Monday, 31 August 2009
As I've recently entered my 48th year, I thought I'd share with all of you the 47 lessons I've learned in my previous 47 years
(Picture left - This is why I'm still semi sane - daughter & wife)
1962 - Jehovahs Witnesses is a bad, dangerous religion. This was the first lesson I learned on the day I was born. I was dragged kicking and screaming into this world nearly 7 weeks early, as a result of something called "blue baby" syndrome (caused by the Rhesus factor). These days it's cured by a simple injection but in 1962, I needed 4 blood transfusions to keep me alive. As such I can't join the JW's - they won't have me, even though I had no say in the matter. Tainted blood !
1963 - Pissing on the bluebells is the secret to success in life. I may not have spoken till I was 4, but I was potty trained by 1 years old. I saw my brother pissing on the bluebells at the bottom of the garden and though "I can do that"
1964 - When in doubt, say nothing. As I said, I was a very late talker. I spent 1964 just watching.
1965 - Spiders scare girls ! We used to have a decrepid old shed. In the shed, there lived a monstrous spider we used to call the crab. My sisters were mightily scared of the crab. Me, I was fascinated.
1966 - It's great to win the world cup. Not many people had a telly at that time. We did so we had loads of people round to watch the final. Not yet being 4 years old, I have memories of a great party because England won the world cup. I didn't really watch the football though, but I remember the fun we had. I thought to myself - football is fun, we'll do this every year.
1967 - If you want your cake, you have to demand it. Not having spoken at all, having been taken to clinics to test for deafness (& just been diagnosed as very stupid) I finally decided to talk. My first words were at the dinner table - "I wanna piece of cake" -as ever no manners and no please or thank you.
1968 - If you have to eat cold baked beans, eat cold baked beans. I was a child model/actor. My biggest success was a Heinz baked beans advert. "We can't go on holiday without the beans mum". I got the part because at the screen test, all the other kids refused to eat the plate of cold baked beans they were presented with. I heard them scream and wail and knew what had to be done. The director asked me "Do you like cold baked beans?" I replied "No, I'm acting"
1969 - Adverts are all lies. I did an advert for Lucozade. For those of you who only know modern styles of Lucozade, the original stuff was sold as a drink for people who were dying. Their slogan was "Lucozade AIDS recovery". They abandoned that when HIV appeared. Whilst I could stomach cold beans, Lucozade was a bridge too far. Never mind though, they just gave me a glass of Tizer instead.
1970 - England don't always win the world cup. Much to my surprise and horror, the Germans beat us in the quarter finals. The Germans ! How could this be? We'd beaten them in two world wars and a world cup final. We were clearly nobbled. Then I found out about Gordon Banks being ill. My fears were confirmed.
1971 - Never trust technology - I'd been fascinated by the space race, NASA and other such things. I can remember reading with excitement that NASA was sending a probe - Mariner 8 to Mars. It blew up on the Launch pad.
1972 - You won't rule - 1972 was the year I got music. Children of the Revolution by T Rex. The message (to me at least) was one of nihilism. As I was bottom of the class at everything I got it big time.
1973 - No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. I'd hated Primary School. I begged for release. I went to secondary school. Things got worse.
1974 - Hard work doesn't always get you anything at all. I'd decided that I'd try at school. We had a biology project. I worked really hard, went to the library, did my research. I still got a "D".
1975 - Beer is great. I went on my own to my first football match. West Ham Vs Manchester City. I hooked up with a group of City fans who took me to the pub and got me completely pissed. It was great.
1976 - Girls can make you behave completely out of character. This was the year in which I found that in the right circumstances, you could become extremely attracted to girls you didn't really fancy at all. This resulted in some extremely bizarre behaviour.
1977 - Punk Rock Rules - June 6th 1977 - I went to see the Ramones, The Talking Heads and the Saints at the Roundhouse. It changed my life. After that moment, nothing was ever quite the same again.
1978 - Take nothing for granted. I had a masterplan. I had been accepted for a Gas engineering scholarship. This meant that I'd go to college in Salford to do A-Levels then to University to do gas engineering. I'd be out of home, out of school, have money and a fresh start.I'd get paid a salary as well. I needed to pass 4 O-Levels including Maths. I'd got 96% in the maths mock. I did no more work and failed it. I got rejected.
1979 - Get a band. On moving to Orange Hill School, a plan came together. I'd wanted to form a band since seeing the Ramones. I didn't know how and couldn't play guitar. Pete Conway and I bought guitars in 1978. on 14th Feb 1979, we had the first rehearsal of the False Dots. It was truly shambolic. It was awesome. (Footnote: My folks had put all of the money I'd earned doing commercials and adverts into a bank account. I was allowed access at age 16. I'd immediately gone and bought a guitar and an amp. They were none too pleased.)
1980 - Don't trust your friends. We did our first gig this year. My very best friend, songwriting partner and co-founder of the False Dots, Pete Conway bottled out and didn't turn up for the gig. We got through it. We never looked back.
1981 - Follow that Girl to the ends of the Earth. The very best thing I ever did was to go with my mates Brian, Steve and Paul to Dingwalls in the summer of 1981. I saw a couple of Swedish girls there. One was my idea of the perfect woman. We ended up all going back to their hotel and drinking all night. I invited myself over to Stockholm to see her. I spent the last 3 months of 1981 over there and it was awesome.
1982 - Touring with your band is the best fun known to man. Whilst in Stockholm, I booked a tour for the False Dots, with a local band "The Gagget band". It was the best fun I've ever had.
1983 - Never owe a bad man a penny. Following our Swedish romp, I ended up with huge debts. We'd drunk the profits (and the money I'd borrowed to finance the tour). My Dad bailed me out. He made a simpel deal "You're my bitch until you've paid back every penny". I had to wash cars in the freezing cold and every week I had to pay him. He told me he was teaching me a harsh lesson. Still it was better than broken legs, which was the other alternative. In October 1983, I got a job in IT following a TOPS course, as I had to be free of debt. I gave the old man every penny of my first months salary in cash. He gave it back to me and said "I didn't want the money, I wanted you to learn". I didn't get it for a few years but I do now.
1984 - All your dreams can turn to dust. I started 1984 as positive as I could be. We had a fantastic singer - Venessa Sagoe. I had money, I had a stable relationship with someone I loved dearly. I ended the year single, with no band and in hospital having nearly died of a stomach bleed. I felt let down by everyone. I'd sold my soul for the band and they'd just walked when we were on the verge of great things. I found a few things out later which changed my view of the break up, but at the time I was bitter as hell. I still think they should have stuck it out though. As to the break up of my relationship. That was totally my fault. As to the failure of my health. That was down to my doctor prescribing a dodgy drug for an ear infection, which burned a hole in my stomach. Later, when I applied for health insurance and was denied, I got a copy of the report. It said it was down to excessive drinking. I've never trusted a Doctor since.
1985 - Never give up. Following the end of the Venessa Sagoe line up of the Dots, I was distraught. I spent a good six months just sitting at home practising the guitar. To be honest, that was when I really learned to play properly (one of the bugbears of my old bandmates). I got a new band together with Allen Lucas (now known as Allen Ashley a successful author) and bonkers drummer Graham Ramsey. In some ways this was the best line up of all, as we were truly unique.
1986 - Don't sell out. Following the departure of Allen Lucas who wanted to persue his teaching career and couldn't commit to a life of Rock and Roll debauchery, a rather unpleasant character known as Mark the Fascist turned up. He was a great singer, but a truly repugnant person. He was a devious scheming conniving toad. He engineered the sacking of my great friend, bonkers drummer Graham Ramsey, changed the name of the band to "Urban Dance" and we expanded to being a 9 piece, with a brass section. I despised the whole thing and never recorded the gigs in my scrapbook. I just kept going because I felt I had to. I should have never agreed to his joining in the first place. I believe he added nothing at all. Sadly I found myself lumbered in a business partnership with him, through the studios till 1994. I fell out permenantly with my best friend as a result of his connivings. When Graham Ramsey got diagnosed as bonkers, he asked me where Mark lived as he wanted to murder him. He said "I'm certified now so it doesn't matter." I never condone violence, but for a moment I seriously thought of telling Graham.
