Saturday 31 January 2009

Saturday Morning is Bacon Sandwich Time

Over the years, various Pope's have made many tragic mistakes. Generally these take about 500 years to be acknowledged and for an apology to be issued. In my own personal opinion, one of the worse decisions made in my lifetime was the one to do away with the traditional fast on a Friday. When I was a child growing up in a strictly Roman Catholic household, Friday was different. Friday was the day when no meat was eaten. For me, there was a big upside and a big downside. The downside was the fact that school dinners at St Vincents (a Roman Catholic Junior School) were usually inedible. Not only that but a team of nuns viciously enforced a policy of "eat it all up". Pockets were checked, floors were examined for any attempts to hide the inedible slop which we used to invariably be dished up. That was the downside. The upside was glorious. Every Friday evening, my Dad would arrive home from work with bags of Fish and Chips. As there were six of us kids, mum, dad and usually some strange northern relative visiting (nice old Aunty Mary, Harry Taylor (the Magician), John Rathbone (the guy who used to go to Crufts) or Bernard, my brothers friend from France (swimming & Karate Champion who I suspect my sisters all rather liked !). We'd all sit down with mugs of brimming tea and tuck in. If you've never witnessed the Tichborne Family en mass with food, you'd be shocked. Imagine a dead Wildebeast with a large pack of hungry lions. I was the youngest by a few years, so I had to be the meanest, or I'd starve.

To my mothers eternal horror, we all inherited our eating habits from my father. To him, dining was a challenge. His favourite trick was to distract the person next to him and steal the best item from their plate. I'll never forget my mothers horror and anger with him, when he did this to the Mayor at a charity dinner. Personally, I don't think I'd want a sausage from any of our current crop of Tory councillors, but hey that's another story. Anyway, I digress.

Anyway, as I was saying, Friday was a special day. I always thought the pope had imposed the rule because he was a great bloke. To this day, fish and chips is a treat. It's a great dish for when you've got visitors and you don't want to mess around. Pickled Onions and Gherkins, salt & Vinegar. Eat it with your fingers and wash it down with tea or beer. My dad was an avowed carnivore, so he was ecstatic when the rule was abolished. He could have a steak on a Friday (as well as Thursday, wednesday, etc). I was gutted, Friday was suddenly a bit less special.

One of the best things about the effect of Friday, was the fact that as my dad felt he'd suffered so much on a friday, the breakfast ritual on a Saturday was different. Every other day of the week, it was a rigid regime. A cup of tea, a slice of toast and a bowl of cornflakes or other cereal. My mum, who was never good in the morning would send one of us kids up with a tray of it for my Dad, who never got up before 9.30 am (allegedly for health reasons). He'd lie in bed, reading the paper, or saying the Rosary and eat his breakfast. Mum didn't mind this regime as she thought he was "Too cheeful in the morning". On Saturday, Dad would get up and make us Bacon Sandwiches. Mum would lie in bed and feel miserable. Saturday morning was the day we awoke to the smell of frying bacon. I was a vegetarian for 16 years (after I had an ulcer & nearly died). It is true that bacon is the secret weapon of all carnivores ! When I started eating meat again, bacon sanwiches where the first thing back on the menu.

To this day, I still think my dad made the best bacon sandwiches. he'd only buy the best bacon. He'd fry it in butter, with tomatoes. He'd get the best uncut bread he could and toast it under the grill. A spot of pepper on top and hey presto. As he died 22 years ago this week, I thought I'd make myself a dad style bacon sandwich for breakfast. It's hard to get proper hand cut bacon with rind these days. I compromised and got some expensive stuff from Waitrose. Sadly there was no rind. My mother always used to tell us about the times during the war when the bacon was rationed. Her father would have all the lean cuts and give the rind to the kids. He always used to tell them he'd saved them the best bit. They were always very grateful.

Anyway, I made my bacon sandwich a la Dad. It was great. The simple things in life really are the best ! Next Friday I think we'll all have fish & chips for supper. If you have any wacky Norther relatives visiting send them round. If you have any French Karate & Swimming champs send them around as well. I'm sure my 13 year old daughter would be most happy then!

Midge MacKenzie - Sadly Missed

Wednesday 28th January was the 5th Anniversary of the passing of my cousin, Film Director Midge MacKenzie. Midge was the eldest daughter of my mothers eldest sister Margo. She shot to fame as the producer of "Shoulder to Shoulder" - The BBC Drama series about the Suffragette movement. Midge was born in 1938, spent time with family in Ireland during the war, returning to London and leaving school aged 16.

She started work as a secretary, working her way up the ladder. Amongst her many achievements was the last interview with film legend John Huston. There is a great obituary in the Times -

What the obituary doesn't tell you is how inspiring it is to have such a wonderful cousin. She's buried in Highgate Cemetary and has one of the best plots. At her wake Helena Kennedy was heard to say "How did she wangle that?".

I'll be cracking open a bottle or two of red wine tomorrow night in her memory, along with a few guinness for my Dad who died on the 31th January 1987 and Midges mum Margo, who died three days before my Dad (the stress of flying back from florida for the funeral killed him). As my mum passed away last year, wherever the four of them are, I hope they crack open a few bottles for me as well !!!!!

Friday 30 January 2009

"God Doesn't Like Jews"

No I'm not going to go into an anti semitic rant or start espousing neo nazi policies, the quote was from an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. The date? Some time in 1945. The place - Belsen Concentration camp. One of my first jobs was working with a master Stonemason. He was from a Jewish background. He used to run a business in Bunns Lane Works, next to my father. During the war, he was with the British Army and he was one of the first officers into the Belsen Concentration camp.

During breaks, over hot cups of tea, he told me various stories about his life. He enrolled in the army under a false name to disguise his Jewish roots, as he felt he'd have a better chance of killing Nazis this way. Being a bright man, he'd ended up as an officer. One of the incidents he described has always haunted me and inspired me in equal measure. He told me of an incident that happened a couple of weeks after Belsen had been liberated. Even though the Allies were doing everything they could, people were still dying in droves. One evening he was getting drunk with a Rabbi who'd been brought in to help. The Rabbi, overwhelmed by the desperation of the situation, confessed that he was losing his faith. Presiding over a never ending stream of funerals in mass graves, hearing harrowing stories of loss, had proven too much. He announced "I'm reconsidering my faith, God doesn't like Jews, if he did, this wouldn't have happened". My friend was angered and shaken by this (he was also quite drunk). He replied "These people are looking to you for some hope, if you can't give them any, who can". He added "It doesn't matter what you think, you are here to help them, not yourself. They are the ones who have suffered" (or words to that effect). The wise words helped the young Rabbi get himself together.

The reason my friend brought this up was because the previous night (some time in the mid '70's) he'd been attending an award for the Rabbi, who had recovered his faith and become a highly respected elder Rabbi. Being a youngster at the time, I couldn't really understand his point.

We talked about it and he said "You can't really know whether you have faith until it is pushed to the brink". Sometimes you have to look over the edge of the cliff. He said there's nothing wrong with doubts, but your faith should be your compass to see you through the dark times. It should be the reference to do the right thing. His view was that all the stories of hardship in the bible were written to remind us that people have had trials and tribulations and come through. He said that this was the point that the Rabbi made as he received his award all those years ago. He'd come through his dark time and realised that people needed him. He was strengthened by the experience, even though it had nearly broken him.

So why may you ask am I writing a blog about this subject today? Well yesterday I did a brief piece on the unseemly row about the seating arrangements for a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony organised by the GLA. This is reported in this Totally Jewish article. Now I'm going to refrain from making any personal comments about the people responsible for the problems, I'll let you all draw your own conclusions. I couldn't really put into words what I wanted to say yesterday, and I still can't. What I can do is remind those who were responsible for the spat of the words of a sadly long deceased very wise Captain in the British Army and Stone Mason.

"It doesn't matter what you think, you are here to help them, not yourself. They are the ones who have suffered"

Thursday 29 January 2009

Brian Coleman, The Holocaust and The BNP

It seems that Brian Coleman has boycotted a Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial organised by the GLA because he was upset that the organisers did not want the GLA's BNP member sitting with survivors. The organisers had moved GLA members to the front row of public seating, apparently to separate the BNP member from the Survivors (along with other GLA members). I pass no comment, please read this article for yourself.

Heathrow Runway 3 - Tell us the truth Villiers

One of our local MP's, Theresa Villiers is the Tory shadow Minister for Transport. I guess she's feeling pretty chuffed today. The Tories have been getting the right kind of headlines about their stand against the proposed new runway at Heathrow. They nearly defeated the government, due to a rebellion of Labour MP's, many from London.

