website on the subject of child abuse.

Definition

Physical abuse includes hitting, shaking, kicking, punching, scalding, suffocating and other ways of inflicting pain or injury to a child. It also includes giving a child harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol or poison. If a parent or carer reports non-existent symptoms of illness in a child, or deliberately causes illness in a child, this is also a form of physical abuse.

The NSPCC believes that hitting children is wrong whatever the circumstances. It is emotionally and physically harmful and sets a bad example to children. What's more, it isn't even a very effective way of encouraging better behaviour. The NSPCC has a range of advice on managing children's behaviour without smacking.

The effects on children

Physical abuse can have long-term effects on a child's health and development. It can cause physical injury, brain damage or disability and may lead to children developing emotional, behavioural or educational problems. For some children, these difficulties can continue in adulthood. For example, people who were physically abused as children may have problems with personal relationships and they may be more likely to treat their own children abusively. The child's age, the frequency of the abuse and how long it has been happening, all influence how much they will be affected by it. But sometimes a severe isolated incident can affect a child as badly as on-going abuse.
Now I'm not an expert on the subject, but I believe the NSPCC are. I fully accept their definition.

The author of the blog posted a rebuttal of me today (in amongst another blog on a different subject). He felt unfairly labelled a supporter of abuse of children for simply having a humourous "Terry Thomas" like picture of a child being beaten. He felt that pinkos ow had it in for him (ie Me).


Well firstly I do not consider a picture of a child being physically restrained and smacked to be funny - full stop. Secondly, that was far from the only thing on the blog entry which I found to be offensive. The title was "SMACK UP MY BRAT". The point he made was that


In the good old days kids were beaten with all manner of impliments yet we still won two world wars. He made the point repeatedly that the kids weren't smacked they were properly beaten.
The crowning glory was along the lines that :-

Kids today are lazy fat & useless & if they were all given a good beating everyone would be much happier.

Is this funny? I don't think so. Even if it is meant to be, there are people who will take it as a rallying cry to justify things that I don't think can ever be justified. I actually think that the author of this post is inciting violence against children. Whilst I know for a fact that inciting violence against racial or religious groups is illegal, I'm not sure about this weakest and most defenceless group in society.

The way to prevent future "Baby P" cases is to educate parents and carers that violence against children is never acceptable. As to the threat of a cease and desist notice. I really hope one arrives because that will tell me who to report to the police for incitement. I think that a test case would be a very good idea in this field. Maybe then next time someone suggests that a "beating", as described above, is a positive part of parenting, they may think twice. The author of this post isn't just advocating a mild slap, but a fully fledged beating.

I'll let you draw your own conclusion as to whether I'm a humourless, pinko, namby pamby parent or just someone who believes in treating children with decency & respect. Oh and as to the charge that beatings are the way to combat childhood obesity, one of my children is a National swimming champion, with high self esteem and great self belief. I honestly don't think this would be the case if I'd beaten the living daylights out of my children. I certainly don't want them to grow up thinking that their father is a violent psychopath.

Here's the authors comment which I deleted :-

Mr Tichborne, it has been brought to my attention that you have copied a substantial portion of an original work and reproduced it here. As a writer, I take breaches of copyright very very seriously. While I frankly don't care about your opinion on my work or your consideration as to whether it is humorous or in bad taste, I do expect you - as a creative - to respect the rights attached to my work. You have excessively quoted my work without due credit or permission, and as such are in breach. I would therefore respectfully ask you to remove it immediately. If you chose not to, I will most certainly take further action. However, hopefully you will show respect for my legal rights.

Thank you.

Councillor Andrew Harper makes my day

I know I've criticised Barnet Council's Youtube initiative as a waste of money and I know I've recently criticised political bloggers who say things are hilarious when they aren't. All I can say is that this clip from Barnets youtube collection made me snigger. I quite like Councillor Andrew Harper, but the clip of him on the walking machine 40 seconds in is quite pythonesque.



The devices look like fun and I'm sure will be popular. Well done to Councillor Harper for the innovative idea. I just hope we get some in Mill Hill Park.

Wierd or just plain sad?

A few writers such as Simon Hoggart at the Guardian are very funny. Most aren't. Most political blogs aren't (intentionally at least). Maybe it's just me but the saddest thing are these blogs, clearly run by political zealots who say "You must check this out, it's hilarious". You then go and have a look and it's a diatribe against whoever with a few supposedly humorous quips, that in truth just don't cut the mustard.

I wonder whether the authors think we are simple or stupid or whether they are just wierdo's who really don't understand humour.

In the name of the father

Thought we'd continue todays religious theme with a few videos on the topic !

