Friday, 15 October 2021

The Friday Joke - 15th October 2021

 It's Friday and in the usual tradition of this blog, we have a Friday Joke. Regular readers will know that we are animal lovers here. So here is an animal joke. You will also know we love a bit of technology. So here is a joke for your delectation. A mad scientist develops a micro chip that can be inserted into the brain of any animal, allowing them to speak perfect English. Once it has been perfected, he decides to test it on his pet dog and cat. He gives them anaesthetic, inserts the chip and then lays them out in the front room to recover. Realising that it will take a while for the animals to recover, he wanders off to the pub and proceeds to get bladdered.

The cat and dog awake at the same time. The cat wakes up, stares at the dog, who stares back. The cat says "What are you looking at dogface?" The dog is startled, he understands perfectly. He replies without thinking. 

"A mangy old stink bag since you asked!" The cat like wise is startled. How can the dog be speaking perfect English and how can I understand what he's saying.

The cat and dog start discussing what could possibly have happened. Both agree that they'd better keep schtum when the master returns until they've figured out what is going on. Both have figured out that it may not be too wise to have the human knowing they can speak English.

Shortly after the Master arrives. He has a bevvy of friends in tow from the pub. They all gather around as the scientist explains what he's done and how the animals will earn him a fortune. The cat and dog give each other a sideways glance, realising this could interfere with their hither to comfy life. 

The scientist addresses the cat and say "Tiddles, would you prefer chicken or tuna for tea?". The cat looks at him and says "Meow" and starts licking his paws. The scientist realises that maybe there may be a fault in the cat's chip. There are guffaws from the assembled drunks.

He says "I'll have to check that later, the dogs chip must be ok". He turns to the dog and says "What would you prefer a walkies or a juicy bone". The dog looks at him, feigning a puzzled look and says "woof!". 

At this the drunks start to tease and laugh at the scientist, asking him what he's been drinking all day. The cat and dog feel relieved. They've both twigged that they can use this to their advantage. Now they know what the human is up to. Life will be so much easier. The scientist is distraught and kicks out the drunks. As he's sitting there, a foul stench fills the room. His life work has been for nothing. As he's drunk he turns to the dog and says "You useless mutt, you are no good as a guard dog, you are no good as a house dog, you don't fetch a ball. All you do is sit there and fart".

The dog, enraged at the insult, fixes him in his sights and says "That was the cat!".

Have a great weekend. 

Thursday, 14 October 2021

A few tips on how to not upset me

I got an email from a friend today alerting me to the to the fact that my friendly neighbourhood troll seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.  For most of the last two years, a rather strange individual, who lives locally has been trolling me to the very best of his ability. For some reason, it seems to have stopped and many of his rather silly twitter accounts have disappeared. The vast majority of the trolling was name calling. It seemed he'd sit up all night, reading my blogs and trying to identify weaknesses in my character that he could exploit with his razor sharp tongue, incisive wit and vicuous barbs. Sadly, he wasn't quite up to the level of Oscar Wilde when it came to put downs and they tended just to come over as the rantings of an oddball. Anyone who endured Finchley Catholic High School as a dyslexic in the mid 1970's has far too thick a skin to be bothered by someone sneering "The King of Mill Hill" at him. The staff at my business found this all rather hilarious. I'd block the accounts, but on occasion, they'd bring something to my attention that concerned them. On one occasion, the silly fellow started posting on Twitter that people should come and throw stones at my business. This would be a silly thing to do, as our site is fully covered by CCTV. The only consequence was that we picked up a couple of new customers, who'd not heard of us before. One guy nipped down, bought a set of guitar strings and then enquired "Have you seen what some nutter is posting about you on Twitter?". Once it became clear that we weren't going to be burned to the ground by an angry mob, I just found it rather amusing. Our friend posting the noncense set up three dozen different accounts and even bought followers in Africa and India to make the accounts seem important. Personally, if I had spare cash, I'd rather spend it in the pub, but at least it kept him off the streets and in his bedroom.

What was even more bizarre was that he'd take high offence at the most random of blogs. Regular readers will know that a friend of mine contributes guest blogs about Mill Hill in the 1940's/50's/60's under the pseudonym of Richard Wilkinson. When he wrote the first blog it was at the height of the campaign of harrassment, before the Police became involved. He wanted to add a guest blog, but I advised him to use a nom de jour to avoid hassle. Our friend went bonkers over this, posting ever wilder accusations. As Richard doesn't do Twitter, he missed it all, but it was truly bonkers. Every new guest blog by Richard was greeted with a tirade of insults, claiming Richard didn't exist and he was part of some evil scheme to enslave Mill Hill. If you read any of Richards Mill Hill quizes, blogs etc, you would find it hard to understand why someone would post this on Twitter (but if you search Richard Wilkinson Mill Hill on Twitter you will find it).