Interestingly enough, not a single Tory broke ranks. All good opposition tactics, designed to make Gordon Brown look weak. There's just one problem. Some time in the next couple of years, there's a good chance that Dave Cameron may become the Prime Minister. At that point the fun and games stop and the job of running the country has to start. What have the Tories proposed instead of runway 3? Well Boris likes the idea of a new airport in an estuary. He's missed the obvious risk of bird strikes (we all saw what happened to the Airbus in New York when that happened). As for Cameron and Villiers. They propose a high speed rail network with a hub at Heathrow. They claim that this will remove thousands of short hop flights. Slots will be freed and no new runway will be needed. All very good you might think, but there's a pretty basic flaw.

The easier and more accessible you make Heathrow, the more flights there will be. Airlines will see Heathrow as an even better option for medium and long haul flights. Why would airlines want a base at East Midlands airport when Heathrow will be an easier option for milions more people. If Manchester is just over an hour away, with high speed check in on the train, why use Manchester Airport? The other thing is that even for short haul, the easier it becomes, the more people will travel. With the advent of Easyjet, many people commute from all sorts of strange places to work in London. All the High speed rail link will do is increase this.

Now I happen to support the new runway and the new rail links. It's called progress and it makes the economy more vibrant and stable. Whilst there is a price to pay and we have to minimise the impact on the economy, if we don't protect and develop the economy, then ultimately we'll fall behind. There won't be the money to pay for the NHS, Schools, Care for the Elderly. The jobs will move abroad. What seems bad now with the credit crunch will get much much worse.

I don't know if Villiers understands this and is keeping schtum for political reasons or if she's just not bright enough to have thought it through? Either way, if she isn't careful she'll be digging her own political grave. If we really want a greener future, we need an intigrated transport policy. This means understanding the effect one change has on all of the other parts of the network. One of the reasons the M25 is so overused is because the planners didn't take into account that people would use it to make short journeys of 1 or 2 junctions. It seems to me that the Tories really don't know what they want. Cameron wants to be green and have a high speed rail link. Boris wants to build an airport in a swamp, with all the billions of pounds of investment in new road and rail links, destroying mudland flats etc. Brian Coleman likes Heathrow and hates all tram schemes. As for Villiers, it seems all she wants to do is use transport policy as a stick to beat Gordon Brown with.

I suspect that if Villiers ever becomes the Minister for Transport, even the Tories will be harking back to the golden Age of John Prescott.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Brian Coleman Update : The Pot calls the Kettle !!!

"Do you think the food ambassador, costing us whatever it is costing us, is providing any added value for London taxpayers?" Today a London Assembly member asked Mayor Boris Johnson this question. Now I'm all for a bit of scrutiny of wasteful expenses. There are plenty of serious issues that need cash spending on them in London to solve real problems. How does a mayor decide what his priorities are? What is more important - it seems he's got a job on his hands keeping track of the allowances members receive and reminding them of their responsibility to the taxpayer. Maybe paying for a bit of back up and support to his "ambassadors" i smoney well spent, maybe not? Difficult decisions all. Who are these ambassadors and what do they do? They include former journalist Rosie Boycott, who as his unpaid food ambassador, seeks to encourage Londoners to grow their own food by turning available space into vegetable plots; and James Cleverly, the London assembly member for Bexley and Bromley, who was appointed earlier this month to lead on youth issues following the departure last summer of Ray Lewis, the deputy mayor. This role is also unpaid.

So which virtuous GLA Member saw fit to criticise the cost of these unpaid advisers. None other than the King of Bling, Brian Coleman

Now regular readers will know that I held Mr James Cleverly up as an example of a virtuous Tory and as an example to Mr Coleman. Cleverly published his expenses for the year to the GLA - nothing. He works as an ambassador to youth and gets paid - Nothing. I know Brian Coleman and his friends read this blog - one of the head honchos from Tory Central Office emailed me on his behalf. Can his comments about ambassadors be a bit of payback for James Cleverly making Coleman look foolish over his 2008 £8,500 Taxi bill to the GLA? I've no idea at all. I've been following James Cleverly's blog for a while - Of all the various Tories who blog, he seems like a genuine guy, he has a sense of humour, he seems public spirited and I suspect he's someone who you could have a pint with and not be constantly checking your watch. I suppose the fact that Coleman is having a veiled go at him, only puts him up another step in my opinion.

As for Rosie Boycott. She's a major asset to Boris Johnson. She founded the feminist magazine "Spare Rib" and has a distinguished career in the male dominated world of Newspapers, being a former editor of the Independent. I've no idea what Coleman is up to, trying to wind Boris up. Has his dislike and fear of James Cleverly's example affected his judgement? I suspect Coleman may have made a big mistake, Boris is currently "The King of the Jungle", Boycott has many friends in journalism, who may well decide that Coleman needs a poke in the eye.

What was the reaction from Boris - The Guardian says :-

Stunned by the question, Johnson said out loud he detected some "disapproval" from his Tory colleague before answering: "Most of the people who have been generous and public spirited enough to work as ambassadors or whatever it happens to be are doing it without any financial consideration whatever.

In the case of Rosie Boycott she does get some support for a programme that to the best of my knowledge has so far produced 400 new growing spaces in London."

When I started this blog I decided on the title "Brian Coleman Update : The Pot calls the Kettle !!!" because it's catchy. From what I've seen, this isn't really fair to Boycott or Cleverly - apologies guys and gals. For the full article :-

Barnet Eye Round Up - Another victory for Rog T !!!!

Firstly lets deal with the victories. Lets take a visit to the Finchley Conservatives website. We've made mention here several times that Mike Freer has hijacked this site. Far from being a nice potted guide to the works of the Finchley Conservative association, it has morphed into the "Mike Freer" website. Now if it wasn't for the fact that Finchley was the constituency of Lady Thatcher, Great Britains first female Prime Minister, I might understand it. Not a picture in sight, just a single sentence on the homepage. Now if I was running the site, I'd have a page dedicated to this towering figure, but clearly Mike sees himself as a more important figure. If you click on his map of the constituency, you get a map of Barnet. It seems that our Mike has plans !!!! Now proof that Mike Freer is reading the Barnet Eye can be found on the Local Campaigns page. On Saturday I took Mike Freer to task for being lazy. I mentioned amongst other things that one of his local campaigns was a straight link to the Tory Central website with no comment. Another link didn't work. Fine evidence of his much vaunted hard work. Well it seems that unlike "Lazy Mike Freer", hard working Rog T gets results. These two rather embarrassing local campaigns have disappeared !!! It may not be much of a victory, but it shows that we're taken seriously by Mike.

Next, lets take ourselves off to the Barnet Council Press release Library. There is a truly bizarre release from Mr Freer.

A Burnt Oak park received some tender loving care yesterday as part of Barnet Council’s week of action in the ward.

Council ground maintenance teams spent a day at Watling Park off Watling Avenue, cutting back brambles, pruning hedges, tidying flowerbeds and picking up litter. The spruce up was part of the council’s second Clean, Green and Safe Week, in which council officers, along with partner organisations, tackle issues important to local residents such as crime, anti-social behaviour and health related matters.

Following October’s highly successful week of action in Child’s Hill, this week’s programme of events, running from 26 – 30 January, once again includes the removal of graffiti from hotspot areas and Barnet Police working with the council’s Priority Intervention Team (PIT) to remove abandoned vehicles from the ward.

As part of yesterday’s activities, pupils at Barnfield Primary School received a visit from the council’s Trading Standards team and London Fire Brigade, explaining the importance of not playing with fireworks and discussing how to take precautions against fire in the home.

Other events during the week will include the partnership-run mobile youth centres, the Rolling Bass and Rolling Bass Max buses, visiting several locations across the ward along with the handout of free door locks to vulnerable residents and fire safety checks within their homes.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Mike Freer said:

“The week of action in Burnt Oak is not only an opportunity for residents to partake in a number of organised activities but for residents to tell us what issues are important to them and what they would like to see improved in their community.

“Council officers will once again be out engaging with residents to build on the success seen in Childs Hill and ensure Barnet remains a clean, green and safe borough to live and work in.”

For more information on how to become involved in your area contact:, tel: 0208 3597726 or visit

Now I don't know about you, but I thought "cutting back brambles, pruning hedges, tidying flowerbeds and picking up litter" was what the council was supposed to do all the time in it's parks. If Mike Freer thinks that doing this is worthy of a press release, he's lost the plot. It's called Parks Maintenance and it is one of the many functions of the Council. I find it rather strange that the children of Burnt Oak are visited in February to tell them not to play with Fireworks. Surely November is the time for that? To quote Brian Coleman "Bonkers".

