Monday 27 May 2024

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so make it count

 Yesterday, I went to see a couple of old school mates of mine play at The Boogaloo Bar in Highgate. By a strange coincidence, I went to Finchley Catholic High School with Sam Sproule and Orange Hill with Paula Marks, whohave got together to form an absolutely brilliant Country/Americana/Rockabilly band called The Midnight Crawlers. They are absoluetely brilliant. After the gig, I had a chat with Sam about what the band was up to. He has some exciting gigs in the offing, and he told me that

he was enjoying life to the full. He said "The way things are, you don't know if some lunatic is going to end the world, so we' have to get the most out of every day".

I have a very similar attitude to life. I had a period when my children were small, when they were my absolute priority. Now they are all adults, I have thrown myself back into performing with a passion. My kids are fully supportive and are amongst our biggest fans, dragging their friends along and making things a lot of fun. I dearly hope Sam is wrong about a looney ending it for us and long after I am gone, they will have memories of fun times. I've always encouraged them to make sure that they have some fun in life. 

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, Tony Lloyd, who does a podcast giving advice for people looking to get on in the music industry, to feature in an episode and pass on some of the lessons I've learned over 45 years in the music industry and also a few of the stories of along the way. Tony has just released the podcast on Spotify. Tony asked me to have a listen, just to check that I was happy. It is interesting listening to yourself talking. I am really happy with the podcast and I do hope that for up and coming musicians it might be helpful and for those that just want to listen to something about music, it is fun. 

Have a listen.

Today is a bank holiday, a day off for many, when we can chill, enjoy ourselves and also to take stock. A year ago, I was reeling from getting the results of a biopsy, that revealed my prostate cancer was aggressive and required some very invasive treatment. My life was effectively put on hold. I was in a state of deep emotional turmoil. Within three months I'd be having life changing (not in a wonderful way) surgery.  A year ago, despite trying to put on a brave face, my horizon was my treatment. I could not see beyond it. I was very angry and very upset. However, there was one light on the horizon. Immediately after getting the news,  I flew out to Portugal to finish off the new album by The False Dots. I didn't appreciate at the time what a good move this was. It lifted me, albiet temprorarily, out of the mire of self pity I found myself in. 

A year on, I am hopeful that I've pu the prostate cancer behind me (although only time will really tell). I'm focussed on the future. I will soon be 62. I don't feel like it. I don't know if what happened last year had a factor, but as many mates are talking about retiring, taking up golf, moving to the seaside, I feel more energised than ever with my music. I am genuinely excited by what we are doing.  Realistically, I have ten-fifteen years of being able to fully do what I want with my life. When I was a teenager, I thought that by the time you were 30, things like music would no longer be something you cared about. For me, the opposite is true. 

One of the things I started to do last year, in a very dark moment, was when I wake up, I say "Today is the first day of the rest of my life, so make it count". I then shut my eyes and think of what I have to do. I do a mental stocktake for the day. Today was the first time since I started that I realised I had no plans at all. It really was a day off. No work, not meeting friends, not going out. I hadn't even planned to go to the gym. I had not planned to write a blog, but then Tony Lloyd sent me the podcast. As I listened to it, I thought of Sam's comment and also the talk on the radio news this morning. Rishi Sunak is proposing reinstating national service for young people. 

I have to say, this horrifies me. I feel I am uniquely priveliged having had a life where I've been able to do what I want and play in an amzing band. What bothers me more than anything about Sunak's scheme is that it does not seem to be about inspiring young people. Tony Lloyd's podcasts are designed to inspire people and give them the faith to realise their dreams. I set my studios up, to give young people a place where they could realise their dreams by rehearsing. I hope that anyone who see's my band leaves feeling happy and possibly someone may look at us and think "I could do that". Having said all of that, what inspired me most when I set up my band, was the fact that my mates were as well. When I was at school, it seemed like everyone was setting up bands and trying to make great music. 

My advice to Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer, Ed Davey and every other politician trying to persuade us to vote for them. Give us all, especially the younger people, something to believe in and some inspiration. If you look at the world today, what we need is people to put down the guns, stop killing each other and start communicating. Every day that people are killing each other things get worse and more innocent lives are ruined. Sooner or later, be it today, tomorrow, next week or next year or even a hundred years time, people will have to talk to each other. Today is the best day, because the sooner we talk, the less people have their lives ruined. I get all of the "yes but,this lot are terrible and we can't talk to them". Until the monsters who commit atrocities are forced to face up to the human, compassionate side of their nature, all we have is pointless conflict. In truth, the hardest thing of all is to make peace,compromise and forgive. It is also the only way that, as a race, we can move on. I dream that by the time I depart this mortal coil, there will be peace of earth. I also beleive that music is fundamental to this, as it is something that brings us together. That is why I've dedicated my life to the making of music and why I think it is important. 


If you enjoy reading this blog, please give my band,  the False Dots a follow on Spotify and a listen to our music. If you live in St Albans, please nip down to The Horn on Thursday night to watch us. It will be fun, I promise you.

Sunday 26 May 2024

The Sunday Reflection #13 - My serious thoughts on the forthcoming general election

 I've had a bit of fun on the subject of the General Election this week. As just about no one was expecting it, including the cabinet if you can believe The Sunday Times, I hadn't really thought too hard about what I would be doing. Regular readers will know that I am a member of the Barnet Lib Dems. As I live in Hendon, the chances of a Lib Dem becoming our MP are negligible. There are two reasons I support the party. The first is that they are committed to reversing Brexit. I believe that it has been a disaster for the UK and to a lesser extent for the rest of Europe, especially Ireland. It has made both conducting business and travelling far more difficult. Huge amounts of money are being spent on checking perfectly legal travellers and goods, meaning that there is not enough to tackle things like drugs and people trafficking gangs. The sum has been announced as £4.7 Billion.  I wrote about this earlier in the week. 

