Thursday, 30 December 2010

Crapitally Unconnected - Another First Capital Cockup

Tuesday night we had a great night out at Boz Boorers Xmas party. As we had an early get up, we left at 11pm, in time for the 11.27 train from West Hampstead to Mill Hill Broadway. Earlier in the evening, we checked the website to ensure there were no problems as driving was the other option. As we wanted a drink, but couldn't get hammered, either option worked. As the the FCC website said a normal Saturday service was running, it seemed the more convenient option. Sadly when we arrived at West Hampstead for the train home, it became clear that it was anything but a normal Saturday service. All trains were terminating at Hendon, one stop short of Mill Hill. As there was a train in, we jumped on. We were in Hendon ten minutes later. Hordes of people, a few FCC employees running around. I asked a couple of questions "Why aren't there any buses" The response "Because we didn't know four trains would come at once" An odd response. Don't they actually look at the timetable. I then asked when the next one to Mill Hill would be along. The answer "Soon". Soon turned out to be around 20 minutes later. We got on and the bus waited for another 10 minutes. When it got going, it took a bizarre route. Rather than driving up the hill to the A41, it drove down the hill to the Edgware Road, then south to Staples corner, along the North Circular to Brent Cross, then up the A41, a huge detour.

 So a journey that took 5 minutes, ended up taking nearly an hour, in a state of total confusion. A few hundred peoples night out was ruined. I have a few questions for FCC.

a) Why was there nothing on their website?
b) Why did none of their staff have a clue what was going on, even down to the level of how many trains were arriving?
c)  Why didn't the coach drivers know the quickest routes

All basic stuff. As usual, no information and no organisation as soon as something goes wrong.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Boz Boorers Xmas party - The Alliance, Mill Lane

So off to the Alliance at Mill Lane for Boz Boorers Xmas party. An evening of raucous rockabilly and rock and roll. It was great to catch up with a few friends. Had a beer and a chat with Lee Thompson from Madness. He filled me in with their plans for 2011 (all under wraps but very exciting). Lee is going to be playing with his Ska orchestra for Rock against the Cuts at the Arts Depot on Sun 30th Jan. The Ska orchestra is his brainchild, and it sounds great to me. Also saw old schoolfriends Mel & Sue looking great.

The pub was packed and as the rockabilly classics were pumped out, with an ever changing line up of musicians,  the beers went down very smoothly. Rockabilly is a very accessable and enjoyable type of music. The pub was packed and bopping. I'd not be at all surprised to see a big Rock n Roll /Rockabilly revival in 2011. You read it here first

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Elton John is having a baby !!!!

I must confess that the news Elton John is going to become a father took me rather by surprise. The phone in shows were awash with callers giving their views on the subject. I was quite surprised how attitudes seem to have changed towards gay men adopting. Whilst there were callers who were rather upset, they were clearly a minority (assuming the stations put on a representative mix). I thought I'd chip in with my tuppence worth.

Lets have a look at some of the arguments against Elton. He's a sinner seems to be the recurrent theme. Sadly there is no restriction on sinners having children. In fact if sinners were banned from having kids, we'd have died out long ago. Then there's the fact that his wife is a bloke (or he's another blokes wife?). Well it isn't a living arrangement it would suit me, but then there are quite a few living arrangements that wouldn't suit me. The question is, will it suit the baby? Unlike many of the babies born on Xmas day, I doubt that Baby John will want for anything. Elton is noted for his "extravagent lifestyle". Then again quite a few people I know do all sorts of things when the kids are tucked up in bed. If Elton was still strung out permanently on cocaine, I'd say that would be an issue, but he isn't. He's grown up.

One caller to a show said that he wouldn't be exposed to the things "normal dads would do with their kids". Well nope, he probably won't. As his Dad is the lifelong chairman of Watford FC, he'll probably think that everyone sits in the directors box at football matches and that everyone can have a kickabout with the first team. I suppose he'll be forced to watch all those terrible shows, such as Billy Elliott which Elton helped put together. His old man might even teach him to play a bit of piano. Perhaps (horror of horrors) his upbringing will make him grow up to be a homosexual. That seems to be the fear of most callers. Strangely enough, all of the homosexuals I know were raised in rampantly heterosexual environments, being brainwashed from the day they were born. No amount of social pressure made them see the light and my guess is that Junior John will be whatever he's going to be. What I can never quite get my head around is the view which the most rabid callers have, that homosexuality is so marvellous that one whiff and you are converted for life.  I suspect that reflects what lies behind the door of their own closet.

I suspect that Junior John will have a pretty cossetted lifestyle, he'll have nannies galore and get the bets tickets for all of the best show and best football games. I suspect his Dads will be pretty relaxed about whatever lifestyle choices he makes. I suspect that in 20 years, he'll become a successful musician.

To be honest I worry more about the effect it will have on Elton. He's in his sixties. Junior John will be a teenager as Elton is in his late 70's and early 80's. It's bad enough dealing with stroppy kids when you are in your forties. I rather hope they have a brother or sister pretty soon, for the sake of the baby. It would do him some good to have a peer to play with.

So if you want to know whether I think it's a good thing that the Johns are having a baby? Well I always think that news of a baby is a joyous event. If I was a perfect parent, I'd feel entitled to criticise everyone else, but I'm not. It may interest you to know that when the missus was preggers with my eldest, Tanya Byron, who hosted "The House of Tiny Tearaways" was in our NCT group. Her eldest is the same age as mine. As I sat sniggering through some of her shows, I reflected on one thing. I believe that most people are massively ill prepared for parenthood. We were exceptionally lucky in that both my mum and my missus mum were local and gave all the support and help they could. Whether it was my mum sending a tray of dinner down or her mum watching the kids to give us a break, we were blessed. I'd urge the Johns to learn as much as they can about parenting and enjoy as much time as they can with their kids.

My wife and my children really are the best thing in my life. I wouldn't wish anyone to have a sad and lonely old age and that's why I really hope it works out for the John family. Good luck to them, and for all of the Bible bashers going off on one, remember what Jesus advised "don't point out the splinter in your brothers eye, when you have a plank in your own".

Monday, 27 December 2010

So who is responsible if you fall over on the ice?

Just suppose you are an elderly person living on your own. Nine days ago it snowed in London. The pavements have been treacherous ever since. Would you go out an risk life & limb or stay in, running out of fresh food and provisions? More to the point, if you have to go out, who is responsible if you fall over and break your hip.

When my mother was 81 years old, she fell and broke her hip. On arrival at hospital they advised that many elderly people with her injuries don't make it. She pulled through the episode, but it just about finished her off and robbed her of what little independence she had. Yesterday I fell on the ice in Flower Lane car park, as I walked my dog. I didn't break anything, but I have a huge bruise. I was wearing proper walking boots, but the car park was a sheet of ice. The council had plenty of warning about the bad weather and the snow has sat on the ground for nine days. Elderly people are virtual prisioners and nobody can walk the pavements without fear of  a fall. The grit bin at the bottom of our road is empty and has been for most of the time.

The council policy of not bothering to grit is tantamount to discrimination. The argument they use is that it's too expensive to grit. How come they used to do it and we paid far less tax? Council tax is higher than ever, but services are worse than ever. The reason? Overmanagement. In the not too distant past, council depots had a foreman who allocated the work and reported in to the town hall. My guess is that these days there are more managers than people driving grit lorries. I'd almost forgive them if when it snowed they all rolled up there sleeves and got out with the boys gritting. Sadly when it gets cold, the top bosses bugger off on holiday. They've left a geezer running the council who is not a Barnet Council employee, he's a highly paid consultant. He gets between £15,000 and £17,500 a month.

Has he been working 24 hours a day, telling staff on redundancy notices to pull their fingers out? Has he been repeating (on holiday) Council Leader Lynne Hillans message that "We're all in it together" to staff.

If you have fallen over and injured yourself, I'd strongly advise you to check and see whether Barnet Council have failed in their duty of care to you by not taking steps to ensure safety of their property (pavements, car parks, etc). If everyone who could sue them, did sue them, maybe they'd actually make sure the pavements are safe. Has anyone been to North London Business Park. I'd be intrigued to know if they've gritted around their own offices?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

So who is running Barnet Council right now

In the Barnet Future Shape blog, I've posted a couple of out of office notifications from the Leader of Barnet Council Lynne Hillan  and the CEO Nick Walkley. They've both taken holidays and left their deputies in charge. I've put their out of office responses on the Future Shape website here :-

http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2010/12/who-is-running-barnet-council-in-snow.html

So what time of year does the Council most need leadership? Maybe when there's some snow and ice.  Hillan pulled the same stunt last year when Barnet ran out of grit and no one was here to bang heads together. That worked so well CEO Nick Walkley has decided to go at the same time. Who's he left in charge? Andrew Travers, a consultant who doesn't even work for the council.

