Saturday, 25 March 2023

The Saturday List #301 - My top ten porkies!

 Did you watch Boris Johnson being interviewed by the House of Commons priveliges committee? I was transfixed for three hours. I don't wish to offend anyone, this is purely a personal opinion and I'm not trying to score politcal points, but for me it was absolutely masterclass in telling porkies. I feel that with Boris, he knows hes lying, we know he's lying and he knows we know he's lying, but he also knows that because he's Boris, we don't really care, it's all part of the fun. I genuinely believe that if Jeffrey Archer had written Boris Johnson's autobiography as a work of fiction in 1980, no one would have bought it, because it would seem too ridiculous. When the likes of David Mellor lost their cabinet jobs for wearing a Chelsea kit whilst bonking his girlfriend, and Margaret Thatcher was the epitome of Conservative values, the concept of Boris as a PM would seem absurd. But times change. Boris is probably the first and last politician to be made by being a bumbling fool on HIGNFY. None of this is a political point. I think the porkies of Labours Tony Blair were a magnitude worse, as they started a war. With Blair, we were not in on the joke from the outset. We felt a degree of betrayal when we learned. With Boris, we don't. My sister used to work at Hendon Magistrates court. A local chancer was up before the beak for embezzelment. He had a record as long as your arm and had set up a dodgy get rich quick scheme. The only person who got rich was himself. His defence was that everyone knew he was a crook and they deserved to get robbed as they only invested because they were greedy. The Magistrate found him guilty but let him walk free, on the grounds that he'd been completely honest about being a complete liar! He agreed that greedy mugs probably deserved to be mugged. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about the lies I've told and been told. It seemed to me to warrant a Top Ten Porkies list. I hope you enjoy these, and I hope it won't deter you from investing in this wonderful scheme I am setting up!

1. The Garden pond. I have a wildlife pond in my back garden. When our kids were born, I had a dilemma. Ponds and kids don't mix, but it is an important resource for local wildlife, amphibians etc. I fenced it off and put a steel protector over, which would stop a child falling in. Knowing what I was like as child, I realised that I had to aff extra deterence. So I told the kids that when Grandpa (my Dad) died, I'd buried him under the pond and that if they disturbed him, he'd haunt them. I'd almost forgotten this until lockdown, when my Eldest daughter, who was 24 at the time asked if Grandad was really buried under the pond. I confessed.

Here is my collection of garden ponds!

2. The Nirvana Album. When my daughters were four and five, and my son was a baby, I told them that he was the baby on the cover of the Nirvana album. When the eldest was a teenager, she mentioned this to a friend. Given that Nevermind was released ten years before he was born, I was rather surprised the penny didn't drop before her friends ridiculed her for saying it. In fairness, the baby on the cover is a dead ringer for Matt.

3. Submission by The Sex Pistols. My old bandmate Pete could give Boris a run for his money in the whoppers department. Especially when he was chatting up girls. One of his best was that The False Dots had written the Sex Pistols track Submission and that the Pistols had nicked it. It all started when someone commented that our track "Not All She Seems" has the same chords as Submission. Pete said "Yeah, we wrote it and the Pistols nicked it, so we had to change the words". When Pete realised that this porkie made him even more attractive to girls, he got on a roll. I still occasionally get asked whether we got the royalties we were owed. 

4. Ladies of the Jewish faith. On the subject of Pete, his Dad, who was a devout Irish Catholic who was none too keen on people of the Jewish faith, told Pete and myself, when we were about 13 that Jewish girls liked to do disgusting things to young Catholic boys, so they could steal their sperm and make babies to sacrifice to the devil (I kid you not). Whilst he probably thought this would make us wary of such ladies, it is probably the worst thing you can tell a 13 year old boy with his hormones running wild. Of all the porkies I've been told, this was probably the most stupid.

5. Marc Bolan. Another porkie that Pete's Dad told us was that Marc Bolan had fleas, after we'd been watching him playing Get it on on Top of The Pops. He told us that Bolan was a 'dirty individual who never takes a bath and infested with fleas'. When I got home, I asked my sister. She said that Marc Bolan had a very beautiful girlfriend and if he didn't wash and had fleas, she'd not be with him. That made perfect sense to me.

6. I'm gay! Times have changed. These days, whatever your sexuality, you are accepted. When I was at school, especially Finchley Catholic 74-78, things were different. There was an oppresively homophobic environment. Anyone who was gay would be well advised to keep it quiet or suffer extreme physical violence. It is a matter of public record that I did not get on with my headmaster. When I go into punk rock, I arrived at school with a pair of dayglo pink socks. There was no rule in the school dress code about sock colour, so I knew I didn't face any sanction. The head saw me and went mental. I told him that there was no rule about sock colour, and they were the only clean ones. Realising I was right, a new version of the dress code was almost immediately issued, and he told me that if I wore them again, I'd be suspended. I felt good, as I'd got one over on him. About four weeks later, he tried to get his revenge. He told my mum at the parents evening that I was gay. She asked why he'd said this. The answer? "He wears pink socks". My mum laughed and said "So does Elvis Presley and he's not gay". God bless you mum, I hate to think what some kids would have faced from their parents back in those less enlightened days. I think people in positions of power who tell porkies really are despicable. Maybe that is why.