1987 - Cherish the people you love. My dad died in January 1987. I thought he was indestructable. He had a heart attack and was gone. We had massive rows, but there was huge love between us. I just wish I'd spent a bit more time with him. In 1986 he had his gall bladder removed and when I saw him he looked like death. I prayed "please lord, let him get better so can take him out for a curry, just once". He made a great recovery, I took him for the curry, then he flew out to Florida. That was the last time I saw him.
1988 - Keep having parties - My mum was devastated by my Dad dying. I didn't know how to cheer her up, so I had a barbeque for the family. She smiled for the first time in a year when everyone turned up. We got horribly drunk and the world was sort of OK for a short while. After that I always tried to have another party to look forward to.
1989 - Sometimes it's the mad people who are right. We were having a rehearsal. By this time, I had no energy for the band. I was exhausted and could see no point to any of it. We were just doing it out of habit. Graham Ramsey, our drummer had a mate called Buddah. Buddah used to come down, watch us play, and get really stoned. He never said anything. Rehearsals were often just long, free form jam sessions. At one rehearsal, Buddah brought down his pet tarantuala. He sat in the corner smoking joint after joint, with a tarantual on top of his head. At this point I was at a real low. Afterwards, Graham said to me that it was our best reheasal ever. His words "What could be better than better than rehearsing with a bloke in the corner with a poisonous spider on his head"
1990 - Sometimes, enough is enough. In 1990 I put the guitar down for ever. I'd had enough. I wanted to concentrate on the studio and having a life. We'd found a great singer called Tony, who I really liked, but we just couldn't make it work. I realised that if that wouldn't work, nothing would. Time for a change.
1991 - Follow the cash. I formulated my masterplan. The studio had been tottering along, going nowhere for too long. We had a great a facility but as we had a gang of four running it, we could decide nothing. On top of that , one of the four was a very destructive influence, who added nothing, yet sought a veto on everything. I'd been working at a large company in IT for a while and they offered me redundancy and a payoff. I took it, then got a juicy contract. I worked out a plan to buy my partners out. I figured that if I did 2 years of contracting, I'd be in a position to sort it out. That gave me the opportunity to get experience of running a company properly.
1992 - If you see an opportunity, grab it. In 1991 a band called "The Sway" started to rehearse at the studio. I thought they were great and as I had plenty of cash & contacts at the time, thought it was a great opportunity to get into management. I managed them for 2 1/2 years. I spent over £100,000 on promoting them. I didn't get a penny back. They had 2 national tours, were BBC WM band of the week. They did 2 singles, which got substantial airplay. Do I regret it? Not at all. You have to pay for your education and I think the lessons I learned there were quite cheap. The main one? If you have a good accountant, a loss isn't what you thought it was.
1993 - Right time, right place isn't always enough. The main reason I'd got involved with The Sway was because I felt the time was right for a guitar based indie band. I was right. The trouble was, that band was Oasis.
1994. Bad people have no place in your life. This was the year I bought my ex partners out of the studio and I was finally rid of Mark the Fascist. Ernie Ferebee came in as my new partner in the studio. I put to him my business plan. Within 5 years, we'd take the studios from 2 rooms to 5 rooms and a shop. We spent the next 3 years rummaging through skips, working till 3 in the morning (often whilst doing a 9-5 IT contract) but we hit our target 2 years early. Buying out my partners and getting in Ernie was the 2nd best decision of my life.
1995 - Treat those you love properly. I've had a few great relationships in my life. They've all ended badly because I can be a complete dickhead. All apart from one and even that had a serious gap between 1992 and 1994 (down to me being a bad person). In Feb 1994, my good lady showed me a little piece of plastic and said "is that line blue". We married a couple of months later. My daughter Madeleine was born in October. Of all the decisions I've made, being with Clare is the best (hope she feels the same).
1996 - You've got to work on your dreams. Small baby, struggling business. What do you do? You work your nuts off. This was the make or break year for the studio. We went from 2 to 4 studios. Studio 3 was a massive project and 90% of the materials we used were recovered from skips. Only nails, plaster cement and sand was bought in. I learned to lay bricks & decorate at school. Ernie was a plasterer. I had no social life at all in 1996. I was laying bricks on Xmas day.
1997 - You have to take a chance to get anywhere. We decided to open the shop. As neither of us had any retail background, we didn't know where to start. Many mistakes were made. As we fitted out the shop ourself, we fitted it out and stocked it on a budget of £8,000. Half of the stock was my own guitars and amps, just put in to make it look like we had some stock. It worked.
1998 - Give people a chance. This was the year we launched our recording studio. Caroline Stratten had just finished at Leeds Uni and wanted to get into music. I offered her bad wages, lots of hassle and mad customers. I just asked for a commitment to stay a year and said I'd pay for her to do a course. She did a fine job, stayed 18 months and got us off the ground. She's now a VT editor and does live football for Sky.
1999 - Never say never. In 1990, I'd hung up the guitar for good. I'd said "That's it". In 1999, a couple of the guys who worked for me at the studios, Tony and Fil persuaded me to have a jam. I really enjoyed it. I decided that as we had a studi, I'd get Paul our old bassplayer and record some of our old songs. That was it, The False Dots were alive again.
2000 - Life can bite your arse really hard. At the start of 2000, life was great. My mum had found happiness with a new partner and was going away on 4 cruises a year, the studio's and the shop were flourishing. My son was born to add to daughters Madeleine and Lizzie. We'd taken to going on holidays with my mum, sometimes taking Clare's folks. Ernie was doing a fantastic job at the studios. He'd married his partner Michelle and had three great kids. In August 2000, Ernie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with a prognosis of 3 months. He lasted till February 2001. To make matters worse, my mum had a stroke in December. She went from being a lively, attractive, articulate woman, enjoying he life, to an unhappy invalid. She lost the ability to speak and all self confidence. We'd had a big party to celebrate the millenium. There was no party at all for new year 2001.
2001 - Life is precious. In September 2000, I'd decided to go to Lourdes in France as a helper with a group of handicapped adults, the following year. There was no real reason for this, other than my continual need to challenge myself. I go to church, but I'm really not a deeply religious or spiritual person. As I went, I was rather angry with God. he'd stolen my best friend, he'd robbed my mum of her faculties. I found myself with a group of strangers, in a situation I wasn't even sure I wanted to be in. I will share a terrible secret. When I wentto Lourdes, I went wishing my mum had died when she had her stroke. I thought that her life had been degraded to a point where it was worthless. Spending a week with some terribly disabled people, changed my opinion. I cam back realising that I had a personal responsibility to help her enjoy her twighlight. Many people see care as a physical thing. I disagree, I see it as a spiritual thing. I promised that I would never leave her house without making her smile. Many people who are carers think "I've wiped their arse, that's enough". It isn't. You have to make the people you care for be glad to be alive. I love life, I've made terrible mistakes, but it's so precious.
2003 - Second time around can be better. We did a few gigs in 2003. We asked my old mate Boz Boorer who plays with Morrissey to join us for a couple. I actually realised that I was enjoying the band. Even more strangely, I realised that there was no pressure. We didn't want a record deal, so we could just enjoy the music and express ourselves. Friends who saw us first time round all said we're better now. I started recording that long awaited album. It's still in process and it's getting better all the time.