The other reason is that they are committed to electoral reform and PR. The truth is that the UK rarely has a representative government. Generally we are governed by a party that doesn't even represent 50% of the population. The argument that the Tories and Labour used to use was that you'd get bad government if we had coalitions. I think that any reasonable person would say that what has followed the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has shown the opposite to be true. Whilst I was not a fan of much of what the coalition did, and resigned from the Lib Dems as a result, there was genuine proper debate about policies and to some extent the dire economic state of the UK following the credit crunch was addressed. Sadly, when the Conservatives no longer had the discipline of having to agree policies with partners, the whole thing has fallen apart. I don't believe that PR is perfect, but it is better than what we've seen.

When I was putting this blog together, I reviewed the journey from David Cameron becoming PM to the moment Rishi Sunak called the election. When we went to the polls in 2015, The UK was respected and seen as a country that was governed by sensible grown ups, who were prepared to take difficult decisions. Cameron got a decent majority and the Lib Dems were severely and rightly punished for reneging on the student loan policy. I genuinely believe that they could and should have stuck to their guns. The UK would be a better place. It was the right policy. They didn't. What followed since has been chaos. In nine years since we've had five Tory Prime Ministers, Cameron - a disaster who lumbered us with Brexit, failing to run an honest referendum campaign, playing into the hands of Farage. When he failed, he scarpered. Theresa May took over. She was also a disaster. She called an election that wasn't needed and lost her majority. Not only that, she lost it in the face of a chaotic Labour party, riddled with splits and lead by Jeremy Corbyn. She had to be propped up by the DUP, which to me was shameful. She was deposed by Boris Johnson, who promised to "Get Brexit done". He lead a Tory party that had a strong message (albeit one I totally disagreed with). Johnson proved he was a great campaigner, winning a big majority and decapitating Corbynism. Sadly, he also proved he was a hopeless administrator, with Downing Street becoming the centre of lockdown Rave culture. His authority and his administration fell apart. It seemed that no one could be worse, but the Tories proved otherwise, enlisting Liz Truss as PM. In an act of wanton vandalism, she and her chancellor announced a totally irresponsible, uncosted budget. The markets ripped her apart. She was gone in less time than it takes a lettuce to rot. Rishi Sunak came in. To be fair, he has to some degree addressed the mess that Truss left, but he has no real authority, no vision and no plan. The UK has rivers full of excrement, trains that are costly and unreliable, a lower standard of living, no plan for energy security resulting in huge bills. School budgets are creaking and the NHS has massive waiting lists. Much of this is simply because the Tory party is unable to agree anything. It is riven by factions.

As for Labour, I am very unimpressed with Sir Keir Starmer. He seems to have no policies and no charisma. I am quite impressed with his deputy, Rachel Reeve, who does at least seem to understand economics. Given where Starmer was when he took over from Corbyn, you have to grudgingly admit he has got their act together. My biggest issue with Starmer is that he seems very cowardly in his refusal to admit that Brexit is ruining the UK. He also seems happy with first past the post. 

The problem is we don't live in a perfect world. For what the Tories inflicted upon our wallets with Truss, they should be thrown out of office. The party demonstrated that it cared less about the people of the UK than odd the ideology that seems to excite right wing think tanks and 'research groups'. These fools live in ivory towers and mist have never had a real job or run a business. What the UK needs is a period of stability, sensible government and long term planning. Things like spending billions on HS2 and then cancelling it are signs of serial incompetence. 

What I am hoping for is a hung parliament, where the Lib Dems have a block of 50-60 MP's and form a coalition with a Starmer Labour party to sort the mess out. I would make PR and a winding back of Brexit key elements. I accept that re-joining the EU may be a problem, not least because they will be cautious and may not want us. But we should make things work better. 

For this to happen, we all need to vote tactically. We need to vote for the person most likely to defeat the incumbent Conservative MP. In Hendon, this means voting for David Pinto-Dushinsky. I won't be posting any videos endorsing him, but I have no hesitation in urging any Lib Dem who wants to see a change of government to do the same. Just as I urge every Labour supporter in seats where the Lib Dems are second and have a serious prospect of winning to vote Lib Dem. It isn't perfect, but for the actions of Truss, the contempt Boris Johnson had for us during Covid and the sheer lack of vision and incompetence of Sunak, cancelling things such as HS2, wasting billions and botching border arrangements with the EU, the Conservatives deserve to be booted out. What replaces them is even more important. The 2010-2015 coalition demonstrated that you can have strong, effective government with coalitions. I believe the next government should be bold, brave and representative. 

One last thing. The failure of Nigel Farage to stand as a candidate should demonstrate to everyone that the man cares little for the people of the UK. If he really believed in what he's been spouting, he would have stood. 

Saturday 25 May 2024

The Saturday List #442 - A non political look at my general election memories

To almost universal surprise, Rishi Sunak called a general election. I have to be honest, I am less excited about this one than any other since I first took an interest. It got me thinking about previous elections and my memories. These are not the political memories, just recollections. I'm not making any points.

1974 - February - Ted Heath loses. For some reason, I was on the tube with my mum. The Evening Standard had the headline "It's Heath by 5%". In my memory, it was the day of the election, but it probably was the day before. My mum was a Socialist, Dad was a Tory. I said "You must be very sad about that". She replied "That's rubbish, don't believe anything you read in the paper. Heath lost. I never really trusted the Evening Standard again.