Black Grape - In the name of the father


Patti Smith- Gloria


A little point here. Shaun Ryder & Patti are two of my favourite artists. Both icons. Over the last couple of weeks there has been wall to wall media coverage because the media has discovered someone who's not an oil painting who can sing. Well Shaun & Patti aren't either but so what? They are superb. It's called talent. It's why their music endures.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Jesus was a black man


Interesting article in the Guardian G2 magazine today. In an interview with Billy Ocean, he states that he thinks Jesus was black. I'd never given it much thought, but the case he makes, given the geography is pretty compelling. It is is also worth noting that the most ancient Jewish tribes are dark skinned. Does it matter? Well it most certainly doesn't matter to me.

It would seem to me that there are people who it would make a huge difference to, having seen some comments on the web. Some have indicated they would lose their Christian faith. I'd say this to them, if that's how you feel, you've lost it already. In my world Jesus would be hanging out with Hendrix & Bob Marley, not with George Bush and his NeoCon cronies.

I hope the day comes when all men & women are judged by their talents, not their colour. If a black Jesus would help this, then that would work for me. As far as I recall he wasn't interested in race, just good being a good person, I hope we'd all sign up to that.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

It seems you enjoyed Testicles for Dinner

I can always tell if I've done a good blog by the fact that people hunt me down and email me. The more bizarre the email, the better I think I've done. Thanks for the other recipes for cooking testicles. I'm sure that one day I'll find a use for them. As to the guy who suggested that the blog should concentrate on this type of subject more, I'm sure that there are plenty of people who'd tell you I serve up enough B*ll*cks here as it is !

Anyway, whilst on the subject of testicles, I thought I'd tell you a little story about my Dad. Back in the late 1940's he was a commercial pilot. He worked for a construction company called John Howard Ltd who were engaged in building oil facilities in the Middle East. One of his main jobs was to ferry around a director called Mr Hallam (who later became the govenor of Cyprus). Hallam was wined and dined and was a very important man. My father recounted how he was visiting one sheik and Hallam got served up a Rams eyeball as he was guest of honour. Hallam had to eat the delicacy or cause grave offence. As it was served My Dad quipped that he was lucky he wasn't so honoured. Hallam responded "Oh but you are", as the rams testicles appeard on a plate in front of my Dad.

My Dad had quite a gift for languages and spoke fluent Arabic. He said that the waiters passed a comment between themselves laughing at him. He interjected in Arabic "get me a Scotch and coke" quietly. As the meal was in a supposedly "dry" country, no alcohol was served, but my father knew that there was always a supply. As the waiters had insulted him, he knew that it would turn up rather sharply. He said that was the only thing that made it tolerable. Hallam was rather fed up that Dad didn't order him one as well when he found out.

Where's the beef at the Barnet Tory Bugle


Those regular readers of this blog will have read previous posts on the sad demise of the once great local paper, the Edgware & Mill Hill Times and it's stablemates. This fine group of papers has morphed from a great and independent paper, into a mouthpiece for the Barnet Conservative regime running the Town hall. It looks to me as if there is a hotline from the Barnet Tories to the editor, with a seemingly endless stream of "helpful" stories. Rather oddly, stories which may damage them don't seem to surface, or if they do the disappear just as rapidly. Take for example the news that the Tories want to privatise Hendon Cemetary. Does this see the light of day? Well it does if you read VickiM or the Barnet Council Watch blog. Given that it's stuffed full of my nearest & dearest, I feel rather strongly about it. We all remember the Westminster Cemetary scandal. Strangely, no sign of this story on the Bugle's News website.

What do we have? Well there is the story of how Damian McBride could be slung out of the Finchley Labour party for starting rumours about Tories. Clearly this story is highly damaging to Labour and rightly so. There is one tiny problem. I thought journalists were meant to do a bit of digging for their story. I thought they were meant to get a little bit of balance. It seems that these days at the Times, they can't be bothered beyond a quick call to Andrew Dismore. The thing is that if they had bothered to look, they've got a McBride scandal on their doorstep. McBride was sacked as an advisor for thinking of starting a website full of slurs & nasty rumours. Have any of the journalists at the Times looked at what is going on locally? David Miller runs the Barnet council watch website. He is a Conservative, his mother is a Conservative peer. David and his mother have been subject to a coordinated campaign of smears, innuendo & lies, purely because he is in dispute with a faction of the local party.

It is clear to anyone who could be bothered to investigate, what is going on & who is behind the scheme. At it's very mildest, this cyberbullying & intimidation takes the form of planted questions at Council meetings which portray Mr Miller as an obsessive and a waster of public money. This practice has been deemed to have breached Mr Miller's rights, but has there been a public apology to Mr Miller?