We can't believe that Barnet Eye are continuing to lie about Richard Wilkinson. He does not exist.This article is historically wrong. It is based in n the 70s. Face with tears of joyFace with tears of joyFace with tears of joy Barnet Eye are liars, cheats and scumbags.

All in all rather strange. The one thing it did confirm was that Richard was right to use a nom de jour for blogging as some of these posts were quite threatening

Even the local political site are getting involved in the search for the great Richard Wilkinson. This guy is wanted by everyone in Mill Hill. If you know him email us ****@**************** so we can interview him first. Grinning face with smiling eyesThumbs up

What did concern me was that this was clearly part of a wider plan to discourage people from writing guest blogs for the Barnet Eye. Happily it didn't work, but to this day I advise guest writers to use a nom de jour unless it is important to have their name in the public domain. 

The individual also went through a phase of setting up dodgy Twitter accounts to follow me, for reasons I am not sure. All of these had giveaways to the identity of the owner, so I'd block them. I have no doubt he has a few accounts following me that I've not blocked, but it was all a bit strange. Although I had no interest in what he was posting, several friends would send me screenshots when particularly offensive things were posted. No matter how many times I'd say "I don't want to see it", they'd still send them out of concern. My friendly Troll also started trolling friends, one had to get a solicitor to take action when personal details were posted online and threats were made. The Troll  also harassed my nephew, who was 14 years old, obtaining photo's from my sisters private Twitter account. My sister, who is a barrister by trade, went nuts. When I explained the nature of the Troll we were dealing with, she realised it was actually a good excuse to cleanse her Facebook friends list and tighten up her privacy settings.

Our friendly troll also sent threatening emails. Some of the threats were truly bizarre. One stated that he was "friends with the people who run the Green Party". If he'd said the Sicilian Mafia, maybe I'd have been quaking at the boots, but I can't say that I'd really be overly worried if Sian Berry dropped me off a dozen mackerel. He also told me that he knew all my customers and would destroy my business. Unless he was the bloke who invented Covid, which has had a bit of an effect, these threats proved hollow. For the first year of his harrassment, business actually went up by 20%, although I'm sure this was coincidental.

Many of the insults centred on the fact that I was fat, old, an alcoholic, uneducated, a rubbish guitarist, stuck in the past and a failed politician. Yep, I'm fat and old and quite comfortable with it. Yes, I do drink a bit too much at weekend sometimes, but I don't feel this interferes with anything other than my ability to do crosswords on a Saturday morning. I'm relatively uneducated, but I have no chip on my shoulder, as I've got the best job in the world running a studio and my education serves this purpose perfectly. Am I a rubbish guitarist, that's for others to judge, but I enjoy the music I make and the band has people who enjoy the music. In some ways I'm stuck in the past. I love a bit of nostalgia, I appreciate the legacy the past has bestowed, but I also look to the future. Developments like the new link from Luton station to Luton Airport, the Battersea branch on the Northern Line and all manner of technological developments fascinate me. I love new music and am always looking for new musical inspiration. As for being a failed politician. It's true. I've stood for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill twice and Edgware once and lost. If being a councillor was a priority then yes, it would be a huge blow, but each time the result was revealed, I was secretly relieved. If I had been elected I would do the best for my community, which needs effective councillors, but I have things I'd rather spend my time on than Council meetings. I stood to raise issues. Maybe I failed to win, but I've always made my opponents address the issues to some degree. 

I entitled this blog "A few tips on how not to upset me".   If you want to upset me, then it is pointless lying about me or making things up. I just find such things funny. If you want to make personal threats, then unless there is some credibility in them don't bother, I've heard it all before. Calling me names is pointless, because I've been called so many, as the youngest of six, as  the victim of a Catholic education and as someone with a bunch of highly sarcastic friends. By all means insult my education if you want. I couldn't care less, but if it makes you feel better then fine.

If you want to know what worries me, I fear the future of this wonderful country. If you want to piss me off, then campaign and work for the people who have put us in this mess and defend the indefensible. But as I'll probably block you once I see you are a numpty, it will be futile.

I've wanted to write this blog for a very long time. I sat on it until our friendly numpty disappeared. It seems he has so now is the time. If he decides to come back, at least he now knows how to get my goat, but then again I'll probably never see the fruits of his labours.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

How to ruin a radio station - What are the BBC doing to BBC Radio London?

 So we've now had nearly a month to get used to the 'new format' at BBC Radio London. I'm writing this listening to Eddie Nestor on what was Robert Elms former show. I like Eddie and I think he's a great presenter. That being said, he is now in the wrong slot. His former drivetime slot was excellent. I particularly liked the fact that the last hour between 7pm and 8pm was always a bit more edgy. The powers that be decided that the last hour should be a London sports show. This is great when there is football or other sports on, but when not much is going on, it can be very dull. Most people who want to listen to sports shows have talksport. When there is a London match on commentary, BBC London does sports well, but the rest of the time? There is no real logic. 