My Mum's picture of Margaret Thatcher
at Finchley Carnival in 1966

1974 - October -  Heath loses again. By this time I was at Finchley Catholic High School. I was walking from school to the bus stop, when I bumped into a bunch of Conservatives canvassing. I was with a couple of mates. To my eternal horror, Margaret Thatcher MP, who was the local MP recognised me. My mother knew her from The Hendon Oversees Friendship Association. Thatcher apparently was very good at remembering people. She collared me, asked after the family and sent her regards to my mum. My mates spent a week teasing me. Apparently Maggie was 'my bird'.

1979 - May - By this time I was at Orange Hill School. Jim Callaghan gave a campaign speech at the Labour Club in Burnt Oak. I went down with Boz Boorer and Phil Bloomberg from the Polecats, who I was at school with. He gave an amazing speech and I was convinced he'd win. We were recruited to do some canvassing. Phil Bloomberg knocked on one door and the bloke said "No Thanks, I'm National Front". Phil being of Jewish descent smacked him on the nose. Fair play!

1983 - May - I think that this was the first election I was actually old enough to vote in. Labour leader was Michael Foot. A bunch of MP's had quit and formed the SDP. There was much excitement that the SDP would take over from Labour and become the natural centre left party. A bloke up the road knocked on the door and told me that the SDP were five percent ahead of the Tories in Hendon North and if I wanted to stop Tory MP John Gorst winning, I had to vote SDP. I believe him. The SDP finished third. My biggest memory though was when my Dad received a letter from the local Tory Party thanking him for the £50 he'd donated to party funds (a huge amount in 1983). My mum opened the letter. As she was Labour, she went mad. She adjusted his diet accordingly until she'd saved £50. No roast beef or nice dinners, just fish fingers and processed peas. I think he got the message.

1987 - June - I have little recollection of this election. My Dad had passed away in January and I was doing a job I hated for a boss loathed. She was a rampant Tory. She asked me who I was supporting. I told her I was a Labour supporter. After that she made my life hell. I think that was when I really took a dislike to Tories. When my Dad died, she neglected to tell me that I was entitled to two weeks compassionate leave. I told her I'd come in when I was ready. When I returned, a workmate made a sarcastic comment about skiving. When I told him why I'd been off, he was mortified. Apparently normally the team would send flowers and a card to the family. I got nothing. I then found out that I was entitled to the time off. She said "That's only if you are organising the funeral, you have older siblings". A colleague who went with me to the meeting, put her right. 

1992 - April - Everyone expected John Major to lose. I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate. I sat up and watched the results came in. Major won. The champagne stayed in the fridge. I've never counted my chickens again. It was a funny time for me. I'd split up with my then girfriend, now wife and I was living on my own, probably going to the pub far too much and watching too much football. The band was dormant, and I was managing a band called The Sway. I was quite disappointed by their lack of interest in Politics. None of them would have had a "Phil Bloomberg moment". They thought my interest in the election was very weird.

1997 - May - Blair wins! - My abiding memory was of the booze up at work the next day. My boss Ken was a big Tory supporter, but a lovely bloke. The rest of us were Labour supporters. We all went to the Marine Broker bar on Leman St at lunchtime and got hammered. My good mate Steve, got absolutely paralytic. This did not go down well, as his wife was the election agent for the victorious Labour MP in Harrow. She was holding a dinner party to celebrate with the new MP and other supporters. Steve was in the loo throwing up and on planet Zob. His mobile phone was ringing, so I answered. It was is unimpressed wife. I had to pass the phone under the door of the cubicle to him. We all earwigged. The conversation was "Yes Dear, Yes Dear, Blughhhhhh" as he threw up again. He told me that it took six months to be forgiven.

2001 - June - Blair wins! - I have little recollection of this. It was over before it started. It was before the Iraq war, when we all still trusted Tony Blair. I was a Labour member and did some leafletting and door knocking. I actually knew all of the main candidates very well. I'd helped Dismore's campaign, I didn't like Andrew Dismore at all, but thought he was a good MP. The Tory Richard Evans was the husband of a member of the Mill Hill Music Festival committee. I actually really liked Richard as a person. The Lib Dem was Wayne Casey, who was also a friend and a great councillor. I was in the odd position of advocating for the one I liked least. Dismore won by 7,000 votes. Labour seemed unassailable. The Tory party seemed on its knees. 

2005 - May - Blair wins! - The gloss had gone from Blair. I was still a Labour member. I had lost all faith and trust in Blair over the Iraq war. I felt like a fraud campaigning for Dismore and Blair. The only reason I did it was because I was convinced they were better than what the Tories had to offer. I can recall knocking on one door and a Tory started ranting about Blair and the lies. I asked him if he honestly thought Britain wouldn't have supported the Americans if the Tories were in charge. He stopped and said "Well I suppose not, but you can't have people lying to Parliament". I then said "So you think that Blair is the only PM ever to tell a porkie?". He burst out laughing. I still see him around and when Boris was in his final days, we were having a pint at the Hammers and he said "Do you remember that conversation when you asked if I thought Blair was the only PM who ever lied". We both chuckled. Once again it was Dismore vs Evans in Hendon. The lead was down to less than 2000.