7. Toilet roll. Now this is one lie that I am only 99% certain it is a lie. When we were at St Vincents primary school, they loo roll was the hard, medicated Izal paper. It was horrible. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Nuns told us that if we used more than two sheets of it when we wiped our bum, we'd go to hell. They also said that the caretaker would be keeping an eye on us and counting the sheets. I guess I was 7 or 8. I really didn't want to go to hell, but on occasion I needed a third sheet. I was terrified that Jesus would not forgive me. I've come to the conclusion that he probably will. If I'm wrong, I suspect heaven is not the place I hoped for.

8. The secret Clash gig. I've mentioned my mate Pete and his Dad a couple of times. As I said, he loved to tell whoppers. I decided to exact a terrible revenge after one henious porkie caused me much embarrassment. I saw a band with a ridiculous name was playing at a club on the other side of London. I told him that it was The Clash playing under an assumed name. I told him I'd meet him at the gig and I'd got us on the guest list. Of course, I had no intention of going. Pete spread the word, and when he turned up there was a crowd of a couple of hundred people, all hoping to see The Clash. As they'd all gone there, they went in anyway. The band were rather good and got a deal. Years later, I met one of the band at the studio. I don't think he believed me when I told him the story. He did admit they were surprised at the huge turnout and said that it was the key moment in their career. I sort of wish I'd gone along now.

9. The pretend boyfriend. There was a girl I used to see at gigs, who I rather fancied, when I was about sixteen. I bumped into her on the way to see The Fall at The Marquee club. We got chatting and she asked if I could pretend to be her boyfriend, as her ex was going to the gig and he'd been bothering her. Seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to ingratiate myself with her, I happily agreed. We were at the bar in the gig, when sure enough, the chap turned up and started hassling her. I stepped in, as the white knight and told him to leave her alone. As I was bigger than him, he moved away. I was feeling rather pleased with myself, when I got a tap on the shoulder and punch in the face. It was his big brother and his mates, who were all about 21 and built like brick outhouses. I realised I was in a bit of trouble. Fortunately, a couple of bouncers came and threw them all out. They were screaming "We'll have you outside". At the end, I got the bouncers to let me out of the back door and avoided them. Sadly for me, by the end of the night, the young lady in question had attached herself to someone else. The only real solace was that The Fall were brilliant. 

10. Frankie Vaughns car. Perhaps my favourite family porkie mishap was my brother Laurie's. My Dad ran a crash repair business called MacMetals in Mill Hill. In the 1960's, he repaired Frankie Vaughns limosine. It was an amazing car, which had a jukebox and a drinks cabinet in the back. Just before it was ready to be returned, Laurie took it up to The Orange Tree pub, as he knew it would impress the young ladies. Sure enough, he managed to invite one to join him on the back seat for drimk from the cabinet and a listen to the Jukebox. What could possibly go wrong. He poured her a drink and asked her to select a tune. She had a look and said "Are you some sort of Frankie Vaughn superfan?" or words to that effect. Every record was a Frankie Vaughn single. Given that The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who were the bands in the chart, it went down like a lead baloon. 

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 24 March 2023

The Friday Joke and .... why not have a great night out tonight at The Dublin Castle

 It's Friday and once again I'm endebted to Robert Wilkinson for a rather wonderful way to start the weekend! He has clearly seen me fishing.

If you are at a loose end, please join me and The False Dots at The Dublin Castle tonight. There are three other amazing bands. The Dublin Castle is probably London's best pub venue. Everyone should go there at least once in their life. Why not make it tonight. This is what the False Dots sound like and look like (when we play at The Dublin Castle!)

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Lockdown three years on - A few thoughts

 What were you doing three years ago today? I was sitting in Mill Hill Services club having a pint of beer, as lockdown was declared. It was expected and I thought I'd get a pint of draught bitter as I know it may take some time before I could have another one. We supped up when Boris made the announcement and all went home. I re-read the blog I wrote the day after, before writing this  - Why lockdown is the opportunity of a lifetimewhen I was reading it, I was quite surprised to see how positive I was feeling about the whole thing. For me, the period of lockdown was an opportunity to reset many things. At the start of Lockdown, I imagined that I'd spend the period composing music. I didn't. All I did was lie in the sun and drink beer and write the odd blog. For the first time in my life I was willfully and deliberately lazy. I couldn't really be bothered to do anything and I felt far better for it. When lockdown was lifted, I found that the break had allowed me to recharge my batteries. For me as a musician, it made me realise I love making music and the band is just about finished making the resulting album of new material, which I think is the best of my career.

Whereas the day after lockdown, I wrote a blog, drank beer and lay in the Sun, three years later, tomorrow, the False Dots will play a gig at The Dublin Castle, a venue that is becoming our second home. This wouldn't have happened without the space of lockdown.