Eddie's show on the 10am-2pm slot is ok, if you like phone in's. He doesn't get to choose his own music and there is almost no cultural content. Eddie even moaned that he couldn't choose his own music. For me, the music is a problem. Robert Elms, who had some latitude in the slot and guests, often played stuff that you'd never hear elsewhere, I probably have a couple of hundred records in my collection because I heard an artist on his show. Now? This morning we've has such tunes as ELO Mr Sunshine and the Kaiser Chiefs Ruby. A good, public service broadcaster opens cultural windows. This simply isn't happening on Eddie's show. Who is picking the music? I have no idea, but the plan seems to be to play inoffensive bland pop and AOR. To be honest, I'd rather they didn't bother if that's all they can do. Anyone who wants to listen to this sort of stuff has plenty of options. I run a music studio and music on the radio has a vital job of introducing us to new sounds. It is what used to keep London at the forefront of world music. I was naughty yesterday. We had an amazing artist rehearsing in the studio on Monday. I wanted London to hear her. I have no vested interest in her, she isn't signed to us, she just booked a studio for the day to practice for a gig. Yesterday I phoned Eddie and made sure I have her a massive plug. Her name is Miss Baby Sol. Have a listen. She is amazing.

I did this to make the point that from Monday to Thursday we are not getting a fix of new artists as we did when Robert had the slot. Eddie is working to a brief. He does it well, but it is quite simply the wrong brief. Put him back on drivetime where he belongs. I'd be fascinated to hear a show where Eddie plays his own choice of music and has something to get excited about. I'd like to see a few regular slots on his show. But what we have is a sort of LBC light with dull music. It is not doing Eddie any favours and that really irritates me. 

Jo Good was replaced by Jeanette Kwakye for the mid afternoon slot. Jeanette started on the station on the womens sports show. As a sports presenter she is great. She is knowledgeable and engaging. She asks the right questions. When she sat in for Robert Elms, before his show was moved, she did a great job. With all Roberts slots and the feel of his show, it worked. I thought she'd be brilliant. However, her show at the moment isn't working. It lacks the energy and fun of Jo's show. I can only assume that like Eddie, she's lumbered with a brief that doesn't work and a selection of music that doesn't excite her. Jeanette hasn't the experience of Eddie so at times it sounds to me like she's struggling to keep the show going. She should have been given a later show and more latitude to do the subject she has a passion for.

Then there is the new slots for Robert Elms. This is starting to drive me around the bend. He is on the radio on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Every day the show starts/finishes at different times. I have put the radio on, only to find it hasn't started or it has finished. The slots that worked so well in the week just seem to be on at the wrong time. For instance, Robert would always start the show on a Monday with the Listed Londoner slot. I love this slot. It would be the first hour, he'd have a chat and then ask the fifteen questions. Now it seems a bit compressed as Robert tries to fit it all in, as the last slot on the Sunday show. When he started it on a Monday, it would often throw up topics that people would ring up about. Now there is no chance to chew the cud on it, and that is a huge loss. Robert doesn't have the opportunity to remind listeners for feedback, notes and queries and there is far less time for artists and new music. Shoehorning the show into less hours, hasn't made it better, it has meant there is no time to breath. For me it is essential listening, but I am rarely able to on a Saturday or Sunday. Robert is also lumbered with the awful playlist. It simply doesn't work on his show. How some numpty could think that imposing music that doesn't fit the show is a good idea is beyond me.

And finally, we have Jo Good. I don't listen to the radio at night. I made an exception a couple of times for Jo, when I had a bath after football. In truth, Jo is great at that time of night. I am sure that for those who like Jo and like listening to the radio at night it is great. She has said she feels liberated, as she can be a bit naughty later on (when the bosses have gone home). I miss her in the afternoon, as it was always fun listening to her. She is a great presenter. 

If it wasn't for the fact that I feel a degree of loyalty to Eddie and Robert, I probably would have stopped listening to BBC London in protest at the changes. I had a long dialog with Sara David, the boss who imposed the changes. I explained why I thought they wouldn't work for BBC Radio London. I got bland, uninformative responses. She refused to share the new 'show briefs'. Now it is clear what they are, it is clear that she has an agenda to change the station from being one that informs London to one that reflects London. I doubt she listens to the shows very often. I doubt that she has much interest in the culture of London that the station supports. I would guess that she considers herself knowledgeable about local radio and what formats work on paper.  She is lucky to have some excellent presenters that may pull the coals from the fire, but to me the whole things is ill conceived. 

I've been told that one key brief was to make the show 'more diverse'. The execution of the changes, shows how out of touch the bosses were. Robert Elms had a better understand of various diverse music genres than just about anyone. Giving Eddie Nestor a playlist with ELO and the Kaiser Chiefs, shows just how clueless they are. If he was given free range to play the music he actually liked, then this charge couldn't be levelled but, come on. The same goes for Jeanette. A couple of times when playlist tunes have finished, she's sounded as if she's almost dozed off. I don't blame her, I would. 