2004 - Enjoy your children when they are young. I took a decision to take my foot off the gas with work and spend a bit more time with the kids. For a year, I walked them up to school and walked them home. We collected conkers, we goofed in the park. Most guys never do it. If it was a nice day, I'd drop them at school at the Ridgeway, then go for a walk around the fields between Mill Hill and Totteridge. Most working men miss all of this. Fools.
2005 - Miracles can happen. What is a miracle? The type that impress me are the ones, not where someone is suddenly cured of cancer (well that would, but you know what I mean). They are things which you though wouldn't happen. In 2001 I went to Lourdes and prayed for my mum. I went wishing she'd died when she had her stroke. I came home, determined to make her twighlight years as happy as I could. In 2005, my mum accompanied me back to Lourdes. At an evening service, she stood up and lit a candle and said a prayer for my dad. If you had seen her on December 17th 2000 when she had the stroke, you'd realise how much of a miracle that was. That was the best she was following her stroke. For a short while, I thought she might get back completely. I was wrong but that was a pretty good time.
2006 - Age changes nothing. My Missus turned 40. She's just as great as she was when she was 19, when we first met. It's not age that changes you, it's illness and bad things. I see somne people I know having a mid life crisis. They buy the Porshe, they get the young girlfriend. Now that's their business, but if Mrs T kicked me out (which heaven knows she should have years ago), I'd want someone who had lived, someone with experience, someone who got what I was talking about. On the plane home from Florida, I read John Lydon's book No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. His partner (for the last 30 years) is 19 years older than him. I get that.
2007 - If you fall down, you've got to pick yourself up and keep going. Just as I thought my mum was getting over her stroke, she had a fall and broke her hip. She nearly died. She had to have an emegency op. She then was transferred to Finchley Memorial hospital for rehab. There she caught C-Diff. She nearly died again. She was so out of it at one stage that she thought my daughter Madeleine was her brother Jimmy (which rather upset Maddie). She had wierd and vivid hallucinations, which she told me about months after. She was never the same after that, but boy did she fight. I wish I had half the fight in me that my mum had. She didn't moan about it, she just got on with it.
2008 - You have to fight. This was the year that I realised that the people running the NHS, the Council & the Government are a bunch of self serving leeches. Not the people on the ground doing the work, but the people at the top. I had first started to realise this at easter 2007, when Barnet Council outsourced the Meals on Wheels contract, but hadn't realised just how bad it was. The full horror became apparent when I started writing a blog on the Hendon Times. Just because I had the temerity to criticise the Council, they pulled out every trick in the book to shut me down. Eventually they succeeded, but not before they'd totally convinced me that all of the shenanigans they get up to need to be exposed.
2009 - There is never enough time. Last year, in May my wifes Dad died. He was quite old and had become very infirm. He died at home, but for the last couple of year he was attended every day by carers. One of these was a Nigerian guy called Olu. Whatever people tell you about Nigerians, I'd say Olu is an outstanding human being. I feel honoured to call him a friend. In August 2008 my Mum died. I was in LA at the time. She'd lost her eyesight and was deeply unhappy. I didn't want her to die. I was really sad, but her time had come. In January this year, Clare's mum, who was a young 75 year old was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She lasted till March. Wheras her dad and my mum had reached their time, she hadn't. It seemed rather cruel. We're now both orphans. Cherish those you love. There's never enough time.
I hope that something in this blog helps you. There's 47 lessons for life here. I really don't have the answers though, I wish I did. One thing I have learned and I never, ever swear in this blog but I FUCKING HATE CANCER.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Saturday, 29 August 2009
Of all the various people involved in Barnet Council over the years, I can say without question the most obnoxious was Ex Edgware Councillor Richard Weider. Luckily for the people of Barnet and Edgware in particular, Mr Weider decided to move to Israel earlier in the year. Now although I found Mr Weider to be a truly horrible individual in person, he writes a blog and at times it is quite interesting (usually for all the wrong reasons). Now I'm all for free speech and Mr Weider has at least used a blog on this site which is free. Mr Weider also took the trouble to give us his thoughts on the Future Shape project and the concept of the Ryanair Council. Tricky Dicky says
I hope when the plans are announced in late September/early October they really are radical. If they show that the costs to the Council are going to be cut and more importantly Council Tax can be reduced, I look forward to giving my support to these proposals.So there you go. A bloke who had so much faith in the Mike Freer regime that he emigrated speaks. I recall hearing Mr Weider at a Hendon Area forum giving us the benefit of his wisdom on the subject last year. Vicki Morris stood up and tried to make a point about Future Shape. Bully boy Weider jumped to his feet and announced that as she worked for the council, she should be banned from speaking. The rather more sensible chairman of the forum, Councillor Brian Gordon gave him short shrift and let Vicki continue. Weider was so miffed at being shut up that he flounced out. I happened to be leaving at exactly the same time and walked out of the meeting with him. I took the opportunity to ask him whether he thought the "£1,000 a day consultants" working on Future Shape were good value for the Barnet taxpayer. Weider replied "£1,000 a day? That shows how out of touch you are, they get paid far more than that".
I suppose that he agrees with Councillor John Hart that the Council shouldn't provide carers for the disabled who can't wipe their own backsides. I suppose he agrees with Council Leader Mike Freer's assertation that people who cannot look after themselves due to disability should have to choose between living in squalour without a cleaner or not having someone to help them wash/dress go to the toilet.
If truth be told I guess I'm a selfish sod. I'm glad Weider emigrated and that I don't have to suffer his antics anymore. When it comes down to it the less influence such awful people as Weider have on my life the better. In a reverse on the old Axiom, Israel's loss is our gain.
Following on from yesterdays discussion regarding Barnet Council Leader Mike Freer's plans to turn Barnet into a "Ryanair" council. Mike Freer really doesn't understand the Ryanair business model at all. Lets have a look at a few things a "real" Ryanair Council might do.
* Abolish the post of Mayor & sell the mayoral limo. A Ryanair council doesn't need this sort of extravigance.
* Cut the number of Councillors by 2/3rds. Ryanair only employs people it really needs.
* Slash the salaries of senior Council officers. Ryanair Pilots are paid far less than their equivalents at full price airlines.
* Abolish expensive and wasteful self publicity programs. Does the CEO of Ryanair have a blog paid for by the company.
* Ban expensive jollies such as trips to the USA and Cannes in France, which cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds over the last few years
Having looked at where a Ryanair council may save costs, lets now look at why Ryanair are probably one of the worlds most successful Airlines.
* They do what they are supposed to extremely well (ie they fly you from A to B). In none of Mike Freer's discussions does he talk about delivering the basic services he's supposed to properly.
* They recognise that the customer has a choice. Poor saps such as us who live in the London Borough of Barnet have no choice whatsoever.
* They provide the service which their customers desire for less money than their competetors. A quick review of the Council Tax rates of other London Council's shows that Barnet are an expensive option.
* They have a clear focus on what they are supposed to provide. Adult social provision is the most basic service which a council can provide.
There is a rather sad little article in yesterdays Evening Standard. There is a rather unpleasant and insensitive quote from one of our Tory Councillors
Conservative councillor John Hart said: "With council tenants, it has been a lot of 'my a**e needs wiping, and somebody from the council can come and do it for me'."May I point out to Councillor John Hart that there are many people in Barnet who require the Council to wipe their arse for them. They are the victims of strokes, senility, dementia and Alzheimers disease. My own father in law required the provision of these services for several years. Having seen council carers in action, I think it is disgusting that their efforts are dismissed in such a crass manner. Mike Freer explains further planned changes
"Just as Ryanair and easyJet passengers choose to spend their budget on either flying at peaktime or having an in-flight meal, recipients of adult social care in Barnet will choose to spend a limited budget on whether to have a cleaner or a respite carer, or even a holiday to Eastbourne. "It is quite clear from this statement that Freer hasn't got a clue about the lives of people with disability. If someone cannot function without a cleaner and a respite carer, he is legally not allowed to remove the service. It's called a duty of care. As to the holiday in Eastbourne, if someone is severly disabled with no access to a normal holiday and no relatives to take them, it is only right and proper that the council provides such a break. Mr Freer doesn't talk about cutting down on council executive jollies to the USA and Cannes in France, so why pick on the weakest and most vulnerable.