2010 - May - I could write a book about this one. I was no longer a Labour member, in fact I was a Lib Dem candidate for the council elections which were the same day. My abiding memory was of the count. The Lib Dems thought we'd won in Mill Hill. Andrew Dismore thought he'd beaten Tory Matthew Offord. He lost by 103 votes. I was really angry with Dismore. In Mill Hill, there'd been an agreement that Labour would quietly advise supporters to support the Lib Dems in the council elections and the Lib Dems would advice tactical voting for Dismore to keep the Tories out. A week before the election, Dismore put a leaflet out saying "A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories". I got over 2,000 votes. Dozens of people told me that they were not voting Labour as they felt Dismore had been two faced. I am convinced that at least 500 people in Mill Hill didn't vote for Dismore because of that. When the Lib Dems formed the coalition, I felt betrayed by everyone and quit the Lib Dems. 

2015 - May - Cameron wins! - For the first time ever, I was not a member of any political party. I felt let down by The Lib Dems. I rang up Labour and offered to help. I was given 2,000 leaflets to deliver. In 2011, Andrew Dismore had got me banned from the Labour Party for standing for the Lib Dems in 2010. As I wasn't a Labour member, I was outraged. None the less, I didn't want the Tories to win, so I delivered the leaflets. I then got a phone call from Dismore saying I could rejoin Labour if I made a video criticising the Lib Dems. I said that I'd happily make a video supporting him, but under no circumstances would I criticise anyone who had helped my campaign or put their trust in me. Dismore said that in that case I wasn't welcome. A week later, I was sent 2,000 more leaflets to deliver. I resisted the urge to bin them.

2017 - June - When the UK voted for Brexit, I rejoined the Lib Dems. They were the only party actively campaigning to rejoin. I got a call from Labour asking if I could deliver leaflets. I told them I was now a Lib Dem, so couldn't. When the election was called, I assumed Theresa May would walk it. To almost universal surprise, she lost her majority and formed an alliance with the Ulster Unionists. I bumped into Matthew Offord canvassing in Mill Hill Broadway. I asked him when he was going to deliver the cheese shop in Mill Hill Broadway that he'd promised in 2010. He got very cross and started shouting that I'd made the whole thing up and that I was a compulsive liar. The other Tories who were with him were quite shocked and ushered him away. One said "He's been under a lot of strain recently". I suspected that a pub lunch may have been one of the reasons. For some reason, being reminded of his "cheese shop pledge" is something that really got under his skin. I suspect quite a few Barnet Eye readers followed my advice to ask him about it.

2019 - December - What a miserable business this was for me. My main memory of this is nothing to do with the election. The day after, the False Dots had a gig at The Midland Hotel in Hendon. It was a miserable affair. Most of the people I knew were so demoralised by the Boris victory they couldn't be bothered to come. Those that did were in a very morose state of mind. It was clear that Boris Johnson would bulldose Brexit through. We also did the Barnet Eye Community Awards. In previous years it was good fun, but it was a really sombre night. At the time, I had no idea that within three months, the world would be engulfed by the covid crisis. I had no idea that it would be the final gig with Allen Ashley for The False Dots. We've not done the Barnet Eye Community Awards since.

I wonder what will be the abiding memory for me of this campaign. I hope that it is one where I associate the election with England winning the Euro's! I would be tempted to say that I've never been so disillusioned with politics, but that probably isn't true. I think I just have lost the ability to get cross about useless politicians. 


If you enjoy reading this blog, please give my band, The False Dots a like on Spotify as a thank you!


Friday 24 May 2024

Ten Reasons to vote for Ameet Jogia, your Conservative candidate in Hendon

 It seems that there have been a plethora of videos from former Lib Dems in Hendon, urging people to vote for David Pinto-Duschinsky. the Labour candidate. I am horrified by such videos. Here is the worst example, by former candidate Alisdair Hill.

I simply cannot understand how on earth anyone could possibly post such a horrible piece of cinematography. I mean, if you are going to try and grab your two minutes of fame, you should at least get some exciting theme music and some sexy action shots. If Alisdair was photographed falling down a Tory pothole or not being arrested for shoplifting because there are no police, that would be fine, but come on, filming a video standing in your hall, with a couple of cheap Woolworths pictures from 1987 on the wall behind you is not going to convince anyone! I had been planning to tactically vote for David Pinto-Duschinsky, as I really want to see the back of this awful Tory government, however after seeing this horrible video, I've been totally put off and will be voting for our CONSERVATIVE candidate Ameet Jogia.

There are ten excellent reasons to vote for Ameet Jogia, the Tory candidate.

1. The Cheese shop pledge.  Back in 2010, the then Tory candidate Matthew Offord promised the residents of Mill Hill a cheese shop if he was elected. Sadly after fourteen years, no cheese shop materialised. However, I believe that Ameet Jogia is made of sterner stuff. As I love cheese, I simply can't wait. Since Matthew Offord won in 2010, many shops on Mill Hill Broadway have closed and are now lying derelict. There are plenty of opportunities for a cheesemonger! If Mr Jogia knocks on your door, ask him if he's committed to revitalising The Broadway and bringing is a cheese shop.

2. Repairing our roads. Mr Jogia has stated in his leaflet that "it is important for local businesses to have the best possible roads for transportation". I can't argue with that. Clearly he has a far better plan than his predecessor Matthew Offord, who in the last fourteen years has presided over the complete disintegration of Barnet's roads. I am not quite sure why Mr Jogia thinks only local businesses need decent roads, but I for one am pleased that he's on the case.

3. Keeping Bus fares low. In his leaflet, Mr Jogia states "Giving local leaders the funding to keep bus fares low" is a key pledge. Given that his predecessor Matthew Offord had slated Sadiq Khan for freezing bus fares, this is a welcome change and a wonderful reason to vote for Mr Jogia.

