Tuesday, 11 August 2020

You only live once so get some inspiration in your life

 Do you feel like your life is on hold? Do you feel like 2020 is the year that didn't happen? I'm sure these are feelings most of us have had at some point over the last few months. But the timer is ticking, none of truly know how long we have, whether it be a a 100 seconds or a hundred years. None of us know whether a meteorite is hurtling towards us, or whether medical science will extend our life span way beyond our expected years. But really that doesn't matter does it? If the meteorite is heading this way, then there isn't too much we can do, but if we have a goodly chunk of time, we have it within our power to make the best of our time. 

There is an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. My mum would often say that, as she saw me moping around the house after yet another gig, where I'd be nursing a sore head the next day. She really rather missed the point, as I wouldn't change a thing about my youth, but she was spot on in that I didn't really have the life experience to fully understand that the energy of youth is a fleeting thing. As a teenager, I divided my time between partying, watching and playing gigs and playing football. Sometimes we'd do all three at the same time, with impromptu party gigs, which would be finished off with a game of five a side football in an illuminated car park. 

The inspiration in my life came from watching some amazing musicians and performers and listening to their albums. Often I'd go to a gig, hear the DJ playing a track and have to ask them what it was. I'd then buy it at the first possible opportunity. There was one DJ that I bothered so much that he'd actually get spare copies of records for me. One time, I was awoken at around 10am by my Dad saying there was some strange bloke on the phone for me. I'd not been at a gig he was expecting me to attend and he had a single for me. He was wondering if everything was OK. A friend had said I was ill, in actual fact I was rehearsing with my own band. He got me put on the guest list for the gig he was doing that night, as he didn't want to be out of pocket. I ended up watching a band I'd never heard of, who happened to be rather good and coming home with a copy of a single that was also rather good ( I wish I could remember the band and the single, but I saw/bought rather a lot in those days). 

To this day, it is only really music that gives me that buzz, the feeling that I want to do something different, dip my toe in dangerous waters. Every so often, I hear a track that makes me want to write something, something different to anything I've ever written before. The Fall were one such band. Whenever I bought one of their early albums, I'd have a songwriting frenzy. I soon learned that trying to write like Mark E. Smith was a pointless exercise, but his approach to songwriting inspired me to develop my own style.

Another band that always inspire me are Wire. They have continued to develop and release music that, for me , cuts the mustard. These days, there is no such thing as the NME to point people like me at new, upcoming underground artists or new releases from artists I love. So I have to remember to regularly check their websites and social media feeds. Sometimes I simply forget, sometimes for years on end, and I miss stuff. Sometimes I then go on a binge of listening to them, to 'catch up'. In the case of Wire, I discovered a track that was posted on Youtube ten years ago. I was rather surprised to find out that not only was it a great track, but I felt motivated to write some music and play some music. 

For me, writing is an organic process, sometimes it happens straight away and other times it develops over a period of time. My current songwriting partner, Allen Ashley is on lockdown, so I have a couple of ideas to present to him. I decided to convene a rehearsal of the other two False Dots last night, to really get the juices flowing. I wanted to play through a few short passages to see how they sounded live. As Allen wasn't about, I took the vocal duties (never a great idea). We also played through a few of my old songs and a couple of covers just for the fun of it. One of the songs, we played for the first time in Ten years, since before Allen rejoined. Grahame hadn't played it for 30 years and Fil had never played bass on it (he had played guitar).  

It is a song that I really like. I wrote it whilst doing a songwriting course in 1985. I nearly 'sold' it to a major artist, but we couldn't agree terms (as in I made a very poor shout). But it doesn't really fit the existing set, so we don't do it at the moment. I recorded it on my phone, just for my own pleasure, but actually really liked it. The song was inspired by the vocal style of Paul Young, the exercise was to write a song for an artist in the charts. I chose Paul and tried to write a slightly soulful pop song. Sadly, he never heard it and hasn't sung it. I felt a bit embarrassed about it for a while, as it was a bit too poppy for our band. That changed when a friend who is a great vocalist came down to a Dots rehearsal in 1988 and asked if there was anything he could Jam on. He did this song for a couple of years in his set.

Listening back to it today, I realised that however grim 2020 is, however little there is to do, we can still do something. Playing with the Dots, listening to Wire, all of these things inspire me. Listening back to the track, it is a bit loose, but to my ears sounds great. Live music should be played with passion and should take chances. To me, the track encapsulated that, and it was great to hear something that was just three guys enjoying playing good music together. I hadn't intended making this public, but when I got to thinking about it, I thought it is a perfect example of why you should take chances and push yourself. 

I have a recording studio and access to the worlds finest musician, but I just wanted to give you a flavour of what sort of sound three guys paying together, off the cuff can make if they are having fun. This song won't change your life but if it makes you pick up the phone and hook up with someone you should have spoken to ages ago, then it has done something good.

My message here really is, try and be spontaneous. Things don't have to be perfect to be great. I don't know if the fun we had last night comes through in this little video, but I hope it conveys something positive. 