I spend my days sitting in the reception of a London music studio. I see some of the greatest talent we have on a daily basis. I discuss London culture with them all of the time. For some reason, people think I have some sort of insight into what is going on. I haven't. I've not got a clue why they've got it all so wrong. I don't think they have either.

If any benevolent billionaires are out there, please get in touch. Lets set up a proper radio station for London, that does the job BBC Radio London used to do before the bosses decided to ruin it. It isn't hard. Get great presenters (something that the station has), Give them a degree of free reign to play the music they like, cover the topics they like and interview the guests who interest them. If they are good, the calls from Londoners will flow.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Why Margaret Thatcher caused the energy crisis

 Like many businesses, we are faced with the effects of energy costs going through the roof. This also affects our household bills, as we have gas central heating. Electricity prices have also risen. The news is full of stories of key UK industries facing bankruptcy caused by the huge increase in gas prices. These are up by 600% from last year.

You may ask why we are facing these huge increases? It may sound a strange thing to say, but all of this was foretold about 35 years ago by none other than Tony Benn. I have never been a Bennite, but anyone who ever saw Tony Benn speak would confirm that he was one of the best politicians to watch speak, regardless of what you thought of his views. Benn was a highly intelligent man and  agreat speaker. At the time, I went to a talk he was given (possibly to promote a book, I can't remember). The hot topic of the day was the privatisation of the Gas Industry. The Thatcher government was running a big campaign to promote this, under the auspices of the 'Tell Sid' Campaign.

As anyone who recalls Tony Benn, the darling of the left, will know, Benn was not a fan of Thatcherism or privatisation. Benn had been the energy minister who championed the UK's use of nuclear energy (although he later changed his position). It was a subject he knew about. He took a question on the subject and then gave a detailed and sobering explanation of why privatisation of the energy sector was a very bad idea for Great Britain.

Benn explained that energy production and security of supplies was vital to Great Britain. Without it the country would simply not be able to function. He said that the question was not whether energy was cheaper, but whether it would be secure if the industry was privatised. He then set out his reasons why it wouldn't be under private and potentially foreign ownership   (as I recall, many Tories at the time stated that it was scaremongering to say it would end up in foreign hands, which is of course, exactly what has happened). 

Benn explained that managing energy was a very long term business, that required proper planning. New power stations take a very long time to build, power networks also cannot be put into place overnight. The UK had developed an excellent national grid under a nationalised system and power supplies were robust. As for gas, storage facilities needed long term planning and the UK needed a large reserve, as we never know if a winter will be harsh or mild. Most years, the UK had far too much gas, but if we got a long, cold winter like 1962/3 then we could find ourselves in trouble.

Benn then explained what efficiency meant in the gas industries. It meant less investment, less maintenance and less long term planning. He said that in the short term, we may see smaller bills, as a leaner, meaner organisation was built. But what this would mean was less people on the books in the long term. If a network is well maintained, it works well. For a year or two, you can cut back, but over thr course of time, equipment starts to degrade. Storage capacity is a big expense, that isn't really a cost effective use of resources for a private company, although it is vital to keep us warm. Benn stated that we'd see a gradual winding back of storage capacity and reductions in the ability of the network to cope with long, cold spells. He said that he could see a time where the UK would need to be reliant on imported gas, and this would make storage capacity even more important. He doubted that a privatised network would ever put this in place. In 2017, the UK closed its main gas storage facility at Rough. We now are ridiculously exposed to shortages, as detailed in a recent New Statesman article. Most European nations have a storage capacity of 25% of their national capacity. We have a mere 2%, transalating to less than eight days supply. 

Benn also spoke about privatisation in the electricity industry, he said that all of the talk about cheaper electricty and being able to shop around worried him. He stated that the most fundamental thing when looking at electricity provision was security of supplies. This has to be planned nationally and in the long term. There will never be a situation where more than one wire comes into your house.  Pressure to drive costs down are not compatible with good long term planning. He stated that any system where suppliers bought energy and then sold it on, to take advantage of short term drops in energy prices, would ultimately expose customers to more risk, if supplies were interrupted. There is only one national grid. Cheaper suppliers would always be taking a punt on the market. They could also distort costs, which may have severe implications for large scale users, who have to plan long term. Ultimately this means that big users have to figure out a way to ensure a stable long term price, which may work out as more expensive. Ultimately this could mean UK manufacturers were at a disadvantage.