4. Immigration. Mr Jogia states that Rishi Sunak's plan is working and voting for him will deliver "controlled immigration". I do love an optimist!

5. Ameet was born in Edgware and has lived locally all of his life! His leaflet makes this proud boast. I was also born in Edgware General and have lived locally all of my life (apart from six months in Stockholm in 1981). This clearly means that he is  wonderful and deserves my vote. Maybe I should stand, as I'm older than him and have lived here far longer, so I'm even better qualified.

6. Lower mortgage rates. This is a wonderful pledge. As I've still got seven years of my mortgage left and my payments have trebled under Rishi Sunak, this is a wonderful commitment. Me being an uninformed idiot, I thought the Bank of England set interest rates, but if Mr Jogia will lower them, then he's the man for me!

7. More Police! Now this is a wonderful pledge. Since David Cameron decimated police budgets in 2010, Mill Hill. A quick look at the local crime map shows just how dangerous it is to live in Mill Hill.

After 14 years of this, it is wonderful that Mr Jogia is going to fix things. 

8. A commitment to net zero. As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of net zero. I was interested to see that his strategy involves "letting households keep their gas boilers for as long as they work". Now this does require translation. What he is actually saying is that no one will be allowed to have a new gas boiler, once their old one packs up. It is a shame that his proof reader didn't make this a bit clearer as this is a key part of meeting net zero requirements.

9. Ameet loves local businesses. How do I know? He said so! Here's what he said on Facebook "Mill Hill is an amazing part of our community, with amazing local businesses." So amazing that he said it twice in one sentence! He clearly wasn't taught by Miss O'Donovan at St Vincents, where you'd get hit on the knuckles with a ruler for doing such things. Anyone who defies Miss O'Donovan is fine by me! Having explained why Alisdair Hill's video turned me to Ameet, I thought I'd check out his latest video. Sadly, it is even more boring that Alisdair's. It really doesn't bring out the fun side of Ameet and his mates in the Conservatives. But hey ho, at least no cheap pics from Woolies! (you may notice that Ameet claims he was born in Hendon. In his leaflet he says he was born in Edgware, I wish he'd make his mind up).

10. We All Love a Party! Labour are a complete bunch of misery guts. Whilst Labour were being misery guts bores and following the law during lockdown, the Tory were showing us how to party. Admittedly the rest of us were getting fined and arrested for such things, but what is the point of being in charge if you have to follow the same rules as the little people! My band The False Dots wrote a song called "We All love a Party" and I think that it would be an excellent soundtrack for the Tories, the perfect antidote to the bloke playing "Things can only get better". As every other Lib Dem seems to be making videos supporting Labour, here's my one for the Tories!  I've taken Ameet's rather dull video and made something everyone will enjoy!

You are welcome!


Thursday 23 May 2024

How Tory mismanagement of Brexit opened up our borders to criminals

Do you know how much extra money the UK is spending checking perfectly lawful people crossing our borders, following Brexit? According to Reuters, the figure is £4.7 Billion pounds. This is not money spent preventing human trafficking gangs, or stopping drug smugglers. This is money that is required to check perfectly legal citizens crossing the border with EU conutries and making sure that when prawn sandwiches and baguettes are imported from France, the paperwork is correct. One of the mantra's of Brexit was that it would let us "take back control of our borders". What has happened is the complete opposite. We are spending £4.7 billion pounds checking what is by and large perfectly legal activities, adding huge costs and wasting everyones time, whilst starving our border forces of the money required to stop criminals using non legal routes. In short, it is a huge waste of money. It is beyond dispute that the Tory government have lost control of the borders. What no one seems to be saying is that a vast sum is being spent checking and inconveniencing perfectly law abiding citizens, diverting money from where it should be spent, stopping criminals.

It doesn't matter whether you support Remain or Brexit, the truth is that the government has made a monumental cock up in the negotiations with Europe. We have the worst of all worlds, huge inconvenience for travellers, huge costs for businesses and an ipen border for criminals. Rishi Sunak has been Prime Minister overseeing this mess. Perhaps the only thing he has done right is give us the opportunity to sling him out on the 4th July. 

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Rishi Sunak's big Election gamble

 This afternoon, I went to the gym at around 2pm. I was listening to music in the car after lunch. I did my 5km row, my 12.5km cycle, 10 minutes in the Sauna, half an hour in the Jacuzzi, a quick run around to the studio in the car with music on. I sat down to do some paperwork, only to be greeted by the news that Rishi Sunak had called an election. I was completely taken aback. My money had been on October. This morning, there were inflation figures were good and we had a bunch of tweets from the Tories celebrating this. I nearly wrote a blog saying that this almot guarantees an October election, as things are improving and we may all feel more optimistic after a holiday and a few months where things picked up.

So why has he taken this big punt? He has one more month worth of inflation figures. He must expect these to be good. Wages are now rising faster than inflation, again adding to the prospect of a feel good factor, but this has fed through to no one I know. There really is no feel good factor around the country. 

One interesting factor is that it is bang smack in the middle of the Football Euro's tournament. The round of sixteen is a couple of days before. Half of the country may will be glued to the telly and not exactly keen on having people knocking on the door. There will also be a month where the news cycle will see the campaigns competing with the football. As the tournament will not have concluded, there is no real prospect of a bounce if England win. As the polls show Sunak has to change a lot of people's minds, it strikes me as a silly time to do it. Just a personal feeling, but many canvassers as well as voters will not be receptive to knocking on or having their doors knocked on. This reinforces my view that Rishi Sunak does not really understand ordinary people, who were looking forward to the football and then the summer. 