As to the track. I was thinking about the Wire track that inspired it. 23 years ago was 1997. It was when I got the Dots back together after a seven year hiatus. I had fallen out of love with music. My ambition in getting the boys back together, was simply to record this and a couple of other old tracks, to try and flog them and get some royalties. I found I enjoyed playing and writing, after a long break. The plan was scrapped and the band started gigging again. I have no intention of stopping just yet, until fate intervenes. 

Here is the Wire track. Have a listen. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it inspires you. Don't wait until it's 23 years to late to do what might change your life for the better today.


Sunday, 9 August 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 9 August 2020

 Firstly I'd just like to say  that the Blogger platform that I publish this blog on has changed its user interface and putting this together has become a real PITA. It also doesn't work on the computer in the shop so I had to nick Clares laptop, so she is now giving me the skunk eye. So bear with me if I am not as chirpy as usual. Here is my pick of the weeks tweets.

1. I will start by doing something I've never done and make my own tweet the tweet of the week. Not because it is a good tweet but because the Blogspot platform has thoroughly p*ss*d me off and so it is my rather silly revenge. They haven't even bothered responding. Shiesse customer service if you ask me, all the millions I've earned them! If you are interested, the problem is that embedding HTML code (as is needed for this feature is now really fiddly). 

2. And now down to business. There has been a big story in Colindale. I honestly don't know what to think about this one, don't know the facts. A 14 year old boy was arrested for possession of what appears to me a small amount of weed and a crap mobile phone. The implication is that he was dealing. There was  a large stand off with the community. It seems that a community groups offices were also raided and community workers arrested. I'm not going to voice an opinion on the incident as I really don't know the relevant facts, but I smell weed everywhere I go in Mill Hill these days. Is there a new policy from the Police and is it being pursued in the middle class areas as well? I support the Police, but I've recently blogged about them becoming more disconnected from the community. This is something both sides need to fix and fix fast. Given that the Labour Mayor has responsibility for policing in London, I think the Hendon Labour Party should get him down to Colindale ASAP rather than shout at the Police through Twitter.

3. Sadly, the less well off areas of our locality are being left to rot. Although this is in Brent, the other side of the Edgware Road is Barnet. This should be a local Jewel in the crown instead.....

4. I've subjected you to enough misery. Here is a picture that should cheer you up from our favourite Rugby club!

5. The best job in the Borough of Barnet this week? Well if you like footie and doing the washing!

6. Thanks to @Time_NW for this peach of a pic. Highlight of the delectable Diana Dors career getting on the cover of the Edgware post. 

7. Things have changed a bit around here over the last century!

8. Another tweet that made me smile from the 'just over the border' part of Edgware (in Harrow).

9. This is a rather nice tweet. Shame the lady who posted it rather lost her head!

10. If you are around the Borough of  Barnet, what better place to get Barnet attended to

That's all folks.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

The Saturday List #274 - My top ten favourite actresses

 I can't believe that I've waited until list #274 to put this list together. Forgive me the pure indulgence of this list. I thought long and hard how to approach this. There are many criteria I could have chosen, but the one I have gone for is the actresses who's work has stuck in my mind. You know that moment, when you see someone on the telly and you simply can't take your eyes off them. 

1. Uma Thurmann.

Regular readers will know I have a thing for Ms Thurmann. I was first introduced to her work in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Her roles are always interesting, often flawed characters. Kill Bill is a great example of a strong female lead role, something we really don't see enough of.  She is someone that you simply can't take your eyes off. 

2. Julie Newmar

When I was but a nipper, one of my favourite TV shows was Batman. I thought he was super cool and I loved the concept of having a cave, a car and a helicopter. Then I saw this scene and my world was turned on its head. I decided that it would be far more fun to play with Catwoman than to have a cave and a car! There have been other actresses play catwoman, but how could you resist Julie?

3. Marilyn Monroe

Has there ever been anyone who was more photogenic than Marilyn Monroe. But she wasn't just the most beautiful woman ever to live, she was sassy and she was switched on. There are many stories of her support for BAME musicians etc. For me, Some like it hot is the best example of a Hollywood comedy, the ultimate feel good film. And Marilyn Monroe owns it with her performance.

4. Gabrielle Drake

Another TV series that I absolutely loved was UFO. I used to dream of flying a SHADO Interceptor from Moonbase, it seemed to me to be the coolest job in the world. I was fascinated by the whole idea of  SHADO, but I also had  a big crush on Lt Ellis, who was in charge of Moonbase. I think this may be the reason why. I only found out recently that Gabrielle Drake was the singer Nick Drake's sister. A talented family.

5. Leslie Ash

One of my favourite films of the 1970's was Quadrophenia. There were many things about the film I liked, but the thing I liked most was Leslie Ash. I had the real hots for her. I don't think I was alone in my admiration for her talents. She went on to be a household name through her role in Men behaving badly. Sadly she damaged her career by having ill advised plastic surgery, why, I'll never know?

6. Michelle Pfeiffer

Now I've said previously that there is only one Catwoman, but Michelle Pfeiffer is absolutely brilliant in Scarface. It is one of the best of the Gangster genre of film and Ms Pfeiffer lights up the screen. 

7. Rachel Griffiths

One of the best TV drama's of the last 20 years was Six Feet Under, a drama set in an undertakers. Rachel Griffiths character stole the show. She is pretty amazing in every role she plays. 

8. Ningali Lawford

Last year we saw the passing of Australian actress Ningali Lawford, one of the stars of what is possibly my favourite film, Last Cab to Darwin. Ningali never really got the parts or the recognition her talents deserved, but if you ever get the chance, check her work out.

9. Tamsin Greig

Check her CV. I think I first noticed her in Shawn of the Dead and Green Wing. Most recently, Friday Night Dinner has been a monster hit. Tamsin is one of those people who if you see she's in it, you can be pretty sure it will be entertaining. 

10. Ingrid Bergman

If you've not seen Casablanca, make the effort. Ingrid Bergman is awesome in it. Playing opposite Humphrey Bogart at his very best, must have been daunting, but this is a performance without peer. He final performance was as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. A powerful performance that won her an Emmy. She was dying of cancer when it was filmed, but she saw it through. When I was putting this list together, it struck me how few really good film roles there are for female actors. Ingrid Bergman is almost unique, certainly in this list, of having played a female modern world leader in an award winning production.  Surely that is an indictment of our society. 

That's all folks

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Rishi Sunaks meal deal bung - A magic money tree bung with no logic at all

Guess what I did last night? I went out to my favourite restaurant and had a lobster and a bottle of wine. I was taking advantage of Rishi's dine out to save the world deal. I'm no mug, if someone wants to bung some cash my way, I am quite happy to spend it, even if I think that the whole idea of it is completely bonkers. And that is exactly what I think of Rishi Sunak's meal deal bung. As the Bleeding Heart in Farringdon was fully booked, and the staff said it had boosted trade, I have no doubt that it will help the hospitality trade in the short term, although I do wonder whether anyone will be dining Thursdays-Sundays, so it may well be counter productive.  I would be all for boosting restaurants if the country was aawash with cash and there were not people on the breadline who are struggling to buy a loaf and a tin of beans at Tesco's, let alone go out for a slap up meal.

But the country is not awash with cash. The policies of this and previous governments have left the cupboard bare. The money to fund this is borrowed and will have to be paid back. As I mentioned, it will be interesting to see how the deal affects the normal weekend peaks. I spoke to the Bleeding Heart and they said that lunchtimes have been rammed with office workers taking advantage of a cheap lunch. They would be mad not to and if I was in their position I would. But who is the beneficiary of this mad taxpayer funded bung? Every evening I walk up the Broadway, and it was great to see the cafes busy, something that I'd not seen since early March. But it was also quite clear that those taking advantage of the deal were people who could well afford to eat out anyway. I saw one chap I know, a notorious cheapskate, who is loaded tucking in with his wife in one cafe. He normally leaves her at home and I was amused to see she was on the tap water, whilst he had a more attractive libation. I suspect he only allowed her  a starter and had two main courses, to take full advantage of the bung.

There are millions in the UK who are strggling and who are in fear of losing their jobs as the Furlough ends. They won't be going out to eat, even with the bung. They are scrimping and saving every penny. Whilst well paid office workers and well off retired skinflints think the whole thing is marvellous, those who need some cash most are excluded. This is probably the most middle class tax bung in the history of the UK (I'm middle class, which is why I am taking advantage of it). What sort of a world do we live in where millions have to get a voucher to get a tin of beans at a food bank, whereas others get given a tenner to eat lobsters?  If they'd given everyone on Universal credit a couple of ten pound vouchers
to have a slap up meal on the high st, that would have had the same effect at a tenth the cost and it would have given those who really need the bung a good meal. It would have filled up the restaurants and put extra money through, as the people using them would be people who NEVER can afford to eat out.

Sooner or later, winter will come and all of the fruits on the magic money tree will be eaten. We will have put nothing in the stores for next year, we will have devoured the seeds for next years crop. Sooner or later the UK will have to pay for this binge. We all will. The well off office workers, the retired, those on Universal credit and people like me who work and just about get by. As anyone who has ever gone mad with a credit card knows, sooner or later you have to pay the bill and you have to pay the interest on the bill. Everyone is walking around saying what a marvellous chap Rishi Sunak is and how masterfully he's managed the economy during a crisis. The sad truth is that anyone can be popular if they are doling out cash bungs. It's when the bills come in, the cash runs out and we have to start paying, we'll really see what sort of chancellor he is.

I'd like to see the Chancellor outlining an economic strategy to dig us out of the mess and to pay the bills. I'd like to see an emergency program of measures to protect the economy and the spend money on areas that generate lasting wealth. I'd be interested to know how many disused rail lines could be reopened with the money spent giving us a slap up dinner? I'd like to see how many businesses that were thriving before the crisis and are going to the wall today could have been saved? I'd like to know how many young people could have been trained to work as bricklayers, plumbers and car mechanics for the cost of the bung. Don't get me wrong, I know Rishi Sunak has an impossible job and I understand that the bung is a very fast way to get some cash back into the economy, but is it really the best way to spend a small fortune, when the government is in hock up to its neck. Next year when the Government cuts the cash to Barnet Council as it is skint and vulnerable people start to suffer, the Lobster and wine will not seem quite as tasty as it did last night.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Last Orders! Calling time on the UK

Will the last one out please shut the doors. I'm not by nature pessimistic and I am by nature patriotic. I'm not patriotic in the way that I want to shut the door on others, or think I'm better because I was born in the UK. I am patriotic in that I realise that I was damn lucky to be born here, to believe that we do things properly, we have the rule of law, we give people a chance, we lead the world in music, culture, science and ingenuity. We invented all of the sports that are worth watching. My Dad was an immigrant who came here in 1943 to fly bombers for the RAF, to preserve the principles of democracy, rule of law and justice.

I am proud of the NHS, the religious tolerance (which wasn't always the way in the UK, as a Roman Catholic I know of the English Martyrs).  I don't seek to excuse the sins of the past, we have to learn the lessons of history to avoid repeating them. I believe that the Uk has improved beyond all recognition as a nation since the end of the war. We all have access to education and healthcare. The systems are in place to ensure no one should strave or freeze to death (sadly people do). We have a police force that polices by consent. We don't have our own army on the streets keeping order. When we vote, we don't vote under coercion.

But and this is a very big but, I've never been less confident about the future of our great nation. I honestly beleive that all of the things I mentioned above are under threat. Don't get me wrong, we are unlikely to wake up next week and find ourselves in a different reality, but after ten years of austerity, many have been chipped away at their very foundations. Over the period of austerity, legal aid has been eroded, so that it is too expensive for the ordinary person to access. Heaven forbid you find yourself in court, but if you do, it will make a sizeable hole in your life savings. The law is becoming something only the rich have access to and that is not right. If you have no legal representation, then you are not living under the rule of law and you have no justice.

The NHS, which has saved many people's lives is at threat as never before. Donald Trump hates it. The US has made it quite clear that the price of a post Brexit trade deal is access to our healthcare system. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what he really wants. Religious tolerance? Antisemitism and Islamaphobia are on the rise. Over the past four years, I've been shocked to hear how many people I've known for decades are religious bigots. This takes many forms, but holding UK muslims responsible for what happens in the name of that religion for what happens in rural areas of third world countries, where there is little proper education, is like blaming your local Vicar for Fundamentalist Christians shrieking 'God Hates Fags' at funerals in America. A good friend of mine is the chair of a mosque, he is a hard working man, owner of a local restaurant and has been in the UK since 1973. His father was in the Imperial Army during WWII and he is very patriotic towards the Uk and the Queen. He recognises the opportunities he has had offered to him and his family. However whenever there is an atrocity committed by someone in the name of Islam, he knows that certain sections of the UK  population hold him collectively responsible. In short, we are losing our common sense and tolerance.

Education? Well student loans are scaring a generation off from Universities, schools are underfunded and public sector schools struggle to keep the best teachers. There has always been inequality in Education, but this has massively increased over the last ten years. Those who need least help up the ladder get most. The advent of things like means tested benefits, Universal credit and benefits sanctions have lead to homelessness and hunger. Again it is the people at the bottom who suffer most.

Yesterday we discussed the challenges facing the Police force. It seems to me that where we had community policing and policing by consent, the police have all but given up on anything that isn't terrorism, murder or serious organised crime. If your are the victim of  a non violent robbery or burglary, I doubt you will have any expectation that you'll get your property back.

The malaise goes deeper than all of this. Walk the streets of London and all you see is litter. Not only that, but we seem fine with it. Go to Sweden or Germany and you don't see people casually throwing rubbish in the street. The government tells us that we should wear masks, so that if we have covid19 and we are unaware, we don't inadvertently sneeze and infect people standing around. The response, people claiming it is a bit uncomfy and infringes on their civil rights. When my Grandfather was in the trenches in WWI and getting gassed, I wonder if he felt the gasmask was infringing his civil rights?

A modern nation only succeeds and thrives if people are given the tools to succeed and a reason to succeed. By removing access to education by finacial manipulation, we are destroying our future ability to compete with nations that are investing. Many of our Universities only survive because they are crammed full of foreign students. Our top firms only survive as they attract migrants to fill roles that we are not educating our own people to do. For reasons I don't understand, the concept of work based qualifications fell out of favour. City and Guilds apprenticeships disappeared and now if you go to a building site, all you will find is immigrant labour doing skilled trades for good money. Successive governments have failed to recognise that there are many UK citizens who will not be brain surgeons but could be very good plumbers, bricklayers and painter/decorators. There is an acceptance that 'Brits don't want to do dirty jobs'. For me this is nonsense, if they could see that they had a trade that would earn them good money, they would soon see the purpose, but they don't even know where to start. When I left school, I had a qualification in painting and decoration and worked as a painter for three years, before doing an IT course to work in the even better paid IT sector. In 1983 I did a government sponsored TOPS course, getting paid £40 a week to learn Computer Operations (£40 a week then is worth £115.83 in todays money). There was a shortage of IT workers, so the govt of the day acted to fill the gaps.