Freer has no objection to Brian Coleman trousering over £100,000 from the public purse, being shipped around in a mayoral limosine and getting more luxury hampers from GLA suppliers than the rest of his GLA colleagues put together. Sort that out first, leave the poor and disabled who need carers to wipe their arses in peace.
Friday, 28 August 2009
I've just heard on the news that approx 75% of Scottish voters disapprove of the release of the Lockerbie Bomber. It looks like the controversial release is not fading from the screens quite as quickly as our masters would hope. My reaction? So what. As I understand it the bomber - Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi - worked for the Libyan secret services. As I understand it, the Libyan regime is a cruel dictatorship. As I understand it in cruel dictatorships, you do what you are told or you get a bullet in the head. Which means that all the pictures you see in this blogs are of Western leaders shaking hands with the bloke responsible. I'm all for justice for the familys of victims, but whilst our leaders shake hands with the poisonous scumbug in charge, how can there be any justice. If Gaddafi had shot the bomber as he got off the plane, then maybe, just maybe I'd believe he wasn't guilty as sin. As Al Megrahi wouldn't have dreamed of letting the bomb off without the nod from the scumbag on top, I really can't see the point locking him up, whilst this whole shameful charade of courting this toad proceeds.
Sorry if I upset anyone, I just loathe and despise cowardly scumbag dictators of all shapes and forms. Especially the sort who order the killing of a planeload of innocent kids.
How do you feel looking at these pictures. They make me sick. We all know how successful the policy of appeasement of dictators is, don't we?
There are lots of Tory voters in Finchley who are thoroughly sick of Gordon Brown. The thing they hate most about him is the way he's mastered the art of Stealth taxes. In the good old days, Labour chancellors like Dennis Healey and James Callaghan would bump up income tax to pay for social programs. Tory's would shriek with anger as they received their paychecks with ever greater chunks of tax deducted.
Maggie Thatcher realised that your average Joe doesn't like paying tax, no matter how good it is for him, so she came in and slashed income tax. Sadly for us poor saps, this didn't really mean we were paying less tax as she just shifted the burden on to VAT which shot up to 17.5% from 8%, but hey our paycheck looked better. As well as the VAT rise, petrol, tobacco, alcohol would go up every year without fail.
Good old Gordon watched this with fascination and informed
Now all our friendly local Tories see this as an open goal. How can they possibly fail to get back all those lovely seats they lost in 1997 to Labour? Well rather strangely, they've selected "Son of Mr Bean" to fight the Finchley seat. Our very own Council Leader Mike Freer. He's studied Gordon Brown intently for many a year. He's realised that good old Gordon is onto something. Mike and his friends at the council need to raise lots of money to pay for ever increasing councillor allowances, mushrooming pay for senior council officers and holes in the budget left by incompetently managed crackpot schemes such as the Icelandic investments debacle. Now Mike and his Tax Taskforce scoured the borough for "soft targets". Having squeezed the obvious targets (parking, traffic fines), they looked for far more sneaky targets. The most crass of these was the "dead baby tax hike" where parents of deceased infants faced huge rises in costs, way above the cost of inflation. In today's Guardian, we learn of a whole swathe of new stealth taxes. The one which most alarms me in this article is the proposal for a "fast track planning service".
The idea is that if you pay more, your plans get passed more quickly. I ask you this. If you are a big local property developer, who is paying lots of money for lots of "fast track" schemes, will your proposal be treated in the same way as a normal resident, who is struggling to make ends meet. This seems so open to abuse of process. It is a well known ploy for developers to submit plans at holiday times when potential objectors are away. If they are guaranteed a quick hearing, how will this benefit the regular citizens of Barnet who prop up the Council with thier council tax. They will come home from their summer hols to find that God knows what is going to be erected next to them, and they've missed the deadline to object.
Another proposal is to give everyone smaller bins. If you need extra rubbish removed, then you pay more cash. Now I'm all for reducing wastefulness, but this is a recipe for disaster. Have you ever ordered a skip? What happens? Well every time I've ordered one, I wake up to find it filled up with waste from my neighbours. I've even caught the shameless sods red handed. I'm sorry to say that if my experience there is anything to go by, then we are in for a lot more neighbourly disputes.
I don't go for any of these stealth taxes. Every new type of tax needs an army of bereaucrats to administer. There's a department to collect Income tax, a department to collect NI, a department to collect VAT, a department to collect Petrol Tax, a department to collect Road Tax, a department to collect dead baby tax, a department to collect booze tax, a department to collect cigarette tax,etc, etc.
I'd abolish most of them. Just have a different VAT rate for Ciggies & booze. Abolish road tax and put that on petrol (that way you pay as you go) abolish NI & put it on income tax, abolish dead baby tax and take it off councillors allowances. I'm not a flat tax advocate, but I am all for cutting out needless red tape. With most of these taxes, they bring them in, then they bring in a whole system of rebates & allowances. It's bonkers and it costs us a fortune to run. Personally, I'd rather see the money spent on something useful.
That's why I'd not let Mike Freer within a million miles of Parliament, if it was my choice.
I just flew back from a 2 weeks in Florida this morning. A bit of business and a lot of pleasure. I always enjoy trips to the USA and I'm always pleased to get home. The highlight of the trip was snorkelling off the Florida keys. Apart from the Great Barrier reef in Australia, there are some of the worlds finest reefs in the Keys. Swimming out to see the statue of "Christ of the Deep" (Pictured left - modelled on Christ of the Abyss in Naples Harbour) was a truly awesome experience.
Unfortunately I also spent a fair bit of time watching the coverage of the healthcare debate on the various news channels. Watching FOX News in particular reminded me why I don't buy papers published by Rupert Murdoch. I have a theory as to why the American right is so vehemently opposed to a government run system of national healthcare. I believe that they've realised that once the American public gets it, they may just twig that all the right wing nonsense about the superiority of the free market will be exposed for the load of old tosh that it is. I'm not completely blinkered about the merits of some aspects of capitalism. I've run a successful business for 30 years. I do it better than any of the council run initiatives I've seen. It's just that there are some things the state unquestionably does better. A quick hop over the channel to France shows what a properly funded nationalised rail system can do. This has delivered huge benefits to the nation. Closer to home, it is patently obvious to just about everyone (apart from our supposedly Socialist government) that the Post Office is something that just has to stay in public hands. As to putting men on the moon, only a government backed program at NASA could have done that.
The most obvious system though, isn't rocket science. The NHS, for all it's faults serves the population of this country superbly. I've got a sister and a brother-in-law who work in health provision in Florida. My brother in law was a top guy at one of the biggest healthcare providers in the USA, with responsibility for the healthcare of the US congress in the mid 90's. He's a fantastic doctor, who has saved more lives than many people on the planet have had hot dinners. He worked in emergency medicine for many a year and when he expresses an opinion I listen. His view? That the system in the US fails to deliver for an alarming number of people. Many others are stuck in jobs they hate, just to ensure their family are covered by a health scheme. The American system is, to my mind, a system of quasi serfdom.