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Rog T 1 - Brian Coleman 0

Hard Working Brian Coleman with Former Labour Minister Chris Smith

I've got a rehearsal with the band tonight. I'm going to enjoy it even more than useual tonight. I may even have a glass of nice red wine when I get home in celebration. What am I celebrating. Well it seems my little campaign (with a little help from a few like minded individuals has borne fruit). I was sent a link to the GLA expenses documents for April - October 2008 and it appears that our good friend, Brian Coleman has taken heed of our criticism. Last year his Taxi bill was approx £8,500. For the half year to October it's a mere £195. Although it is the highest for any GLA member, it's only £8 higher than the next on the list.

Now I know Brian and all his friends will deny it to the ends of the earth, but I know, you know and he knows that his bills were outrageous. We all know that it was damaging the London Conservatives and we all know there will be an election some time soon. He also knows that he'd get no peace from this quarter, so he's cut back. Whether this is a temporary change or a complete cure, I don't know. What I do know is this. If it hadn't been for some of us constantly reminding everyone what he's like, then he'd still be at it. It's only half time, but when it comes to Colemans cutbacks, it's Rog T 1 Brian Coleman 0.

Check this link for the full expenses for the London Assembly - April - October 2008

Monday 26 January 2009

RBS mismanagement costs us all dear

There is a report in todays Guardian that the Police are being called in to investigate the rights issue last year at RBS. This involved the bank selling off £12bn of new share capital at £2.00 per share to it's existing shareholders. The rights issue was marketed as being at a heavy discount to the then share price which at the time the deal was first announced was above £3 (I believe). So if you are offered a £3 share for £2 what should you do? If you've got any sense you take the offer. The big question is do you then sell straight away or do you hang on. Well if you hung on your £2.00 would be worth 14p today.

Now you may think "I'm all right jack, I don't own any RBS shares". Don't be too sure. If you have a pension of any sort, chances are that your fund has a few RBS shares in there. If you have a FTSE tracker fund, you own some. Even if you don't have a penny in shares, investments or anything, you own some of RBS because the Government bailed them out. 18 Months ago RBS share price was £5.80.

Now at the time of the rights issue, shareholders were lead to believe that the cash would fix the big hole in RBS finances. This clearly wasn't the case, so the question is this? Did they get the shareholders to part with £12 Billion knowing it wasn't enough and if so why. If they didn't know how big the black hole was, then they shouldn't have launched the refinancing, they should have done more homework - ie they were negligent. If they did then they conned the shareholders. Now I've no idea how much the shares are really worth. I doubt anyone does anymore. The point is that a sensible refinancing at the time or a properly structured Government bail out would have done far more to maintain the banks credibility. It looks to me as if the Royal Bank of Scotland plucked a figure out of thin air and then crossed it's fingers and hoped for the best. I've done that when betting my last £5 on a horse at Kempton Park, but it's not how a bank should be run.

As successive Tory and Labour governments have destroyed the manufacturing base of Great Britain, we now rely on Banking to keep the economy afloat. Those who claim the banks should have been cut adrift and let sink really have no idea what they are really suggesting. London is the worlds major financial centre. Geography, history and time zones are likely to keep it there. No government could afford to stand by and let London's banking industry die. What they can do is ensure that banks are run legally and honestly. It is vital that the police investigate the rights issue at RBS. If the investors were mislead, the CEO Sir Fred Goodwin and his team of directors should go to prison and be stripped of their bonuses. This will send out a clear message to all bank directors that you must treat your shareholders with respect. You must be seen to be completely above board.

I did some digging and this is roughly how much the CEO of RBS - Sir Fred Goodwin has had from RBS in terms of renumeration.

* His compensation entitlement is made up of a £1.29 million base salary as well as £762,000 of pension and benefits.

* Sir Fred was paid £4.2 million in 2007 including a £2.86 million bonus.

* An £8.37 million pension pot that will pay him £579,000 per year when he reaches the bank's retirement age.

* He also owns 2.53 million shares in RBS (as of 12/10/2008)

I have a friend who worked for Nat West /RBS from 1970 until March 2008. Nat West/RBS had a scheme whereby you could take your bonus as shares. He did this every year and kept the lot. I worked out that if his average salary over the 37 years was £20,000 per annum and he got a 5% bonus per year and the shares had gone up at around 5% a year, he'd have had £106,000 worth of shares 18 months ago. Last time I spoke to him (before the big crash) he said he was going to help his daughter buy a house when she got married with the cash. Those shares are now worth approx £2,000 - I guess it'll have to be a shed. His retirement nest egg has been wiped out. This guy isn't a fat cat, just an ordinary bank employee who did the boring things, like making sure your debit card works when you buy your shopping at Tesco's.

Like so many jobs today in Great Britain, people at the top take the money but they won't take the rap when things go wrong. That is left to the poor mugs who are left behind to sweep up the mess. Who are the mugs - you and me my friend, the taxpayer.

Sunday 25 January 2009

I'm Beginning to see the light !!!!!!

As some of you know, who follow this blog, generally at the weekend (when no one annoys me and needs a good kick), I like to take one of my favourite songs and share it with you. Now I never plan these, I just spin a few discs and see what inspires me.

Today's been a strange day so far. Got up early, did the breakfasts, knocked out a couple of blogs, then went and played football at the Burnt Oak leisure centre against my 8 year old son's team - Dads Vs Kids - Dad's lost 11-4 !!! Mind you they had more players and we only were allowed 2 touches.

Off to Waitrose for shopping and cooking the lunch. I started with "Music For Pleasure" By The Damned. A great and much underrated album. The Damned are also studio customers. One of my greatest buzzes ever was listening at the dooor of room 7, the very first time they booked and hearing them play "New Rose". It's fair to say that if they hadn't recorded the song, I'd not be running a studio. For those of you who didn't know, it was the very first Punk Rock single. David Vanian (vocalist) was interviewed on the Garry Crowley show on BBC London last night. A great interview.

Anyway, I'm currently spinning "White Light/White Heat" by "The Velvet Underground". The Velvets are a band that many people claim as influences. It's amazing how many people have heard of them, but how few are familiar with their work. The album is one of many compilations. My favourite track on the album is "Beginning to see the Light". I find it to be a really uplifting track. It reminds me of my good lady.

There is a line in the song "There are problems in these times but, ooohhh, none of them are mine" - whenever I'm with her I feel like that. I always feel that ultimately everything will be OK.

As it plays out with the Coda "How does it feel to be loved?" I always feel warm and happy. It's one song that always lifts my mood - ALWAYS. Check it out if you don't know it.

I'm Beginning to see the light

Well I’m beginning to see the light (x2)
some people work very hard
but still they never get it right
well I’m beginning to see the light
wanna tell all you people now
now, now, baby, I’m beginning to see the light
hey now baby, I’m beginning to see the light
wine in the morning and some breakfast at night
well I’m beginning to see the light

here we go again
playing the fool again
here we go again
acting hard again-alright!

well I’m beginning to see the light
I wanna tell you (oooooooouuu)
hey now baby I’m beginning to see the light
it comes a little softer now
I wore my teeth in my hands
so I could mess the hair of the night (a-ha-ha)
Hey, well I'm beginning to see the light
Now-now-now-now-now-now-now-now baby I'm beginning to see the light now,
it's coming softer
Hey now baby, I'm beginning to see the light
I met myself in a dream and I just wanted to tell ya everything was alright
Hey now baby, I'm beginning to see the light

Here comes two of you
which one will you choose
One is black and one is blue
don't know just what to do, all right
Well I'm beginning to see the light
oh now here she comes, (ooohhh)
Yeah-yeah baby, I'm beginning to see the light,
oh Some people work very hard
but still they never get it right
Well I'm beginning to see the light
oh, it's getting a little softer in the end now
Now-now baby, I'm beginning to see the light
oh, it's coming round again
Hey now-now-now baby, I'm beginning to see the light (one more time)
There are problems in these times but, ooohhh, none of them are mine
Oh baby, I'm beginning to see the light

Here we go again
I thought that you were my friend
Here we go again
I thought that you were my friend
How does it feel to be loved ? (x3)
How does it feel to be loved? (x3)

Barnet Eye - Tour of the Blogs

I love Blogger and the various blogs on it. I find it fascinating to see what gets people going and what people find to write about. I guess I am a relative newcomer to it as I only got into blogger when the Edgware Times canned my "official Blog". "Don't Call Me Dave" Miller started his NOTTHEBARNETTIMES.BLOGSPOT.COM blog (now Barnet Council Watch) blog in protest at the Times pulling one of my blogs. As a result of that I became aware of the wonderful world of Blogspot. Initially I felt as though I'd been relegated from the Premier League of Blogs top the Ryman League. As time has gone on, I actually realised that Blogger is probably a better forum. More people look at it and you find out all sorts of interesting things. I'm a people person and I'm quite nosy in some ways. I appreciate a sense of humour and a bit of honesty. I think if a blog has these it works. If you "censor" yourself you fail. I religiously check the profile of all commenters on my blogs and have a look at their offerings. I generally check their commenters as well. If I see something which interests me I'll comment (no surprise there to those who know me). Strangely enough, the political persuasion of the author really has no effect on how much I like a blog. Occasionally I'll see something which makes me roar with laughter from a source I'd not have expected (CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE). Sometimes I see an idea I like which I'll put my own slant on (CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE). Some blogs just appeal to my sense of the ridiculous (CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE). Some blogs have a stream of comments that end up a million miles from where the author probably thought they were going (CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE). Finally there are things you read in blogs, which remind you of yourself (CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE)

Hope You enjoyed the little tour as much as I enjoyed finding them.

Is Mike Freer registered on Second Life?

Mike Freer in Israel working hard

Mike Freer Says
"Anyone who knows me knows I am a worker and that is what this constituency needs."

Rog T says

Unless Mike Freer is registered on Second Life and runs a virtual council where everything runs smoothly and he does a great job, he is clearly a fantasist.

If he's such a hard worker, how com the following has happened when he's leader :-

Barnet lost £27.4 in dodgy investment schemes in Iceland? He says he never checked them (Very hard working).

The latest budget attempted to raise the charges for burying dead children by 10% because neither Freer nor his scrutiny cabinet bothered to read it. They only realised when David Miller started a campaign. Freer's equally hard working lackey, Brian Coleman commented " none of the council officers told me about it"

The Aerodrome road Bridge project went Millions of pounds over budget, gobbling up Council resources. Less than a year ago, on his blog in the Edgware Times, Freer said it was on budget and he'd done a great job. He's in charge of Barnet resource management.

His last job, which he clearly worked so hard at was as a banker. Under his stewardship, Barnet Council borrowed hundreds of millions of pounds. This is now sitting in accounts earning minimal interest, meaning the Council taxpayer has to pay the difference to make up the interest. Even in his chosen field of excellence he fails.

I thought I'd dig a bit deeper and have a look at Mike's website (or Should I say the Finchley Conservatives website, which has morphed into a Mike Freer Hagiography).

Clearly if he's a hard worker, he'd be running lots of local campaigns and have lots of pictures and stories of him standing up for local people. There would be lots of pictures of him with smiling old ladies who'd had their taps fixed through his efforts. So what do we get - Click HERE TO SEE.

Yup, what we get are six campaigns

1. A link to the Central Conservative website urging small businesses to take up rates relief - No input from Mike. Interestingly, elsewhere on his website he has a picture of his launch of the Barnet bond. This is a stealth tax on businesses. I suppose it should also be noted that when I last appealed my business rates, it took nearly three years to be heard. Eventually I got a few thousand pounds back - so much for helping small companies.

2. A note about the Equitable Life scandal. Mike posted a letter on his website. As best I can tell, he seems to say Theresa Villiers has done a fine job on his behalf chasing it up in parliament.

3. A campaign to keep some post offices open. He's asked us to send him an email. Part of the national Tory campaign against post office closures.

4. A few paragraphs saying Mike doesn't like the Council tax revaluation and disagres with the Government on HIPS. Again a national Conservative Party initiative.

5. A few paragraphs about his support for the national Tory campaign against bin tax.

6. A link that doesn't work about Gordon Brown getting his sums wrong.

All in all, whatever you might think about Mike, surely there are real local issues in Finchley and Golders Green he should be campaigning about. If he was, surely he'd post them on his website? Surely he'd have a few testimonials from people he's helped? I don't know if the issue is he's got a rotten website or that he's as lazy as it appears? Either way, given that he's clearly a bright guy, you'd expect a hard worker to be on top of this.

One final example of the hard work of Mike Freer. Check out the LEADERLISTENS.COM blog. Mike Freer got this vanity project set up by the Council at a cost of over £400. This year he's posted one item on it. Not exactly prolific. As a contrast Conservative GLA member and deputy mayor for young people - James Cleverly - has a free blogspot blog, which he's posted to 14 times. Now I'm a Labour member so I don't agree with much of James Cleverly's policies, but it's a good blog (and it's free to taxpayers). I've also got a link at the side to Tory GLA member Roger Evans blog, again worth a look to see how it's done. I should also note that these guys always seem to respond to comments, Mike has not moderated at least 50% of the comments I've left. Now there are plenty of Councillors, etc who don't have blogs, so it's not a "must have". I would however say that if you get one set up at cost to the taxpayer, you should as a minimum a) update it regularly and b) respond to your comments. If you can't be bothered, don't go around boasting about how hard you work.

Mind you he's been recognised for this achievement with a "Banker of the year award" from Private eye, for elevating incompetence to new levels. The only areas of Barnet Council which run smoothly are the ones he leaves well alone, such as education. Everything else is in turmoil due to his "Bonkers" future shape scheme.

Friday 23 January 2009

Cleverly Coded Criticism of Coleman !!!!

Praise where praise is due. If I see a politician, whatever the party doing something the right way, I'll praise them to the hilltops. There are plenty of decent men and women in all of the parties, doing the job as best they can. I am sure the excesses of politicians like Brian Coleman must privately enrage them. His £8,231 taxi bill last year no doubt caused much squirming amongst his colleagues on the London assembly. It rather looks to me as if one of his colleagues, James Cleverly has had enough of Brian Coleman's excesses and has decided to take a principled stand and send him a powerful message. In his blog dated yesterday he says :-

22 January, 2009
My expenses

Jimmy, a regular commentator on this blog, makes a valid request. In my last post I wrote about MPs expenses and he feels it only fair that I'm open about mine. Fair point.

Before I reveal the figure I think it only fair to explain that Assembly Members and MPs expenses work in very different ways.

Firstly because London is a physically tight area none of us need second homes. All our staff, IT equipment and office equipment is paid for centrally rather than being paid by or bought by the MP, as is the case in Westminster. I also get an annual travel card so I can get around London for meetings, visits etc. This all keeps our expenses lower and more simple than MPs.

Now here is the good bit. Based on my expenses since being elected in May of last year I calculate my annual expense claim for the municipal year 2008/9 will be £0.00

I can't promise it will always be this low but I'll do my best.

Well Done James. Another Tory who's style I quite like is Roger Evans. I suspect that he's very close to Brian Coleman politically, but he can make his point without coming over as being arrogant or offensive. Wheras Coleman dismissed the Brent Cross Railway as "A bonkers scheme devised by men with train sets in their attics" (or words to that effect, Evans puts his opposition to Cross London Tram in far more measured and sensible terms in a reply to a question I asked him on HIS BLOG. He says :-

One of these was Brian Coleman who made his presence felt by objecting to the tram proposal, to the extent that his efforts were - I believe - reported by some of the pro tram bloggers, after the meeting. I was also present and I raised an objection on the grounds of cost. I can think of many better ways to spend £1.3 billion...

I don't agree with Roger Evans at all on this subject, but it seems to me that his approach is far more sensible. There even seems to be a tacit acknowledgement in his comment that the Brian Coleman approach doesn't really help move the debate forward.
I don't expect Colemans fellow assembly members to go public with open criticism, but it certainly seems to me as if they have realised that his approach does more harm than good. The James Cleverly attitude towards his expenses is a breath of fresh air and there are many politicians of all parties who could take a leaf out of his book.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

A great idea from Barnet !!!!! Well Done to Fiona Bulmer

I noticed a press release regarding the Barnet Council Rock School scheme on the council website today - - Now as I run a recording and rehearsal studio, I'm biased. The more people who get into music the more customers I get, so it's great for me. Thought I'd better declare an interest before someone leaves a sarcastic comment. Oh and before you think I'm plugging something, the scheme is noting to do with me or my business, we're not involved.

Anyway, why is this such a good idea? Well every 13-19 year old (the target age group for the scheme) practicing at home, is one who is doing something useful and not hanging around on street corners. Playing in a band is one of the greatest pleasures in life. I've played in a rock band for 30 years (as of next month). It has brought me more pleasure than just about anything. I started playing when I was 15 and it gave me bags of self confidence. I was very shy and awkward before I started a band. Whilst I'm biased towards rock music, playing classical music is just as enjoyable. My wife has played Clarinet for the BBC Elstree Band for 15 years and has thoroughly enjoyed it. My musical career took me all around Britain as well as to Sweden, Finland and Belgium. Just imagine where I'd have got to if I'd been any good?

I started my studios - Mill Hill Music Complex - in 1979 when there really was nowhere to play for young bands and no help from the council. We originally started as a musicians collective (we all left our amps etc there and rented the space to friends bands for beer money). As the business built up we became more professional. Luckily one of my friends is an accountant, who was able to guide us through the minefield of dealing with the taxman. I well remember in 1986 going to the bank with my business plan to build up the studios. They laughed at this scruffy punk rocker and told me to get lost. I drew up a second, very scaled back plan, wore a suit and got told to get lost again.

I then went back to them and asked for a personal loan for a car and they lent me the money. Funny thing was that the "professional" bank who had turned down my plan, gave me the money and lost the paperwork. I didn't pay a penny back for three years. Eventually I owned up (I'm honest !!!). They said if I'd said nothing, I could have had it for free. I ended up doing IT contracts during the day and investing the money I was earning back into the studio. I often worked a 9-5 week and then did a 7pm-3am stint at the studio doing building work. I'd get 4 hours sleep, shower and go back to work. By the time we'd built up to 4 studios and a shop, I could afford to pay someone else to do the work.

For most of this period, I had to put my Band "The False Dots" to one side. Not enough hours in the day. Now we're established and the band is back in business. That's what I had to do to get somewhere to play with my band. Thanks to Barnet's rock school scheme young people aged 13-19 are getting a foot on the ladder. If you are in that age group and are looking for a band, check out the scheme. I can promise you that the effort will be worth it.

I must also say that I noticed that Barnet Schools yet again had some of the very best results in the country. It seems to me that Fiona Bulmer is doing a fine job in charge of Barnets education and young people services. As I've got three children at three different schools in Barnet, I must say I'm very pleased to read of the success and pleased with what Fiona is doing. She seems to get on with the job and doesn't court the headlines. Well done Fiona.

P.S Thought I'd give you a giggle and post a couple of pictures of the Dots. The one at the top was taken in the Tiki Club in Belgium in December 1985. The one in the middle was taken in 1980 whilst we were making a video. The one at the bottom was taken at the Mill Hill Music Festival in 2005 at the Mill Hill Sports club.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Brian Coleman - Arrogant, lazy and useless

I started work on this blog before I read the report on the Tomb tax in the Edgware Times (Click HERE to see). As is often the way, I start counting the cannonballs and a new delivery arrives. Well on to the newest information first. Brian Coleman receives £85,000 per annum from the taxpayer in the form of allowances for his roles as a Barnet Councillor/Cabinet member and as our local GLA member (Barnet and Camden). So what does he do for his £85,000?

Well in Barnet he seems to have responsibility for the part of the Council Budget which decides how much we pay to bury dead babies. His job should be to oversee the construction of the budget and make sure that the people of Barnet are protected from poor decisions made by Council Officers. It seems that they proposed a 10% hike (3 times the rate of inflation) in burial costs for children under 3. At the same time the costs of weddings and Civil Partnerships were frozen. Now most people I know plan their weddings. They save up for them and make sure they can afford them. I've got a friend who's baby died from Cot death. Unlike a wedding, a childs death is an awful experience. It is not planned for and not budgeted for. It is the most horrible thing I can imagine. If it were down to me, I'd make child burials free. Fortunately it is rather rare in Barnet. When it was pointed out to Brian Coleman that this horrendous rise had been inserted into the budget, he said council officers had failed to alert him to the proposal and that he will now consider what the increase will be.

"I think the answer will probably be an inflation-linked charge" he added.

Well I'm sorry Brian, but this response isn't good enough. You get paid a good wage, you shouldn't rely on officials to tell you. It is pure laziness. You should be there, going through the budget with a fine tooth comb. Let me remind you that you are a Tory. You should be going through the budget, looking for savings. If something looks excessive, get down on the shop floor and find out why. THAT IS YOUR JOB. There really is no excuse.

************ please note that this blog has been amended. I have been informed that Brian Coleman did attend the TFL seminar on Cross River Tram on 9th September despite not being listed as an attendee in the TFL brochure, therefore I have removed my criticism of Coleman for not attending the seminar. I would suggest that he asks for the report to be amended to show his attendance to avoid further confusion. Apologies to Brian Coleman for this error ***********

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Colemans response to the BCR proposal was arrogant. It seems that he can add Lazy and Useless to the list of failings. Maybe by the end of the year, we'll have a complete A-Z of what's wrong with Brian Coleman. At this rate, it may be much much sooner

Monday 19 January 2009

Barnet Council Icelandic Investments - The smell of something rotten

There is a rather disturbing report in the Independent today regarding Barnet Council's Investments in Iceland (Click HERE to read).

It seems that the treasurer of the Conservative Party, Michael Spencer, runs Butlers, the Company that Barnet Council used to produce ratings of the banks where funds were invested. He also runs ICAP which according to the Independent is the company which brokered the deals, taking a commission on the loan. There are 468 local authorities in Britain. Of these, over 50% of those facing losses in Icelandic banks took advice from Butlers.

The article states that another organisation, Arlingclose advised no councils which have exposure to Iceland. Here is the top 10 Council's affected by the Icelandic collapse

Top 10 council investors in Icelandic banks

Council (Political control); Investments; Advisor; Brokers

1. Kent (Con); £50.3m; Butlers; ICAP, Martins, Tullett Prebon, Garban
2. Nottingham (Lab); £41.6m; Butlers; City Deposit, Martins, Sterling
3. Haringey (Lab); £37m; Sector; Martins, Tullett Prebon, Sterling
4. Norfolk (Con); £32.5m; Butlers; ICAP, Sterling
5. Dorset (Con); £28.1m; Butlers; ICAP, Tullett Prebon, Tradition
6. Hertfordshire (Con); £28m; Butlers; ICAP, Martins, Tullett Prebon, Sterling, Tradition
7. Barnet (Con); £27.4m; Butlers; ICAP
8. Somerset (No overall control); £25m; No advisor; ICAP, Sterling, Tradition, Tullett Prebon
9. Northumberland (No overall control); £23m; Sector; ICAP, Martins, Tullett Prebon
10 Surrey (Con); £20m; Butlers; Martins, Stirling, Tradition, Tullett Prebon

Given that all of the Conservative Councils with exposure to the problems used Butlers, and that it's owned by the Tories treasurer it is a rather disturbing pattern. All apart from Surrey also used ICAP. Now I know little about the functionings of the Tory Party or how much influence the treasurer has. I do know from the various organisations I've been associated with that everyone knows the treasurer as he holds the purse strings.

In all of the explanations of the whole sorry episode, Mike Freer has been consistent in one thing. This man who aspires to be a Tory MP has cited as his justification for the crisis that Butlers gave the banks a clean bill of health. He claims that when the loans were taken out, on his watch, that the advice was sound. Well I didn't realise it until I read the report, but that advice was provided by a company which received a commission for arranging that loan. A company owned by the treasurer of the Conservative Party. Did Mike Freer know that the people advising the council were owned by the Tories treasurer? Did he know that they were (presumably) receiving fat commissions for arranging these loans? Well Mike is a banker and he is Barnets top Tory so he should have had some idea. I think that as Mike Freer is also head of Barnet Council resource management portfolio, for which he receives a big fat responsibility allowance of several thousand pounds, he should have know quite a lot about all of this. He was paid to.

Mike sent one of the Council's senior officers to Iceland to try and get some of the money we've lost back. Has he sent anyone around to the Butlers head office to ask for some of the cash we paid for this rotten advice back? Has he sent anyone around to ICAP's offices to ask for a share of the fat commissions they were paid to arrange the loans? If Mike Freer gives me a letter of authorisation, I'll go and knock on Mr Michael Spencers door and ask for our money back on behalf of the people of Barnet - I'll do it for free. If you pay for something and it's not fit for purpose, then you are entitled to your money back under the sale of goods act. I assume that when Freer and his merry men asked Butlers and ICAP for advice they didn't say "Can you please help us find some dodgy institutions where we can lose £27.4 Million of taxpayers money".

Let me just remind you of what Mike Freer said on his blog about the Icelandic Investmenst (Click HERE for the full text). The BOLD ITALICS are my additions in light of todays revelations.

One burning question is why did we not withdraw our deposits when warnings were being sounded about Iceland? The simple answer is that each credit rating agency did not downgrade the banks with which we deposited our money until the end of September 2008. The terms of the deposits were of a fixed term nature which meant that we would have to negotiate the return of the funds before their maturity date. Advice given to the Council since the start of this crisis is that the banks would have refused to renegotiate or would have imposed massive penalties which would have seen a guaranteed loss to the Council, something which is not yet set in stone.

As you can see, Mike clearly stated that his credit rating agency didn't downgrade the Icelandic Banks status until September - way after other agencies mentioned in the Independent article

Nobody foresaw the collapse of the entire banking sector either in the United Kingdom or Iceland. Claims that Council’s saw this collapse coming are spurious, and after contacting a number of authorities including Brighton & Hove they have advised that they were lucky, and that their deposits simply matured and were paid back on the due date originally agreed with the banks. They did not make the conscious decision to withdraw and indeed, Icelandic banks remained on their approved list of banks for use well into 2008.

The independent article makes it quite clear that Councils using Butlers, were far more likely to be affected by the problems. It seems that Councils not advised by Butlers were much luckier than those which were. Who rates the ratings agencies.

I used to think that the Tories were the party with the business acumen. The more I find out about them, the less true it seems. Their treasurer owns a company which advised Councils to invest in Iceland, when other agencies were screaming "bail out" with a foghorn. Council Cabinet member Lynne Hillan ran a company which went bust owing tens of thousands to suppliers and the taxman. Matthew Offord boasted about arranging contractors for Aerodrome Road who've overrun by millions. Mike Freer thinks responsibilty means blaming everyone else.

Mike, I know you read this blog (especially when you are the star) so now's your chance to stand up for Barnet and get some money back. Who knows, you might even recover enough to cancel the rise in costs that you will be charging the parents of dead babies as described in your draft budget. I would hope that the fact that the owner of Butlers is a senior Tory will in no way deter Mike Freer from sticking up for the hard pressed taxpayers of Barnet. If you don't, I don't think I'll be alone in saying that something smells rotten at the heart of the Barnet Council.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Me and Al

"Never trust a man who doesn't drink" An old, oft repeated adage in the company I prefer to keep. Now any regular reader of my blog will know I'm rather partial to a tipple. I've had a pretty good relationship with my mate Al Cohol over the years. Al's been there with me through the good times and the bad. Something good happens - lets celebrate and get sloshed. Something bad happens - lets commiserate and get sloshed. Someone gets married - lets have a party and get sloshed. Someone dies - lets have a wake and get sloshed. My Dad was from an Australian background and my Mum was from an Irish background so drinking is pretty much a part of our family culture. As best I can tell (they both passed away long before I was on the scene) both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and drink played no small part in their demise. My Dad never really talked about this, but when I visited my cousins in Cairns (Queensland) they told me the whole story.

Now a couple of my siblings have decided that they are alcoholics and have given up drinking (for a couple of years now). When my mum died last year, they presumably faced their biggest test. It's times of stress which get us back into bad ways. They seemed to cope pretty well without the booze. Which brings me onto the question. Am I an alcoholic? I've read quite a few definitions of what an alcoholic is. By the most ridiculous one, then yes definitly. I read that if you enjoy drinking, you are an alcoholic. If I didn't enjoy it, I'd stop. Other definitions - Do you drink every day. Well I used to. Every day I'd visit my mum and have at least 1 can of guinness with her. When she died, I stopped. I missed her and I missed having a Guinness with her, but I didn't feel the need to have a Guinness every day. So if I was an alcoholic, I've been cured.

So when do I drink. Well I always have at least 3 pints of Shandy (50% Lager/ 50% lemonade) after football on a Thursday night. If t's my mate Paul's turn to drive, I have 1 shandy and two pints of lager. I generally don't drink on a Tuesday as it's band rehearsal night. Mondays are the wife's band rehearsal. Afterwards, sometimes we share a bottle of red and sometimes we dont (same is true on Wednesday). Fridays and Saturdays we tend to go out and we'd share 1 or two (or sometimes 3 bottles of wine) or have 6-8 pints of lager if I'm out with mates. If we stay in we'd share 1 bottle of red wine. Last week I had a total of 7 pints and 3 glasses of wine, but my better half was away at Swansea for the weekend at a swimming gala and I don't really drink on my own - don't really feel like it. I'd estimate that on an average week I'd drink 15-20 drinks (a drink being a pint of beer or a glass of wine). I kept a log from August to December out of interest and this what it averaged. At Christmas & new year it may have been twice or three times that.

As to spirits. I rarely drink them, even at new year. I had 2 Scotches in that period (on top of 10 pints one night) and sorely regretted it. So how healthy am I. Well I have a problem with a hiatus hernia, which drinking doesn't help at all (neither do crisps, pizzas and pies). Other than that pretty good. I play five a side football once or twice every week for 1 hour. I visit the gym to do aerobic exercise 2-3 times a week (Row approx 14K a week and cycle approx 25K and do 600 abs crunches). I do an advanced ashtanga Yoga class (I'm not advanced but it fits my timetable) as well on a Friday. My blood pressure and heart rate is low for my age. My Cholesterol was also very low last time I had it taken. Last time I saw the Doctor he was rather surprised at my blood pressure. I'm 6'1 and approx 16 Stone. He took it three times and told me he thought the machine was broken. I explained about my exercise regime and he said this would lower my BP significantly. As Mrs T is not a meat eater (likes fish though), we tend not to eat much meat at home.

Now I'm quite happy with my lifestyle, my alcohol intake and my health. I'm not what you'd call a worrier. My bigest problem with drinking is that when I'm with friends, I really enjoy getting completely hammered (if they are also drinkers - which most of them are). I don't generally make a fool of myself or fall asleep in the gutter, but I have a day of feeling ill. My on-the-wagon siblings ask if it's worth it. Yes it is for me.

I believe that life is to be enjoyed. The first miracle Jesus performed (if you believe the Christian bible) was to turn water into wine at a wedding feast. An old irish priest once pointed out that the amount was about 40 gallons of wine. He also said that in scriptures it said that Jesus and his disciples went away and rested afterwards for a few days! An ex colleague of mine (a member of a non drinking Christian sect) claimed that the wine was non-alcoholic. As teh wedding was an Orthodox Jewish event I asked a Jewish friend whether he thought that it would have been recognised as a miracle if, when the booze ran out, Jesus had turned the water into Non Alcoholic wine. He said "He'd have been crucified three years early for winding them up". It must be remembered that the steward at the wedding also said it was the best quality.

So my definition of an alcoholic (for what it's worth). Someone who considers their alcohol intake to be a problem. I don't care whether people do or don't drink. I don't really think it affects their trustworthyness. If I was going out for the evening with a bunch of abstainers, I'd choose somewhere or something where drink wasn't a key part of the fun. Will I ever give up? Not unless I have to. It strikes me that all of the places in the world where Alcohol is banned don't seem to be much fun. Cheers !!!!!

Saturday 17 January 2009

The 10 best ever female vocal tracks

It's Saturday so here's the first in a series of posts detailing some of my most and least favourite things. I thought I'd start with a list of my fave girlie tracks.

1. I Love Rock N Roll - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

2. Can The Can - Suzi Quattro

3. These Boots were made for Walking - Nancy Sinatra

4. Africa Morning - The False Dots

5. The Day the World Turned Dayglo - X-Ray Specs

6. Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire - Joni Mitchell
7. Save Me - Aretha Franklyn
8. Rip Her to Shreds - Blondie
9. Grafitti Limbo - Michelle Shocked
10. After the Goldrush - Prelude

Criteria for selection - These tracks all a changed the way I looked at music or were so good I couldn't stop listening to them or they had a deep impact on me.

Joan Jett - The best ever rock chick track. I always sing along to the chorus. It doesnt get any better.

Suzi - When I saw her do this on Top of the Pops, it was just like "Wow". I bought the single the next day and played it 100 times without interruption. My sister Caroline was driven nuts.

Nancy - I was about 4 when I first heard this. It must have deeply affected me because when I dug the clip out on YouTube it was like finding a gold nugget you'd buried. She was probably my first crush

Venessa Sagoe - She sung this on a demo we did. It still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Venessa was so good. It's not narcisism, she made the song

Poly Styrene - She was the Anti Star. It's a great song, really different. She was the first girl singer I admired solely for what she was and what she stood for. She's still great.

Joni - I love Joni & this is her best track. She is a brilliant singer, songwriter and person. Big Yellow Taxi was the first environmental anthem I ever listened to.

Aretha - The Saints (Aussie punk band) did this. We covered it with the Dots when we had the horn section. I'd never heard the original and then I saw it on a jukebox & thought "Should check this out". It blew my mind. I put it on 10 times in a row, until a skinhead came up and told me he'd kill me if I played it again.

Debbie Harry - My biggest crush ever. This song is so New York. It's great.

Michelle Shocked - Short, Sharp Shocked was my fave album the year it came out. This was the best track. She lost her way after it, but this song is just raw emotion.

Prelude - I just loved this track when it came out. I found the original 45 again of it a couple of weeks ago. Ended up playing it 6 times on the trot. I've no idea what it's about, but it sort of sounds like I imagine the angels in heaven sound as they sing while you climb the pearly stairway (I sincerely hope so anyway !!!!)

Friday 16 January 2009

I hate ASDA !!!!!!

Well it's Friday, I've vented my spleen at Coleman's latest stupidity, so no it's the time to relax, unwind, have a beer and chill out. At least it should be. My darling wife, due to circumstances supposedly out of her control forgot to complete her most vital mission for the day. She forgot to buy me any Zantac from Boots. As I'd run out and I'd been busy, this spelled disaster. You see that due to a rather serious medical condition, if I don't take a couple of Zantac prior to going on a bender, I suffer. When I say suffer, I don't mean feel a bit groggy the next day, I mean get really ill. The range of symptoms varies from merely being in agony all night to spending 3 months in hospital following Mallory-Weiss bleeds in my stomach. A couple of the magic pills and hey presto, stay away from the spirits and I'm fine.

Anyway, as we'd planned a night out with some drinking friends, I was in trouble. It was 6.30 when I realised the problem and a quick jog down to Mill Hill Broadway didn't help. Boots and Care chemist had just closed. My darling wife helpfully suggested I drive to Asda in Colindale as they have a chemist. Marvellous idea. Just one problem, I have two phobias - Snakes and Asda's in Colindale. Don't ask me why, I don't know but the mere thought of Asda's makes me come out in a cold sweat. Now I was faced with a dilemma. Asda's or sobriety. I chose Asda's. I haven't been to Asda's in Colindale for a very long time. As I drew ever nearer, I felt the cold chill of trepidation that the condemned man feels as he approaches the gallows. Never mind, I'll tough it out. I thought I'd soften the blow by picking up a few treats for the kids on the way. Maybe this would make it more tolerable. I got my trolley and entered. Don't ask me why, I've no idea what it is about Asda, but I soon wished I hadn't. I felt the panic rising. Still I had my mission. A big smoked sausage for Matt, some Ben & Jerry's for Liz, a Pizza for Maddie. Nothing for the wife, this was all her fault. I thought I'd just peruse the cheap wine when it happened. I've not been there for seven years but they'd been waiting, planning scheming. They'd seen me coming, lulled me into an almost calm mood and then they got me. As I looked at the cheap Wolfblass, they struck. "I Love the thought of coming home to you". Yup, they'd put Simply Red on the sound system. The most loathesome band in the entire history of the world. The mere sight of Mick Hucknell makes me gag. As to that awful song, even if Uma Thurman, Kim Basinger and Marylin Monroe in her prime invited me for a foursome, and they put that on I'd leg it. It is the second most horrible track ever recorded. When I hear Hucknells voice bleating "I love the thought of coming home to you" I always think "I bet she's dreading it mate and she's only there for your cash".

At that, I put down the wine and made straight for the nearest checkout. A very nice lady on the checkout looked at the selection. A massive sausage, a pizza and a pot of Ben & Jerry's. She gave me a pitiful look. As I left she said "Have a lovely weekend". If only she knew. You have a lovely weekend too.

Brian Coleman : What's in his attic?

Before we discuss the latest pearls of wisdom to spout from the gushing mouth of Brian Coleman, let me take you on a little deviation. Let's face it, up here in Barnet we seem to be partial to a little deviation now and then.

Our deviation takes us back to 1966. That fine year when England won the world cup. The summer was hot, the grass was green and the roses were red. A very sad thing happened. In the flat next door to our house, the nice old lady Mrs Bent (yes really) had a heart attack and died. She was a lovely old dear who had a garden full of finely maintained Standard Roses. I can remember being very upset as she disappeared and the flat was sold. A few weeks later, mum told me some exciting news. The flat had been sold and a young mum was moving in who had a little boy. I'd have a little friend next door. A couple of weeks later, through the fence I saw the new neighbour. He was about two years old. To this day, I recall our first conversation. "Hello, I'm Roger, whats your name". He looked up in a slightly perplexed manner and exclaimed "Chair".

Now Chair is probably my oldest friend. He lives in Brighton now, has just had a kid so I don't see him too often. His job? He designs tram systems. He's worked on the LA Metro, The Dublin Metro, Croydon Tramlink and most recently Cross River Tram. He's a real character. Last time we met, he told me about a presentation he'd given about the Cross River Tram. He started it by saying. "In a city like London their is really only one method of transport I would consider as practical. This" He then displayed the slide showing his black and gold Norton commando Motorbike. He then said "the next best option however ...." and proceeded with his pitch. He's lectured on public transportation systems and given countless seminars. Now I'm not too interested in these matters generally, but it's always a pleasure to talk to someone who is on top of their game and can give you meaningful explanations as to why a solution would work in a city you love. As a result of our last conversation, I realised that the cheapest, quickest to impliment and most flexible solution to many of Londons transport problems is to put in tram systems. Now I'm not an expert, but I'm an engineer and I can see when a solution makes sense.

Anyway that's enough deviation for one day. What has this got to do with Barnet's favourite numpty? Well he was quoted in the Edgware Times as saying about the proposed "Brent Cross Railway" scheme.

Brian Coleman, GLA Member for Barnet and Camden condemned the plan as "bonkers". He said "It's not feasible, it won't happen. The developers aren't backing it and neither is any mainstream politician. Idea's like this are thought up by men who probably still have a train set in their attic. Trams are yesterdays news and they do not belong in Barnet. The whole thing is bonkers"

Like most of Brian Coleman's pronouncements, it is ignorant and rude. Lets have a look at what he says in detail. Firstly developers will always be against anything that dents their profits. The job of people like Coleman is to get some payback from them. Improved public transport would be a good start. Does Mr Coleman honestly think developers give a stuff about whats good for Barnet? If he does he's more stupid than we all thought. As to no mainstream politician supporting it, the Times said in it's on line article that Tory John Hart, a long standing councillor and a colleague of Colemans was supporting it. I know who I'd trust out of the two? Geoff Cooke, a well respected Labour member is also championing the scheme. David Cameron was quoted in todays Guardian as saying "To deliver a low carbon economy you have to have a vision". It seems Mr Coleman is even out of step with his own leader, as the BCR scheme will save millions of tons of CO2. The implication of Coleman's statement about the people who devise tram scheme's having "train sets in their attic" conjures images of socially inept nerds with no interest in anything other than mad schemes to bring back steam engines. Well as I mentioned above, my very oldest friend is one of the countries top tram system designers. When we last went for a beer (or six) what did we discuss? My kids, his impending fatherhood, Motorhead, punk rock, the Acid House dance scene, the french resistance in WW2, great pubs, the merits of Ken Vs Boris, Mill Hill, what we did when we were kids, his Norton Commando bike. It was one of my best evenings out for a long time. When it comes to things in attics, what has Coleman got in his?

Are Trams yesterdays news? Well technically I suppose they are. Boris Johnson opened a new station on the DLR in a huge blaze of glory and issued a fine press release. He didn't seem to be saying that the DLR was a thing of the past. I have drawn the conclusion that Coleman is incapable of a single forward looking thought. His solution to Barnet's transport problem is to open all the ratruns to speeding traffic. By his own admission, his views are driven by developers, who are only interested in lining their own pockets.

Unlike Brian Coleman we don't all have a cab waiting for us at the public expense to shuttle us around. The trouble with these freeloaders such as Coleman is that they have lost touch with normal working people who have to go to work in rush hour.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Gavin Stringer MP is a Cupid Stunt

Yup, as you may have guessed from the title of this blog, I'm moderately dyslexic. Well at least I thought I was until I read what Mr Gavin Stringer MP had to say today. Normally I post links to my sources, but I'm not posting any links to this Wupid stanker's comments because his blatherings are not worthy.

Now when I was at school in the 60's and 70's Dyslexia didn't exist (at least as far as I was concerned). The fact I didn't say a word till I was 4 years old was initially attributed to deafness due to premature birth. Eventually a hearing test established that I was fine in that respect. I was just thick and awkward. From the age of 4, when I started at school, I was always bottom of the class. I could never memorise my times tables. I couldn't spell words. I couldn't read books. By the time I was 10 I had a reading age of 5. My mother kept all of our schoolwork books. I showed my kids some of them and they laughed. They couldn't believe how bad it was for a 9 year old (my son was 7 at the time). When I was at primary school we'd get a Gold Star for every time we got all of the questions right in spelling and maths tests. At the end of the year, parents evening came. I had zero. Mind you I had more black marks than anyone else. We got these for being naughty, not doing homework, getting zero in tests. My Dad sat me down and said "Don't worry son, your teacher explained. You are just thick". I'm the youngest of 6 children. My eldest twin brothers are very bright. One of them works as a Rocket Scientist (or did till he retired). The other speaks fluent Latin and ancient Greek (as well as a host of other languages).
My eldest sister went to a private school and qualified as a teacher. Middle one went to a grammar school and became an artist, then a Nurse, The youngest of the girls got a scholarship to a private school and became a barrister.

As for me. My primary school advised my folks to save their money. I was sent to the local Comprehensive School for Boys. My dad thought maybe I'd be good at sport. Sad thing was, I'm pretty rubbish at that. Not through want of trying, just poor eye/hand/foot coordination. I was extremely good at one thing though. Making trouble. I was lucky to find myself in a class full of other troublemakers.

At the age of 14, all of a sudden something remarkable happened. I went to see the Ramones at the Roundhouse and discovered punk rock. All of a sudden, life had a meaning. I started reading books. I started to try a bit at school. I found that if I methodically checked over my work, I'd spot the mistakes and correct them. It took a bit longer, but I'd get there. I found out I wasn't actually that thick.

I found that if I read underground literature, it was a great inspiration for songs. I found that it seemed to impress the sort of girls I liked. I found that I could play the guitar if I tried hard. I changed schools and left with 9 O Levels and 3 A levels. I'd set up a studio by then and had a source of income. With the advent of IT, I found that I had great problem solving skills.

When I was 26 I was chatting to someone and told them some of this. They suggested that maybe I was dyslexic. I was assessed and hey presto, it all became clear. Now by this point, I was pretty successful. Without any help, I'd developed "coping strategies". I still get my wife to fill in forms. The number of times I've ticked the box for Female or suffering terminal illnesses etc when doing it is quite a source of mirth. She cannot understand how I can be so good at some things and yet unable to successfully tick six boxes on a form. I've spoken to other parents who have dyslexic kids. I try and assure them that it is a problem but there are ways around it. Mr Stringer objects to dyslexics having extra time in exams. Doesn't it occur to him that a dyslexic brain requires a coping strategy. This means tasks take longer. He advocates a specific method of teaching reading. Maybe it will solve all of the ills of the world, but knowing my own brain, I doubt it. For me, words only have meaning in context of objects. The noise words in between are a big problem.

I recently wrote a whole blog about a certain local politician, that I had to scrap because when I checked what he said, my brain had filtered out the "not's" and "donts". You see my brain is rather good at deciding what it thinks a person will say and filling in the rest. That is why I check everything 3 times before I finish it. On the third reading, I generally fill all the gaps.

I know quite a few dyslexics. Most are pretty good with big picture problems. Most have greater observational skills than the average person. Most notice mannerisms and other such things which seem to pass most people by.

In the 1960's I was viewed as Thick. I was in the remedial reading group at primary school. It made the whole experience horrible. I'd see things and come up with great ideas, but they'd be ignored. Sometimes the teachers would say "thats a great idea" and then get another group of kids to implement it. I latched on to punk rock as it was a movement for outsiders. It encapsulated all of the rage that I felt. All of a sudden the brightest, smartest kids were not ruling the roost. I had an outlet for my anger in my song lyrics and my music. People started to listen to what I had to say. I found I was good with people.

I thought we'd moved on from the 60's. I thought that it was universally accepted that Dyslexia had a profound effect on people. I thought that the "He's just thick" mentality had been consigned to the dustbin of history. I'd love to set down with Mr Gavin Stringer and tell him what I think of his ignorant blatherings. I'm not some poor hard done by victim of society. I'm very successful in my chosen fields. I'm comfortably off, I've had holidays in the USA and Australia in the last two years. I run a great business, I hope I write a decent blog, my family are great, I play in a great band with great musicians. I'm glad I'm dyslexic, because I think it has made me better at the things I want to do. It makes me love angry music such as the early Pistols and Clash with a passion. If I wasn't so angry, I'd have achieved nothing worth achieving. I like to think my anger keeps me honest and gives me integrity. I think it makes me see through the fog and get to the point. It's made me tough. I was ridiculed for the first 13 years of my life, so I can take just about anything. I've been called worse, picked on, beaten up, humiliated. If you are born in August, you are generally one of the smaller members of your class, which really doesn't help. If you were born 6 weeks early, you should really have been in the year below. Mind you, when you get to 15 and suddenly find you are the tallest and biggest, it makes it all the better.

I don't suppose our Cupid Stunt of a friend, Mr Gavin Stringer really cares though. He's read a few articles, talked to a few people, seen a few programs on TV. This makes him an expert on the subject. If you know anyone with Dyslexic kids who are upset by his comments, tell them to ignore this buffoon. Trust your kids. Support them, they'll turn out fine if they are given the support and the chances they deserve.

Oh and I'll break a life long taboo. If you live in Manchester Blackley, please vote Tory or Lib Dem at the next election and get rid of this idiot. He's a disgrace and I'm saying that as a lifelong Labour supporter.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Mike Freer : Take my advice and get yourself Rogered

Well that got your attention didn't it. What filthy little minds you have! Being one of the global fraternity of Rogers, I object to the common usage of the term "Rogering" and I want to reclaim it to reflect the many and varied talents of the Rogers of the world, not just our renowned virility. It has come to my attention that one of the many talents us Rogers seem to have is that we write exceptionally good blogs. There are many examples of this prowess (apart from my own humble effort, but probably my favourite is Ramblin with Roger, by Roger Owen Green - I don't know what it is about us Rogers, but we seem to be prolific in the blogging realm and the range and depth of subjects on various blogs is truly amazing. I think you'll agree we're also rather handsome chaps !!!!

So what's all this got do with Mike Freer? Well probably the best Tory blogger I've come across (as it were) is GLA Member Roger Evans.

His City Hall blog is interesting and informative. He doesn't mind a bit of a row with various commenters and it is well put together and interesting. As one would expect from a Roger, if you check his profile, he runs a total of Four blogs !!! All on blogspot Free of charge. He puts old two blogs Freer to shame. I noticed that Roger also runs a mentoring service (with associated blog) for prospective Tory Candidates. Now he doesn't say what he calls this service, but as I said, I want to reclaim the phrase "Rogered" so in this blog if I say someone needs to be Rogered, I mean given guidence on how to write a decent blog. It seems that Messr's Evans and Owen Green have a lot to offer the wider blogging community.

It strikes me that given the quality of his four (free) blogs, Roger Evans should most certainly give our Council leader Mike Freer a few lessons in writing a blog. Mike Freer's sorry effort (click HERE) merely seems to carry rehashed Council press releases. What is our Mike so scared of that he can't say what he's actually been up to? If Roger Evans can put a decent blog together for free, then surely Mike owes us a bit more effort and commitment. I'm sure that if Mike contacted his Tory Colleague, he'd be more than happy to take him in hand and sort him out. My Advice Mike - Get on the phone and get yourself Rogered.

Monday 12 January 2009

Trams for Barnet - Sense at last !!!!

There is an intriguing article on the Edgware Times website today (click target="_blank"> HERE to see). The plans are fleshed out in greater detail on the Campaign for Better Transport website and

One of my biggest objections to the various regeneration schemes in Barnet is the lack of infrastructure. Looking at these plans, it seems that maybe, at last, a bit of thought is being put into addressing some of these issues. What is interesting about these plans is just how much of the scheme is utilising, disused or underused existing railways. One of my biggest bugbears is just how difficult it is to get across the borough, East to West. Since the demise of Edgware general, people wuch as my aunt who lives in Mill Hill, have a nightmare journey to get to Barnet Hospital. This scheme, if fully implemented would make this journey far easier, with a connection from Mill Hill Copthall to Finchley Central, then a tube trip to Barnet. Linking the two branches of the Northern Line (Colindale to Finchley Central) is a masterstroke. It is also worth noting that it makes many school trips far more practical using public transport. This scheme is good for the environment, good for the travelling public and good for Barnet businesses. As such I fully support it.

The new line has links to Finchley Central in the North, Wembley stadium, Brent Cross, Brent Park retail,and West London for connections to Heathrow. I'd imagine that for many workers it would offer a quicker and easier journey than the current clogged A41 to Brent Cross. I'd also like to see a station for the RAF Museum at Hendon. It is scandalous that this hasn't got a proper transport link. Less car journeys will be required across the borough, so motorists should see benefits as well.

There is much talk about the need for Infrastructure projects to kick start the economy. This is one I'd give a wholehearted thumbs up to. It is no surprise that sensible Councillors who have a long standing association with Barnet such as Conservative John Hart and Labour Geoff Cooke are championing the scheme. I sincerely hope that the full council follows the bipartisan approach that these two fine councillors are showing and throw their full weight behind the scheme. This may even be a scheme that causes the rest of London to take note and admire our foresight.