I'm all for the McBride's of this world getting booted out of their local parties. The Tories have a great opportunity locally to show Labour how it's done. I'm sure that if the Edgware Times could be bothered to ring Mr Miller, he'd give them all the ammunition they need for a great scoop.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Top GLA Tory issues grovelling apology

Yesterday I wrote a scathing blog about Tory GLA leader Roger Evans comments. I confessed in my blog yesterday that I thought I'd misjudged the man. I'd originally put him in the "sensible" Tory camp. I thought he was better than his comments. Well it seems that Roger has taken some time to reflect and has concluded that yes, he is better than that. Today Roger posted a blog entitled "I was wrong and I apologise".

I was shocked when I read it. This is a proper heartfelt apology, clearly written by someone who realises they've been stupid. I can't recall the last time I saw such a statement by a politician. We all make mistakes, we all do stupid things. I believe you judge a man by how he makes amends. I still think his comments were crass and stupid, but I'm sure we've all said things we've regretted later.

Seeing that Roger Evans clearly is a man of dignity and principle, I'd say that the GLA Tories are lucky to have such a leader. There are plenty of examples of politicians on all sides who have screwed up and not had the balls to admit it. I think that ordinary people on all sides should take not of his apology and commend him for it. Maybe that will encourage a few others to follow his example and make amends.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Dyke is Tory Media Guru


Fascinating story on the BBC website. Greg Dyke is to chair a Tory think tank review of Creative media. What interested me is the make up of the committee.

Ex-Sky executive Elisabeth Murdoch,
Carphone Warehouse's Charles Dunstone
Brent Hoberman, Lastminute.com's co-founder
Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group International
Kip Meek, board member of Ingenious Media
Alex Hope, managing director of Double Negative Ltd
Ian Livingstone, life president of Eidos
Rupert Dilnott-Cooper, former Carlton executive and former chairman of the British Television Distributors Association
Ex-BBC new media chief Ashley Highfield, who is now managing director, Consumer & Online UK, part of Microsoft

It seems that Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the review to "turn Britain into the world's creative and digital hub". Well I guess none of us would want anything else. I just have doubts about these panels. The guys who set up Twitter & Blogspot were not inspired by creative media task forces. The best British inventions have always been made in sheds by mad inventors. I suspect that if the Government wants to protect & nurture creative genius in Great Britain, they should

a) Protect back gardens and stop people building flats on them
b) Make every shed in the country a listed building

If you lock any boy aged between 6-12 in a shed with a video camera and a load of shed stuff, you will nurture far more creative genius than a million Government worthies sipping Cappucinos. If there is a problem here it is that people aren't encouraged to think independently. "Sniffin Glue" magazine published three chords with a rallying cry, "now form a band". We did in our thousands, most of us still do. I doubt that any panel would have inspired Mark P.

I don't believe for a second these think tanks ever achieve anything in the creative media arena. All of the best artistic movements are not the product of teams, panels or any other scheme. They are the result of like minded people getting bored with the rubbish they are being lumbered with and doing their own thing.

These ideas then take off and get a life of their own. No government panel would have invented punk rock, pirate radio, Picasso's art or even Twitter. The idea that the bloke who invented Roland Rat could transform the fortunes of British Media is ridiculous. Even in the realm of TV the best British TV was never the ideas commissioned by panels, it is the programs made by mavericks. People Like Lou Grade were succesfull because they realised this.

The most successful commissioners of programs are those with the balls to take risks. I'm sorry to say that people on the panel such as Elisabeth Murdoch come from backgrounds were cash is king at Sky TV. Will they take chances and let ideas develop if there is no instant payback? My guess is that whatever great media innovations emerge from this country in the next 20 years, none of them will emerge from this panel of media hacks.

EXCLUSIVE: Top GLA Tory in protestor "Threats" Gaffe


In general, where we have protests we have two sides. On one side we have "The Money". These are the people who stand to make serious money. They can afford teams of experts, lawyers, scientists, media personalities, in short whoever will take the thirty pieces of silver to help the schemes come to pass.

On the other side we have "the people". Generally they don't stand to make anything from their protests. They just care about whatever cause they are protesting about. They can't afford teams of lawyers, etc who know the process and how to get around it. They can't afford experts to pick holes in the other sides evidence. They can't afford "tame" media personalities to plug their case. Often they fail, just because they don't really understand the process. As a result they feel angry and disenfranchised. "The Money"knows all the tricks in the book, often they employ the person who writes the book.

Now a wise and compassionate politician will recognise all of this. They will see that protestors usually haven't gone to the finest colleges and studied the subject law for years. They will see that they are often suffering stress, potential financial loss and aggrevation. They will understand that, unlike the smooth teams of lawyers, they have a personal interest long after the lawyers for "The money" have gone. In short, a politician should make allowances for "the people". They should treat them even handedly, even when they disagree.

Roger Evans is the leader of the Conservatives on the GLA. Generally Roger is quite a sensible chap and someone who I thought had a bit of common sense. From comments he's made to day on his blog, I am starting to wonder whether I got him wrong. In a comment on his blog today he says :-

Weggis, if anyone from the protest group had approached me with a logical argument to support their views your suggestion might hold water. Unfortunately there has never been the slightest attempt on their part to engage positively. My experience has been of threats, disrupting meetings and reporting me to anyone they think might shut me up.
Now I read this comment and thought to myself that Roger had been subject to a campaign along the lines of those mounted by the ALF against lab workers. I'm a pacifict and despise the concept of people threatenig people to gain their support. I felt extremely sorry for him and was disgusted that a group should target him in this way. My feelings changed completely when I read a follow up comment from Roger :-

I should also clarify my use of the word 'threats' in my last comment. Of course campaigners have not been threatening me with anything illegal, but their approach has been consistantly one of 'if you don't support us you will be voted out', which looks like a threat from where I'm standing.
So it appears that telling the leader of the GLA Tories that if he doesn't change his mind he'll lose the next election is a threat? I must say that this is the most stupid comment I've ever read by a serious p0litician. I cannot possibly understand why Roger Evans should say such a stupid thing.

My advice to Roger Evans. I'd sit yourself down and have a long hard look at yourself and ask yourself this. Have you considered why the protestors don't engage you in the way that the suits from "The Money" do? Have you ever considered why they get so angry? Have you ever considered how it feels to thwarted at every turn, just because you don't understand the rules, whilst the other side wrote them.

Roger also says :-

Anonymous, I was willing to compromise back in March but the protestors demanded a ruling and now they will have to live with it.

They will also have to live with my active support for LCA from now on, even though I was neutral on the subject until recently - such has been the effect of their brilliant strategy...
You clearly state that because a few people have upset you, the LCA now have your active support. The implication is that support for the LCA is "payback" to the 6 supporters who reported you, or the few who shouted at meetings or even those who had the audacity to tell you they wouldn't vote for you. Roger, I ask you this - Do you make every important decision concerning the future of London based on whether or not you like the more vociferous supporters of the proposal, regardless of its merits.

Let me just mention one thing for clarity. I really don't have an opinion as to whether the Airport should be enlarged or not. I can see both sides and haven't made up my mind (like Roger says he was before he got upset). Unlike Roger, I'll make up my mind based on the evidence, not on whether one side is better than the other at schmoozing me.

Are blogs fair?

I've looked at hundreds, if not thousands of blogs Some are great, some are horrible, some are interesting & some aren't. We've a few people who've become household names through blogging, such as Guido & Iain Dale. We've also had Salman Pax in Iraq. A couple of comments came up at the weekend regards my blog this weekend. I thought I'd ask the question, are blogs fair.

As I see it, for a blog to have any impact, it has to be either a) Interesting or b) funny. If it's just full of random rantings which are blatently untrue, then people are not stupid, they just won't come back. People don't say "I've found this great blog full of made up rumours". Take for example my special on Captain Useless aka "Matthew Offord". All of the comments are either quotes from his website or facts in the public domain which can found on the council website. I'm sure Matthew doesn't think "great" when he reads it, but he'll get far worse if he ever does well in his chosen career, so he'd better get used to it. I think my blog is fair comment.

So in answer to the question. Are blogs fair? Not always, but if they are clearly not fair, they will have no readers and therefore no influence

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Music, Beer, Football,Whisky, Pornography and Cash


In my wild youth, I used to get a real kick out of being in places I shouldn't be. Being half Australian and half Irish, I've always had a rebellious streak and one of the worst sides of this was reading "No entry" signs as "Please come in". I get a perverse buzz out of getting myself into situations which there is no obvious way out of. Probably the nearest I came to really coming unstuck was in October 1981.

I was living illegally in Stockholm, having entered through an entry point unmanned by immigration services. A Russian Submarine "Whisky 137" ran aground whilst spying on a Swedish naval base. The Russians despatched a rescue task force & the Swedish military sealed the whole area off. I thought that it would be fun to go and have a look. It soon became clear that the area was, shall we say, rather heavily patrolled. No problem, it was a huge area and a swift hike soon revealed a rather easy way to get a peep. Having made sure I wasn't being watched, I made my way down for a good shufti. It soon became rather clear to me that there was more to this incident than was being let on. The huge military presence & the demeaour of the Swedish soldiers & navy indicated that they were, shall we say, worried. As I started to make my way back, I rather unfortunately ran into an army patrol. Finding a Brit snooping around was nnot what they wanted. As I had no paperwork on me, they were even more agitated. I thought I'd try my luck "Look, this business is nothing to do with the British. If you arrest me, you'll only have a load of paperwork and hassle, and from what I can see you've enough of that already. Just let me go and I'll go home and no more will be said". They looked at each other (no radios, so no one else knew). The soldier said "Ok, walk back the way you came. If you turn around I will shoot you". I went back the way I came and didn't turn around. Rather strangely, when I got my pictures developed, none of the ones taken at the harbour came out, although all of the rest did?

Travelling on trains around the USSR, without the required paperwork, the best mechanism for avoiding attention was to take on the persona of a drunk Belarussian peasant. It appears that's something I'm rather good at. I once sat on a train from Vilnius to Minsk for 2 1/2 hours opposite a local KGB officer, without them realising I was British. When they got off, my friend commented that they'd kept saying how they despised Belarussian drunks.

My interest was primarily in the underground music scene. I just like meeting people and seeing what they are up to. I don't really like plush hotels, preferring the dark & dangerous side of life. In Minsk, friends kept trying to take me to the "posh" places. Eventually, I said that I didn't want to see these, I wanted to see where the roadsweepers and the dustbinmen got drunk. We went to a "beerbar". This bar was the real Soviet Union. I suspect that none of my student friends had been there much, given their reaction. It was full to the brim with middle aged workers and a small contingent of Cuban students. There were no women at all (apart from the other half, who was none too impressed). There were no womens toilets and no sit down loo's, for the men just a urinal consisting of a sheet of corrugated iron draining into a gutter. My friends were rather upset that I witnessed the rampant racism which the Cuban students were faced with. Events turned rather ugly when an old drunk came up and asked why a British Facist was in the bar. I responded that Great Britain was fighting the Nazi's when the Russians were their allies under the Molotov/Von Ribbentrop pact. That didn't go down too well. I diffused the situation by saying I liked the Russians because one of their linesmen won us the World Cup in 1966. At this the old drunk said that every Russian had been an Englishman for the day and it was all smiles after that.

Several of my best friends used to drive buses for Budget Bus overland tours from Totteridge Station to NewDehli. They told me that the secret to getting through customs quickly was whisky, hard core Pornography and Cash. Generally a bottle of Scotch or a few dirty mags would save hours of checks and paperwork. I always made sure that I had a few rather filthy magazines stashed in my luggage just in case. Unfortuately the one time these were found was by a rather stern female Swedish Customs officer, who proceeded to send me for an "internal search" at the start of our bands 1982 tour of Sweden.

One time they did come in useful was when the band were playing in Belgium in 1985. One of our party was a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. This shouldn't have been a problem as we were going to a Belgian port, but mid channel, the Ferry got redirected to Calais. As we approached customs, the said individual was getting rather nervous. Although he actually possessed several passports in several names (I don't know if any of us knew who he really was) he was convinced he'd be caught. At customs, we explained that we had a gig in Belgium and were running late. A rather lugubrious French customs officer gave us the old, whats in it for me look. We proferred the supply of Porn mags & a couple of beers and off we zoomed. The picture at the top of this blog is The False Dots taken on the road to the Tiki club in Belgium shortly after this event - L-R - Captain Ubungus (guitar), Allen Lucas (now called Allen Ashley)(Vox), Chris Potts (inventor of playing Tea Box bass with a drumstick) (Bass), Big Gray Ramsey (Drums) and Me. There's more about my Band, The False Dots on our Myspace page. You can listen to a few recent compositions there - I don't personally like putting audio on my blog page, because it can embarrass you when you are having a sly peek at a blog when you are meant to be working.

Captain Useless is in a spin !


Well it's good to see that one of Barnet's unfantastic four, Matthew Offord has updated his website. It could use a bit of refreshment.

To check it out click here

Interestingly, whilst most websites with a section called people, have details of all the great people in the Team, Matthews doesn't (wonder why?)

In his latest update he says :-

It irritates me to see the Labour Government’s unacceptable waste of residents’ money:

* Spent over £13 billion on a failing NHS Computer system
* Spent £13,000 on Christmas Cards for one Government department alone
* Spent £164,000 for a new logo for a Government Agency
* Spent over £250,000 on renaming a Government department
* Spent £280,000 on a conference to discuss value for money in the public services

Well Matthew, I guess that you have a point, this waste irritates me. Lets compare what happens in Barnet Council, where you could change something with how Labour Nationally run the show.

Matthew says :- Spent over £13 billion on a failing NHS Computer system

Rog T says :- What about the £1.4 Million Barnet Council spent on obsolete laptops, most of which went into an expensive storage depot.


Matthew Says :- Spent £13,000 on Christmas Cards for one Government department alone

Rog T says :- What about the £5,000 Barnet Council are spending on sending officers to a property developers conference in the South of France

Matthew Says :- Spent £164,000 for a new logo for a Government Agency

Rog T says :- What about the £100,000 Barnet are spending on YouTube videos etc

Matthew says :- Spent over £250,000 on renaming a Government department

Rog T says :- What about the £60,000 of taxpayers money to supply Barnet Council with a "Cabinet Advisor" from the Conservative Political Officers Network (CPON).

Matthew says :- Spent £280,000 on a conference to discuss value for money in the public services

Rog T says :- What £680,000 Barnet Council are spending on Future Shape to look at new ways of delivering public service.

So Matthew is "irritated" by the Labour government. Thing is, in Barnet, he's the deputy Leader of the Council. If he so wished, he could have stopped all of the waste I've detailed above. Did he?

Matthew Offord is the PPC for Hendon. If you read his website and didn't know about his record, you may think he is the man to ride in to Westminster and clean up the waste. Sadly though, when it comes to cutting things in Barnet, it's not the Taxpayer funded Political officers that get cut. It's the wardens for the elderly in sheltered accommodation. Matthew Offord is deputy Leader of the Council so we can only draw one conclusion. He may be good at spinning, but he's useless at cutting out waste. Surely the Hendon Conservatives contain at least one person with the wit to advise Matthew on how to put together a website which doesn't shoot him in both feet? I believe he works for the BBC so you'd really expect a bit better effort, wouldn't you?

Beating the credit crunch the organic way !


Are you feeling credit crunched this morning? All of those bills piling up & the wage cheque going down? Are you thinking of ditching the Waitrose Organic & going for the ASDA own brand instead to save a few pennies?

I was having a chat yesterday with a good friend and she asked me a very interesting question. What was the tastiest Tomato I'd ever eaten? Strangely enough that was a really easy question to answer. My Uncle George used to grow the best tomatoes in the world. His secret? If ever he went somewhere & had a really great tomato, he'd save a few seeds and grow them in his back garden. He'd then cross pollinate them with other tomatoes to produce even tastier ones, saving the seeds from the tastiest plant for next year. Over many decades he'd developed the finest tomatoes it is possible to eat. Sadly he passed away 20 odd years ago.

Thing is though, he'd grow most of his own veg in a little plot at the botom of his garden. George was a builder and a busy man, but he'd always spend half an hour a few times a week tending to his garden. I asked him once if he did it to save money. His response. "Well, sure it saves money, but I do it because it's the only way I can get decent fruit and veg". If George was having salad for supper, he'd go down the garden and choose the pefectly ripe items. Best quality guaranteed. He also told me that he found it very theraputic after a long day dealing with stroppy customers, to spend an hour away from it all tending his patch. He once said, "It's that or the pub and the garden is much better for you". Mind you he'd usually have a scotch when he'd finished.

I saw a very interesting article on Time about organic gardening in the USA. As we all have less money to spend, we maybe have a bit more time on our hands. Given that a bit of vegetable growing is both relaxing and a good way to save money, this is one sector where the credit crunch might be rather good for business.

I thought I'd google - "Organic Garden Centre" London - just to see how many specialist centres there are in London. Guess how many came up? None. There is a massive business opportunity for someone to fill a gaping gap in the market. I know that there are plenty of fine Garden Centres in London, but I've always believed the secret to success in business is to do things a bit different and find a niche. Given that people pay twice as much for organic veggies & drive miles out of their way to get them, I suspect a totally organic Garden Centre, run by experts would soon attract a massive following. There would also be a great opportunity for a bring & buy style exchange.

Any city boys out there sitting on a big payoff & wanting a change of lifestyle & ethics, give it a thought.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Testicles for Dinner




Fancy a nice tasty treat for dinner tonight?

How about this yummy snack.

Alex Mackay from Great Food Live
has this recipe on his UKTV WEB PAGE


Ingredients
1kg beef or lamb testicles
50ml white wine vinegar
seasoned Flour, for dusting
2 Eggs, beaten
100g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
40g unsalted Butter
1 small bunch flat leaf Parsley, leaves picked from stalks

For the vegetables:
1 large Onions, peeled and finely sliced
3 cloves Garlic, finely sliced
1 large red peppers, seeds removed, sliced
1 large yellow peppers, seeds removed, sliced
3 tbsp extra virgin Olive oil
100 ml water, salt and black pepper


Method
1. With a sharp knife, split the tough skin-like muscle that surrounds each testicle and transfer to a large saucepan.

2. Cover with water and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Slice each testicle into 1cm thick ovals and set aside.

3. While the testicles are cooking, tip the sliced onion, garlic and peppers into a large pan. Add the extra virgin olive oil and water. Cover and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Season well and set aside.
4. Toss the sliced testicles in the flour, followed by the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Heat a large pan with the vegetable oil and fry, in a single layer, for 3-4 minutes until golden. Add the butter, let it sizzle for a minute and stir in the parsley.

5. Season the testicles and serve with the stewed peppers.

I was thinking of having a dinner party for the editorial team at the Barnet Times group of newspapers. Given the papers policy towards Barnet Council and the Conservatives at the helm, I can think of no more appropriate dish.

My advice to the team - get yourself some Cojones.





London Assembly Member in Standards Row



Paragraph 5 - "You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the authority into disrepute."

It seems that a certain, high profile London Assembly member has been attracting complaints for his behaviour. It had been suggested that he broke the section of the code detailed above.

The full details of this issue are listed here on This Blog page (click here).

I must say that this is a rather interesting case not so much for the actual issue, but I can see that there will be ripples felt for a long time over the outcome. I think that the outcome was correct. Whilst I don't agree with Mr Evans on this issue, I most certainly don't think his comments were offensive. From what I've seen of him, he's actually quite a mild mannered chap. If we ban phrases like "climate change Taliban" then we're probably in no position to criticise the Taliban at all.

More Censorship at the Times?

There was a rather interesting story on the Edgware Times website yesterday.

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/hendonnews/4297208.Jobless_protestor__making_quick_buck__from_police_abuse_claims__says_assembly_member/

I'd bookmarked it, but it seems to have disappeared.

I wonder why?

Just remember this before you criticise "Protestors"

Who would you say was the best Prime Minister of the last 50 years? I suspect that if you are a Tory, you'd say Margaret Thatcher. Just suppose Lady T had been born 100 years before, would she have done so well in her chosen career? The answer to that is NO. The reason? Women didn't have the vote. Why did this change? Because of the Suffragette movement. My sadly missed cousin & film director Midge MacKenzie made a documentary series about these inspirational women which was shown on the BBC in the 1970's called Shoulder to Shoulder. At the time, the suffragettes were dismissed rather harshly in the same tones as the G20 protestors. Who was right?

Let me ask you a different question. Do you think that Ireland (the south, not the north) should be under British rule? I don't think we'd find too many takers for yes these days. My cousin, Kevin Barry would be 107 if he was still alive today. The British Government executed him when he was 18 years old for his part in the struggle to free Ireland. He's fondly remembered by the family and by millions of Irish across the world.


Was Kevin right to oppose the British Occupation? I'd say that most people these days would agree that he was.

What about the US involvement in Vietnam? Were the anti war protestors right to campaign against the awful US policy. Here's a clip of Country Joe MacDonald singing his famous anti war song "The Fish Cheer" at Woodstock. I don't know how often a bloke on his own with a guitar had such a seminal effect, but every time I watch this clip it sends shivers down my spine. Joe MacDonald had served with the US army in Korea, so he knew. This song is, in my humble opinion, the greatest ever protest song.



Lets look a bit closer to home, in Barnet. Several leading members of Barnet Council are "out" Homosexuals. In this day and age that is fine, they are chosen on their merits and righly their sexuality is not an issue for the voters. Rather like Margaret Thatcher, had they been born 100 years earlier, they would have had a rather different life. They would have been faced with the choice of living a secret life or facing jail. Why has the situation changed? Because of protest groups such as Stonewall. It is worth remembering that it was only in the 1980's that Peter Tatchell lost a safe Labour seat, purely because he was gay. How many people in 2009 think that Homosexuality should be illegal? Why has it changed? Because of protestors.

I saw a comment from some Barnet politician, who's name escapes me right now, that the majority of right thinking people were repelled by the G20 protestors. Time will tell as to who is right about this one. I've no idea what a right thinking person is, but by I suspect that by the definition he uses, it is probably someone who events prove to be wrong. I'm rather happy to be a wrong thinking person !

Friday, 17 April 2009

What isn't in the risk assessment

My boy plays for The Watling Club under 9 football team. They've had a great season and have just won the Harrow & District Under 9 5th division. As you might imagine, I'm a rather proud Dad! At training on Wednesday, I was chatting with the club secretary and other club officials. Watling is affiliated to Barnet Council and the subject of the paperwork came up.

Let me give you a couple of examples of some of the new bureaucracy that is coming in.

Parental consent forms required for every child for every away game.
Risk assessments for all venues that boys play at.

A blanket consent to say "yes it's OK for my boy to play" is no longer good enough. This means that for our team of 16 players, who play 20 away games, 320 forms are required a season.

As for the risk assessment, the majority of the grounds are council property. They already have risk assessments. The rest are owned by clubs or firms, again requiring assessments for insurance. For Watling a council official came down to Montrose Park and performed a risk assessment with the club. Now our secretary takes all of this as part and parcel of the hasle of running a club, but I ask - how much does all this cost and what does it achieve?

One thing it certainly does is put many people off. Who does the risk assessment for the cost of the clubs folding. All the kids becoming couch potatoes. All the kids falling in with the wrong crowd.

It seems to me that all of this bureaucracy is a complete waste of time and money. It achieves nothing useful and denies children the chance to develop themselves. I've broken limbs playing football. It wasn't nice, but it was worth it

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Provocation is no excuse

Just been watching the Sky news. It seems that there is yet another example of police brutality towards a member of the public. In the latest clip, we see a woman shouting at a Policeman, who decides to draw his baton and strike her on the leg. I've generally got a bit of sympathy for the police in these situations. It can't be much fun being abused relentlessly, especially when you probably don't think too much of some of the people you are protecting.

Having said that, I'm a bit old fashioned. I don't believe in hitting women. I think any man who hits a woman is a scumbag. This is just as true for a burly copper armed with a baton as a drunken slob having a row with his wife. Sure there is provocation, but this is the same argument that the drunken slob uses to justify his cowardly behaviour.

There is no excuse. Ever.

Does Freer's left hand know what his right hand is up to?

There is an interesting press release from Barnet Council Leader Mike Freer today. It details how Barnet has only collected 96.3% of Council Tax this year. This means that we all have to pay more money to subsidise those who don't. Looked at another way, it probably means that, statistically at least, there's probably 7 or 8 households in my road paying nothing, whilst I pay over £2,000 per year. I guess that there are three main reasons why people don't pay.

1 - They move on and can't be traced
2 - They have financial difficulty and can't pay
3- There are administrative failures resulting in non collection

If people know they are moving abroad and deliberately run up arreas, that is hard to deal with. I have no issue with the council, here as their options are limited. The other two categories are slightly different. I'd like to see the breakdown for the reasons. All failures of administration are inexcusable and I'd expect the council to be taking urgent action to remedy this. Maybe we'll get a post on the Leader Listens website to explain how much the Council is costing us? If the figures I've been told unofficially are correct, then it would spare us the cuts to the welfare service, cancel the increase to the infant burials and give us a small but welcome tax cut.

Then there is the third group. Those that can't pay because of financial difficulty.

In his press release, Leader of the Council, Councillor Mike Freer said:

"The collection of Council Tax is an important function which ensures that the services we provide to residents can be maintained and I am delighted that once again we have seen a further increase and improvement of performance.

"While it is difficult for the council to trace some absconded debtors, particularly those of a transient nature, we do everything possible and urge those who are struggling with their bills to contact our dedicated teams for advice and assistance."

You may think that it is good that Mike Freer cares about those in financial difficulty. You might think it is great that the Council has dedicated teams helping those in difficulty. Well it seems to me that Mike's left hand doesn't know what his right hand is up to, because his regime have proposed that the Welfare Rights Unit, which helps people to claim benefits, be closed down.

Here's the page to have a look at :-
http://www.barnet.gov.uk/index/council-democracy/consultations/welfare-rights-unit-budget-consultation.htm

The Tories are making political hay out of the current recession and the rising unemployment figures, but at the ground level, they are cutting the budgets of departments that help people. Rather ironically this week, I've been featuring the role of Barnet Councils Political Officers. David Miller estimates that the cost of these people to the taxpayer, who's sole job is to help Barnets Tories stay true to their creed, is £175,000. The budget for the welfare rights unit that will help anyone in difficulty is £180,000. Which provides the Barnet Taxpayer with better value for money?

I'm afraid that I won't believe that the Tories have changed and now care for us ordinary folk, until they start putting the wellbeing of the general public before the pockets of party lackeys. What amazes me is that it really shouldn't be a hard shout for a Tory regime to make, should it?