Due to the spells of showers during our stay, I watched many of the live Town Hall meetings on CNN and FOX news. What outraged me was the way the networks, especially FOX, would edit these. The most telling interjection I saw was watching the live coverage of failed Presidential candidate John McCain taking a town hall session. Possibly 90% of the audience were supportive of his "anti (Obama's reform)" stand. If you watched FOX's edited highlights, you would most certainly have missed the most telling contribution. Early on McCain started running down the NHS. He said that with the NHS and NICE (the committee that decides whether we can get drugs), some Multiple Sclerosis sufferers have to wait up to 2 years in the UK for treatment. There was howls of outrage from the audience. This clip got widely shown in the edited highlights. What wasn't shown was a woman who stood up and told how a relative of hers in the USA had to wait 20 years for treatment until she qualified for medicaid, by which time she was totally bedridden. Other commentators told all manner of lies about the NHS. One lie which came out time and time again was that people over 70 are denied treatments and operations under the NHS.
I know this to be untrue. My mother, who sadly passed away last year, had an operation on the NHS to fix a degenerating vertebrae in february last year. The operation was a complete success. My mother suffered from cancer in 1970 and was cured by the NHS. She would have been uninsurable in the USA after that. My folks ran a small business. They would have been financially destroyed under the US system.
Time and time again, right wing US pundits slagged off NICE as a "Death Panel". Sure, there is a degree of rationing of life saving drugs. There is rationing of healthcare in the USA as well. The way it works there is that if you are poor and uninsured, you don't get the care you get if you are rich and in a scheme.
Before my mother had a massive stroke which robbed her of her eloquence in 2000, she was a fierce and passionate defender of the NHS to all and sundry. She remembered the days before it was introduced, when families were broken by the cost of paying for treatment for sick children. She was nearly killed by diptheria in the 1930's and so she was a passionate believer in immunisation and the good of public health schemes.
What disturbs me most about the US healthcare debate is the fact that they pay twice the amount of their (much greater) GDP than we do for health, but a whole section of their population has been failed by this system. The defenders of the private system shriek "freedom and choice" as their clarion call. People like my mother who got cancer have no choice. They just get dropped in America. Children of the poor have no choice in America. The rich and the powerful have a fine choice, but I judge a society by how it treats its weakest, most unfortunate members, not how it looks after it's richest and most powerful.
That's why I'm glad to be home.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
One of the biggest myths amongst nutcase Nazi's is that Adolf Hitler was a military genius. They point to the success of the campaigns against Poland and France to justify this. Although these campaigns were spectaculary successful, you can't ignore everything that happened after mid 1940. Firstly the Battle of Britain. Hitler's air chief Goering told him that he'd smash the RAF. How did this go? Not too well and Hitlers airforce lost many of it's best pilots. It's bomber force was also depleted prior to the Russian campaign. Did he sack his clearly incompetent Air force chief. Nope. Goering was still in place as the battle went wrong at Stalingrad and a massive German became trapped. What was Goerings advice to Hitler? "We can supply the army by air" - Net result - Hitler's army was destroyed.
What about North Africa. After Rommel's initial successes, his army was routed at El Alemain. Hitlers advice? Fight to the last man. Don't retreat an inch. Rommel, who (whatever his faults) clearly was a military genius, realised that Hitler was bonkers and ignored the order. He fought a classic retreat back to Tripoli, dishing out a very bloody nose to the US army on the way (their first experience of fighting the Germans). Rommel realised that the war was lost, so threw his lot in with the Valkyrie plotters.
What about the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler rallied all of his resources for a push against the Western Allies. How did this work out? The German army was destroyed, shorteningthe war by six months. In his bunker, almost till the end, Hitler thought he had armies and even boasted that the Soviets had fallen into his trap.
As a result of his actions, Germany was divided for 45 years and the Soviet Union became a superpower, controlling half of Europe. I'm an opponent of the death penalty, during a discussion about it, I was once asked what I'd have done with the remaining Nazi's who were executed after Nuremburg. Personally, I'd have jailed them for life, so they could have seen how much better off the world became without their brand of poisonous politics. If anyone ever tells you that Hitler was a military genius, ask them who won. I'd say that actually being successful is probably the first requisite of someone who claims that particular title.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
I love dogs, I love all animals (apart from Snakes which I have a mega phobia of). The picture here is our lovely Boxer dog Tilly.
We specifically got a Boxer as they are great dogs to have around children. They are boistrous, friendly and fun. Despite their look they are extremely friendly.
Dogs have personalities which reflect their owners. They are pack animals and respond well to a pecking order. They quite like being at the top of it as well. That is often where the trouble starts. In our household, we love programs such as "The Dog Whisperer". If you read the synopsis, it says that he's a dog trainer. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's actually a people trainer.
The sad thing is that many of his customers only get taught how to be a proper human being, because they have an unruly dog, which requires training. It's rather like programs such as "The House of Tiny tearaways". I always laugh when I see Tanya Byron on TV. She was in our NCT group when we had our eldest daughter Maddie. Her and partner Bruce (who is an actor on the Bill) were in the same boat as us then, starting the journey of Parenthood. I was reminded of this when we found a card from Tanya, congratulating us on the birth of Maddie. Strangely enough, I wasn't really keen on the idea of having children. Being a Rock and Roller, I enjoyed a fairly hedonistic lifestyle and didn't want to tone it down. I wasn't that chuffed initially to learn I was going to be a Dad. I've always been one to take my responsibilities seriously though, I've never once missed a band rehearsal !
Over the years, I've grown up. Once I got used to the idea, I realised that I needed to change my ways. I'm as proud as hell of my kids. When my eldest became a national swimming champion at the ASA age group championships last month, I was chuffed. All of that hard work really has paid off. It's the little things as well though, the shared Ice Cream, pointing out the North Star and how to locate it. These are the things which make life worthwhile. If anything I regret that commitments of work mean I've not seen enough of them growing up. Maybe they've seen too much of me growing up though.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Last 10 pence
At the sound of the commotion, she looks up, puts her coffee cup down, neatly folds the newspaper, places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way, unhurried, across the restaurant.
After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and
I'm with the Inland Revenue..'
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Friday, 21 August 2009
A few of you asked for a couple more pics of my front Garden. Here you go - Enjoy
Oh and yes, you are probably right to think we like the wild look.
I'd like to do a whole blog on beautiful front gardens in Barnet one day, probably have to be next summer. My mate Paul is rather keen for me to do a blog on his large Marrows from his allotment, but they don't quite hit my G-spot in the same way.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Think you're pretty mean
Acting James Dean
look real tough
But it ain't good enough
With your heart on
You try and act
with your pose
But if I look in your eyes
You just run and hide
You can't fool me
You can't fool me
Now the actions begun
You ain't scarin' no one
Just back him up quick
You only make me feel sick
Just going home
Leave us alone
Go and beat up your cat
I bet you're I bet
you're good at that
You can't fool me
You can't fool me
Now the actions begun
You ain't scarin' no one
Just back him up quick
You only make me feel sick
Just going home
Leave us alone
Go and beat up your cat
I bet you're I bet
you're good at that
You can't fool me
You can't fool me
You can't fool me
You can't fool me
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
The challenge is a simple one. Since the Tories got in, my Council Tax has gone up by nearly £1,000 a year. If anyone can tell me what what extra things I'm getting for my £1,000 a year, then you win. How much have Council workers wages gone up since then (front line workers, not directors or Councillors allowances?). In the words of the song -Where has all the money gone?
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Where have all the the front gardens gone? Am I totally alone in being cheered by the sight of beautiful flowers as I arrive home from a hard day? Have we as a nation become so blind that we'd rather see an ugly concrete slab. People come from miles around to look at my garden and often nick the flowers (especially the Daliah's). I guess that when I die and some philistine buys the place, they'll tarmac over it and put their mid life crisis Porshe on it.
Me, I'd rather have something of Beauty. Special thanks to my good friend Pat Hemmings who maintains my garden as an act of love for the odd bottle of wine. It's all his work you know. God bless him.