I sat in studio reception for a couple of hours after the gym. The main response of my customers was total apathy. My whatsapp was alight with messages. From the sublime to the ridiculous, with one friend suggesting that Rishi Sunak was quitting for the Chelsea job. 

I am not taking a huge Labour victory for granted. I checked my blog from when Theresa May called an election in 2017. I made a series of predictions. I made a series of predictions, most of which I'd have put my house on but were completely wrong. The campaign changed things completely changed the landscape and that may well happen again.

So what were they and how did I do?

Big Tory majority. - Totally wrong. The Tories lost their majority
Lib Dem gains in pro remain areas 50ish seats - Wishful thinking
Labour reduced to core areas - Againg totally wrong. Labour did far better than expected, largely due to young people, who upset the pollsters model
SNP to maintain stranglehold on Scotland - This was spot on
Greens to poll well - Again wishful thinking
The Borough of Barnet to stay blue - Spot on

Like many, when the election was called I misread the mood of the country. I didn't realise the strong appeal of Corbyn to a failed generation of students and recently left Uni.  I also misread the mood in LibDem and Green target seats. It was a binary choice in England. Corbyn didn't switch soft Labour voters to them.

Given that Theresa May's dream soon became a nightmare, what could turn Keir Starmer's dream into one? I am struggling to see anything, but here are a few possible things.

1. World events causing widespread panic and moving people away from a change agenda.

2. A seismic Labour scandal. The Tories and Labour always have a few up their sleeves. The Tories may decided that a nuclear option may be worth the risk of a Labour tit for tat. The Tories voters are almost immune to any more scandals.

3. The public decides that Labour are not what they seem and Rishi Sunak has hidden talents that none of us have henceforth realised.

No, I can't see it either, but you never know. In truth, I am glad he's called it. I just want to see the back of this awful administration. 

Tweet from Hendon Labour candidate exposes failure of Sadiq Khan's management of TFL

Nothing irritates me more than people claiming that putting sticking plasters over deep wounds caused by incompetence are huge victories. We are seeing plenty of this at the moment with the government claiming that they are doing a great job, by simply returing the economy to where it was before they lost control of it. If we are all worse off than we were when they were elected, they have failed. This is becoming endemic in UK politics. People claiming they are marvellous because they have had something to do with things just running as they should. 

When I looked at Twitter this morning, the first tweet I saw was one from the Labour candidate David Pinto-Duschinsky. Don't get me wrong, I quite like David. He strikes me as a decent enough chap, but I was gobsmacked that he was silly enough to post a boastful tweet, which probably seemed clever enough when posted, but simply showed that the Labour Mayor is failing massively with his management of TFL. This is what David posted

I read the attached letter, and I was horrified. The closure of Colindale Station has been planned for years. TFL was created to manage London's roads, buses, tubes and trains. It's brief is to get Londoners around as efficiently as possible. When any station, road or rail line is undergoing a planned closure, the first thing that TFL planners should do is to plan alternative arrangements, to minimise the impact on people who use the services. What Mr P-D is claiming is that without hard work by himself and Anne Clarke, TFL, which is run by Sadiq Khan, would not have made proper arrangements for a station used by 5.5 million people a year5.5 million people a year. That is an absolutely shocking claim. 

I've no doubt that David D-P and Anne Clarke are decent, hard working politicians. However there are only two possibilities here. The first is that their friend, Labour Mayor is completely incompetent in his management of TFL or alternatively, TFL was doing it's job perfectly well and David and Anne were trying to hoodwink us into thinking they'd done lots of hard work on something which the non political TFL staff had in hand and had dealt with. 

So what is it? Is Sadiq Khan incompetent or is David Pinto-Duschinsky a bit of a bullshitter? Although I'm no fan of the local Tories, I do hope they make hay on this issue. It might serve as a lesson to our local political types that the people of the Borough of Barnet are not mugs. 

BTW The picture I used is from David P-D's latest leaflet. It pictures David walking past Greggs on Mill Hill Broadway with former Conservative councillor Sury Khatri. In the leaflet David states "I work in the private sector and goverment experienceto really deliver for you and get things done in our community". I was intrigued. I had a look at his Linkedin profile Linkedin profile (as any diligent blogger does). The only job he has listed is at a business consultancy called EY-Parthenon, where he has worked since 2021. I am not entirely sure that if I only had three years of business experience that I felt comfortable putting on my Linkedin profile, I'd make such a claim. On his 'My promises to you' section of the leaflet, number 4 states "I'll work had every day to earn your trust and show that Labour has changed". I am sorry to say that his recent Tweet has done nothing to convince me that this is true. 

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Music may just save your life!

 On Friday night, we did a small scale showcase gig to say thank you to our friends for their support. One of the friends we invited was Connie Abbe, who sang with The False Dots 2011/2012. The last gig Connie performed with us was for The Mill Hill Music Festival in 2011, at The Mill Hill Sports Club

Fortunately footage of this was preseved for posterity. Shortly after the gig, Connie got offered a gig as backing singer for Sudanese Rapper Emmanual Jal on his world tour, and sadly for us departed. 

We haven't played with Connie since, as she's been very busy, but when she showed up for the gig, we soon decided that it would be lovely to do a number together. Our friends were given a treat

Music is the one thing in life with no downside. As a musician, playing with talented people such as Connie, and the other members of the False Dots, Fil Ross on bass, Graham Ramsey on drums and Tom Hammond on Trumpet is the most joyful thing in my life outside of my family. When we play as a band, I enter a rather strange mental state, where I am focussed on nothing but making sounds that will make the world a little bit better, for a short period. When people come and see the band, I hope that they leave with their head in a better place than when they came down. 

Our ethos as a band is to try and make everyone feel as if they are part of the event. We like to send people home happy. Of course not everyone will like or get our particular brand of music, just as I don't love every artist, but we have always had a bit of a following for our live shows and we always seem to get a great reaction. For many years, I didn't realise how important this was. Recently I was having a chat with a mate who said "Why do you keep on doing gigs, you are never going to be famous, you are far too old?". I was quite taken aback. I glibly replied "Same reason as I still make love to my missus, even though I can't have kids, because it's fun". I didn't give it a second thought at the time as it seemed to answer his question. 

When I got home, I thought about it. The last year of the band has been the busiest for gigs since the early 1980's when the band was touring. It is no real coincidence that this has coincided with me having a cancer crisis last year. The band has been busy since lockdown ended. Part of the reason for this was that during lockdown, the son of our drummer took his own life. We saw it as essential to do two things. One was get him out and playing to try and take his mind off the horrible tragedy that had befallen his family. The second was to try and write overtly fun songs, that would make him smile at rehearsals. There has always been an element of humour in the songs of The False Dots, but we went into overdrive. The songs are not comedy songs, but they will make you smile if you get the references or recognise the scenarios we sing about. When lockdown lifted and we started playing to audiences again, we found that the new material was incredibly popular. As I struggled with my health issues, having a band to focus on, gigs to do, songs to write, etc, managed to keep me focussed and positive.

Our first gig following my surgery on the 9th August was on the 15th September at The Dublin Castle. I asked my surgeon if it was OK to do it. He said "Yes, if you are mad". I took that as a yes. In truth I probably wasn't physically ready, but the mental lift, feeling I was still human, vastly outweighed the soreness and tiredness of playing a gig when not physically fit for it. 

I've often wondered what I would do if I hadn't started playing in a band. I cannot envisage a different life to the one I've got. I suspect there would have been a lot more drinking, a lot more drugs and a lot more self destructive risk taking. I suspect I'd have passed away long ago, of boredom, if nothing else. You may say "But what about your wife and family?". I met my wife at a False Dots gig in 1985. I owe the band a lot. We all have our different beliefs. I am not a theologian, but I believe that God (or call it the Universe if that works better for you) put us all here for a purpose. I believe that my purpose was to play music in a band called The False Dots. Whilst the band itself has never set the charts alight, if I look at all the great things that have flowed from it, I can see no other logical conclusion. It spawned Mill Hill Music Complex studios, which have helped launch some of the UK's best artists. It gave me a family. It has created a community that is amazing. I've lost count of the number of brilliant bands that have formed under our roof. 

My son said to me after the gig on Friday that he was so pleased to have seen Connie play with us, as people had always talked about how great she was, but he'd never seen her with us. It occurred to me that in 40 years time, my kids will look at the clips they took, when we are all gone and be reminded of happy times, just as I look back on videos from the 1980's with my sadly departed parents. You don't have to play music to appreciate it. Think of the dances you've had, the parties you've attended, the songs you've sang at Football, the tunes and hymns played at funerals for loved ones. Music is the soundtrack to all our lives and it is there when the credits roll.


If you enjoy reading the Barnet Eye, please have a listen to my band, The False Dots on Spotify and give us a like.

You can come down and see what it's all about at The Horn in St Albans next Thursday

Monday 20 May 2024

Monday morning, feeling fragile.......

Today is my least favourite day of the year. It is the day after the League football season finishes. The whole thing started for me on August 11th (the day after I was discharged from hospital following a radical prostatectomy).  Burnley vs Manchester City saw the start of the season. Manchester City, not unexpectedly, won 3-0. City legend Vincent Kompany had his first game as Burnley manager in the Premiership. He announced that this was the hardest game of the season and things would improve. Sadly for Vinnie they didn't and they were relegated. As with last season, Arsenal emerged as the main challengers. Both teams played some phenominal football, but after the Gunners lost at home to Aston Villa, a City victory seemed inevitable. Perhaps the key end of season moment was the Spurs v City fixture last week. It was a strange event, with Spurs fans wanting City to win, to prevent their local rivals triumphing in the league. A brace from Haaland and an excellent save from sub Keeper Ortega fromn Son saw City come through.  The table doesn't lie

Position Team Played   Won Drawn Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
Manchester City            38 28     7       3            96                   34                       62 91
Arsenal                          38 28         5       5     91                   29                       62 89

The devil is in the detail of the table. The teams won the same number of games, 28, however Arsenal lost two more. Their goal difference was the same, but City scored five more and Arsenal conceded five fewer. In the fnal recogning, in a couple of games, Arsenal let it slip. When they secured a 0-0 at the Etihad, by parking the bus, Arsenal fans took it as a victory. I felt that real Champions don't set up for a draw. City don't. If Arsenal had won, they'd have won the league. If they'd lost, it would have made no difference to the final standings. My view is that you have to try to put your rivals to the sword if you really want to be Champions. When you are in a title race against a team like City, hoping they will slip up and let you in is a very poor strategy.

Fans of many of City's rivals have bemoaned the fact that the club have 'cheated' and 'bought the title'. For me, all of this is simply excuses. All of the issues are pre 2018, hardly relevant to what happened this season. Over the last five years, City have been fifth in the net spending. You may not like the club, but they run a tight ship and in every aspect of the way they conduct their footballing business is an example to other clubs. The Academy is the best in the country, producing the player of the year Phil Foden, as well as Cole Palmer, now at Chelsea and carving out his own story (at a profit of £45 million for City). The transfer policy delivers players that simply fit in with little drama and often at a far lower cost than marque signings at other clubs. The backroom team is second to none (it is no coincidence that Arsenal's manager Arteta was an apprentice of Pep).

As for the rest? Well Arsenal fans are meditating on the might have beens. Liverpool fans are facing a post Klopp world, with trepidation. No one really knows how the new guy will shape up and Klopp had big boots to fill. Aston Villa under Unai Emery had a great season, notwithstanding yesterdays result. They were the surprise package. Man Utd and Chelsea both chronically under achieved given the cost of their respective squads. Chelsea had a strong finish to the season, largely lead by Cole Palmer, and should be feeling positive. United seem to have gone backwards. Spurs flattered to deceive. Ange got them playing good football, but there is a feeling that they fell short of what they should have done.

But now it's all over, bar the FA Cup. It won't start againg until August. We have the Euro's which should be good, but is not the same. It is also my wife's favourite time of the year. We can catch up on all the telly we've missed due to the wall to wall footie. 

As a City fan, I celebrated. I am suffering a bit today, but hey ho, it was worth it. I do find the close season dull though.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Local News from Hendon?

 Being a Mill Hill resident, I was a bit puzzled to see a magazine called local news for Hendon. Mill Hill isn't Hendon, is it? Back in the day when we had proper local papers, we had the Hendon Times and The Mill Hill and Edgware Times.

Opening the magazine, I initially thought it was an Estate agent flogging their wares, when I saw this

On closer examination though, I realised that there wasn't actually any real news from Hendon. There was a lot of guff saying what a marvellous job the current government are doing and a few suggestions that the other lot might do a worse job.

Now I am not going to use this blog to make political points. I am quite sure that everyone who reads it is perfectly capable of making their own minds up.   What does mildly irritate me is the blatant attempt to disguise a political pamphlet as a local news magazine. Now I wouldn't mind so much is there was some genuine, proper local news in the magazine. Maybe a list of local dog shows, school fete's, exciting new restaurants opening up?

After scouring the magazine, I eventually found a note saying who the publisher was.  I am not a fan of this sort of thing. I am absolutely sure that Ameet Jogia, who the leaflet is promoting is a lovely chap. He is the local Conservative candidate. I am pretty sure he wants to do a marvellous job as MP, if he wins. I'd love to interview him and find out what he really thinks about local issues, because the sad truth here is that, despite a lovely OK! style magazine, I am none the wiser.

So what would I ask Ameet. Here are ten questions that concern me, as a Mill Hill resident.

1. Why does Mill Hill Broadway station still not have proper step free access to platforms 1-3? Technically there is step free access from platform 4, but trains don't usually stop at that platform and the wheelchair entrance is usually locked. A bridge with lifts should have been installed years ago, so people could use the entrance in Bunns Lane Car Park if they have mobility issues.  The current MP promised this in 2010 and fourteen years later has not delivered it.

2. What will you do to improve the ambience of Mill Hill Broadway? It is looking tired and there are many closed and derelict looking shops. The current MP promised Mill Hill Residents that he'd deliver a vibrant High Street, where people would "open up businesses like cheese shops". Sadly no cheese shop has been seen and the Broadway has gone to rack and ruin.

3. The M1 dissects Mill Hill. It brings noise and pollution. Most similar motorway in urban areas have proper sound baffling and measures to mitigate fumes. Mill Hill Broadway bus station has one of the worst air quality measurements, having been built under the M1 and having diesel powered buses sitting in it. What will be done to improve it?

4. Last year, I had to have an operation to treat aggressive prostate cancer. I went to see the Royal Free Oncology team to discuss radiotherapy. The procedure, which has seen me free of cancer after nine months, completely continent and with sexual function, was not available on the NHS, I had to go private. What will you do to ensure that the best treatments for men suffering from Prostate cancer and other cancers are available to all, not just people like me, who have workplace insurance?

5. For the last ten years, myself and many others have been campaigning to get the grade II listed building, The Railway Hotel, in Edgware reopened and renovated. It has become an eyesore. What practical measures will you take as MP to stop property developers doing such things?

6. My sister in law works as a teaching assistant at Mill Hill County High School. She was telling me that it is almost impossible for the school to recruit teachers on the low rates of pay that the government policies mean  they are able to afford. What will you do to improve teachers pay, to ensure our schools have the best teachers?

7. My Father and my mothers Father were both immigrants, who came to the UK to fight for liberty and justice. Our local immigrant communities including the Indian, Jewish, Italian, Caribbean, African and Eastern European  (to name a few) have vastly improved our local community.  What will you do to ensure that migrant are not demonised and their contributions are recognised?

8. I run a small business that supports over 25 jobs in Mill Hill. We operate in the music sector, which generates about £5 billion worth of revenue per annum for the UK economy. What support for the sector do you support? Specifically, what will you do to support grassroots music venues in the constituency of Hendon.

9. What will you be doing to clean up our local waterways, such as Folly Brook that are contaminated with raw sewage? Do you support stiff financial penalties for water companies that cause pollution and do you think the government has done enough to regulate sewage discharge by water companies.

10. The local Labour candidate is campaigning to save the Midwife led birthing unit at Edgware Hospital. My son was born there. Such units are very popular and are far cheaper to run than Maternity units and remove the workload of low risk births from hospitals, exposing women to less risk of MRSA etc. What is your view of this closure and why do you think the government is making such false economies?