None of this was listened to. Just like the banks before the credit crunch in 2008, the system of regulation around enegery has been gradually liberalised since the 'Tell Sid' campaign, to the point where the whole system is not fit for purpose. We have sacrificed our energy security for the sake of the dogma of the free market Thatcherites. As always happens, when times get bad in key industries, the state has to step in. The right wing zealots who claim that the market is always right have been proven wrong time and time again as banks, rail companies and now the power industry are pulled out of the fire by taxpayers money. 

As a business owner, I don't believe that the state should run everything, but things like utilities, rail and health are areas that I believe the state should ensure that we have running properly. No one who has seen the way rail privatisation evolved, has watched the energy crisis unfold or seen the nonsense of the Tory Crony PPE contracts could possibly say this is what is happening in the UK. We are in danger of becoming a basket case economy and we need some sanity in how we manage our key industries. I also believe that when the taxpayer bails a private enterprise out, the taxpeayer should be the primary beneficiary when things are back on track. The one exception I'd make is where they are the victim of government mismanagement of the economy. Thatcherism worked on the principle that 'Lame Duck Industries' should go bust. That is why we lost most of our manufacturing capacity in the 1980's. Sadly many were only 'Lame diucks' because her government forced us into recession. We allowed the destruction of the UK motor industry and then paid foreign companies to do exactly the same thing. It is crazy. 

Thr root cause of the energy crisis we see today was the Thatcherite obsession with privatisation. It hasn't worked. It is tme that the government stepped in and put it back on track. This means long term planning and expense. To me that is a price worth paying to ensure the UK is not at the mercy of foreign powers. Boris Johnson and his merry band took us out of the EU to 'take back control'. That phrase is meaningless if Mr Macron or Mr Putin can turn off the lights, which they can at any time they want. 

Monday, 11 October 2021

Why is it that when Town planners talk about 'creating a hub' it is invariably a crap plan?

 This blog has been following the plan for a 'Hendon Hub' with a sort of morbid interest. A couple of weeks ago Dan Thomas, leader of Barnet Council posted up an article on the Council website extolling the virtues of this plan. I actually find the language that Cllr Thomas uses hilarious. Why is it that when people are trying to big up bonkers schemes they lose the ability to speak the Queens English (yeah, I'm dyslexic, so I shouldn't throw stones, but you know what I mean). 

Lets have a look at what Mr Thomas had to say

“Making these planning applications brings us a big step further towards starting work on the Hendon Hub. The development will benefit residents and communities based in Hendon, and draw much-needed investment to improve public spaces and university facilities that will be available for all to use.”

The concept that this is being done to improve the space for locals seems to be rather at odds with the perception of locals. If I were a cynic I'd say that I'd be surprised if the University was spending millions on the scheme so local residents could have unfettered access to them. Maybe a few meeting rooms and all weather pitches etc may be available to rent (* Conditions apply) when the University isn't using them, which is a rather different thing.

“Plans for Hendon Hub have been carefully and sympathetically designed by Barnet Council in partnership with Middlesex University. We have sought opinions of residents through an extensive public consultation earlier this year. We now invite residents to have their say on detailed plans as part of the statutory consultation process.”

When Cllr Thomas says plance have been 'carefully and sympathetically designed' I rather wonder what this in actual fact means?  The Oxford dictionary gives a few definitions of the word 'Sympathetically'.  The one that comes closest is 'in a way that makes it easy to like somebody; in a pleasant way' I suspect that what this means is that the developers will find it very easy to like the Leader of the Council. From what I've seen, very few locals have any sympathetic views towards the scheme. 

The press release also says "New buildings will be functional and designed to complement, and not consume, existing historical buildings. Where possible, the development will also bring some historic facilities back into community use."

This is what we call a tad disingeniuous, given that it was the council that removed community use. 

There is an 'interactive virtual consultation website'. Whilst this sounds fancy, it is a faily dull website, with a few slides about the plans, which rather lack detail with links to the various plans. I had a look at the planning application for the Fenella site. There are currently five comments, all objections. I wondered if the commenters feel the development is 'sympathetic'?  Here are a couple of the comments

"The proposed building is significantly higher than surrounding buildings and nearly every other building in the area and for that reason is out of character and overbearing. It also provides greater density of accommodation while reducing the amount of car parking servicing the area."

"Not wanted by local residents/businesses buildings far to high. Not in keeping with listed buildings surrounding development. Overlooking neighbouring properties. Loss of parking in Egerton Gardens already CPZs in area caused by expansion and 1 campus model, essential for church services, funerals, weddings etc, elderly and disabled. Public Library should stay in the listed building. What happened to the Restrictive Covenents on Fenella and Ravensfield. Not treated by Barnet Council the same as Hampstead Garden Suburb Conservation area. No benefits for residents just for University and Capita who will gain 30% in rents. The area is not big enough for increase in residents without appropriate parking."

I was quite shocked that there are not more comments. I'm not surprised by the lack of support, but by the general apathy. Could it be that locals simply know that the Council will ignore them anyway?