Unlike many people on the left, I'm happy to concede that there are areas of policy where the Conservatives have much to offer. I'd even go as far as to say that changes of government are healthy for the political process and are a great way to prevent complacency and corruption. Given that it's pretty clear that Gordon Brown's government has run out of steam, you may wonder how I view the prospect of a Cameron government?
I'm rather worried by the prospect. I've detailed my fear before. It seems I was closer to the mark than I realised. This report in Todays Observer details how some of Camerons top generals want to get rid of the NHS. They see it as "no longer relevant to the 21st Century".
I take David Cameron's statements regarding the NHS at face value. He's seen it 1st hand at it's best with his disabled son. I don't believe that anyone can't be moved by such an experience. I have heard talk that some on the right have realised this and see Cameron as an obsticle to their plans to "transform" Great Britain. They see Cameron as a useful front man to win an election, as the acceptable face of Conservatism. They know that the public will never go for abolition of the NHS, so they have to get in, then do a "Mike Freer" and axe the leader and replace him with someone more "ideologically sound".
You may think this is scaremongering, but consider this. Ted Heath was the last leader of a party (until Brown) not to face either a Leadership contest or be knobbled. Wilson resigned - Callaghan took over, then lost an election to Thatcher. Thatcher was booted out by the Tories and replaced by Major. Major called a leadership contest after winning an election to try and stem the backstabbing. Strangely enough for a man derided as weak and indecisive, he won the contest. He lost the next election to Blair. Blair was knobbled by Brown.
In Great Britain, electing a leader is no guarantee whatsoever that he'll actually see out a term of Government. I think that a law should be passed whereby if a party replaces it's leader, a general election Must be held within 6 months.
If Brown had worked under these constraints, strangely enough, he'd have won and would lead the country with authority. I'd tolerate a Cameron government, if he wins an election. It's called democracy and it's the only form of Government I trust. I also fully understand why Tories despise unelected Gordon Brown. When some right wing nutcase slips the stiletto into David Camerons back, so he can abolish the NHS, the saddest thing is that he'll claim his legitimacy based on the actions of Gordon Brown.
I have one last question. How many of these leaders, who've come to power via palace coup's have done a good job? How many of them have left their party in a fit state to manage a whelk stall, let alone a country. Whatever you thought of Thatcher and Blair, at least they got there by fair means. My question - This isn't a banana republic, so why do tolerate coup d'etat's?
Saturday, 15 August 2009
I was rather upset when I read Vicki Morris blog today about the scandalous butchering of trees on the Grahame Park Estate. It struck me that Vicki's report was probably the first nice thing I've ever read about Grahame Park anywhere. I suspect that most of the ruling Tories would rather like to outsource Grahame Park Estate to Brent Council. As Vicki notes, when they talk about keeping Barnet green, they don't mean the little bits of green in Grahame Park or the other estates. Places like Grahame Park where trees are few and far between are the type of place that need tree preservation orders, wheras leafy Totteridge has trees coming out of it's ears.
What about the people who live in Grahame Park? Unlike the impression you get from the local press, I've a few friends who live there and strangely enough they are as normal as the rest of my friends. Unlike the gated lanes of leafy Totterdige, people generally know their neighbours. Sure there are plenty of problems, but there are a lot of people on the estate. It may surprise you to know that one of my fondest memories is of Grahame Park. In 1985 my band, The False Dots played the Grahame Park festival. What made this special was that it was one of only two times my Dad ever came to watch the band play. He probably wouldn't have come to that gig, but my cousin, who is a Roman Catholic missionary Priest, then working in Kenya, was over on holiday and he wanted to go. It was an open air gig on a balmy day. The band on before us had been given a hard time by some naughty scallywags who'd realised that the band were, shall we say, not very comfortable in the environment.
As my Dad, Mum & cousin settled down and got a beer and a burger, I started a bit of banter with the kids. I invited them up to tell a few jokes as a warm up and soon they were in to the spirit of the festival. We played a pretty good set (got a write up and a picture in the Edgware Times) and everyone went home happy.
Later that day, I went around to my parents for a beer and a chat with them and my cousin. He said that he thought the festival was fantastic. He said that he'd only ever heard bad things about Grahame Park, but he thought that the sense of community was brilliant. He said that where he was in Africa, things like that happened all the time, but he'd never really seen it before in London. My Dad said to me that he hadn't realised that I actually took music seriously before (strange given that we'd toured the UK, Sweden, Finland & Belgium) and he said he was really impressed with the way we handled the kids. I asked if he liked the music, he said "some of it was OK, I prefer stuff with more of a tune". Years later my cousin told me that he'd used some of the ideas he'd seen at the festival in community festivals he'd helped organise in Africa. He said that the biggest lesson he'd learned was that if you engage with the scalliwags and make them part of the show, then you can transform the situation. Too often they are just treated as a problem to be dealt with.
And there my friend is the tragedy of Grahame Park. The great and the good of Barnet think they know all the answers. Sure they come down and hold "consultations", but they don't listen. They make their decisions, safe in the knoweldge that they will never have to live with the consequences. If it was me, I'd let the residents of Grahame Park set up a committee and give them the cash to spend as they saw fit. I doubt that chopping down trees would be very high on their list of priorities. Idoubt that they'd waste it in the way that Freer & his buddies seem to.
Friday, 14 August 2009
On Tuesday I posed the question AM I GLAD MY MUM DIED? As they say, the Lord moves in mysterious ways and we should listen to what he says. I had my question answered in no uncertain terms yesterday by Ms Sarah Palin, wannabe US vice presidential candidate and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan.
Both in their own way spouted completely dishonest, ill informed and ignorant rubbish about the NHS. Ms Palin's agenda is pretty obvious, but Mr Hannan? We can but speculate. Given his own party leader had not too long ago waxed lyrical about the fantastic treatment the NHS gave his disabled son, we can add heartlessness to the list as well. It seems Mr Hannan writes a blog for the Telegraph. It must enhance their reputation no end having someone as in touch with the feelings of modern Britain writing for them. If I were Cameron, I'd sack Hannan. He's an embarrassment. Statements like his and actions like Mike Freer's in Barnet with Sheltered housing wardens are the reasons I could never vote Conservative.
So what's it got to do with the death of my mum. Well, I wish she was here to discuss this with. She was born in 1925 and remembered Great Britain before the NHS. She benefitted from it in many ways, not least with treatment for Cancer, Pneumonia, Strokes, Ulcers, Childbirth, Osteoperosis, to name but a few of the serious ailments. She also remembered being treated for Diptheria in the pre NHS 1930's. She was a passionate advocate and she'd have had plenty to say about this. When people complained about the NHS she'd defend it to the death. Bad food - great it keeps out the malingers, waiting lists - if it ain't urgent you could afford to wait. Despite being very wealthy, she stated that if she'd been a Yank, she'd be uninsurable and probably be skint, if not dead. As for Palin's comments about not treating people over 70. She had an operation on the NHS aged 82, six months before she died, to fix a degenerated vertebrae.
She would probably have just passed Sarah Palin's comments of as "a stupid American". As for Hannan, she'd have been on to me to write a blog like this. She'd have demanded I print it off in large print and then tell me I'd been far too nice.
I wish my mum had survived with her health intact until the blogging age. She'd have loved it and she'd have put Palin & Hannan right in no uncertain terms, from her lifetime of experience of the real world. I miss her.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
What has the Cabinet member responsible done? She's given the unemployed some advice. From the Hendon Times
Councillor Lynne Hillan, cabinet member for resources, said: “Unemployment is up again this month and we can expect it to keep rising for some time.
Well my advice to Lynn Hillan is get off your lazy fat backside and DO SOMETHING TO HELP.
"My advice to anyone who finds themselves made redundant is to act quickly and seek out the help that is available to them so they can keep themselves afloat."