As Barnet council workers celebrate Xmas with redundancy letters, the man running the council is a consultant on a massive rate, no doubt getting even more for stepping into the breach. There is no leadership, just drift and you and me, my friend are paying for it all.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from the Barnet Eye

A very Merry Christmas to one and all of you. For those of you like me who intend to have a day of celebration with family and friends, have a great one. For those of you who don't, have a great day anyway and for those of you who can't, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

And now I've got a Turkey to cook and a copious amount of alcohol to consume.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Sacred Heart Xmas Carol Service Vs The Pogues

On Tuesday evening we had the Sacred Heart RC Church in Mill Hills Christmas Carol concert. The Sacred Heart is lucky to have an absolutely superb choir. There is nothing more moving than Christmas carols being sung by a choir in a church. The lights were dimmed and the choir arrived in procession carrying candles singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". The carols were interspersed with readings from the bible and poems from younger members of the parish. The selection included O little town of Bethlehem, Away in a manger, Silent Night, We three kings and Hark a Herald. There was a very spiritual and calm atmosphere, a perfect way to start Christmas. After the service, we retired to the hall for refreshment. There was a good crowd, especially considering the weather, well over 100 people. Whether or not you are religious, I'd heartily recommend the service to you. It was free (even the refreshments) and very uplifting.

On Wednesday night, a complete contrast. I went down to Brixton Academy to watch the Pogues "Fairwell Xmas tour" gig. I suspect that this will be rather like Don't Call Me Dave's retirement from blogging (at least I sincerely hope so). The Pogues exemplify all that is good about Irish Culture. They are a joyous celebration of life and are a damn fine band. I watched most of the gig from the front. The highlights? For me "Dirty Old Town", but it was a very striong set and Shane was in fine fettle. In a week which saw the X Factor final, I pondered if a band such as the Pogues could ever make it today. After the gig, we retired to the "guest" area upstairs with my mates Big Paul and little Paul and Boz Boorer and proceeded to have a few more beers. We finally got home around 2am (for a couple more whiskys).

In my hungover state this morning, I contemplated my Irish Catholic roots and the two very different events. I'm proud to say that it is no coincidence that music is the foundation of Irish culture. Listening to the choir I'd urge everyone who can sing to get involved. It is a simple and honest pleasure. As to the Pogues, they are a fine band, they exemplify the best of Irish Traditional music, enthused with punk rock energy. I don't think they could have emerged from anywhere else in the world, other than London.

I truly believe that London is the greatest city in the world, because it is the most creative city. I believe this is because every generation has a new influx of immigrants who continually stir the cultural pot. Before the Pogues emerged, a whole variety of music blasted out of the PA. From Uptown Top Ranking by Alitha and Donna to The Clash. It all seemed to be appropriate. Music has the power to bring people together. This can take many forms, choirs, rock bands, traditional bands. The title of the blog is "The Sacred Heart Xmas Carol Service Vs The Pogues" but in reality the two go together just fine. I just wish I could sing well enough to join the choir. I'll just have to stick to strumming along in my punk rock band ! Have a great Christmas Eve

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Save Barnet Library Service Campaign : End of term report

In September this blog started campaigning against Barnet Councillor Robert Rams proposals to decimate the library service in Barnet and to sell off the buildings. I happen to believe that Barnets libraries are a treasured part of the local community. I believe that reading is the key to education and libraries are the cornerstone of literacy. Let me deal with a couple of arguments that have been raised against libraries (we've collected approx 4,000 signatures and had about a dozen people make negative comments to us).

"I don't use libraries, why should I pay for them" - This is a simple argument. We are a community and we need to support one another. Just because you personally don't use a service, that service may enable the people you will need today, tomorrow and in the future to educate themselves and perform the jobs and pay the taxes which will maintain you, when you need help. Libraries provide a quiet space for study. Many poorer families do not have space for quiet study for children. Libraries offer the opportunity for children from such backgrounds to improve themselves and break the cycle of poverty.

"Books are cheap and you can buy them in Tescos". Whilst books may be relatively cheap, families on benefits with 3-4 children could not afford to support the reading habits of their children - £15-£20 a week on books would be beyond their means. The same is true of pensioners. My mother used to read 3-4 books a week when she retired. She would have soon exhausted the supply of suitable books in most branches of Tescos. Generally these shops don't have a good selection of classics, concentrating on the popular genre such as "The Jordan Life Story".

"We could sell off the Libraries and spend the money on front line services". Barnet Council is spending millions of pounds on consultants who merely generate paper. There is plenty of scope for cuts here. The library service is a lifeline for many elderly, lonely people. I believe that the mental wellbeing of many people will suffer if they can no longer borrow books. For many elderly people a walk to the library also provides exercise and a reason to get out. It is also true to say that if children can't develop their potential, they will be far less likely to get good jobs and pay tax. Benefit dependency is the biggest waste of money and lives. Libraries are a proven way out of the cycle.

I have also criticised the "On Line Library Consultation", provided by Barnet Council. What exactly don't I like about it and why do I say it's rigged. The answer to this is simple. It doesn't detail any real improvements to the provision of books. It is all about "what new things can we use the space for". The issue of getting more people into libraries is not mentioned. There is no details of how much these crazy cuts will save. I doubt many people would support chopping their library if they only saved 25p per week. I'd like to see Barnet llibraries have specialised sections. If each library had an area for it's speciality eg History, Sci Fi, Classics, then I believe that we'd see more footfall. I don't believe that libraries should be turned into mini council offices. They should be libraries and they should be engaging with the community. I'd like to see authors and small exhibitions held as well, related to literary themes. I'd also like to see late evening reading groups and guest visits from local authors.

What did I expect when I launched the petition? I had hoped for 500 signatures. We got eight times that. We have now handed the petition in, so that it can be considered as part of the consultation. We will however carry on collecting. We had many things against us. The local press have EMBARGO'd the petition and refused to give it a single mention, despite the fact that it's been mentioned in national press and even on the BBC. I am truly disgusted with their attitude. I have come to the conclusion that our local papers are desperately jealous of the blogs of Barnet and this policy is sheer spite. I can see how many visits they make to my blog and I know the same is true of other bloggers. They can't stand the fact that this blog has launched one of the most popular campiagns ever in Barnet. Shame on them.

I must thank the Barnet Alliance for Public Services for their support in organising stalls. They have done the donkey work. I have set the direction of the campaign and they've done much of the hard work. I stated from day 1 that our primary target was Conservative voters in Conservative wards. That's why we've had stalls in Edgware, Mill Hill, High Barnet, East Barnet and Finchley. As I have always suspected, the Tories of Barnet love their libraries as much as anyone, often more so. Many old ladies have been horrified at the proposed cuts. When we held a stall outside East Barnet library, when Councillor Rams was doing a ward surgery, he resorted to telling the old dear that "This library is safe". I suspect that every library he chops will result in the loss of a Tory ward. Matthew Offord won Hendon by 106 votes. I can guarantee that Labour will get those votes back if they cut a single library in Hendon constituency.

From what I am hearing Councillor Rams has developed a "squeaky bottom" in regards to the library consultation. I can tell him and his Tory colleagues what will happen once the actual closures are announced.

1. We will doorstop Theresa Villiers MP for Chipping Barnet, Mike Freer MP for Finchley and Matthew Offord MP for Hendon. We will video them answering the question "Do you support the closure of this library by the Barnet Conservative Council" and we will post the answer on Youtube. That way the world will know what their MP thinks.

2. We will leaflet every home in the area of closed libraries and make sure they know that this a Barnet Conservative policy and we will explain where they are happy for money to be wasted that could save their library.

3. We will redouble the campaign to force a rethink. We had the resources and plans to collect 3,000 signatures in the last 2 weeks, but the inclement weather prevented our plans. On average we collected 250 signatures per high st stall. We had 12 stalls cancelled over the last few weeks with snow. We were also unable to run stalls outside local carol services as I had planned. I am cast iron certain, we'd have got a minimum of 3,000 paper signatures and another 250 online (this went up massively with the leafletting).

4. We will engage some high profile supporters of the campaign to make public appearances to bolster our campaign. We have plans to get a few celebrity residents to ask public questions at Council meetings. We have received significant national media interest in this. All we need is Councillor Rams to wave the start flag and say where the libraries are closing.

I have lots of behind the scenes homework to do. There is a public side to the campaign and a behind the scenes side. We are currently forensically picking over the Council budget and the Future shape expenses. We are looking for obvious waste and savings and we are working on a strategy to present this to the people of Barnet, showing that the library cuts are just the last thrashings of a failed policy by a very below average council.