I was particularly struck by one answer in the FAQ's section

Is this project based on increasing the number of students studying at Middlesex University?

The university has no current plans to increase the overall number of students studying at its Hendon campus. The project is based on existing student numbers overall, though it is likely that there will be some increase in the number of students that live locally

This is clearly misleading. The whole game here is to concentrate as many people on the Hendon site as possible. The University has all manner of sites, some which it feels are too small and inconvenient. When it says it is 'likely that there will be some increase in the number of students that live locally', this is a bang on certainty as the same website says that there will be 384 purpose built student accomodation units. I really don't think it helps anyone when it is clear that people are being mislead.

On a more general point, I have a problem with the whole 'Hub' concept. Whenever I've seen plans for what are described as 'Hubs', it is invariably a ruse to tart up a scheme that is badly thought through, usually derived by people who never use such spaces. I've been involved in setting up a few spaces over the years. The ones that work well are set up by people with a passion for what they do. The ones that don't work are where people have a vague 'build it and they will come' mentality. Generally the idea is that if you bung lots of disparate ventures together, you create a critical mass that somehow miraculously generates a hugely successful, thriving centre. Often the people pushing the schemes are people who are good at setting up spreadsheets and imaging ever more weird and whacky ways to populate the columns on them. There is this idea that you can have a space that is a theatre, a cinema, a music venue and meeting room space. What is missed is that each different use has a whole different set of requirements. If you look at The Kiln, in Cricklewood, which is a successful arts centre, they have a dedicate theatre and a dedicated cinema, run by a team that understands how to programme the space for the local area. I went to see the new Bond film last week at the iMax in Swiss Cottage. This space works because it is a great cinema. You would never put a band on in such a space, for a host of reasons.

The Hendon Hub, is in fact just a large university campus, being sold to the locals as something, by a council which cares nothing for the existing locals who have paid their taxes for generations. I've no objection at all to the University expanding and becoming more successful. Where I take issue is when they start bulldozing historic sites. There are plenty of far more suitable sites for redevelopment in Barnet. 

One thing I'm pleased about is the fact that Cllr Thomas has spoken so effusively about the scheme. He has nailed the flag of himself and his regime to the plan. If you live in and around the area and are none too keen, you know what you need to do. It is interesting to note that one local Tory Councillor who dissented, got deselected. Unlike his predecessor, Cllr Richard Cornelius, Cllr Thomas was not born or raised locally. He's stood several times in his native Wales as a prospective parliamentary candidate. I am not in the least surprised that the feelings of locals for well loved landmarks and the community are at the bottom of his list of priorities. In thirty or forty years, we will look back on this particular era as we now look back on the plans of British Rail to demolish St Pancras. As a community, we need to fight to keep the good things in our locality. When people talk them down, I always say "Were you born and raised around here?" I'm sure you can guess what the usual answer is. And as for hubs? Back in the sixties, estates like Grahame Park were seen as the way forward for social housing. The people who designed them, never went near them once they'd been built. Mega estates popped up all over the place. I suspect the 'Hub' concept will be viewed in the same way in the not too distant future. I just hope some of the nice things in our community survive this current Maoist attack on our culture. 

Sunday, 10 October 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 10thSeptember 2021

Last week, I couldn't find enough interesting tweets from the Borough of Barnet to make a list.  It seemed everyone was obsessed with pictures of queues of cars. How did we do this week? I've been away in Portugal with very limited internet access, so this is a catch up for me. I'm rather pleased to report we have an excellent crop.

 Here is this weeks selection of tweets. 

1. Lets start with what should be a statement of the bleeding obvious, but clearly isn't

2. We agree with Feargal!

3. The community in Cricklewood are doing some wonderful things. We love this

4. Many congratulations to Fr Hugh Moore

5. Fancy making your local community better

6. And happy birthday to perhaps the most well known local vicar of all, even if he isn't one!

7. Always nice to see historical pictures, especially of places you used to work. I worked on this site when it was BACS Ltd in 1989

8. Me and old Talcy Malcy both went to Orange Hill School, although some years apart. Whatever you may think of him, he certainly shook up the UK in the late 1970's.

9.  We've said it before and we'll doubtless say it again. We love a good historical map. Love the archaic spellings

10. Did you know that Mill Hill is a hotbed of music video production?

That's all folks!

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Needing a reboot when you are fifty nine, fat and falling apart

 Regular readers will notice that I haven't posted a blog for a week. This is the longest break I've had from blogging since the blog started back in 2008. Previously, if I've gone away, I've loaded up a whole series of blogs, so that my fabulous, amazing army of readers can be kept entertained. What has happened, why has there been no Barnet Eye for a week? I was planning to write a blog last Sunday to explain. The tweets of the week was meant to be the last for a week. This is what I was going to start the blog with "Firstly, I'd like to say adios amigo's. I will be taking a break from blogging for a few days. I am working on an important project and I need to get away from the distractions. So this will be the last blog until the next one! So check back in sometime around this time next week and God willing I may be back!"

However, I didn't for the very simple reason that there were not enough interesting Tweets to justify a tweets of the week. We were in the height of the petrol panic and it seemed there was nothing else people wanted to tweet about. I found five and gave up. I was asked to post a blog by the Save the Midland Campaign. I decided to schedule this for Monday, as I tend to prefer to do serious blogs in the week and fun at the weekend. 

So why didn't I post up a few blogs in advance as I would normally? Well in truth, I was completely exhausted and lacking in energy for blogging. The last 18 months has been almost impossible for us all. For much of it I was working 7 days a week on my own, just keeping the business going, with most/all of my staff furloughed for much of the period. It has been a struggle. Over the period of the pandemic, I've done a lot of soul searching. In August I had my 59th borthday. I'll be sixty next year. I had a bit of a crisis between About August 2019 and January. I've spent my life making music. I play in a band mainly influenced by punk, ska and psychedelic music. But when you are coming up to sixty, should you put away the guitar and pull on the slippers and start smoking a pipe in your rocking chair? A man approaching sixty singing about going out all weekend and chasing girls, etc is a bit of a sad, isn't it. Of course, if you wrote the song forty years ago and it's a good song, then fine, but our band has always been about writing new material. Although we've always written left field material, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I was writing at a bus stop, where the bus had gone. What shook me out of my torpor was a tragic event. Our drummers son sadly took his own life. I realised that I had to get the band playing again, just to get him to have something else to focus on for a couple of hours. The problem was the singer in our band was unable to rehearse with us. 

This gave me a small problem. Most of our material was set up for his lyrics and vocals and it didn't suit my style of singing. Of course, we have a huge backlog of songs, there are covers etc. So we started there. But I soon got frustrated. I've always written for other singers. Covers are by definition not my songs. Usually they are written for better singers than me. So I stated writing songs for me and for my voice. At first, this was challenging. Then I realised the problem. I wasn't writing for me. I am fifty nine, fat and falling to bits. If there is an audience for me, then they will pretty much be the same. So what do people who are fifty nine, fat and falling to bits care about? I found three themes. One is nostalgia. I decided to write songs that were unashamedly nostalgic for the era in which I grew up and reference the characters I knew back then. I also wanted to pay tribute to the music of the era. The other subject that I wanted to write about was the struggle I am having and many of my friends are also going through with cancer. There are few songs that chart this journey. I wrote two. One is a pastiche of my dark moments with a swampy bluesy feel and the other is an impassioned plea to men to get serious about health, done in a humourous, Anthony Newley manner. 

Having rehearsed these to a suitable standard, I played them to a good friend, Boz Boorer, a top music producer. Boz loved them and invited the band to his studios in  Portugal to record them. Although we have our own studios in Mill Hill, after the year we've had, we decided that a week in Portugal, with no distractions would be a far better environment to record than in Mill Hill, where every time a drain blocked or the dog needed a walk, we'd be distracted. As myself and Fil (our bassplayer) work at the studios, we felt that a different environment would be beneficial to the creative process.

So we flew out on Monday and returned on Friday. We return with six brilliant songs in the bag. The time in Portugal, in the mountains of Monchique gave me a bit of a reboot. There is no internet or phone signal in Boz's studio, so there are no distractions. It was amazing to see the other boys in the band unwind. On Weds night, we were grilling sardines and sampling the local Madrona hooch at 1am in the morning. It was glorious. I think we all felt like human beings for the first time in nearly two years. 

I've realised that we all need time to unwind, we need to do the things we love and give ourselves time. I've also realised that we need to adapt. I am fifty nine and comfortable in my skin. I am blessed that I am surrounded by amazing musicians who allow me to make great music with them. I've realised that the band needs to adapt. Our primary audience is our peers, those who still love organically produced music, that gets you excited. As we sat in the bar, on our final night on Tuesday in Faro, I was watching all of the beautiful young things socialising, dancing and having a good time. The music they listen to is not my music and I've left that life behind. But that does not mean I've lost the love of life or music, I just have a different pace of life. When I go to a bar on a Friday night, it is with friends, not to find them. I have a partner, so I am not looking for one. I went to Portugal needing a reboot. I return feeling like the luckiest man on the planet.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Urgent message from the Midland Hendon Community Group

 Hello Friends and Supporters 

JUST A QUICK TIME CRITICAL REQUEST following email a month ago.
Hendon Hub planning applications are now live on the Barnet website so legal action must be filed ASAP.
The last chance to have a judge look at the blueprint of the policies underpinning the Hendon Hub developments and stopping Barnet Council from passing these plans.

Any donation, no matter the size, will be greatly appreciated to take the challenge to the next stage. 
The target to raise in the NEXT EIGHT DAYS is £20k for this stage. 
We have about £8300 at the moment.

If you can help, please do so. Grateful thanks to those who have donated or spread the word.
Happy to try to answer any queries or direct you to the answers.


Guest blogs and community announcements are always welcome at The Barnet Eye

Saturday, 2 October 2021

The Saturday List #257 - The Top Ten things I will do when the lockdown is Lifted - How did I do?

When we went into lockdown I published a list of what I'd do when it was lifted. How did I do? My update is in red italics

So what are you going to do when the lockdown is lifted? What are you really looking forward to?

1. Have a pint at The Mill Hill Services club.
My only concern here is that it may take a while for them to get fresh suppliers of their rather excellent Hophead bitter, which is on tap. Many of the members are elderly,  I am hoping and praying that they will all come through it.  For many, the club is what keeps them going, snooker, beer and friends. I fear that the isolation aspect will be the real killer for many. I'm pleased to report, I've been back to the club!

2. A curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori with mates.
My group of mates have a regular monthly (ish) curry. One is a policeman who has gone down with the symptoms of the virus. Another is a nurse and he's going to be away from his family for six weeks as he's volunteered for shifts at the new hospital at The Excel centre. He doesn't want to expose his family to risk. These guys are heroes. They will deserve a curry. I had a takeway  last night, please support our local restaurants who are doing takeaways. It was great to see BAW in the Broadway on the news, delivering free dinners to NHS workers. I am also pleased to say I did this

3. Do my favourite walk from Westminster Cathedral to Borough Market, via Lambeth Bridge and The Southbank.
By definition, if I get through the current situation unscathed, I will go to Westminster Cathedral, light a candle and give thanks. We all have our own beliefs, I've always found that by respecting God and nature and thanking them for any small blessings they bestow upon us, I stay lucky. Call it superstitious if you like, but it works for me. When I've done that, I will go for the long leisurely walk to Borough Market, maybe pick up some food then go for a pint in The Globe. I will schedule this for when the River Thames is at low tide, so I can walk the bank and do some beachcombing. I may even pop in the Tate Modern on the way. I usually do this alone, but I may ask Clare to join me. Nope, yet to do this. But I will

4. Have Sunday Lunch at Ronnie Scotts.
In truth, Jazz is not my no 1 genre, but I love Sunday Lunches at Ronnies, if there is a decent band on. I have a few artists that I love watching live in the genre, including Ben Sidran, The Jive Aces, Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe to name a few. Ideal Sunday lunch music. We have a ritual, a coffee or beer and a custard tart at Bar Italia, lunch at Ronnies, then a post gig drink Kettners around the corner. It is a great way to spend a day. Yes, went to see Ray Gelato at the first opportunity!

5. A Pub crawl and curry in the West End with my mate Keith.
My friend Keith is one of my best friends. He comes from Prestatyn, is a Wrexham fan and loves real ale and curry. We meet monthly and do a real ale trail, then have a curry. We were meant to meet on the Wednesday after lockdown, so it will be long overdue. I'm pleased to say, I've actually done a few to our favourite haunts

6. Watch some Punk Rock at The 100 club.
The 100 club was recently saved by Westminster Council. It will need saving again. I vow to go to the first decent punk gig that they stage, the last one was The Boys in January. Not quite punk, but I did see The Stone Foundation there recently and it was great, hoping to see Menace on the 9th

7. Take my missus to the Bleeding Heart restauarant for a belated 25th anniversary meal.
We will have been married for 25 years in April. We will doubtless be staying in, I will make up for it. The Bleeding Heart is the best place in London for a romantic meal. They will get a phonecall on day one of the raising of the curfew. This we did

8.  Rehearse with The False Dots.
The False Dots are my band. All rehearsals and gigs have been cancelled indefinitely. That is a very weird situation for me. I love my band, our music and playing live. We will need to get out and play ASAP. As soon as it is safe, we will be organising a benefit gig for Colindale Foodbank. We have done a few, written some songs and are recording

9. Visit my Aunty Audrey in Whitstable.
Audrey is 90 in June. She was planning a party but it has been cancelled. I will bring her the biggest bunch of flowers I can afford. She is the last of my mums generation. She is a real sweetheart. My word, how sad is this. She died of covid shortly after.

10. Get a haircut.
My Barnet is driving me nuts. I hate having long hair. It is starting to go all Worzel Gummage. I am seriously thinking of deploying my old Wahl clippers. Clare is not happy at this idea and say I look like a potato when I have very short hair. Yep, sorted my barnet out. 

I'll leave you with this. A little snippet of The False Dots rehearsing. Proper music, made by friends for the love of it! I never really intended to publish this far and wide, but hey ho, we have time on our hands

Friday, 1 October 2021

The Friday Joke 01 October 2021

It’s finally October, and you know what that means!

Americans might actually start wearing masks.

And here's some food for thought

Have a great weekend.