Let me make a suggestion or two?
Don't abolish sheltered housing wardens. Your own plan will put approx three quarters of these on the dole.
Don't outsource local jobs to companies which operate outside of the Borough, as you are so keen to do under the Future Shape plan.
Cut councillor allowances, saving £400,000 which will allow you to take on extra "roving wardens" so that the vulnerable in the community will experience the same benefits as residents in sheltered housing.
Bar people who have been directors of companies which went bust from positions involving financial acumen at Barnet Council.
Employ people in house to write reports for the council, rather than consultants on £1,500 a day. Work with the unions and your own staff (people who actually understand the council's business) to work out the best way to restructure or reorganise the council. The cost of one consultant for a week will pay for 6 front line workers. Which will have the more beneficial effect on Barnet's unemployment figures.
Like many of Barnet's Tories, Ms Hillan has a track record of failure. Is she really the person to be lecturing anyone. I don't think so. That Mike Freer thinks she's the second most capable Tory in Barnet, says much.
I was rather amused to see the latest idea in Podcasting from one of my protoge's Paul, bassplayer of the Sway, a band I managed in the mid 90's. Maybe Freer should try this to spice up his blog.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
"Barnet Conservatives regained control of the Council. We had been elected with 5
1. Supporting the Vulnerable
2. Improving Roads and Pavements
3. A Cleaner and Greener Barnet
4. Tackling Crime
5. A First Class Education Service.
Well at least the roads are OK this week. Are Council Leader Mike Freer and Mayor Brian Coleman bovvered?
Still look on the bright side, the Tories have managed to give themselves a nice new town hall to have civic receptions in
So the new definition of a Conservative is a Us*l*ss Tw*t is it? In the words of the Jolly Green Giant "Ho Ho Ho". I'm sure Tories everywhere will be chuffed by this revelation.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
I was in LA when I got the call to say she'd had a massive stroke and died. It was unexpected. How did I feel? I was devastated. I miss her like hell. Sure she was cranky as hell. She lead my sisters a merry dance, but why shouldn't she? She never lost her marbles & was as sharp as a button when it mattered. She hated how she'd become and regularly asked my big brother if she could borrow his shotgun to end it all. We knew she didn't mean it. She'd fought all manner of diseases and won, Diptheria, Cancer, Strokes, Ulcers, Pneumonia, and a few other I've forgotten. She had six children & a full life. My sister told me that she thought that when my mother realised the time had finally come to depart, she seemed more surprised than anything else.
So with all her problems and suffering was I pleased that her suffering ended? Well I thought I wasn't, the I read this article in the Edgware Times. Mikal Raven (aka Brian James Sweeney) aged 38, robbed, sexually assaulted and murdered 60 year old Sylvia Wilson. The judge said that he was more motivated by sadistic pleasure than greed and sentanced him to a minimum of 18 years. That means that he'll only be 56 when he's released. How would I felt if a 56 year old monster such as him had moved in next to my mum. I can sleep soundly at night knowing she's in a better place. How many people such as me will wake up to find that a monster such as Sweeney has defiled there elderly mothers. I read the story and was, for the first time, rather pleased she's not here.
People such as Sweeney have given up the right to mercy and clemency. When should they be released? When they pose no conceivable threat to vulnerable old dear such as Mrs Wilson or my mum. Generally that means they'd leave in a box. I'm sorry to say that I wouldn't want to take the chance with my mum when she was alive. I wouldn't want to take the chance with yours either. Scumbags such as Sweeney deserve no second chance, end of story. If they ever are truly repentant, they'd willingly serve their time out. If they are not, then they don't deserve to be released.
Monday, 10 August 2009
1. John Barnes goal for England Vs Brazil
2. The Mill Hill Tandoori and the Day of the Raj Restaurant
3. William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery
4. The Sex Pistols
5. St Pancras Station
6. Brighton Pier
7. The St Albans real ale festival
8. The Notting Hill Carnival
9. The Clash
10. Wembley Stadium illuminated arch at night
11. The 1948 Olympics
12. Rebecca Adlington
13. Red Rum (The Horse)
14. The Grand National
15. The Pogues
16. London Zoo
17. The North Cornish Coast
18. York Minster
19. Frank Whittle
20. The Vacuum Magnatron
21. The Morris Minor Traveller
22. The smell of fish and chip shops
23. Whelks from a stall at the Seaside
24. The Tate Modern
25. The Roundhouse (especially when X-Ray Specs are on stage)
26. Harry Patch & all those vets who died before him
27. Walter Tull (footballer & winner of the Military Cross)
28. Watling Boys Club (now Watling FC)
29. The Wellington Bomber in the RAF museum Hendon (my Dad flew one)
30. The Battle of Cable St
31. All of London's Greasy spoon Cafe's
32. 2000AD (featuring Judge Dredd)
33. Bob Crowe's intransigence
34. Manchester City fan's silent observance of the minutes silence at the 50th anniversary of Munich
35. Manchester City's 2-0 victory over United immediately after
36. The big oak trees in Mill Hill Park
37. The discovery of Jimi Hendrix
38. George Orwell
40. The 4th Plinth
41. The Specials
42. Passport to Pimlico
43. The Sweeney
44. Life on Mars
45. The Life of Brian
46. Life on Earth
47. The Triumph Bonneville
48. Linton Kwesi Johnson
49. Cox's Orange Pippins
50. The smell of kebabs at pub chucking out time
In the course of researching various blogs, I often take a peek at various BNP & other right wing blogs and websites. There are many sad things about their stilted views of the great country, but the saddest thing of the lot is just how many great things they are blind to. Maybe you don't agree with some/most/all of my list, but it all genuinely makes me happy and proud to be in such a diverse country with such a great tradition of tolerance.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
The first thing I noticed is that it's got a nice picture of Brian Salinger, then leader on the cover. We didn't get him, because Mike Freer lead a palace coup against him immediately after the Tories were reelected with a bigger majority.
The Tories start off there manifesto with a little dig at the Previous administration.
"4 years ago, in May 2002, we inherited a Council which after 8 years of control by a
Labour/Liberal administration had become a shambles.
The finances could not have been in worse shape. The previous administration
had used up all the Councils reserves to reduce the Council Tax rise ahead of the 2002
elections. Confidential warnings had been given, that their actions would add a
minimum burden to the following years council Tax Bill of an extra 10%. "
So how have the Tories done under Freer? Well they've certainly put the Lib/Lab's to shame in the finances department. They've lost £26.4 million in Iceland (which they'd borrowed at a rate well in excess of the current bank lending rate). They've also overspent £11 million on a £12 million budget replacing a bridge in Colindale. How have they done in the Tax rise department. As interest rates have tumbled, they've hiked taxes every year. This year they raided the reserves to keep Council Tax down, precisely what they criticsed the Lib/Lab council for. Not only that, but Council borrowing has rocketed by from just under £40 Million to under £200 Million. Who will pay it back - You and me.
What else did they have to say about the Lib/Labs? "The Education service was in chaos."
We've just seen an emergency program enacted at great cost to install portacabins at several schools as they hadn't anticipated the number of children reaching school age. Other schools have had facilities such as newly installed IT suites turned back into classrooms. The excuse - they were surprised at the number of children reaching school age?????
Another major criticism "Plans for the regeneration of Cricklewood had barely progressed in the 8 years of the Labour/Liberal administration." "Progress on the Cricklewood/Brent X development has continued and there is now the feel of an 'end play' to our discussions with the developers. They are keen to progress and a timetable leading to a planning decision in 2006/7 has been agreed. "
How much further have they progressed under Freer? Not at all. Oh, but he has sacked the Council officer responsible for regeneration projects.