It was also relatively easy to start a business. I started my rehearsal studio business in 1979. There is so much more regulation and hassle running a business. The 'sue for anything" culture has done for many businesses. This has made insurance premiums skyrocket.

All of this has crept up on us, but with the covid crisis, the country is now in hock as never before. The gibes about Gordon Brown selling the gold and leaving the cupboard bare are nothing compared to the finances we are now facing. My advice to everyone is to make sure you have your cheap £10 off meal, because when we start picking up the tab for all this, you may not be able to afford to go out for a very long time (assuming any pubs and restaurants survive).

The bottom line is that on January 1st, the UK will have finished the transitional period of our withdrawal from the EU and we will be picking up the tab for covid. What are the wealth making industries that will power the recovery? It won't be tourism any time soon. Our best brands such as Rolls Royce will have very limited markets for their aero engines with the contractionion of the air market. I hope I am wrong, but I just can't see where the wealth will be generated. The financial services industry has traditionally been the thing which has saved us, but as we depart the EU, we have lost direct access to several important markets and sources of income. Without covid, we may have ridden the wave but I fear we are blundering into a perfect storm.

To my eyes, there is no easy solution, so get those deals have a drink and a burger, because when time is called, it may be a long time before we are going out very much.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Law and Order Special - What do the Police do in the London Borough of Barnet?

I am going to start this blog by stating that this is not a hatchet job on our local police. I have several friends who are serving officers, of many years standing, and I know that the job is difficult. The police have their priorities. These are dealing with terrorism, murders and serious crime. At the time of the credit crunch, the country took the decision to defund the Police to the extent that regular local policing was wound down. They've had just enough money to do all of the top three priorities and keep a veneer of doing the other things that we expect them to do.

I recently had cause to visit Colindale Police to give a statement. I was quite shocked to find that the officer I was giving the statement to was also manning the front desk. I had to give the statement in a semi public area. Every few minutes, he had to excuse himself to deal with a member of the public. I've given several statements before over the years. This was the first time that it was not done in a private room. Whilst it wasn't a particular problem for me, I was concerned that there seems to be a chronic staff shortage to have made such a situation necessary.

As I strolled home, I got to thinking. If I was burgled, had my car broken into, mugged in the park with no harm coming to me, would I expect the police  to catch the culprits and return my property? The shocking answer is no, I probably wouldn't. The best I could reasonably expect is for the perpetrators to get caught in the act at some future date and confess to the crime. This would then be 'cleared up'. Would I feel that it was cleared up? Personally no, to me getting cleared up would be to receive some sort of compensation or return of goods from the culprit. I would be most interested to know if anyone in the borough has had any property returned in the last couple of years, where the perpetrator has not been caught in the act?

My gut feeling, which is probably ill informed, is that most low level crime is solved when members of the public see a crime in progress and a police car is either nearby or the perpetrator is apprehended by a member/members of the public. I know dozens of people in Mill Hill who have been burgled, few have ever had anything more than a crime number and a cursory visit. In conversations with friends who are in the Police, they tell me that generally the Police have a reasonable idea who is committing the crimes, but there is simply not the resources to target the criminals and when they do catch them, the legal process and the courts will not impose any sort of sanction that is a deterrent, even when the culprit is a serial offender.

A few years ago the Met staged "operation bumblebee" which was a major crackdown on burglars. The operation was a success, many burglars were caught.Their fences networks were disrupted and for a short while there were less burglaries across London. I was surprised to find out that Operation Bumblebee is still technically in existence. I haven't heard anyone say that the burglars who robbed them were caught.

The police have been in the spotlight recently. We are all aware of recent cases where members of the BAME community have felt mistreated by the Police. I was talking to one friend from the BAME community who asked "why am I always getting pulled up in my car, but when my mum got robbed they didn't want to know". The recent case where Olympic athletes were subjected to a rather humiliation stop and search was a prime example of this. I can't remember the last time I saw a Police officer in Mill Hill who wasn't in his car or attending and incident (or buying coffee's at Costa). To me, this is sadly "lowest common denominator policing". It does nothing to help community relations and if community relations are poor, the police have little chance of clearing up crimes. There seems to be no visible street patrols. At our business in Mill Hill, we would regularly get officers 'popping in' for a tea and a chat. It added to a sense of security.

Such visits and community engagement generally stopped after the credit crunch. The Met stopped its community engagement program in its tracks. Our business has always been supportive of Police initiatives locally. As a studio, we have helped make anti knife crime videos, given prizes in Police organised events. Where as there would be a dozen or so a year across Barnet, Brent, Harrow and Herts that we'd be involved in, last year there was a single one.

Back in 2010, when we were making the film "A Tale of Two Barnets" I interviewed the Chief Constable of Barnet. We discussed the cuts and the rolling back of the community programs. He told me that this could be done for a couple of years, but if it went on for much longer, the Police would end up being disconnected from the community. Sadly I believe this is what we are seeing. I don't blame the Police. They are not being given enough cash. Officers on relatively high salaries are having to do menial admin tasks that should be done by less well paid admin assistants. This is simply a misuse of resources. The government knows that it is not a cost saving, but it sounds better to cut "admin staff" than officers.

The covid crisis has brought this into sharp relief. No one is being prosecuted for breaching covid regulations. People are moaning that supermarkets and rail staff are not policing their customers, but the Police will not act. Even if they wanted to, they are snowed under. Officers spend their time doing often pointless paperwork, filling in reports, and all manner of tasks that could easily be undertaken by admin staff, freeing their time to be out on the streets catching criminals.

So when you ask what the Police do in the London Borough of Barnet, the sad truth is that the answer is that they spend far too long doing tasks they shouldn't be doing. The Conservative Party is historically the party of Law and Order, but the last ten years have seen us reach the point where unless we are murdered or blown up in a terrorist incident, we don't really ever expect those who commit crimes against law abiding citizens to get caught. The answer? It's simple, fund the police properly, get admin staff to do admin and start up the community programs that were so savagely cut in 2010. Once we've got the Police working properly, we can then get the criminal justice system to do its job, but thats a different blog

Sunday, 2 August 2020

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 02/08/2020

The year becomes stranger as we go. Yesterday we heard that they were going to shut the pubs so that the schools could open during the covid crisis?????? This strikes me as mighty unfair on the teachers. I recall my days at FCHS, the only thing that kept our teachers sane was a crafty pint at the Swan and Pyramids during lunch break and when the day finished. Sadly, like many institutions, The Swan and Pyramids has gone and I suspect the mental health of the FCHS teachers has not improved. One institution that is still with us is the Tweets of the week! Here is our round up of the best from our local.

1. You may wonder why the reminiscences of FCHS. I stumbled across this tweet by @Joef_E17. Funnily enough my old m,ate Brian Shillibeer found a pair of our old football socks recently! I commend Joe on his memory. There was however only one house - Thomas Moore (1973 intake). The others simply didn't cut the mustard ;). My eternal thanks to Alison Shuttler for being our form tutor and putting up with what was officially the worst class in the history of the school.
Thanks to Joe for putting a smile on my face!

2. On the subject of misspent youth, many of us spent many happy hours in the Sparrowhawk in Edgware. This was a great music pub in the 70's with a great Rockabilly scene as well as amazing gigs organised by Friends of The Earth. Sadly, as we were too punk Rock for either promoter, the False Dots never played there. Thanks to @Time_NW for the memory

3. A lovely tweet from one of or favourite tweeters featuring a very nice picture of a tweeter. Funnily enough, I saw this chap on my travels yesterday but couldn't get a decent pic, so thank you Samuel.

4. As my Dad was an RAF bomber pilot, this sight always brings a tear to my eye. Thanks to Donald for yet another amazing tweet.

5. Like the Swan and Pyramids, the Hendon Hall Hotel is no longer with us. Back in the day, it hosted the World Cup winenrs. This is a lovely tweet. But can you imagine booking your wedding, only to find out that it was the day England were playing in the World cup final? Thanks to Stephen Hunt for the amazing memory

6. This is certainly my favourite cricket tweet of the week (and yes, well done England)

7. We've been enjoying following Robin Morel's posts detailing the progress of the new Thameslink station at Brent Cross

8. And whilst we are in Cricklewood, did you know this was the original home of Bentley motors?

9. This isn't the sort of tweet I normally feature here, but a shout out for Councillor Alex Prager for using twitter properly and using it to get across some useful community based information. I had wondered why the dustmen woke me up early, but in the circumstances well done to Barnet Council for taking care of staff wellbeing

10. Great to hear a talented artist with local links on the radio this morning.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Saturday List #273 - My top ten females with local connections

I've been meaning to do this list for a very long time. Our area has an extraordinary history in many areas, but often the contribution  of our female residents is much overlooked. It is about time that someone put that right. With Amy's anniversary it seems only fitting.

1. Amy Winehouse

A local girl, I sold her the guitar she played on her first TV appearance on the Jools Holland show, in our shop in Mill Hill. As we remember her anniversary, I am always tinged with sadness. RIP

2. Margaret Thatcher

Lady Thatcher was the MP for Finchley for many years. She knew my mum and although she didn't like her politics, she admired her work rate and intelligence. Mum took this picture at Finchley Carnvival in 1972.

Margaret Thatcher at Finchley Carnival

3. Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera famously also lived in Finchley. It would be nice to properly commemorate the first lady of the forces locally.

4. Dorothy Squires

Dorothy was married to Roger Moore and used to live up the road from me in Millway, Mill Hill, until Roger Moore got fed up with fans spying on them when he became famous through The Saint.

5. The Beverley Sisters

Britains biggest selling female trio, all Barnet girls.

6. Kate Nash

Like Amy Winehouse, Kate won a Brit award and also bought a guitar from me at Mill Hill Music Complex, where she rehearsed and wrote most of her early albums (Her Dad is a good mate of mine). The family are from Harrow.

7.  Fenella Fielding

My brother Frank used to tell me that Fenella Fielding, of the Parish of Edgware, was the most sexy woman alive. If you watch this scene from Carry  on Screaming, I'm sure you'll agree.

8. Margaret Lockwood

Film Star Margaret Lockwood lived in Mill Hill. Perhaps most well known for the Hitchcock classic "The Lady Vanishes".

9. Lynsey De Paul

Lynsey was a Cricklewood girl. A mega star in the 1970's, source of many a teenage crush! Sadly missed

10. Enid Blyton

Did you know Enid Blyton ashes are in Golders Green cemetery. The list of the people she resides there with is fascinating, well worth a view. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Is Capita working for the London Borough of Barnet?

I really must draw your attention to Mr Reasonables latest blog concerning how the contract with Capita is functioning.

He starts with the following two paragraph
I have been continuing to keep an eye on Barnet's finances during this very difficult time but as lockdown eases I thought to was a good time to start digging a bit deeper into Barnet's finances again, especially as the annual inspection of the accounts is coming up in August.
Click for a readable view of the figures
In terms of the monthly supplier payments it looks like Capita continue to benefit from their contract with Barnet. In June they were paid £12.5 million and this brings the total paid to Capita on the Barnet contract to a whisker under £500 million. When I mention this figure to some people they laugh as they simply don't believe that one council could pay so much money to one company but that is the reality of Capita in Barnet. The table below gives you the detail -----> Click here to read the full article

Mr Reasonable, AKA John Dix has been tracking the contract since it was first conceived. He is someone who's day job involves working with such contracts. As you can see from the figures, Barnet Taxpayers are paying far more than we were lead to believe. As Barnet are contractually tied to Capita, there is no scope for cuts, any cuts will come from other areas. With the Covid19 crisis, council budgets are under pressure as never before. I detect a certain world weariness in John's blog, like John the Baptist, a lone voice of reason in a wilderness of insanity. We really should be challenging our councillors on this matter. I have refrained from council bashing during the crisis. They have more important things to do than worry about bloggers, but these figures are truly alarming. The cuts will hurt the most vulnerable people in Barnet, deprived children, the sick, the elderly and the disabled. The one area that will not suffer is the shareholders of Capita. I don't believe Barnets councillors are bad people or evil, but they really need to do something about this mess. They cannot bury their hands.

Outsourcing of public sector contracts has sucked money out of the local economy and has not delivered betetr services. I co wrote a song about the dangers of outsourcing with my songwriting partner Allen Ashley - this affects you. You pay more tax and you have suffered from a decline in service quality. I cannot understand how anyone would not want our councillors to get on the case and get this mess sorted out.


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

City vs United, the Heartbreakers or Queen - No contest for me - A tale of music and football

Music is indeed a strange thing. We all have our own tastes. Mine are not mainstream. For many years (up until the petro dollars arrived in Mancherster), I would draw parallels between my musical tastes and my football club. I supported Manchester City. They were mostly rubbish, but I felt it was a far more preferable route to take than the easy path, supporting United. When City won, it really meant something, because they were so good at losing it when it seemed easier to win. A succession of bad managers, stars who never quite fulfilled their potential, but every so often a Kinkladze would turn up, dribble through the whole Southampton team and score the most beautiful of all goals ever, and you'd realise why. They were never boring, they would mostly break your heart, but occasionally they'd be spectacular, such as the famed 'Maine road Massacre'. when the stars all aligned and they stuffed Manchester United 5-1 in 1989, in the days when such things simply never happened and Derbys were a biannual humiliation. Friends would say "I can't understand why you support a rubbish team, especially when they aren't from round here". I just knew they were the team I wanted to support. The rundown stadium, in the heart of Rusholme was somewhere I always felt at home, especially when they were doing things like throwing away a first half lead of 3-0 against Bournemouth. Meanwhile United clocked up the trophys and filled the silverware cabinet, it all seemed rather fake and vulgar to me, not so much the team, who clearly worked hard, but the Johnny come lately fans, who judged the stadium by the quality of the prawn sarnies.

You may wonder what this has to do with music? I realised that my music tastes in many ways mirrored the team I supported. The bands I really loved were bands full of flawed geniuses. The sort of band that you never know whether they would blow your mind or simply blow their minds on booze and drugs and be incoherent. Most of the best bands I've seen have also been the worst. A good example is The Heartbreakers (Johnny Thunders moob, not Tom Petty). You never knew whether Johnny would amble on, veins full of smack and fall asleep half way through the show, or bound on, and play the most searing set of Rock and Roll you'd ever see in your life.