But no retrospective look at lockdown can be done without looking at the way our Prime Minister managed the crisis. I took a decision as lockdown was declared that I would not sit and snipe at Boris Johnson or his government. I felt it was important for the nation to come together. A virus does not discriminate. My father once told me that the second world war had taught him that sometimes the worst people in the world are the people who shine in a crisis. I genuinely believed that Boris Johnson would step up and carve himself out a place in history. 

At first, we did all come together. We'd step out and clap for the NHS. No one really argued. When Boris went down with covid, I prayed for him. I was horrified, as it showed that if it could nearly kill the Prime Minister, no one was safe. I didn't agree with every step the government took, but realised we were in uncharted waters. I am not quite sure exactly when the penny dropped, but it may well have been when Dominc Cummings went to Barnard Castle. Bit by bit, our eyes were opened. The government, who we had assumed were on our side and going through the same privations (I was unable to attend my aunt's funeral due to lockdown), were seemingly on an unending binge. The rules that applied to me and my business, did not apply at No 10 Downing Street. I think I watched every Boris Johnson nightly press conference during lockdown. Night after night we were implored to follow the rules. What we didn't know was that when he went behind those doors, it was party time. 

There seem to be a legion of Boris Johnson accolytes, claiming we need to move on and that he didn't 'knowingly' mislead us. Did I imagine all of those press conferences? Johnson's claim that he had to organise booze ups to keep up the morale of staff in No 10 Downing Street is sickening. If he wanted to thank staff, he could have sent them a case of beer and a card. Did nurses working like Trojans get a booze up and a cake with their mates? Of course they didn't and I know a couple who were completely burned out by the experience. 

I personally believe Boris Johnson should be in the dock, charged with criminal neglegence and corporate manslaughter for the way his administration managed the pandemic. Whilst his reckless non observance was repulsive, they were al grown ups putting themselves at risk. I think we can now see why so many caught the disease. What is the real issue is how vulnerable people were thrown to the wolves. Sending elederly people who were infected with covid back into care homes, with no mitigations, caused tens of thousands of needless deaths, deaths where the family couldn't say goodbye (unlike Johnson's staff who got a booze up and a cake). 

Should we find ourselves in pandemic conditions again, Boris Johnson has blown all trust that the British public had for our ruling class. What no one seems to keen to mention is that his Chancellor was living next door and must have known all about it. Why was he not before the committee, after all, he got a fixed penalty notice as well.

For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of Johnson's behaviour was that he has poured petrol on the bonfire of anti lockdown, covid denying anti vaxxers. They can claim, and it is hard to refute, that the people who ran the country and knew all the facts, were not following the lockdown rules, so they must have not really been too bothered about covid. I don't subscribe to this view, but Johnson has given them a very plausable argument.

One of the things that did interest me about the anti lockdown argument is that "Sweden didn't lock down and they did far better than we did". Unlike most covid deniers, I have lived in Sweden. When I was living there, several things struck me. Firstly, people followed rules. People put litter in the bins. If the government suggested observing basic hygene rules, people would do it. The second thing is that there are far fewer people in there cities. I recall going to the large department store in T-Centralen and being amazed at how much empty space there was. The rush hour public transport was nowhere nearly as busy as London. In short, the culture is very different and they did not have a government that sent infectious people back into the community. Lockdowns are very blunt instruments. My belief is that Boris was a week late in implementing it. If we'd have locked down when it was clear that it was needed, I believe we'd have seen far fewer deaths. 

Over the nine months before a vaccine was deployed, the NHS learned a lot of lessons in how to treat covid sufferers. The lockdown bought us time to learn those lessons and develop a vaccine. I believe that the Eat Out to Help Out policy was responsible for bringing the virus back. Rishi Sunal should have waited until the vaccine was available. 

Personally, distasteful as it was, I'd have forgiven Boris his beer and cake if he'd done his day job properly. As he didn't and tens of thousands died needlessly, I'd like to see him behind bars. AS he will get away with that Scott Free, if he gets booted out of Parliament for his antics, all I can really say is that's the least he deserved. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Here we go ..... The news ain't great

 So here we go again. Last week, I had my annual MRI scan at UCH following my ultrasound treatment in 2016. This morning, I had the follow up with my consultant. I last had a PSA test in October, and it had dropped slightly. On the basis of this, I was not really expecting anything other than good news. This is always a mistake, I have found that being as pessimistic as possible approaching the follow up is always sensible as then you never get bad news. Anyway, having been fine for seven years, it seems that we now have a small area of concern. Nothing to be overly concerned about at this stage, but a small area of concern. So the next step? A biopsy is being arranged. These are never fun. I'll also be doing a PSA follow up ASAP. I can't lie, I feel totally gutted. This is not because I'll be dropping dead any time soon, but I know that there will be a few months of anxiety and stress. For those of you familair with the Gleeson scale, I've gone from a 3+3 to 4+3. 

Putting things in perspective, I am lucky. I have been under supervision, which means that this will be nipped in the bud, before it becomes anything too nasty. Being lucky enough to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, I am also not going to be bankrupted by the costs of treating this. There is not a lot of point speculating on what will happen prior to the biopsy, but there are three main scenarios. The first is that we simply carry on montoring it and do nothing. The second is that I receive another bout of Hifu or similar treatment to address the immediate problem. The third is that I have my prostate removed and that is the end of the matter. Each of these has upsides and downsides. Not all of them may be realistic options, I'll have to wait and see. It depends how nasty the 'change' is. At some point, around this time next year, I'll be writing a similar installment to this, where all of these questions are answered. 

In some ways, I am lucky with the timing. I'm meeting up for a drink with some old schoolmates tonight, which will take my mind off the matter. The False Dots are doing a gig on Friday at The Dublin Castle, which should be a blast and again will take my mind off it all (Please come along if you are not doing anything - Full details here

For me, the worst thing about all of this is the uncertainty. I've been through this a few times now and it isn't much fun. It means that things like plans forsummer holidays etc may well have to be rearranged. The consultant informed me that there is a backlog for biopsies, so it may be a while. She was not overly concerned about the delay as the area of concern is small. 

I daresay that there will be a few people who dislike me and my blog who will be popping open the champagne today when they read this. I'd suggest that it's rather premature, unless a bus hits me, I'll be around for a while, maybe more miserable and angry, but here none the less.

This may all sound a bit doom and gloom. I can only be honest about how I feel. Don't let this put you off getting checked for cancer. I was first diagnosed in 2011. I had Hifu treatment in 2016. Apart from a couple of weeks of discomfort on a few occasions, I've had a completely normal life. If I hadn't been checked, I'd have found out when I had few options. Who knows where I'd be now? Please get yourself checked. 

I wrote this number to try and encourage blokes to keep an eye on these issues and to talk about it. Please have a listen. God bless you all and stay healthy.

And here's the full story, if you've not read this series before.

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, there's what this is all about. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 59 years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October  which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive. A  PSA in October 2019 was 4.6, so stable and good news, the last in May 2020 was 5.45 a small rise, so worrying, however after a review against the most recent MRI, it was decided that this was fine. My two latest ones in February 2022 was 6.7 and October 2022 was 6.6 was stable. My MRI in March 2022 showed 'a change' so I am now awaiting a biopsy.
  I've no symptoms apart from needing to wee quite regularly and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Looking forward to The False Dots at the Dublin Castle on Friday evening

So what are you doing on Friday night? If you've nothing planned, come down to The Dublin Castle in Camden Town for a night of amazing music at Londons finest grassroots venue. My band, The False Dots will be playing and we have three absolutely cracking support bands with us. For me, there is always an amazing buzz seeing the bands name up outside an iconic venue such as the Dublin Castle. As a musician and a band member, it's why you put all those hours of hard practice in. Full details here

The gig was originally scheduled for Wednesday the 15th March, but had to be rescheduled as the pub was being used as a location for filming of an Amy Winehouse film. Given our links with Amy, it is good to hear that her memory is being kept alive. She was a long time customer of our studios and Fil our bassplayer engineered on demo's for her. She really was a very special person and we miss her. 

It is an honour to have a regular gig at the Dublin Castle. It is a really good place to play, the sound engineers are top notch and the crowd is always up for a good time. Live music has made a resurgance in London over the last five years. 

As to The False Dots. If you've seen us since lockdown, you'll notice a bit of a change in direction. We have embraced our Ska and punk roots and added some music hall, keeping alive the spirit of Mr Ian Dury, who the Irish Times said of, in his obituary "only man to successfully combine the energy and excitement of rock and roll and punk with the bawdy humour, wit and homespun philosophy of music hall and of his native Essex." 

For us it is a mission to keep such music alive. We are not a covers band, but numbers such as "Channelling Ian Dury" reference the work and the memory of the great man, recalling a chance encounter back in 1977 in a cafe in Camden Town.

We made a little video called London's finest castle to celebrate the venue. This will be just one of the numbers we are performing!

Our previous gigs at The Dublin Castle have been a real blast and we are delighted to have been joined at all of them by The Shoals, who are once more playing with us. Have a listen to them here

Also appearing will be The Slender Pins, who I've not come across before, but who look pretty lively and should put on a good show.

 Purple Implosion will also be playing. I rather enjoyed this rendition from their Youtube channel. The Dickies did a rocking version of this back in the 1970's, so it put a smile on my face.


Monday, 20 March 2023

Why the governments policy on getting older people back to work is half cocked and ill thought out

 Last week, the chancellor announced that a key element in his economic strategy is to get older people, who have retired, back into the labour market. This is mainly based around tax law changes that are specially beneficial to wealthy pensioners with large pension pots. I had to laugh when I watched his speach. On Monday, I'd been out for a beer with a mate of mine. He was made redundant at Xmas from a senior position at one of the countries top blue chip organisations. He'd been a victim of a 'reorganisation'. He's a month or two older than me, we both turned 60 last year.

As he feels he needs to work for at least a couple more years, I was pleased to learn that he's starting a new, senior role at another well respected company. What wasn't quite so pleasing was what he told me about another job he'd applied for. He was extremely well qualified for it and had worked for the company for 30 years, until he took his previous position seven years ago. He'd been put forward by a mutual friend, who was hoping for a finders fee bonus. When an interview did not materialise, the mutual friend made some enquiries and was told on the QT that my friend was 'too old' and they didn't want someone who would just hang around for a couple of years. 

This was quite shocking, not least because this contradicts what the company says about it's own recruitment policies on its job adverts on Linkedin. When I listened to the Chancellor, it made me wonder as to whether the government had actually done any research at all into what might tempt older people back. Clearly he's done a bit of research into the very wealthy, newly retired, who the opportunity to top up the pension pot will be attractive, but I doubt this will have a major impact, beyond a few niche roles.

Many of my friends are coming up to the point where retirement becomes an option. What is striking is that so many of the conversations are the same. It starts with "I'm not quite ready to retire, but I'd prefer to work a 2-3 day week for a few years and start to wind down.". A few have also spoken to me in recent weeks and said that they are considering re-entering employment as the recent fuel costs and inflation spike have played havoc with their household budgets. They feel that a top up to their family budget would be nice, but are wary of having to work in a stressful environment.

It strikes me that the government seemingly ignored these sort of people. It seems to me an absolute no brainer that firms should want to retain trained and skilled employees, who want to work but do not want a full 35 hour week. It would also seem to me that this offers huge opportunities for mentoring younger staff and passing on knowledge. If we need people to stay in the workplace, it is surely desirable for them to pass on skills and increase the robustness of the economy. I know of a fair few people who have left firm, only to return shortly after as part time consultants, as the firms have lacked the in house skills. My view is that the government should look at incentivising firms to retain older staff and especially to job share and pass on knowledge. One of the biggest drains on the skill set of the economy is women leaving the job market to have children and then finding it hard to get back into decent jobs. It seems to me that enlightened firms should look at using staff approaching retirement age to job share/skill share with such people. There really should be government backed schemes to enable progressive employment practices, where people who would prefer to work part time can. Huge sums are spent on apprentice schemes, but the best apprenticeship of all is to work with someone who knows their job. I'd give tax incentives and tax breaks to companies that have employment policies that encourage people to job share, work part time and utilise people who would otherwise be economically inactive. This would be a very worthwhile investment in the economy.

Firms with over 250 employees should be able to demonstrate that they have polices that ensure people are not forced out and those wanting to job share are accomodated. This will build resilience into firms, as having more people around who know the job has to be a good thing. It means that projects do not stop when holidays are taken and staff should be able to share ideas, which will improve the general performance of the companies.

It strikes me that Rishi Sunak and his governments simply to not engage and consult properly with the people they are targetting their policies at. If they were to make job sharing and part time working more desireable for firms, then they would deliver a massive premium to the economy. The Tory right are always clamouring for tax cuts. To me, the sensible thing is to target any cuts at firms that are doing the right thing. If companies that could demonstrate policies that promote employment equality are working, then surely giving them breaks, such as lower rates of corporation tax would be eminently sensible. The right believes that tax cuts make the economy more efficient. If we actually had a progressive tax system where doing the right thing was rewarded, I might be inclined to agree with them. As it is, we simply seem to be giving breaks to people who largly don't need the cash.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 19th March 2023

You may wonder why this feature didn't appear last week? Despite an hour or two of looking, I couldn't find more than three decent tweets worthy of inclusion. This week, our tweeters are back on form. There are some really good threads on this today

So what have the local army of tweeters been up to? Here is our pick of the most interesting this week. 

1.  I had to start here. I wrote a track called Sunday in the 70's More of that later), maybe this picture from Burnt Oak in 1972 is the most 1970's photo ever taken. The clothes, the telly, the football, the curtains. It has the lot!

2. A good way to get a mention here is to alert me to some good local music trivia. I was chuffed to see thus as I rather like Fairport Convention (especially in the Sandy Denny era)

3. Seriously, what is not to love here?

4. This is one tweet I will deffo be following up on. I do love a bit of nice Jerk chicken, and I trust Sarah's judgement

5. If yoiu read the Saturday list I posted yesterday, you'll understand why I simply had to select this tweet!

6. Back in 1985, my band, the False Dots played a rather good gig at the Cricklewood Hotel. I was unaware of this rather odd story concerning the venue!

7. As yesterday was St Patricks day, I was fascinated by this wonderful thread about the history of our local Irish population, that goes back far further than many realise

8. Another absolutely fantastic thread here from Mr Mark Amies and his @Time_NW account. If you were wondering what Hendon Aerodrome looked like before it became the Grahame Park estate, this will answer a few questions

9. Lol!

10. As you probably know, we love a bit of live music and there was an amazing gig last night

And on the subject of live music, if you want to see some the best local bands in action, then come down to The Dublin Castle on Friday night, for The False Dots and The Shoals. It will be a great night.  Please come down, details are here

This is what The False Dots sound like this

And The Shoals sound like this

That's all folks, have a wonderful Mothers day if you are a mum and if your not, have a great day anyway and if you are lucky enough to still have a mum, make sure they know you love them!

Saturday, 18 March 2023

The Saturday List #400 - The ten best moments of my life (excluding the family and naughty bits etc!)

 When I started this series, I thought that maybe, I'd do a couple of dozen. To get to 400 is pretty amazing. I enjoy putting these together, it's a bit of fun. It gives me something to focus on for the week as I plan it. Some lists are weeks or months in the planning, requiring pictures and research. Some are slightly easier. I had planned a very different list, but yesterday I attended a double funeral. It was for the parents of one of my best mates, who both passed away unexpectedly at the turn of the year. The celebrant give a wonderful eulogy about embracing life. It inspired me, so I have shelved the planned list until list 500, which is something to look forward to, sometime in 2025 if we are all still here!

I got thinking about life. What are the best moments. I'm not going to include my first kiss, the birth of my kids, daughters graduation, etc, they are wonderful but are also private. These are moments shared and I hope in some way inspiring, they certainly inspired me.

1. The Ramones at the Roundhouse on the 6th June 1977. I've written about this many times. I was a lost soul and music gave me a reason and a purpose. I despair to think what my life would be like, without this absolutely pivotal moment.

2. Manchester City winning the 1999 tier 3 play off final at Wembley in 1999. I've had some wonderful moments at football. I support Manchester City and the absolute low point was 1998, when they were relegated to the third tier of the football pyramid, what is now called League one. They were absolute rubbish at the start of the 1998/99 campaign. Somehow, they got their act together and ended up in the play off final against Gillingham. You couldn't get tickets for love nor money. I eventually got two from a dodgy tout, for a silly amount of money. I genuinely thought it may be the last time I'd see City at Wembley. I was in the Gillingham end. I took my nine year old nephew Alex. In the 89th minute, City were 2-0 down and I was devastated. Somehow, they scored two goals, survived extra time and ended up winning on penalties, thanks to Nicky Weaver. I've seen them win FA and League Cups since, watched last minute Premier League triumphs on TV, but nothing will ever top that, as I genuinely felt the club would die if they lost. I doubt they'd be where they are now. Half way through extra time, Alex said to my Uncle Roger, I feel ill, my heart is beating too fast. I replied "It's called excitement son, that's why we watch football".

3. Traversing the Settle to Carlise railway in the th snow in 2018 with my good lady. Over the last few years, myself and the missus have got into the habit of having a special day out on luxury train once a year. This started when we saw one going from Mill Hill Broadway to Bristol, where my brother lives. It was a lovely day. A champagne breakfast and a five course dinner, on a comfy train, with a nice destination for a few hours walk around. It isn't cheap, but it is fun. In March 2018, during the beast from the east. We chose the Settle to Carlisle journey that year. The train set out in bright sunshine, but as we travelled north, blizzards hit. At Carlisle, the electric engine was swapped for a steam engine for the trip over Englands most scenic railway line. Seeing the dales and hills in the snow was magical, sharing it with a special person was a cherry on the cake. I made a little video of it. 

4.The False Dots at Dingwalls, 1984. I've had many great moments playing with my band. I really struggled to pick one, so I'll pick two, both great for totally different reasons. Our gig in February 1984 at Dingwalls was amazing. The band was at the absolute peak of its powers. Our singer, Vennessa Sagoe was a force of nature. It was our biggest London gig and Dingwalls was packed.

 We absolutely nailed it and got offered a management contract as a result. Sadly, it all fell apart from there. The manager was only interested in Venessa and she was not interested in him. But the moment was the highlight of our incarntion as young wannabees.

5. The False Dots at The Dublin Castle, November 2022. In 1990, I disbanded the band and they stayed disbanded until 2000. We have had various incarnations since and done some brilliant gigs. During lockdown, I took over the role of singer, something I'd never even contemplated singing before. It was meant to be a temporary thing during lockdown, so we could write songs, but I found that I enjoyed it.  In November, we did a gig at The Dublin Castle. It was brilliant and a real buzz. I realised I could do it and that I loved it. We are playing again this coming Friday at the Dublin Castle. Please come down, details are here and this is what we sound like

6. The Premiere of A Tale of Two Barnets at The Phoenix Cinema, Finchley. Back in 2012, Director Charles Honderick and myself made a film about the London Borough of Barnet in 2012. It was partially funded by the Barnet Trades Council. It's not perfect, we had a miniscule budget and the situation was changing by the day, as the stupidity of the administration running Barnet seemed to do more stupid things by the day. The Trades Council booked the Phoenix Cinema for the Premiere. We were still editing the film and making last minute updates to the last minute. We'd booked the cinema for two hours. So many people turned up that we had to have two showings. It was also shown at the House of Commons and The Edinburgh festival. You can watch it here - It was a real buzz, especially afterwards, when people came up and said "I didn't realise what was going on" in their droves. 

7. Listening to The Damned playing New Rose in studio seven at Mill Hill Music Complex. My lifes mission and work has been building Mill Hill Music Complex studios. I was inspired by Punk Rock and when the Damned turned up and I heard them playing New Rose (the first ever UK Punk single to be released) in studio seven, I almost shed a tear. For some people, a blessing from the Pope would be the pinnacle of their life, to me, this was the ultimate vindication of my lifes work. There are bigger, more financially successful acts than The Damned to use the studios, but none are as iconcic for me personally (apart from possibly the Ramones, who sadly will never use the studios). 

8. Seeing my name on the wall of The Roundhouse. To me, the Roundhouse is the iconic venue of all venues in London. In 1977, it was the place I really discovered music and many of the best gigs of my life where at the venue. To this day, it is somewhere is my venue of choice to see bands. When they asked if they could put my name on the wall, I was chuffed beyond belief. 

It is even better when friends randomly spot it and send me a picture!

9. The day I bought my Fender Stratocaster. I own quite a few guitars. I use different ones for different purposes. The one I use for gigging is my Fender Stratocaster. When we first started the band, Hank Marvin's son Paul was the drummer. We got to rehearse at Hank's gaff in Radlett and Hank let me play his favourite Strat through his favourite Fender Twin Reverb amp. I was blown away. I sounded good! I wanted that setup ever since, I've had a couple of Fender Twin Reverbs, but none sound like Hank's which was custom built for him by Fender. Hank advised me that when I get enough money for a decent guitar, try every one you can before you buy. Don't buy the prettiest or the one with the best sound. Buy the one that feels like and extension of your fingers. I followed his advice and ended up buying one from Barnaby Marder's shop in Richmond.  It has served me well. When I brought it home, I felt like I was a real guitarist at last.

10. Reading the personal reference from my old Biology teacher Bob Wright, for my first IT job. Back in 1983, I applied for a job in IT. I had to give a couple of references. I'd not had any proper jobs, so I nipped around the corner to see my old Biology master from Orange Hill, Bob Wright. Bob gave me a Scotch ( I was 21), we had a chat and he gave me a sealed envelope. I had no idea what he put. I got a D for my biology A level, so I was by no means a star pupil. I got on well with Bob. He took us for a biology field trip to Millport in Scotland for the A level course. I was very into punk but we got on.  ten years later, I fould the reference. I'd never read it before. It must've been handed back to me at some point. When I read it, I was gobsmacked. It was the most glowing reference I could imagine, whilst still being 100% honest. Bob had highlighted strengths I didn't know I had at the time. I didn't get on with too many of my teachers, but Bob was one that I have ultimate respect for. I just hadn't realised he actually liked me until I read it.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Rock and Roll music has never been about musical virtuosity

 There has been a social media storm about the comments of an account called @lachlan regarding Meg White, drummer of The White Stripes and stating that they'd have been a much better band 'with a decent drummer'. My friends at Bally Studios had their say, I added mine.

I didn't realise that there was such a Twitter spat on the subject, until I decided to have a look to see the full context. It seems the bloke who posted the tweet had second thoughts, deleted it and offered a 'Mea Culpa', which is fair enough. We all make mistakes

It got me thinking about the whole issue. As someone who has played in many bands (and been slung out of a couple for not being good enough technically), it is a matter close to my heart. To me, the matter at the heart of this is "What is Rock and Roll Music".  As someone who has spent my adult life going to gigs, it has never been about virtuosity, It is about the chimistry of the individuals. Two of the very best live bands I've seen were The Ramones and Crass. Neither had any degree of musical virtuosity to speak of. Tommy Ramone did not do a single complicated fill on The Ramones first three albums and when Mark Bell replaced him for the fourth album, the band did not become a better version of The Ramones. As for Crass, they were all 'anti musicians' when I followed them around, deliberately not playing music of technical complexity. They were, however, one of the most powerful and compelling bands I've seen and I've seen a few. 

At the other end of the scale, we have bands like Queen and post Barratt Pink Floyd. As a guitarist and a songwriter, I can appreciate the craft, but it leaves me completely cold. It's a personal thing, if you love them, that's fine, but they don't rock my boat. For me, Rock and Roll works best when there is a band, who all spark off each other. When this happens, there is a creative buzz. It may or may not be technically accomplished, but when it is buzzing you can feel it. 

I know thousands of musicians. All aspire to improve, be better and make better music, but putting the best players together does not guarantee that a rock and roll band will be better than one that has average players who gel. If you were to replace Johnny Ramone with a technically brilliant player such as Joe Satriani, for me it would destroy the essence of what makes the Ramones. It may well be brilliant and something that would have sold five million records, but it would not have the essence of what made the Ramones. 

On Sunday, I went to The Boogaloo club in Highgate, to watch the Midnight Crawlers. They play a blend of rockabilly tinged country music, think of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Hank Williams. The music was simple but brilliant. When a band have a common vision and put the work in, it comes together. I am of the opinion that often technical brilliance does not sit well with Rock and Roll. If you worry too much about playing the right notes, you end up with a performance that is too conservative. I've played with people who have come off stage to raptuous applause, only to say it was a terrible gig because they fluffed a note in their keynote solo. The same players have said how brilliant a gig was, when the crowd drifted off, bored by the passionless performance. Live music should not simply be a recreation of a recording. It should be live, edgy and dangerous.

As to the White Stripes. Seven Nation Army is a wonderful piece of music. When new, young rock bands start getting together, it is almost always a song they start with. It is beautiful because it is simple. I've seen kids starting drum lessons and being shown the song, coming out beaming, because they can play a bon fide hit. For me, I buy into the punk ethos, set by Mark Perry of the Sniffin Glue fanzine. He put three chords on the cover, with the invocation "Now go and form a band". A generation of teenagers did just that. Some gave up, some are now brilliant, some (like me) are somewhere in the middle. Loving what we do and entertaining people 45 years later. We need the Meg White's to inspire us. It may well be that if Jack White had got together with another drummer, he'd have done something brilliant, but it would not have been the White Stripes. I think that working with Meg gave him space that a more technically brilliant drummer may not. Of course a great drummer will make a band sound brilliant and when a song has been codified, as Seven Nation Army has, it will sound amazing when performed live. But I do suspect that the song would have been a completely different beast if it had orignally been put together with a really top notch, technical drummer.

I think that the truth is that people who criticise players like Meg White don't really understand rock and roll or how bands work. Players like Paul Weller, evolve. The Jam was a very different beast to The Style Council and both are different to his current solo work. You develop and you find different musicians to give you different challenges. It's all part of the fun. I sometimes think that when bands don't really know what they are doing, they are at their most creative. Once they 'know the rules' they become less creative. The likes of Lachlan are entitled to their views. They are just as valid as mine and it's what makes the world of Rock and Roll go down. I'm sure if her watched my band, The False Dots, I'd be the first one to get the boot. 

Here's one of our ditties, if you think it sounds OK, why not come down to The Dublin Castle next Friday, 24th March and watch us. More info here

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Happy to swim in raw sewage - Matthew Offord MP replies to our concerns about water quality in local streams

On the 9th January 2023, I sent an open letter to Matthew Offord MP, concerning water quality, following highly worrying reports in the media about water quality in Barnet.

I am pleased to report that Dr Offord has finally responded. Here is his repsonse. I really suggest you read it. It is, perhaps, the most interesting reply I've ever had from an MP (click on the image for a more readable version).

So lets see what he has to say for himself. Dr Offord swims in the Thames, sails on the Welsh Harp and Scuba dives off the South Coast. The problems with dumping of sewage are a passion of his. Dr Offord admits that one outlet is discharging into the Welsh Harp a nature reserve, where he sails. When Dr Offord says that he has a passion for dealing with the problems, I can only conclude that his idea of being passionate and mine are rather different. My version of passion is to get up and put every ounce of energy I have into what I am passionate about, until the deed is done and done properly. I suspect that Dr Offords idea of being passionate is to lie in bed thinking about it, vigorously. I do respect the fact that at one stage he voted against the government, but he acquisced and voted to allow the disgusting practice to continue.

Some things should be immediately changed, or at the very least as quickly as possible. A situation where swimmers, divers and sailors are put at risk, simply because they want to indulge in healthy outdoor pursuits is completely unacceptable. 

The net result of Mr Offord and his Conservative colleagues voting for the government measure is that he will be swimming, diving and sailing sewage for the next fifteen years, he may be happy with that, but I am not. 

Mr Offord is one of 292 Tory MP's who think that is OK. 

Here is my original email to Dr Offord.

Dear Dr Offord

I am writing to you to ask your views on the high level of sewage in local waterways and what action you will be taking to address this. Like yourself, I am a dog lover and a dog owner and I have become increasingly concerned about the levels of sewage, bacteria and other contaminents in the local waterways. There have been several reports of dogs becoming ill following exposure to water contamination in local streams. A local stream in the Borough of Barnet was featured on the BBC News last week. I have seen first hand sewage contamination in folly brook in Mill Hill and there have also been concerns about discharges into the Silk Stream and other streams feeding into the Welsh Harp. Many of these pass through areas where both dogs and children exercise.

My personal view is that the way to resolve this is to have far steeper penalties for water companies discharging sewage into local waterways, which act as a punitive deterrent. There should also be strong powers to deal with misconnections. Home owners employing cowboy building firms deliberately misconnecting to save costs should be liable for punitive fines to facilitate the costs of cleanup as a deterrent. I would personally like to see a clean water bill brought forward, with households given a six month amnesty to resolve issues and then heavy fines. I would recommend that a proper inspectorate of water quality are set up, who have enforcement powers and statuatory targets to deliver. The current system simply isn't working.

I would be interested to know your views on this matter


Roger Tichborne