Councillor Robert Rams has a stark choice. He can go back and work out a way to save our libraries and improve the service or he can be the man responsible for ending the Tory rule of Barnet Council. Our focus prior to the consultation has been solely on trying to get signatures on the petition. We have tried to stop Rams from making a very bad decision. If he carries out his plan, the next phase will be to ensure that every Tory voter in Barnet knows who is responsible for the cuts and also that they are not necessary.

As we approach Christmas, I will be backing off the blogging on politics and Barnet. It is not good for the soul to be so mired in such stupidity at a time of peace and goodwill. Normal coverage will resume in the New Year (unless Barnet do something really sneaky in the meantime).

Barnet Eye Exclusive : Local Lib Dem attacks Barnet Tories

Regular readers of the Barnet Eye will know Rog T stood for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill ward at the Council elections in May. Undercover reporters believed to be from the Daily Telegraph yesterday spoke to Rog T pretending to be Martians who had got lost on the way to the Planet Arctures 7. It is believed that the Daily Telegraph has suppressed the transcript of these conversations to preserve unity within the coalition Government. The Barnet Eye has obtained the transcript of this conversation. The Daily Telegraph reports tricked Rog T into making disparaging comments about local Conservatives. Here is the full transcript :-

DT : Hello can you tell me the way to the 251 bus stop. Our spaceship has broken down and we're from Mars.

RT :  Are you a Daily Telegraph reporter? Only one of them would be stupid enough to think the 251 goes to Mars, it goes to Arnos Grove If you are you can piss off back to Mars and take that twat Robert Rams with you.

DT : Is Robert Rams your leader? Is he the Messiah?

RT : No, he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy

DT : We come bearing gifts for the Messiah?

RT : In that case you'd better have a word with Brian Coleman, he's rather partial to a few gifts and hospitality

DT : We hear that a star has risen in the North and someone is coming to save Barnet

RT : Do you mean John Burgess, the local Unison rep?

DT : We get the feeling you don't like the local Tories

RT : We get the feeling you are not really martians, piss off

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Save our Libraries : Robert Rams "It's all gone quiet over there"

Councillor Robert Rams claimed that he couldn't receive the libraries petition because "it was against the law". He insisted that it was given to a council official (see the exchanges here - http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/).

I asked him to show me the specific legislation which forbade this. I copied Jeff Lustig, Borough Solicitor and asked if the legal point could be clarified. I have heard nothing back from either of them. I copied the local papers in as well, so it's all a matter of public record.

The petition was handed in as part of the "consultation process". This process consists of a blatently rigged survey with leading questions and no option to suggest better services or increased taxation. If you click on the link to the libraries petition (see sidebar) and click on signatures, there are many comments. These give Mr Rams all the consultation he needs. We had thousands of signatures. Rams has even resorted to planted questions on the Barnet Council "ideas" website. Whilst his suggestion of shutting Osidge library received 8 votes, the petition had  a huge response. When Barnet Council had a consultation on Sheltered housing, 85% of respondents rejected the council proposal. The council ignored the results. They will ignore anything they disagree with. As a result people have lost faith in them. Mr Rams hasn't even bothered responding to my last email. Why? Clearly because he's lost the argument.

Lets just hope that his bosses have twigged that the library closure program has been recognised for the politically suicidal millstone which we all know it is

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

First Capital Connect - Another fine mess !

In the words of Stan and Ollie "That's another fine mess you've got me into". This afternoon I thought I'd see how the Thameslink trains were running back to Mill Hill from City Thameslink. "No Service" was the answer? What, none at all. Further investigation showed that the station was shut. I made a few enquiries. Apparently an unfortunate lady commuter had slipped over on the platform this morning. Although this was terrible, why did the station need to be closed all day? You'll love this. Word on the street is that the platforms were treated with a new "anti slip surface". What happened next? It became slippery when it was became wet. The health and safety advisors deemed it "unsafe" and shut the station. Could you make it up?

Ultima Nox !

Happy Solstice !!!!! There you go, all those years trying to teach a dyslexic Latin weren't completely wasted.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Barnet Council - Stop Press : Osidge Library marked for closure

Osidge Library to close, be demolished and the land leased for social housing. The link to the budget papers are here http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/meetings/meetingdetail.asp?meetingid=6574 - tucked away at the back are a list of proposals that the report states Officers are actively working on. - Click on Complete Agenda and report pack. The mark of Robert Rams - flog it off and build more rabbit hutches on the site.  It may amuse you to know that this "idea" supposedly came from a Barnet resident on the Barnet Ideas site - you know the one Mrs Angry exposed as having planted suggestions

"Close Osidge library - One of the more underused libraries in the borough and relatively close to East Barnet and Friern Barnet libraries. With the loss of the redevelopment, it is not an efficient use of scarce library cash in the current climate. Expensive to adapt with modern equipment e.g. RFID machines, lifts to be DDA compliant, wi-fi and expensive to run, with major remedial works needed both generally and in order to bring it up to modern energy efficiency standards. Lease the land for housing and invest to maintain the rest of the library service."

Crapitalisation - Another sorry day for First Capital Connect

In Mill Hill today you could smell the stench of corporate failure. Yet again First Capital Connect failed to provide even a basic service on the Thameslink line. The reason? Snow and poor weather. Rather bizarrely the one bit of the network with no service at all was the bit in the tunnel, between St Pancras and Blackfriars.

It seems like they've given up even trying. At Mill Hill at 7.45, no staff, no information on the signs except "listen for announcements" and no announcements. For most commuters the only time you need an announcement or a display board is when it goes wrong. When this happens the system collapses. Surely the signalmen know where the trains are. Surely these systems talk to the systems that display the info?

Coming home, I checked the FCC website. It said there was a 17.02 from City Thameslink to Mill Hill and it was running on time. Off I headed. On arrival, there was a hand written board saying all northbound services start from St Pancras.

Just how useless can a company be?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Dyslexia Xmas Special - FAB - Funderbirds are BO !

As we approach Christmas, I felt it is time for another in my occasional series on the joys of being dyslexic. My thoughts turn back to when I was a youngster. As someone who couldn't really read properly until I was 12, Xmas was a strange time. If you have dyslexic children, maybe you'd want to consider this. When I was nine, my reading age was 5. My mum mentioned this to a kindly relative. They very kindly bought me a book for a five year old. I wasn't thick, I just had difficulty reading. I didn't want a book for a five year old, I wanted something of interest to a nine year old with problems reading. Such a gift = humiliation for me, especially unwrapped in front of all the family. That was bad enough, but all of the patronising comments in stilted voices. "Oh what a lovely book". My family used to wonder why I would spend hours sulking. I developed a strong aversion to people telling me what I should like. What did I like? Comics. With the pictures it all made sense. I loved football, so comics such as Roy of The Rovers were good. My very favourite was Countdown. The Stories were sci-fi based and featured series I liked such as UFO and Dr Who. It morphed into TV Action. This was around the time I decided I didn't like change for the sake of change. The relaunch wasn't very successful and the comic died a slow death.

One of my favourite TV shows was Thunderbirds. As any fan will know, the Thunderbirds codeword was FAB. When I was about six, I asked my big sister what FAB stood for. She replied "Thunderbirds are GO!". It made perfect sense to a dyslexic. I remember a radio show (Robert Elms I think) recently where someone asked what FAB stood for. I thought "My word, they must be stupid, everyone knows it stands for Thunderbirds are GO!". As caller after caller rang, unable to give the right answer, I felt smugger and smugger. Then the penny dropped. All these years of smug delusion.

You may wonder when my reading difficulties went away? The answer was when I started trying to read books which interested me. Sci Fi generally. What really irritates me is the fact my teachers used to tell my parents to ration my reading of comics. Why? Because I should read "proper books". As a net result, I just read less. What amused me most about the whole thing was when VIZ sprung to promenance. I suspect that dyslexics everywhere secretly rejoiced that they could enjoy a good comic again. Of course there are plenty of comics aimed at a more mature readership, with 2000AD being the best known in the UK sci fi genre. Many of the police state innovations were mooted in the Judge Dredd stories long before our own police mooted them. When we went on holiday in the summer, my daughter bought me a book with a collection of early Judge Dredd stories, to read on the plane. These were written in 1977-78, around the time I was heavily into Punk rock. The echoes of the time abounded within the names of villains such as "Spikes Harvey Rotten". My good lady is mystified as to what a grown man finds so fascinating in such strips. I've long since given up trying to justify my love of the genre. As I perused some of the other books on the best seller shelf, such as the Jordan Life Story, I realised that there are still many books I wouldn't touch with a bargepole and my own tastes are not that bad

Rock Against The Cuts - Campaign launch

Today we announce the formal launch of Rock Against The Cuts. The campaign is a loose alliance of everyone who is opposed to the decimation of education, public services and our future. In Barnet we will be participating in a march and rally on Sunday 30th January. Music has always been a forum for people to fight for their rights. We invite alll bands, singers, musicians and artists to get in touch and let us know what they are doing to fight for our communities. We believe that music is the voice of change and there are some terrible policies which we intend to change right now. I've knocked up the logo, but I formally invite anyone who can do a better job, to send me theirs now - EMAIL ME BY CLICKING HERE IF YOU WANT TO JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Brian Coleman : The saviour of the London Borough of Barnet

Just remember, you read it here first. In the Barnet Eye on December 18th, 2010.

Next year is going to probably be the toughest year ever in Barnet Council. Whatever happens, there will be mass redundancies. Many public services will be closed down, many vulnerable people will be left high and dry. Whilst all of this goes on, many leading Tory councillors will be trowsering huge amounts of allowances, far in excess of any other year. As libraries shut, sheltered housing wardens are sacked, childrens centres closed and care workers for the elderly and vulnerable are made redundant, huge contracts will be doled out to multi national companies as part of the Future Shape/One Barnet program.

If you think that there has been unrest, in the words of the old song "You ain't seen nothing yet". I was talking to Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess on Tuesday night. John is a highly intelligent guy. he was explaining to me that the workforce at Barnet Council have been extremely reluctant in the past to take industrial action. This is all changing. When people realise that their jobs are on the line and there aren't other jobs out there, people suddenly realise it is in their self interest to defend their rights. Barnet Council has made the fatal mistake of thinking that because the staff have traditionally been quite passive, they can kick the crap out of them and they won't fight back. When staff received redundany notices, the penny dropped.

At more or less exactly the same time, Lynn Hillan, Conservative leader of Barnet Council stated "We are all in this together". Given that she's given many of her councillors who chair committees a huge increase in allowance (only scrapping her own rise because of a huge campaign), she couldn't have told a bigger whopper if she'd tried. Hillan only just survived an attempt to overthrow her by Mark Shooter, who had only been in the council for five minutes. You may have thought that Lynne Hillan might have learned and would get her nose to the grindstone. This time last year, Barnet was paralysed by bad weather. Salt stocks ran out and both Hillan and her deputy Harper, were on holiday. This year, as once again bad weather hits, where is Hillan? I got this when I emailed her :-

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 6:38 PM
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: Extremely Urgent : Library consultation

I am currently on leave until 5 January 2011 .   Please contact the Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Harper for anything urgent, em: cllr.a.harper@barnet.gov.uk.  For Brunswick Park Ward issues, please contact my colleagues, either Cllr Andreas Tambourides on 0208 368 5417 or Cllr Lisa Rutter on 07956 858913.  Otherwise I will deal with your message when I return.
--------------------------------------------------------------

She learns nothing. At the one time when it was crystal clear that the Council would need firm leadership and action, she's on holiday. Fortunately Andrew Harper seems to have learned the lesson. In Scotland, a crisis centre has been set up, where rail, road, police, fire and all other emergency services can be co-ordinated from. The top politicians are there day and night to ensure that the situation is addressed. In North London Business park, all we have is an empty desk from Hillan.

So what has this all got to do with Councillor Brian Coleman. As regular readers will know, this blog can, with some justification, claim to be his biggest critic. As far as I know, I'm the only person in Barnet to successfully hold old porkychops to account. As such I was rather surprised to be contacted by a Barnet Councillor, asking me whether I would support a Coleman candidacy for Leadership in May.

My initial reactions was "He's the last person in the world I'd choose. It would be like putting Dracula in charge of a bloodbank". My esteemed Councillor friend then walked me through the likely candidates

Lynne Hillan - Completely Useless and totally discredited.

Andrew Harper - Hillans deputy.  A firm believer in all of Hillans policies, such as future shape, library cuts, scrapping wardens, in short the status quo candidate

Daniel Thomas - A right wing uber-Thatcherite, who believes that Future Shape doesn't go far enough. Thomas is believed to want to pass a whole host of unworkable bylaws and rules to make Barnet an even more unpleasant place to work, study or live. He is an avid reader of bonkers policy documents from obscure right wing think tanks (manned by people like Robert Rams) who devise all sorts of crazy policies, yet have never had a real job or run a real company.

Which brings us to Brian Coleman. What does porkychops have to offer, which the rest of them don't. Well firstly we can be pretty sure that he'll double the Leaders allowance to £70,000 per year (because he's worth it). Unlike Hillan he won't crack when the press start whining. The next thing he'll do is cancel Future Shape and sack all of the consultants. Brian Coleman knows it's a complete pile of crap. He knows the figures don't add up. He knows that by sacking the consultants, he can save £5 million this year. With this he can save the libraries, wardens and a host of other services. Brian is a populist. he knows that if he says "I've sacked all these useless consiltants who write waste of space reports and i've saved the libraries, wardens and childrens centres with the money", people will think he's doing a great job. They will be prepared to look the other way as he hikes up his salary. Once he's sacked all of the consultants, he's going to set about the tiers of middle managers in Barnet Council. Coleman is said to believe that a blank cut of 50% of middle managers would have no effect on front line services and would reap huge savings. Again, he will plough this back into tax cuts and mainating front line services.

Despite our perception of Coleman as a greedy trougher, with no regard for his fellow man, Coleman is a lover of things like Hendon Town Hall, Civic flowerbeds, libraries and museums. I hear he's horrified at plans to cut Church Farm Museum. Coleman has a soft spot for the museum, following an exhibition about gays in Barnet a few years back. Brian believes that he is morally obligated to save the museum for staging this.

The big difference between Coleman and the other three, is that he doesn't care who he upsets. If he believes he's right (which he always does 100%) he's prepared to move Hell and High water to get what he wants. Coleman believes that if the Tories don't sort themselves out, they will lose Barnet in 3 1/2 years and he knows that he's likely to lose his GLA seat to Andrew Dismore in 2012. Unlike the rest of them, he doesn't want to retire from Politics at the next council election.

Brian Colemans biggest fantasy is a blue plaque on Hendon Town Hall saying "Brian Coleman, the Man who saved Barnet Council". Sadly for Coleman, all of this is a pipedream. In reality, most of his colleagues hate his guts and wouldn't elect him unless a gun was put to their heads. The only footnote he'll get in the anals of Barnet history is "Brian Coleman : The only mayor to be found guilty of breaching the standards code". Whilst in some ways I may agree with many of his plans to save the council, the truth is that the man is a complete arse and everyone knows it. That is why Harper will take over in May.

Friday, 17 December 2010

A message in words and music to Barnet Council

If you want a graphic demonstration of how stuck in the past our glorious leaders are at Barnet Council when it comes to engaging with the public, look no further. Just to prove a point, Barnet Unison and the Barnet Eye got together to show them how it's done.

For those of you who couldn't make it down to the Claddagh Ring on Tuesday night for some great music and some great words from local public services workers, we got it live video streamed. The highlights are now on line. There was some fine music from the bands, Alan Warner from the Foundations headlined, you can also see up and coming band the Hamptons, Connie A (with my band, the False Dots), Nick G and RadFax Trev

http://www.gotseen.com/videochannels.php?vidch=104

Anyway, what point were we seeking to make to the dinosaurs at Barnet Council. The council spent nearly £100,000 on equipment for videoconferncing in their Ivory Towers/ palatial offices. What have we seen? NOTHING. If UNISON can broadcast a live gig, with speeches from The Claddagh Ring and then put it on-line, why can't Barnet Council broadcast their meetings, so we can all participate in the democratic process. On the Future Shape blog,m I just published a response from Councillor Robert Rams, which clearly shows what he thinks of consulting with citizens and who should make the decisions, check this out, it's quite unbelievable :-

http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2010/12/consultation-robert-rams-style.html

The Don't Call Me Dave Xmas Reunion Tour : Here we are and here we are and here we go !

The Status Quo of Barnet Blogging, Don't Call Me Dave (Barnets most sensible Tory) has just announced his Xmas Blog tour. You may recall that he's retired from blogging 16 times this year. I for one am delighted that he has more relapses than Shane MacGowan !


English Language blogs:





Political blogs:







Thursday, 16 December 2010

Barnet Council Update : Where is the Glorious Leader

It's that time of year when the Country freezes, the roads get riddled with potholes, the Council gritting teams get stuck in their depots. It's the time of year when we need a bit of leadership. I have a question. Does anyone know where Lynne Hillan, Leader of Barnet Council will be for the next four weeks?

Shame really, you'd think she'd be making the most of her time as leader. Never fear though, we've still got Brian Coleman. He had his free holiday in Cyprus in October  - http://www.london.gov.uk/pls/apex/f?p=135:2:4440795619076577:fsp_sort_2_desc::RP&fsp_region_id=10248804584908268

A formal invitation to Robert Rams to accept the petition to Save Barnets Libraries

I have issued a formal invitation to Robert Rams to meet me to receive the many thousands of signatures on the library petition. I believe that as this is one of the largest petitions in the history of Barnet politics, it is only fitting that he formally receives it. Anything less would be a gross insult to the voters of Barnet.

The full text of my invitation to him is printed here :-

http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2010/12/invitation-to-robert-rams.html

May I take the opportunity to remind Mr Rams that David Cameron talks about big society. Surely listening to the thousands of people who took the trouble to sign the petition is what big society is all about. I note with interest that in all the saturdays I've been collecting signatures, hardly a single person has agreed with Mr Rams proposals and the vast majority have violently objected. We collected over 800 signatures at Barnet fair alone. Mr Rams should note that Lynne Hillan scrapped her allowance rise because a thousand people signed the Hendon Times petition. We've got many times that number of signatures, despite an embargo on reporting it by the Times. Hillan said at the time "We're listening". Mr Rams, can you hear us? Mr Rams, Mr Rams ???????

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Library Consultation closes on Friday, sign the petition today

On Friday, the Barnet Council Library consultation closes. When I started the petion I aimned to get 250 signatures. I have got thousands. If you haven't signed it already, please do now. The petition will remain open, but the consultation will close.

Deputy Mayor of Barnet Visits Sound Skool Project in Mill Hill



The Sound Skool project in Mill Hill has been helping young people develop their musical talents. Deputy Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Lisa Rutter, visited the project to see what was going on and meet some of the young people involved, as part of Youth Music week. She also popped in to see a Rock United Workshop and see some young people recording a track at Mill Hill Music Complex Studios. All activitues were part of Youth Music Week in Barnet and were free for the Youngsters involved of Youth Music Week.

Rock United are now taking bookings for their Xmas courses. Sound Skool are also looking for young people aged 14-18 to take part in their next 10 week course.

Barnet Community Campaign Xmas Gig

Just got back from a highly successful Barnet Community Campaign Xmas gig at the Claddagh Ring. These things take a lot of work to put together and the whole event ran really smoothly. We had a few great guest speakers. Paul from the GMB Union on the effects of community, Alex from FCHS on the student campaign, John Burgess from UNISON on the effects of cuts in Barnet. Special praise must be given to Alex. He's 16 years old and spoke with more eloquence and passion than anyone from the Barnet Labour party for a very,very long time. He had no prepared speech, but he made a few excellent points, with passion. The Borough of Barnet is lucky to have him. I hope a few Barnet Tories were watching him on the www.gotseen.com broadcast as I'm sure that if he stays in the area, he's going to become a huge player in local politics. He understands organisation and the need to do things the right way.

And on to the music. We had a couple of great acoustic artists. Nick G kicked off with a set of 5 songs. It's always a hard task, opening a show. Nick did  a fine job - check out his music -http://www.myspace.com/nickgtunes. Next up we had Trevor from Radfax. Trevor is an organiser of the Peace camp and a video chroniclor of note - check out the Radfax Youtube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/radfax -

The first full band were The Hamptons. A great band, with a bright future - Their song Peace could be a massive hit with the right promotion. Next up, Connie with The False Dots (my band). Connie is just back from touring with Emmanual Jal and she's doing a big gig with him at ULU on Friday, we were very lucky to have her. She's truly awesome. The show was closed by the Alan Warner Band. Al is the guitarist from the Foundations, but tonights set was a selection of his favourite covers. Al is truly brilliant. He's been the godfather of the Barnet music scene for years. I recorded my first demo in his studio in 1979. The Polecats recorded their first single, Rockabilly Guy there. You really won't find a better guitarist anywhere.

We had a great crowd and I am truly proud to be involved with everyone who helped to put it on. A rather bizarre thought crossed my mind as I chatted to Barnet Unison rep, John Burgess. Both he and Barnet CEO Nick Walkley are no nonsense Northerners. They both strike me as very bright guys and both strike me as people who can see through bullshit. What I really don't get is why Nick Walkley just can't see through the fact that so much of the cost justification for One Barnet & Future Shape is complete bollocks.

Nick, if you are reading this, I'm inviting you out for a few beers, with myself. If you can explain to me over a pint why Future Shape is not a crock of shite and that you really believe in it, I'll stop slagging it off in the blog if your logic stacks up. I've seen all sorts of figures and it just doesn't work. I know there have to be cuts, but this isn't the way. This blog has now had 200,000 hits. If I spoke complete bollocks, I'd get none.The people of Barnet trust this blog. If you really have the courage of your convictions, then it's time to have a pow wow and get your views to my readers. Real leadership is not leading the troops over the cliff, sometimes it involves taking stock and changing tack. Now is the time. True leaders are not scared of their own shadow

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

You couldn't make it up, unless you were Barnet Council

More fantastic work by Mr Reasonable. Yesterday he exposed the total fantasy involved in the "projected savings" from Barnet Councils One Barnet project. A couple of points spring to mind.

1) When will the local Tory Councillors wake from their torpor and knock this expensive sham on the head.

2) When will the local press start doing its job and start reporting this stuff, rather than waiting for local bloggers to do all the work

http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.com/2010/12/high-risk-of-not-achieving-213-million.html

Mr Reasonable stood for the residents party at the last election. It was clearly Barnets loss that a No Hope Tory was elected instead.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The secret of life and happiness

Tomorrow is a big night in Barnet, there is a mass lobby of the full Council meeting at Hendon Town Hall. The lobby is timed to start at 6pm and at 7pm everyone is adjourning up the road to the Claddagh Ring for an evening of music. Barnet Unison have kindly provided a buffet and there will be some speeches to rally the masses.

I will be playing with my band, The False Dots, backing Connie who is an absolutely brilliant singer. You may ask what all this has to do with the secret of life and happiness. Well I believe it has everything to do with it. There is an old saying "No man is an Island". Every year, as I walk around Mill Hill, I see more people putting up huge fences with electronic gates. More people with entryphone systems. More windows with security shutters. I see more people who double park in Mill Hill Broadway to nip into shops, use ATM's or drop off dry cleaning. Traffic is held up, people are inconvenienced and any rebuke is greeted with a finger and a stream of expletives.

Several years ago, when my mum was still alive, but rather doddery, she was trying to cross the road at the bottom of Millway. As she was recovering from a stroke, a car got rather impatient with her and the idiot driving wound down his window and gave her a volley of abuse, purely for being unable to cross the road quickly. His words "Hurry up you bitch, you should be in a home". What he didn't realise was that I was walking down the road and had seen the whole incident. I am not proud to say that a red mist descended and I immediately ran to the car, opened the door and screamed at the driver "Get out and apologise to my mother". The guy, seeing a 6'1" ranting lunatic, immediately complied and it was vaguely satisfying to watch him grovel. My mother shouted at him "Don't you have a mother". She was extremely angry, but was absolutely made up that I'd intervened and given him what for. I walked her home and we had a guinness together. She said that she couldn't believe how a young man could behave in such a disgusting manner. As a side effect of her stroke, my mother suffered from jargon Dysphasia. This meant she couldn't get words out properly. Strangely this incident cured it for about 15 minutes.

The reason I relate all of this is because as I was pondering the arrangements for todays gig, someone asked me why I bother with all of this. I'm fairly well off, I don't really need any council services, I can afford tuition fees. I was trying to think of a way to explain and I remembered the guy screaming at my mother. The reason I do all of this is because I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be the guy who cares for nothing and no one except himself. The guy who can't wait 10 seconds for an old disabled lady to cross the road. I've always tried to do the right thing, even when it's not totally in my own financial interests. Sure I don't always get it right, but I do try. The reason we have the awful policies being enacted by this government, is because like the idiot in the car, too many people are too selfish to think beyond the next few minutes of their life.

The alternative to student loans is higher taxation. Fairer and for the common good, but no politician has the guts to say it. We are faced with the ridiculous situation where people who are prepared to study, so that the country can be equipped to face the future, are taxed for it. Why? So that people can have a few extra quid in their bank, which will pay for a couple of Starbucks coffees and a cheap porn video. I don't believe in wasting money, I'm all for rigorous accounting in Town Halls. It's just some cuts are false economies.

Everyone who votes for cuts to front line services is, in my opinion, ten times worse than the idiot who swore at my mother. He was merely a rude dolt, wheras voting for these cuts will ruin peoples lives and in some cases kill them. What is someone who votes for that?

I lured you into this blog with a promise of the secret of life and happiness. Sadly life has too many ups and downs to have any guarantees of such things. The point is that when these challenges hit us, we need support. This may come from family, it may come from friends or it may have to come from the state in the form of the NHS, The Council or our schools. Anything which damages the ability of these institutions to support us, sooner or later will damage the quality of our life. We never know when illness will strike. Many millionaires end their lives penniless due to financial misfortune. I saw first hand with my own Mother how a stroke transformed a proud, well off, articulate woman into a wreck, unable to defend herself against abuse from a moronic imbecile. To me, the secret of life and happiness is best found through building a strong community, where no one is left behind, where no one is in too much of a hurry to spare a thought for others and where people know that they won't be cast adrift when age or illness robs them of self sufficiency.

Take a moment to think about this. If you agree with me, please come down, support the rally and then come along and join me for a drink and a bite to eat in the Claddagh. If you don't agree with me, I guess you've lined yourself up with the idiot who abused my Mum and quite frankly, I guess I'd rather you didn't join me.
DYSLEXICS AGAINST THE CUNTS

Join us on Tuesday Evening at Hendon Town Hall and the Claddagh Ring

Please come down to Hendon Town Hall on Tuesday 14th December at 6pm. There is a mass lobby of the Council. This is being organised by the NUS & Barnet UNISON. At 7pm everyone is adjourning to the Claddagh Ring for an evening of great music. Alan Warner from the Foundations is playing, along with an up and coming band from Edgware, The Hamptons, my own band The False Dots will be backing up and coming sensation Connie A and we've a guest acoustic performance from Radfax Shaun, who is an organiser of the peace camp and the white flag protest. Barnet Unison have laid on a free buffet. The whole event is free and you'll be able to sign the petition to Save Barnet's Libraries, whilst you listen to great music and eat some nice food.

The whole event will be live streamed across the world by www.gotseen.tv  so come down and wave to your relatives around the world. Tell all of your friends to tune in and see how we do things in Barnet. The evening is the launch of a whole series of events to show that the ordinary people of Barnet believe that Education, Public Services and fairness are more important than trimming the tax bills of the rich. We are spreading the message that good humoured, peaceful and well organised public protests are the way to make you voice get heard. We are aiming to bring the whole community together to show that wanton destruction of the best things in Barnet is not the way forward. Cut waste, cut top heavy management structures, cut expensive consultants bills, but leave front line services and education alone.

Here's a preview of Connie with the False Dots

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Student Tuition Fees : The Investment Algorithym or the art of bolloxology?

The Tory candidate (who lost) for Harrow West, put a rather interesting post on her blog on Thursday. It is the nearest thing to a semi coherent defence of the Tory thinking on tuition fees that I've seen (apart from the fact that she doesn't actually defend the proposals). Now when I say Tory thinking, this is distinct from coalition thinking, which is a completely different beast. This post presumably gives you an idea of what would have happened if David Cameron had achieved a 60 seat majority, without the Lib Dems. I reproduce the blog in it's entirety here
The original is here - http://racheljoyce.blogspot.com/2010/12/tuition-fees-investment-algorithym.html

Tuition Fees - The Investment Algorithym

In my view it is quite simple - tuition fees should be paid by the party that will benefit.

The country will benefit from more engineers, more bio-scientists, more high quality teachers, more computer scientists. We have a shortage in these areas, and they are areas that would benefit our economy - high tech economies are the way forward for densely populated first world countries like ourselves. We don't however need 50% of people to go to university - and we do need more people going to technical colleges after or even instead of GCSE level - as they do in Germany.

The individual would benefit from taking and passing a degree that will make them more employable, and earn them a higher salary than if they hadn't taken the degree.

It's called calculating the value of things, to determine if the time, money and effort is actually worth it.

So responsibility for funding should be:
a. the government should pay for degrees when it is in a subject that will confer a net benefit to the country - as long as the individual then stays in the country for a certain amount of time to work in their chosen area.
b. the individual should pay for all other degrees. It is down to them to calculate if it will end up being a net benefit for them to take this degree or not. Mickey Mouse degrees wouldn't be so popular then, would they? I do however agree with the concept of a loan so they don't have to pay up front if they don't want to.

Also, many degrees are not really degrees. One lecture a week with a few hours of home study for three years is not in my mind a degree. It is a "course", something that could be called a Higher Diploma, or a Certificate or some sort. It is also something that can be done whilst holding down a job, or alternatively compacted into a 6 month or 9 month course. Full stop.

When money is short, we have to understand the value of things - and the party that benefits should pay. The old expression "He knows the cost of everything but the value of none" would be true of Labour (having encouraged all of these Mickey Mouse degrees that will not benefit the individual, society or the economy) - except they didn't even seem to understand the cost of things either!!
As per usual with High Tory thinking, they don't really understand GB PLC 2010. She feels that the only areas which would benefit the country are "bio scientists, high quality teachers and computer scientists". All worthy and useful professions, but singling these out shows how out of touch she is. Let me give you an example. Does she list "3D animators?" - She'd no doubt say what possible benefit could they deliver? Well look at Ardman animations. The creators of Wallace and Gromit. Their films have won all sorts of awards, been shown around the world and brought tens of millions of pounds worth of investment into the country. Tim Burton filmed the film "The Corpse Bride" at Three Mills studios in the East End, bringing jobs and money. Why? because we have great 3D animators who learned their skills on arts degree courses. I know, my nephew is one of them. He got his degree in 3D animation from Westminster University (one of those sometimes described as a crap university or an ex poly). He is one of the top animators in the world and he wouldn't have learned that on a plumbing course.

One of my nieces is one of the countries top VT editors. If you've ever watched any live sport, you will have seen her work (football, wimbledon,etc). Its a stressful job. She did a language degree at Leeds. How did this prepare her for her job? Well she got involved in the University music scene, taking an interest in sound engineering. When she left, she worked at my studios for a while, then moved into VT editing. Her time at University provided her with the opportunities to develop and grow as a person. Her talents and those of her colleagues mean that Great Britain PLC has a huge wealth of successful technicians. She wouldn't have had the opportunity if she'd done a hairdressing course.

And what about the people I know who work in IT? A field Rachel highlights as "useful". The majority of people I know, didn't study Computer Science. Many actually did TOPS courses (short, intensive Government sponsored) in the 1980's. You'd get paid £40 a week to do a full time short course. These people are the backbone of the UK IT industry. I'd estimate that at least 50% of the people who did TOPS courses had degrees in unrelated subjects. Whilst the degree didn't help them to work in IT, it enhances the CV. Are they better programmers? Probably not, but often they can sell their talents. And as for the people my age who studied Computer Science? Well they learned COBOL,FORTRAN and mainframe computing. Skills now deemed legacy. They learned about punch cards and paper tape - long since. IT is moving so fast that often by the time people finish degrees the syllabus is out of date. To thrive in the modern world of IT, you need to think creatively. Apple are currently the most succesful It company in the world. Is this down to their nerdy techies? Nope, it's down to the brilliant product designers that make their products look hip & chic and the great marketing skills. Does Rachel mention designers and marketing as vital skills? Nope, but she should because these are areas where the UK leads the world.

Recently there was much hilarity in the Daily Mail about a "degree in Lady GaGa". This was used as an example of a crap degree. I've been involved in the music industry for 31 and if I wanted to do a case study in marketing of  a product, I can't think of  a better example IN ANY SPHERE OF INDUSTRY. The music industry has brought billions of pounds into the UK. Our artists still lead the world. Our formats for shows are copied across the globe, bringing in huge royalties. LIVE AID saved hundreds of thousands of people. How can such things not be deemed "good for the country". Despite the benefits of this huge industry, the Daily Mail derides people who want to have a professional understanding of it. I have many friends in succesful bands. Planning a tour or an album launch is a huge logistical operation. I recently saw the Steve Miller Band at the Albert Hall. Their stage cost $2 million. It was high tech and had a huge team of people to support it. I suppose a degree in stage design is "crap" as well to our Tory thinkers.

In short, I totally refute Rachel Joyce's logic. The purpose of University is to train people to think. It is to train them to deal with problems. It is to put them into a creative social environment. Whether they have a great time and get pissed every night or burn the midnight oil studying, is neither here nor their to me. The main benefit to the country is the fact that they are growing as people. Rachel criticises Labour for understanding "the cost of nothing". As she clearly doesn't understand the value of anything, maybe she should get her own house in order first. It is an undisputed fact that during their career, Graduates earn more and pay more taxes than non gradtuates. That should be the begining and end of the argument. I really wish people would engage their brains before indulging in the art of bolloxology.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Barnet FC 2 - Accrington Stanley 0

So last night my daughter announced she had a free ticket, courtesy of her school for the Barnet FC match today. She was swimming in the Copthall club championships, so asked if the boy wanted it. Of course he said yes. Next thing, it transpires his best friend had also acquired one. I don't need much of an excuse to watch football, so at 2pm, off we set for Underhill.

Having procured 3 sausage sarnies and a few drinks, we took our seats, directly behing the goal. Having purchased a program, I was saddened to hear that former Hendon Times editor and Barnet FC stalwart Dennis Signy is rather unwell. I know Dennis reads the blog, get well soon (pass it on if you are a family member going to see him). A card was being signed at the ground.

Anyway, on to the football. The good news - Barnet won 2-0 with Izzy McLeod scoring two cracking goals. The bad news - Accrington were by far the better team and probably had 5-6 decent chances. Barnet had two and McLeod finished them clinically. I don't get up to Underhill often, but I was chatting with some of the regulars and they said it was actually their worst performance for a while. being behind the Accrington goal in the first half, we had a grandstand view of the Barnet goals and saw Accrington rattle the bar from a free kick in the second half.

The boys had a good time. It is great to see the club giving youngsters a free day out. The crowd was one of the biggest of the season and the family stand was packed. I hope it is the turning point for Barnet, with the win lifting them out of the relegation zone. Knowing Dennis Signy is a rather superstitious chap, I hope he doesn't stay on dialysis for the rest of the season, because he thinks it will bring Barnet luck. If you have kids and they get a ticket, take them along. It is a great way to spend the afternoon. It was good to see a few of my boys mates in the stand, having taken advantage of the same deal.

Fred Morgan RIP

Yesterday (Friday) morning, I attended the funeral of Fred Morgan, a good friend of mine. Fred was born in 1924. He was a bright kid, but couldn't attend grammar school, due to his parents financial circumstances and left school at 15. As soon as he was old enough, Fred enrolled to join the RAF. He was undergoing air gunnery training, on a Flying Fortress, when his crew accidentally shot down the plane towing a "target" plane. After that inauspicious start, Fred transferred to the Royal Signals and ended up in India. A bout of malaria saw him hospitalised for the attack on Burma. He ended up in Singapore when it was retaken.

One of the defining moments of Freds life came when the commonwealth occupation force asked for volunteers to serve in Japan. Fred immediately signed up and was one of the first few soldiers to enter Hiroshima following the detonation of  a nuclear bomb over the city. The devastation had a lasting effect on Fred. he once told me that he thought all leaders should have to see such a thing before they talk about nuclear war or defence policy.

Fred fell in love with Japan, its people and its culture, this would be a lifelong love. Whilst many people were extremely bitter at Japan and its military for their war crimes, Fred saw beyond that and realised that the ordinary people of Japan were victims (as in all wars).

Fred returned in 1947 and joined the Post Office. He was a good cricketer and footballer. Fred married Olive in 1949 and settled into family life. Sadly Olive passed away leaving Fred devastated. His redemption from misery was found through serving the community. Fred was a member of all sorts local groups, virtually ran the parish of St Winifrides. He joined HCPT as a helper taking groups of handicapped to Lourdes. It was here that I got to know Fred. Fred was always first up and made the morning teas. He was also the barman. Fred ran a tight ship. He'd have a Scotch and a chat and was always a source of good stories. As a Brentford FC season ticket holder, he was also a great lover of football.

60 years after he left Japan, he returned for a ceremony to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and to pray for peace and reconciliation. He returned several times as a guest of honour. Fred was a working class guy with a great sense of humour, a great perspective on the world and great intelligence. He saw the world for what it was, but believed that if we pulled together as a community, we can make it a better place. Fred didn't suffer fools gladly, but was also kind and caring. I'll miss him, but I'm glad I had the honour of being his friend.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Fullers Brewery Tour

So what did you do today? I had a marvellous afternoon (the morning wasn't quite so good, I attended my friend Fred Morgans funeral). In response to a quip by a mate that I couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, I thought I'd try. I arranged for a few friends to do the Fullers Brewery tour in Chiswick. We met at the Mawson Arms, the adjoining Fullers pub. A swift pint of ESB and we were off. High visibility jackets were donned and Tim, our tour guide lead us off on the tour.

I love the industrial history of Britain and workspaces. Brewing is a fascinating business, I've brewed my own beer in times gone by and being partial to a pint of real ale, I've been meaning to do the tour for a while. When I booked it, I was asked if I wanted a "tasting or non tasting tour". I asked if anyone ever took the non tasting tour and the charming lady at the other end of the phone laughed. the tour lasts an hour and you get a journey through the process of brewing. I learned a few things. The water from Burton on Trent is the best for brewing. London Water is not up to the job, so it needs a process of treatment to bring it up to standard. The process is now computer controlled. Fullers Beers contain only four ingredients, hops, barley, water and yeast. They used to add sugar, but the barley is now much better quality and so this stage is unnecessary. These days the beer is "consistent". Back in the pre 1980's the process was highly labour intensive. Now a couple of people in a control room manage the process end to end. Strangely enough the bits of the process that can't be mechanised are things like hammering the stoppers into the kegs.

Fullers are the only brewey chain that are growing (according to our guide). The beers are rather good and that must have something to do with it. At the end of the tour, we went to sample eight various ales. Unsurprisingly my favourites were the ESB and the London Pride. Afterwarsds, we adjourned for a late boozy lunch to the Mawsons Arms. I had a rather tasty Steak and ESB pie and chips.

In the post tour analysis, we commented on how the tour was very English. We weren't ushered into a souvenir shop. We were just kicked out at the end of our allotted time. There is an on site shop with the finest bottled ales, but that really isn't the point of a brewery tour. If you like beer and you want a great day out, then the Brewery tour is a great way to start the weekend. From Mill Hill, get a train to West Hampstead on Thameslink, change to the London Overground and then walk/cab from Gunnersbury or Kew Gardens.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.

Dream on

An unpopular government policy was passed yesterday in the face of popular protests. This policy was only passed because a group of MP's reneged on a pre election promise. Is it a "defining moment"? Does it herald a "Sea Change"?

Nope. It's business as usual. Sometimes popular protest works - abolition of the poll tax. More often it doesn't - Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Every time there's a big demo everyone thinks things will change. Usually it doesn't. The student fees scandal will eventually end when politicians wake up to the fact it's an awful policy. Whether this is today, tomorrow or 20 years time when we realise it's buggered the country, I have no idea.

One thing I know for certain. All of those people saying "We won't get fooled again" are deluding themselves. Why? As I watched Labour Party MP's squeal in mock outrage at the policy, I thought "Who instituted the Browne review that instigated the policy. Who brought in tuition fees in the first place". This and the policy of abolishing tuition fees were a major reason for me quitting Labour and joining the Lib Dems last year. The fact that about half of the Lib Dem MP's reneged on the pledge makes me sick. There was no vote in the party to change this policy. The MP's who reneged are totally out of tune with the membership. What price your prinnciples? And no I won't be rejoining Labour. They initiated this awful policy, it's now their bastard baby, which they are seeking to disown. I will be campaigning for the Lib Dems to discover their testicles and their principles and do the right thing.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Student protests - the simple fact

A few short points

1. Politicians who lie to us have no right to lecture us

2. Politicians who got a free education have no right to criticise anyone who feels cheated  when they are robbed of this.

3. Governments cannot criticise acts of violonce and lawbreaking whilst allowing us to collude in acts of violence and lawbreaking in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo bay.

4. If someone tells you something to secure a position of advantage and then does the opposite, they are a cheat and a liar.

Simple as that

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Save Barnet Libraries - An evening with Robert Rams

So tonight it was down to Chipping Barnet Tory HQ to protest about library closures. Councillor Robert Rams was giving a talk at a "political forum". A group of us had agreed to meet at the pub beforehand and then march down mob handed. As I was late and they were tucking into their second pint at the start time, I said "It's freezing cold, you guys stay here and I'll ring you when it gets busy". They thought this was a splendid idea.

So off I went. As I arrived outside the Tory HQ, another member of the campaign, Colin turned up. I explained the plan and we started handing out leaflets. Well we would have if anyone had turned up. After about 10 minutes, someone who may have been Councillor Barry Evangeli, or could have been the bloke from rent-a-kill turned up. He asked what we were doing, we gave him a leaflet and he replied "I like libraries". Five minutes later a few more campaigners turned up. No more Tories. We stood there. The High street was deserted. One of us nipped round the back to spy on the Tories. Our spy reported back "I counted 2 of them". Just then another Tory turned up. She looked like she had just won the world cup for sneering. I gave her a leaflet. She sneered. Unlike Barry Evangeli/The bloke from Rent-a-Kill (* delete as appropriate) I suspect she doesn't like libraries. She certainly didn't like punk rockers who organise protests.

After another ten minutes (and no more Tories), Colin said "I'm frozen, do you mind if I go home". It seemed rather pointless standing there, if all the Tories were giving Rams the bird. "No, of course not".  It seems like even the Tories are too sensible to want to listen to a berk (in the classical sense) like Rams. We packed up. I stopped by the pub to tell the rest of the team that we'd decided that there were better things to do than stand outside an empty building. They heartily agreed and ordered another pint. Sadly I couldn't join them as I had a band rehearsal to attend and some rather cold fingers to thaw out. I hope the Chipping Barnet sneering champion enjoyed Mr Rams talk. Maybe the CIA could have put Julian Assange in there with him. I'm sure that after half an hour of Rams wit, he'd never take another leak again. Then again, Cameron has said he's banned strange and unusual punishments that could be perceived as torture.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Lynn Hillan - We're all in it together

In a press release yesterday, Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan claimed "We're all in it together". Here is a list of just how much her and some of her councillors are in it for. All of their posts are "part time".

You can click on their name here to see what they actually do fir their money :-
http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/council/listcouncillorname.asp?intSubSectionID=13&intSectionID=9

Barnet Council staff have been issued redundancy notices three weeks before Xmas. This list shows how much each of these councillors is entitled to claim and how much they have claimed "because they are worth it"

As an example of how hard they work, Maureen Braun gets the extra £8,852 for chairing the Hendon Planning committee. Last night she couldn't be bothered to turn up. How many times a year do you think she has to go? How many times has she "bunked off".  I picked a random selection to give you a flavour of how much each committee will net you. As you can see all of the talk of councillors not taking their allowances in full was, shall we say, rather wide of the mark (apart from Darryl Yawitch and Alison Cornelius- thumbs up to them).

How many councillors are getting redundancy notices to save costs? Silly question really

The Tories employ a "political officer" called Ricahrd Robeson at my expense (and yours assuming you are a Barnet Council Taxpayer). His job is to meake sure all of the Councillors in Barnet understand Conservative Policy. As Grant Schapps, Local Government Minister derided the increases for Tory Council Chairmen in Barnet, maybe you'd like to discuss this with him and ask him why he hasn't explained national party policy on this matter to the Barnet numpties - in the words of his press release :-

For more information contact Richard Robeson -  0208 359 2004 or Richard.robeson@barnet.gov.uk

Monday, 6 December 2010

Barnet Council Tories can afford publicly funded political assistants but not Childrens Centres

On our future shape leaks website, we tonight publish in full a press release from the Barnet Council Conservative Political Officer, Richard Robeson. This man is paid for by your taxes to help Barnets Conservative Councillors with their "political needs". He gets a salary twice or even three times more than carers and teaching assistants.

His job is purely political, he's Barnets Tory Spin doctor. When you read of all the cuts he's trying to justify, what sane person can wonder how they can afford a luxury like him?


http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2010/12/barnet-tories-publicly-funded-political.html

It really makes me sick.

Stop Press : Save Barnets Libraries Campaign - Meeting with Robert Rams

***** Hot off the Press - Barnet Council to close 6 Public Libraries *****
 *****                 Your Chance to stop these cuts                              *****

The architect of Barnet Councils library closure program, Councillor Robert Rams, is hosting a "political forum" on Weds at 19:30 at Chipping Barnet Conservative Office, 163 High Street, Barnet EN5 5SU.

The Save Barnets Library Campaign will be attending to put our side of the argument to Mr Rams. If you care about saving Barnets Libraries, this is an excellent opportunity to put our side of the argument. Please assemble outside Conservative Party offices at 19:15. All welcome (bring your megaphone).

If you haven't already signed the petition, please click on link in the sidebar.

Robert Rams is on record as saying he'd prefer people to order books on line and collect them from Tescos, than use the Library. This is an excellent ooportunity to show him the depth of feeling against his proposal. Full details here - http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2010/12/evening-with-robert-rams.html

Are the Hendon Times Transvestophobic?

The lead story on the Hendon Times website at the moment is one urging caution against a Transvestite Con Artist - http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/topstories/8719139.Warning_over_transvestite_con_artist/

To me this is a blatent case of sexism. Why should we only be concerned about Transvestite con artists, especially ones who, according to the story, have been arrested?

Isn't it about time that they issued a warning about the 37 people masquerading as Conservative Councillors in Barnet Town Hall. This mob got elected by pretending to be Tories but have done many things at odds with their own parties policies :-

Upped their own allowances, despite criticism from Tory Government minister Grant Shapps
Refused to publish details of gifts and other jollies against Tory party policy on transparancy
Continued to recruit expensive council senior employees when the government has urged a freeze
Embarked on a bonkers program of quango creation when the Government has recommended cutting them
Raising stealth taxes such as parking fees

Here's a few other things  that they didn't tell you in their manifesto which they've been planning since the election barely six months ago :-

Closing down the Arts Depot
Closing and selling off the Boroughs Libraries
Closing and selling off the Boroughs Museums
Closing and selling off the Boroughs Morgues
Making certain types of household rubbish collection fortnightly
No neighbourhood skip service
30% reduction in Sure Start Centres

Oh and then there's my favourite whopper of the lot. At the election they pretended that the Mill Hill Lib Dems were planning a 500 seat football stadium at Copthall. What they didn't tell you was that they were planning a 10,000 seat Rugby Stadium !!!!

Here's the proof  - John Hart in March, railing against the Kentish Town stand for 50 people :-
http://www.times-series.co.uk/your_local_areas/5066966.Stadium_fears_for_playing_fields_site/

Yet not a peep when this story hit the news stands. In fact Tory MP Matthew Offord is on record as saying it's a splended scheme.
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/topstories/8464244.Council_approached_by_Saracens_over_Copthall_Stadium/

So why is it that only Transvestite con artists are singled out? Transvestophobia if you ask me.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Councillor Register of Interests - Tories play fast and loose with the rules

Barnet Council Tories have shown a terrible arrogance towards the electorate who pay their wages. Not only have six of them refused to allow their details to be put online, evidence now reaches us that some of those that have, have been less than frank in their disclosure. Why is this important? Well this week the Barnet Eye detailed how Councillor Hugh Rayner had objected "On behalf of a neighbour"  against a planning application. On inspection of his register of interests, it was revealed that Hugh Rayner was himself a neighbour. Had he declared a prejudicial interest? Well if he had, it wasn't documented in the planning details.

The chair of the committee who will decide is Councillor Maureen Braun, who has herself played fast and loose with planning rules. A regular reader forwarded me some rather disturbing information regarding her disclosure (full details of all councillors disclosures are here - http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/council/listcouncillorinterests.asp)

Anyway, if you look at Braun's disclosure, she's signed the following declaration :-
As you can see she has signed that she agrees that she's broken the rules if she fails to disclose items which are required. Jeff Lustig, Borough Solicitor has countersigned it. This means he's responsible for making sure the details are correct.

In the section about property she completed it as follows:-
A Barnet Eye reader forwarded me the following document from the Land registry :-


Now one would expect the chair of the planning committee to know if she owns a house. Why on earth would she choose to withold disclosure? Whilst I doubt that there is any issue with this, it is a breach of the code.  Jeff Lustig must seek to get this rectified. ASAP and give naughty Maureen a slap on the wrists as an example to her colleagues. I would suggest that Lustig write to all councillors and use this as an example. My suggestion is that Braun be sacked as the chair of the planning committtee. If she can't get this level of paperwork right, she clearly isn't up to the job.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Another Barnet Eye Video rant - Rogvision 49er



Video submissions are always welcome

Disappointed



Promises, promises
Old tired, worn out second hand sentences
One thing, with you is certain
You’re a really sad person. So sad.


CHORUS

Disappointed a few people
When friendship reared its ugly head
Disappointed a few people
Well, isn't that what friends are for?
What are friends for?

You, you're just a really bad person
Who won't, you won't, listen to anyone. No not you
With those half moon eyelids
Just babbling on, your useless defences. So sad.

CHORUS

This erratic haphazard, fluttering
This to-ing and fro-ing
Like a confused moth
The collusion, illusion
And it's all ad infinitum
You're a really sad person. You're really so sad

CHORUS

Fools and horses
Running their courses
And brow beaten down
Like dust on the ground
You cheat easily
Like sweet charity
And all of the bastards
The world despises
Springing surprises
In newer disguises
You cheat easily
Like all charity 

---------------------------------------------------------
I was listening to this and I realised it sums up many of the feelings I am feeling right now as we contemplate the wholesale destruction of Barnet Council.