I was asked by a friend to explain my choice of football club in 1999. Man Utd were winning the Champions League Treble, I saw City beat Gillingham on Penalties in the 3rd tier play off. It was the most spiritually uplifting moment at a football match. I brought my nine year old nephew, a City fan (who had been teetering on the cusp of a United allegiance). City were 2-0 down with 89 minutes on the clock. They equalised. Just before the penalties, my nephew looked at me, worried and said he thought he was having a heart attack. I told him that it was real excitement, the type only Manchester City will ever give you.

I was reminded of the explanation when I was discussing Live Aid with a friend. He asked me who I though was the best band. To his shock, I said the only band I saw was Status Quo. I'd made the wise decision to go to Dingwalls, to watch the Alternative Live Aid. I was drawn by the appearance of Johnny Thunders. Johnny alienated the audience, who were there to feel good by saying "Someone is going to make a lot of money out of all this" and proceeding to launch a stream of invective at all and sundry. He looked a tad worse for wear. It was perhaps a rather depressing day. But a couple of years later, I rocked up at the Marquee, expecting little and got the best 45 minutes of live rock and roll I've ever seen. When Johnny died, I wasn't surprised, but I was saddened. He was a rock and roll star, who lived by his own rules and always looked the part. The songs were filled with drug references and punk nihilism, but some of his music was too beautiful for this life. His acoustic album Hurt Me is the most vulnerable and honest of any album. I find it hard to listen to as it is just too raw. Thunders started as the guitarist in the New York Dolls. Strangely the band I always feel are the Manchester United of Rock and Roll also started as a glam rock outfit. Oddly, I can remember their first appearance on TOTP and thinking they were pretty good. I thought they were a bit like a British Alice Cooper, accessible rock. Punk wasn't around and 1974 was the end of the Glam era.

At the time Seven Seas of Rhye seemed a bit edgy. I liked up tempo noisy rock and this was perhaps the best example of the genre at the time. I'd liked Bolan, but Queen seemed a bit harder. I was eagerly awaiting the follow up. What arrived was perhaps the most shockingly awful piece of music it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. Whilst I'd liked Seven Seas of Rhye, it passed just about everyone else by. That was not the case with the follow up. Bohemian Rhapsody was a monster seller. For decades you couldn't avoid it. If it wasn't bad enough being pompous, self indulgent nonsense, it was off an album called a Night at the Opera. I could think of nothing I'd less rather pay good money to watch than opera, so I ritually burned my copy of Seven Seas of Rhye. I decided on the spot that Queen were the Manchester United of Rock. All of my cousins who were Manchester United fans loved them. All of the people at School who were bullies or morons and supported Manchester United liked them. I tried to reason with one that Seven Seas of Rhye was a better song, but they hadn't even heard of it.

I was musically lost (at the time, I'd not heard of the Dolls). Bohemian Rhapsody launched a short period of the most awful, overblown, bad rock music. There is nothing that ruins a rock song more than an operatic tone and pretentious lyrics. Given that everyone loved Queen, I just assumed I had a screw loose. Then on June 6th, 1977 I saw the Ramones at The Roundhouse. No opera there. No ten minute guitar solos. Short and to the point lyrics. No overblown make up, just jeans, t shirts and ROCK AND ROLL.

It was a moment in my life that altered the course of my life. I spent all of my money on vinyl. There was very little punk music out and our record shop in Mill Hill didn't have much. The first punk album I bought was Puremania by The Vibrators. It was the only album in the shop. The second was LAMF by the Heartbreakers. It was a music I connected with. The first track on the album was "Born To Lose". It was a message I instantly connected with

When you watched Thunders perform, it wasn't theatrical. It was in your face. His Guitar solo's are not crafted virtuoso pieces, that subtly reel you in. They grab you and won't let go, like a rabid rottweiller. It always felt like the whole thing could fall apart at any time, often it did. But it connected and you wanted to be a part of it.

I always thought Queen to be distant and aloof. When we saw Thunders at the Marquee, Thunders spotted one of my band mates in the audience smoking a spliff. He announced that it had to be handed over immediately, in exchange for a  bag of coke. The spliff was taken and smoked on stage. The coke? That never materialised, like many of Johnny's promises. To me, this was City, they give you something, they give you a cherished set of memories, but they didn't give you what you wanted and were better for it.

As for Queen? Well I thought they couldn't record a worse song than Bohemian Rhapsody, but they managed. To me "We are the Champions" will always be associated with United at their most obnoxiously arrogant. I guess that for most of the 90's and 00's City had no real reason to play such a song, wheras United had lots, but my least favourite team cavorting to my least favourite piece of music was simply a fate far too horrible to contemplate.

For City, the song I most associate with the period is Wonderwall by Oasis. To me it is Maine Road, Soggy pies and flat warm beer. The smell of ciggies on the Kippax. The Etihad and the trophies is something different. My son, a millenial City fan has no idea. Although Oasis are to many the sound of City, to me it was The Heartbreakers and Born to Lose I would turn to in my moments of footballing despair. Queen with their mock pomp or the Heartbreakers breaking your heart whilst making you feel human. We are the Champions in a stadium full of Prawn Sandwich munchers or Born To Lose, crying in my beer after another  relegation. I know which I'd choose. You either get it or you don't.