The manifesto then goes on to detail the Tories main priorities :-
"Barnet Conservatives regained control of the Council. We had been elected with 5
1. Supporting the Vulnerable
2. Improving Roads and Pavements
3. A Cleaner and Greener Barnet
4. Tackling Crime
5. A First Class Education Service. "
Ok So lets have a look at these.
1. Supporting the Vulnerable - Well Mike Freer has made the BBC stand up and take note of his policies to get rid of Sheltered Housing Wardens. This measure, which has been exposed as a callous cut in services to pay for expensive consultants to implement bonkers ideological plans, is likely to end up in deaths of Barnets most vulnerable people. The manifesto said
"We will give vulnerable adults in Barnet’s care more choice and control over the
services offered to them. "
What did Barnet do when nearly 90% of those consulted about the Sheltered Warden Plans opposed Barnets scheme - they ignored them completely. So much for choice. I've seen dozens of pensioners reduced to tears at the Council meeting where Freer announced his plan to implement the cut. Support the Vulnerable? I don't think so.
2. Improving Roads and Pavements. Well if you think that ripping up measures designed to improve road safety is an improvement, you'll be happy. Many residents such as those in Uphill Road aren't. I must say that Mill Hill currently seems to have more roadworks and temporary traffic lights than ever at the moment. It took me 20 minutes to drive from Edgware to Bunns Lane in Mill Hill yesterday at Lunchtime because of this.
3. A Cleaner and Greener Barnet. Well if your idea of a "greener Barnet" is thousands of rabbit hutch sized flats in huge developments across the Borough, maybe you'll be happy. One Tory Councillor actually tabled a motion to scrap the Council's green belt policy recently.
4. Tackling Crime. This very afternoon, I was visiting a friend who lives two doors away from Councillor Maureen Braun, who had been burgled on Friday. He was told that there had been 12 burglaries in his area in the last two weeks. I've also found that Mill Hill is a "high burglary area". Anecdotal evidence maybe, but it scares the hell out of me.
5. A First Class Education Service. As I mentioned above, if you think kids being taught in portacabins is first class, then you'll probably be happy. SAT results also got worse this year.
Here's a few more choice sections from the Tories 2006 manifesto :-
"Barnet Conservatives will support Barnet FC to help them to succeed and to
play a full part in our community."
Barnet FC have recently set up a fantastic training scheme, with great a great community project. In Harrow. They are currently looking for a new home in a Borough with an administration which appreciates them.
Barnet Conservatives will continue to strive for excellence in the provision of all
services. We will continue to improve the efficiency of the Council to reduce
costs for our chargepayers
Last year Barnet made a big fuss about being a "four star authority". This year they lost a star. Have you council tax bills gone down? Have Council rents gone down? Has anything gone down which the Council charges you for? Even the cost of burying dead babies has gone up.
We will keep increases in Council Tax to the lowest levels possible without
jeopardising the provision of front line services.
Council Taxes have gone up. Ask the people facing cuts to their Sheltered wardens whether Front Line Services have improved.
Barnet Conservatives will continue to strive to impress on our residents the
need for ‘civic pride’ and will respect and uphold the traditions of the Council
and the Mayoralty.
With the appointment of Brian Coleman as Mayor, all of the respect for the office has gone. The man needed a £10,000 legal indemnity to fight a standards complaint. He was the only GLA AM to resist publishing his expenses. He besmirched the reputaion of Barnet with his comments about the British Olympic team. He thinks that leaving a taxi waiting for 5 hours while he guzzles dinner is a good way to spend £395 of taxpayers money.
We will campaign to get the benefits from the Olympics for the people of Barnet
and will encourage young people with Olympic aspirations to fulfil their
I'm still waiting for all of these Olympic benefits for the citizens of Barnet? Have you seen any?
We will promote active participation in sport.
What has happened with the Pavillion Road playing fields, where several community groups have actively campaigned to reopen the facilities? What has happened to Mill Hill Village Sports club where the Council has imposed a rent hike.
Here's a final two which anyone familiar with the planned developments around the Borough will fall off their chair when they read them. I'm not going to comment on these because I have a policy on bad language in the blog.
We will do everything in our power to prevent the further destruction of family
housing to make way for flatted accommodation. We will insist on the highest
standards of design and build in new developments.
We agree with Barnet residents that Barnet needs more houses than flats.
Do you think that the Tories have delivered on their manifesto commitments? I think they are a disgrace. I have a message for the Liberal and Labour opposition Councillors, especially Alison Moore, the Leader of the Labour Group and Jack Cohen, Leader of the Lib Dems. Do you think that the Tories have delivered on any of this? Do you think that the people of Barnet would vote for them again if they realised just how badly they've been conned? Stop feeling sorry for yourselves and get off you backsides. Your best campaigning tool is the Tories own manifesto from the last election. It's your job to remind the people of Barnet just how badly they've been let down. People may not care about everything the Tories do, but I'm sure most of the voters of Barnet hate being lied to. Get out there and do your job.
This is a question that vexes me more and more these days. I get told more and more things, shown more and more documents, asked more and more questions. Mostly it's fairly obvious as to why people are dealing with me, but about 10% of the time, I genuinely don't understand their motivations. Maybe they just feel the need to confess their sins, maybe there is some other agenda, maybe they want me to do their dirty work or maybe they want me to get myself into trouble.
A rather senior Council official has been in touch, rather covertly. I've seen a couple of rather interesting documents. The subject - Future Shape. "What do you think of this?" they ask. Now bear in mind that I'm a dyslexic Punk rock musician, not a £1,000+ per day consultant. I said "Maybe it's just me but actually this is a pile of crap, have I missed something?". No answer just a knowing smile.
"It's like this. Walkley has come in and he knows that this has got a bit out of control. Maybe 10 or 20% of this has actually resulted in something useful. Much of that could quite easily have been done in house." We are discussing the huge bills for external consultants. Again, I'm sure that some people at the council will read this and roll their eyes, but I thought that these highly paid consultants were experts, people at the top of their jobs with years of experience. People who'd been there done it and had skills far above and beyond those available to the council in house. It seems that this isn't the profile of many of the consultants. It seems that many are learning all about local Government as they go.
I ask "Have they overseen Future Shape style projects elsewhere?". No they haven't. Here's the rub. Either the council already have the staff in place to oversee this, in which case they didn't need many of the consultants, or they are not in a position to successfully roll out the program. It is all very well planning huge changes, but if the organisation doesn't have the skills to implement it, then it is not likely to succeed. We have to ask, does the public sector have a good track record of overseeing change and realising cost savings? I saw a quote that a shadow minister said that the only major Government IT project in the last 10 years to come in on time and under budget, was the introduction of the Post Office Cardholder Account.
So what happens if it all goes wrong? Well, it's likely that by then Mike Freer will have long departed as Council leader. The next leader will have to deal with consequences. Nick Walkley as CEO didn't initiate the project. He has the choice, scale it down into something sensible now or reap the consequences. No one in the senior echelons of the Council is going to admit just how much of our cash has been wasted on these consultants and their reports. That was made quite clear to me.
So why did my mystery informant have this conversation? "Nick Walkley needs some encouragement" He wouldn't elaborate any further. "Don't expect any public pronouncements though".
And what about Mike Freer "Well you have to ask, is he part of the problem or part of the solution? He knows what's been delivered wasn't what he was hoping for. He's spinning it so that it's a great success, but a simple management review of the council a couple of years ago, with the appointment of more dynamic leadership would have been far more cost effective."
The biggest problem is that the existing management of Barnet Council are fine with change, until it affects their own little empires. Many people within Barnet Tories thought Mike Freer was the messiah, leading them to the promised land of lower taxes, better services, a safer green belt. I'd conclude that his policies are more reminiscent of the Omen.
The most worrying thing is that some of the top bods in the council agree with me. To quote Monty Python - "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy"