Friday 31 August 2012

Massive CPZ zone for Mill Hill announced for Saracens match day traffic - Update

Earlier this week, the Barnet Eye announced plans for a massive controlled parking zone, which will cover almost all of Mill Hill on match days and run for five  hours (1pm to 6pm) whilst rugby matches last under two hours - - a fairly big issue you may think. Sadly, the local press don't seem interested. Not a peep about the scheme from either paper. The Barnet Eye is a tadsurprised about the total lack of interest from our local papers. I believe the scheme will cause massive disruption for both businesses and resident.

I also emailed several local politicians including my MP, Matthew Offord, My GLA rep Andrew Dismore, my local councillors John Hart, Brian Schama and Sury Khatri, the leader of the council Richard Cornelius and the cabinet member for parking, Dean Cohen. I stated my objections to the scheme, made some positive suggestions, and asked to be consulted on the scheme. The only response I had was from Andrew Dismore, who agreed with my sentiments. From the rest of them? Not a peep. Not even a "thanks for the email".

What is even more interesting is when we actually look at where our councillors live. I f you look at the map of the area, lots of roads are marked in green as "past this point"  parking. I assume that these will have special restrictions for the match days. What is interesting is that two of the councillors live in the exclusion zone. It seems that neither of their roads have been shaded in in green. This is especially odd as the councillors road (Sherwood Drive) is less than 5 minutes walk from the entrance to Copthall from the Great North way.

When you consider that the councillors house is three times closer to the stadium than Parkside and perhaps four times closeer than Holders Hill Close, which is in the green area, one can only wonder ?

The whole bais for this scheme seems flawed to me. I fully accept that measures have to be taken to control parking, and I fully accept that the area will have to be a fairly large space, given that the stadium only has parking for 700 vehicles. Assuming that Saracens fill the 10,000 seat stadium, that will mean a lot of cars trying to park somewhere. I have no idea if this is true, but I've been told that 10,000 seats is more than all of the council car parking spaces in the London Borough of Barnet.

One avid reader made an excellent point. There is a derelict tube line running from Mill Hill East, directly to the Stadium. This line has long been highlighted as one that could easily and cheapely be reopened. Sponsors of the Brent Cross Light Rail scheme included the link in their plans. It would certainly ease travel problems if the spur was reopened for match days. As the track is already there, I can't believe that the costs would be too prohibitive. It would also be highly useful for people visiting Copthall Swimming pool and for pupils and staff of the local schools. It would also make it much easier for Mill Hill residents to access Finchley Memorial and Barnet General hospitals if the shuttle service was made a regular pattern. Sadly Saracens have expressed no interest in this scheme.

I am dismayed that there seems to be no interest in the matter at all from our MP. Mr Offord replied to me saying that he only looked at correspondence with my address on it. A lame excuse indeed, given that he knows me quite well.

I wish Saracens well for their plans at Copthall. The stadium did need developing and their plans will hopefully add much needed sports facilities for the Borough. The downside is that no thought at all has been givento traffic management. Given that Saracens have no association with Mill Hill, having been based in Watford, it is clear that most fans will drive to the stadium. One suspects that this will cause havoc and that Mill Hill residents will not forgive their Tory councillo9rs in 2014, when the fulle xtent of the mayhem has dawned on the residents. maybe that is why our councillors can't be bothered. they know they are doomed, so why bother?

The Friday Joke 31/8/2012

Many thanks to my friend Caroline Gold, for bringing this to my attention.
Yes, I know that in actual fact it isn't a joke. Makes you think though, doesn't it?

Thursday 30 August 2012

Young Barnet carer lights Olympic torch for Matthew Pinsent

A bit late in the day, but I've just been sent  a link that has made me rather proud. A young carer from barnet, Lauran Ferebee lit Matthew Pinsents Olympic torch on the Olympic torch relay.

Matthew then took the torch down the river on the Gloriana.

Lauran received this honour in recognition for her work as a carer for her younger sister. Lauran has been a rock for her mum. You may wonder why I am so proud? Well her dad was my best friend and business partner. He helped me set up my studios and tragically died in 2001 of Pancreatic Cancer after a horrific battle.

Wherever he is now, I bet he's beaming at what a great kid Lauran has grown up to become.

In life people don't always get the recognition they deserve. I am made up for Lauran, her mum Michelle and the rest of the family.

You can watch the handover of the flame. Move this clip to 7:38.

I wasn't blogging when Ernie passed away. One day I will write an obit for him. He was a great guy. 

The Thursday recipe #1 - HRT Cake

The Barnet Eye is keen to promote healthy lifestyles. Having been diagnosed with cancer last November (very early stage, no effects at mo, no treatments, so don't worry), I have been increasingly taking an interest in alternative medicines and therapies. One of the more interesting things I came across was on the blog of Scarlett The Heavenly Healer. Scarlett has developed a recipe for an HRT Cake, which naturally combats the symptoms of the menopause. I've nicked the recipe from her blog, which you really should check out

If anyone has any similar recipes they want to share (I'd like a good one for Jewish Penecilin AKA Chicken Soup) please email me. I believe that the more we help each other, the better the place will be. I will try and publish a recipe a week on a Thursday from now. They won't all be healthy, but I hope they will all be yummy. Thanks to Scarlett for sharing her knowledge with us all.

100g soya flour
50g wholemeal flour
150g rolled oats (porridge oats)
100g linseeds
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sesame seeds
50g flaked almonds
100g dried cranberries
200g dried fruit.  I used golden and black raisins and figs because that's what was in my cupboard.
About 2 inches fresh ginger, finely chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ tablespoons malt extract
400-500ml soya milk
It's easy!  I mixed all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Then I added the wet ingredients and stirred the whole lot together, mixing it up very well.  It needs to soak for a least half an hour so that the dry ingredients take up the liquid.  In the meantime I lined a loaf tin with baking parchment and preheated the oven to Gas 5, about 180 I believe.  When I returned the mixture was rather stiff and dry so I added a little more soya milk.  It needs to have a soft dropping consistency before being spooned into the loaf tin and popped into the hot oven for about 1¼ to 1½ hours.  You can test the cake with a skewer to check that it is cooked through.
Leave it to cool and slice it thickly.  I am told (by lovely lady) that it will keep in the fridge for up to a week if wrapped and stored airtight.  It also freezes well, apparently.
All websites advise eating one thick slice of this cake per day.  It is yummy and I could easily eat more, but I'm following instructions strictly.  Whether it is the combination of the ingredients together or whether it is all in my head, my flushing frequency has already lessened...... and I'm only on Day 2 of cake-eating!

Barnet Eye Mythbusters #2 - Who pays for tax cuts for the rich?

A phrase which hasn't been heard much lately - "I agree with Nick". Yesterday Nick Clegg had the audacity to suggest that the richest people in the country should stump up a bit more money, in these times of economic woe. Sadly, George Osborne, who is the chancellor takes a different view. He believes that the rich should pay less tax. Rather unsurprisingly, the press, which are owned by RICH people have come out firmly against Cleggs idea. From some of the coverage, you would think Clegg had suggested that babies should be barbeque'd.

The thing which is not mentioned at all in the rabid, screaming editorials is who has to pay, if the rich won't pay their fair share. One can speculate why this fact isn't raised, but to me the answer is fairly straightforward. The reason that rich newspaper barons won't tell their readers is because if they did, the readers may take a rather different view of whether the rich should pay up. The reason is because someone has to pay. If it isn't the rich, then it is ultimately everyone else. If likes of Fred the Shred Goodwin of RBS fame, on multi million pound salaries and share deals had to pay a couple of pence in the pounds worth of extra tax, would it radically change their lifestyle? Would they have to eat beans on toast for dinner rather Fois Gras? Of course not. A tax rise for the richest people, would merely mean that the amount of cash in their bank account would be slightly less.

What about the rest of us? How many people have had an increase in their pay this year? How many have found their bills easier to pay? When George Osborne calculates who he taxes, what does he think? What is the logic behind his decisions. I cannot for one second possibly believe that he actually considers the economic wellbeing of the country. If he did, he would be doing everything in his power to stimulate economic activity. If the economy had grown rather than shrunk over Osborne's tenure, he'd have more cash in the bank to actually afford tax cuts. As it is, his policies are a disaster. Someone has to pay for his ineptitude, but George is determined that it won't be the rich backers of the Conservative Party.

There is a myth that we are all in this together. We are not. The people in the middle are the people who pay. The people at the bottom don't have any money and couldn't pay, even if they want to. The people at the top are powerful and so can avoid paying. So when the tab comes in, it is you and I, the ordinary people of Great Britain, who have to stump up the dosh.

There is an argument that taxing rich people less actually brings in more tax. With regards to the cutting of the top rate of tax from 50% to 45% this is nonsense. If someone has a taxable income of a million pounds a year, then they will still have to pay £450,000 a year in tax. They will not sack all of their accountants and abandon their tax dodging strategies because George Osborne has given them a £50,000 a year bung.

What will Fred the Shred and his mates do with their extra £50,000. Luxury Holidays abroad, a new BMW or Mercedes? A few bottles of the finest French Champagne? I was trying to think of a single British product, I'd buy if I won £50,000 and couldn't. In effect what George Osborne has done is give all of the richest people in the country a great big bung, which they will export.

A tax break for ordinary families would have a completely different effect.Money will by and large be spent in local shops and help the local economy. Many familes would find £50 a month would make a massive difference to their household budget.

If I was George Osborne, I would cut taxes, but I wouldn't cut income tax at all. I would cut VAT and petrol duty. The economy is in recession and these two measures would make a huge difference to the high street and family budgets. Every product you buy, is affected by the cost of fuel. In principle, I support environmentally friendly taxes, but we have a huge crisis. Stimulating the economy is vital.

I believe that the richest people should pay more. I think the idea of a mansion tax is a very sound one. It is a tax that is unavoidable. I would impose it on any property valued at over £2.5 million. I would also increase VAT on cars with Engine capacities of over 2 litres to 25%. This would encourage people to buy smaller, more environmentally friendly cars. If people are rich enough to afford a gas guzzler, then it really won't make much difference to them.

No one likes paying tax. I don't and I'm sure you don't. The problem is if we don't contribute, the country will fail. I would like to see more tax on luxury items, no tax at all for people on low incomes and VAT as low as possible. I think taxes should be used to encourage us to be more environmentally responsible. For instance, I would impose charges on supermarket packaging. This would massively reduce the amount of rubbish we throw out. That would save us all a fortune, if we went back to re-using bags etc.

It is a free country and if someone is wealthy, I have no objection to them having a fleet of Rolls Royce's and living in a stately home. I do however think that those of us who are lucky enough to have the trappings of wealth, should do a little bit more to help our less well off brothers and sisters. Take someone like Richard Branson. I don't begrudge him his dosh, his island in the sun and his airline. He has worked hard to develop his business. What is less often considered is that he is only wealthy because he is a member of our society and he has a workforce who also work hard. His wealth has been generated by supplying his customers with what they want. Without those customers though, he'd have nothing. I don't think it's unreasonable to say "Richard, times are hard, you've done well out of the UK, now please out a little bit back".

The truth of the matter is that if Richard Branson and all of the other wealthy people in the UK use their influence and privelige to say "No" then you and I have to pay their share for them. I actually find that quite objectionable.

Who runs Barnet Council? A question for Barnet leader Richard Cornelius from the Barnet bloggers.

Will Barnet Council cut councillor allowances? 
Dear Councillor Cornelius
We wrote to you last week in regard to the announcement by Pam Wharfe, Barnet Council’s ‘interim’ Director of Environment, Planning and Regeneration, that a decision has been made to abandon the One Barnet Strategic Partnership proposals for the outsourcing of  £275 million worth of our local services in favour of a ‘Joint Venture’.

You have since contradicted her statement, saying:
No decision has been made. No case for a jv has been made beyond the suggestion that there might be such as case. The decisions will be made by elected members in due course.”
In a subsequent message to staff Ms Wharfe has informed staff that:
“...the project Board recommended to Corporate Directors Group that this be formally advanced in discussion with bidders and indeed is currently our preferred option.”
Neither the DRS project board nor the Corporate Directors Group includes any elected members of the council. Membership of the DRS project board, we understand, is restricted to a small number of senior council officers and two consultants from Agilisys/iMPOWER, the company working as ‘implementation partner’ to One Barnet, at an average cost to local tax payers of £250,000 per month.
It would appear that Barnet Council is preparing to commit the financial security of this borough to a new model of outsourcing – one that its own consultants’ advice identified as more risky and costly than the one originally chosen, and that this decision has been made by senior officers before any consideration or approval by the elected members of the council.
Ms Wharfe’s own comments about the new Joint Venture seem to suggest that senior management are not at all concerned by the increased risk of failure that this new commitment will entail, or the increased responsibilities for the authority that this option would involve, as a result of guaranteeing more favourable terms for the successful bidder at the conclusion of the dialogue process.
As residents, however, we are concerned: and we believe that you should be too.
We would ask you and your colleagues to consider the real possibility that in the event of the new Joint Venture failing, the council will still be left with the duty to provide the affected services, whilst the successful bidder may simply walk away with no obligation.
We believe that councillors have clearly not been fully informed as to the details of the Joint Venture, and that the scale of risk that the One Barnet programme presents is simply not fully understood by members. It seems that the need for members to be fully informed of developments and involved in the formation of policy at all stages of the dialogue process has been deliberately overlooked.
Perhaps as well as a decision to pursue a new model of outsourcing, the council is committing itself to a new form of local government, in which the democratic process is set aside for a bureaucratic dictatorship, entirely controlled by the senior management team.
If Barnet is indeed determined to bypass the democratic process, and to give the role of policy and decision making to senior officers, rather than to the political leadership of the Conservative group and the Cabinet, we would suggest this makes the role of the elected members completely redundant, although of course it may well offer a new opportunity for cost cutting exercises in the withdrawal of members’ allowances.
Failing that, may we ask you to assert your authority as leader of the council, recognise that the outsourcing programme has been totally discredited, and instruct your own officers to follow a course of action which is the result of proper consultation and policy formation rather than one shaped by the motivations of their own agenda.

Yours sincerely
Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

Happy Birthday to Mrs Angry

Apparently it is Mrs Angry's birthday today. As a tribute, we thought we'd have an astrology feature.

And before you ask, I'm a Leo and the missus reckons that this description is spot on (although she says the description for Cancer is way off the mark!). Apologies for any bad language featured ( I wonder when Robert Rams birthday is? Any guesses).

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Saracens CPZ zone set to turn Mill Hill into a wasteland !

Barnet Council have just released a map showing the extents of parking chaos and disruption which will be caused to Mill Hill by the arrival of Saracens at Barnet Copthall Stadium. The extent of the "match day CPZ" is humungous, extending on the western side from Mill Hill Broadway Station in Station Road, to the large viaduct on Dollis Road in the East. The most northerly point is Hartley Avenue (just off Mill Hill Broadway) and the the most southerly point is Church Road Finchley.

The zone operates from the 1pm to 6pm on match days and other times if match times vary. What this means is that most of Mill Hill's residents will not be able to have visitors on the days that Saracens are playing. For many working people, Saturdays are the prime time for visiting relatives. What about the effect on the shops in Mill Hill Broadway? The new CPZ will remove much of the parking for the Broadway on the Woodlands Way/Sylvan Avenue roads. After the abolition of Pay as You Go, this is yet another blow for traders.

I have to state a vested interest here. My business is in Bunns Lane Works, which is also included. Whilst on the face of it, this shouldn't affect us, as we have off street parking, given the size and extent of the zone, we may well suffer as inconsiderate car owners try and park on our properties.

The plan exposes the lies that were peddled that there is ample parking provision at the stadium. If this were true, then we wouldn't need this massive exclusion area. All along, Mill Hill residents have had suspicions that they have been taken for a ride. This is now proven by this map.

It is quite clear what will happen. As ever Barnet Council have not thought this through at all. Roads on the edge of the zone, with access to the 221 bus, which serves the stadium will be stuffed full of cars. The roads slightly nearer will be dead, with residents unable to have visitors. Businesses in Mill Hill Broadway, Mill Hill East, Salcolme Gardens etc will see a massive downturn in business.

The timings for the CPZ are truly idiotic and show just how out of touch Barnet Council are. The solution is so simple and obvious. If the time of the match is 3pm-5pm, make the exclusion zone from 3.30pm to 4.30pm. That way, Rugby traffic will not be able to park, as they will miss the match, but the rest of us will not be largely inconvenienced. How hard is that to figure out?

If you are a Mill Hill resident or a Mill Hill based business, please contact your local councillors ASAP and let them know what you think.

As I am sure you guessed, I will be.

Their email accounts are :

The DPR giving details is here

Here is the map

Saracens CPZ Map

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Guest Blog - Unite to stop attacks on council housing by Defend Council Housing

Councils will be a focus for united opposition to fixed term tenancies, un'Affordable' (up to 80% market) rents and evictions due to Housing Benefit cuts. Each council landlord has to agree a Tenancy Strategy by next January. A Shelter report sets out useful arguments and questions - see here .Council housing is a much-needed alternative to the failing private housing market. With 4.5 million people on housing waiting lists and homelessness soaring, with millions more trapped in insecure and inadequate housing, what we need is investment in a new generation of first class public, affordable, secure and accountable council housing.What you can do :

Organise local campaign meetings with tenants, trade unions, politicians and housing campaigners - contact DCH for help and speakers, leaflets.

Join us at the TUC and party conferences, and other events (see dates below) and at the massive TUC march on 20 October in London, A Future that Works
Email to order copies of the new DCH newspaper out in September (£20 for 100/£120 for 1,000) or new Right to Buy - Warning and other posters (10 for £1/100 for £7). 

Dates and events

DCH@TUC Brighton 9-10 September - email if you can be there
London activists meeting - Housing for the 99% 7pm Camden Town Hall WC1H 9JE
ARCH (Assoc of Retained Council Housing) Tenants' conference Kettering Conference Centre 19 September see details here

Labour conference Manchester from 30 Sept, with DCH fringe meeting Friend Meeting House 6pm Tue 2nd October Note

Council and other landlords must consult on use of new tenancies and rents before Jan 2012, following the Localism Act 2011.

May-July 2012 saw another 42% fall in new council and Private Registered Provider (PRP or housing association) homes, compared to the same period last year - see figures here and here
See the latest Housing Emergency Briefing here
The Barnet Eye supports the Defend Council Housing campaign. Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

Joint blog - One Barnet : The Tail is wagging the corpse of the dead dog by Tilly and Poppy

By Tilly and Poppy,

Last night, I commented to Mrs T (The wife, not the erstwhile Mike Freer fan club blogger) that the One Barnet project is like a dead dog. After reading Mrs Angry's latest blog, detailing how the officers have taken control of the project - - I then commented that the tail was now wagging the dog.

It seems that all of these comments have rather upset the canine members of the household. This morning they staged their very own protest in the front room at all the doggist comments. The United Canine Front for Barnet issued the following proclaimation this morning

"Ruff, ruff, grrr, ruff ruff ruff ruff ruff!"

Ruffly translated this means "Look mate, we may be dogs, but we ain't stupid and if you keep using doggist language, associating us with this crock, we will pee in your shoe. Dogs have feelings too you know".

And who can blame them for being upset. The One Barnet project has had many names, Future Shape, Easy Council, to name but a few. The latest jolly wheeze dreamed up by the council is to try and find anything they've done right in the last couple of years and claim it's a One Barnet project. Sadly they are so useless that even on this level successes are few and far between.

I was reminded of the scene in "The Life of Brian" where the question is asked "What have the Romans ever done for us?". Well what have the Barnet Tories and One Barnet ever done for us?

Grit running out
The Metpro Scandal
Aerodrome Road Bridge project fiasco
The SAP project fiasco
The Underhill Enquiry fiasco
The CPZ fiasco
The Abolition of Pay as You Go
The Abolition of Sheltered housing fiasco
The RM Countrtysides fiasco
The Iceland bank fiasco
Rats infesting the datacentres (datagate)
Executives avoiding tax (more in Barnet than the whole country according to a parliamentary enquiry)
Expensive laptops ordered then put straight into storage
Officers spending £15,000 to have telly in their offices
Barnet Council putting videos of local Nazis slagging of Jews on Youtube
Councillors abusing local people by email
Councillors voting themselves huge pay rises
Closure of childrens centres
Closure of Friern Barnet library
Anti Irish racism from councillors

To name but a few. No wonder Barnet Council is going to the dogs cats !

If your pet is protesting against One Barnet, feel free to send us their picture and guest blog

Paralympic Torch in Barnet - details

I am rather disappointed to read of the arrangements for the Paralympic Torch passing through the Borough of Barnet. For the Olympic Torch, their was a fantastic event, which I attended in North Finchley on a sunny afternoon. The Torch transition energised everyone and for many people was the only Olympic event they attended.

Sadly the Paralympic Torch will have a brief showing at 5.40am tomorrow. Here are the details

The Hyde into Sainsbury’s

A team of five torchbearers will carry the Paralympic Flame as it travels along Kingsbury Road , passing the junction with Derwent Rise at 5.40am, before turning right into The Hyde and then entering Sainsbury’s in The Hyde at 5.54am where the torch will transfer to a vehicle to make its way to the next stage of the route.

116 teams of five Torchbearers will carry the Olympic Flame along the 92 mile route from Stoke Mandeville to the Stratford Park where the relay will conclude at approximately 10pm.
Residents are also being invited make and light a lantern to line the torch relay route. You can find a handy guide to lantern making at:
A civic reception is being arranged by the changeover at Sainsbury’s and will update you with further details when I get them.

For the exact relay route in Barnet visit:

So it seems that there really is one rule for the disabled and another for everyone else. I think this is a real missed opportunity and it is rather sad.

Monday 27 August 2012

Is this Barnet's next big scandal?

I have just fired off an email to the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius and the CEO Nick Walkley.

Why you may ask? Well it looks to me as if they are trying to be rather sneeky. I will say no more until I get the clarification, but for those of you who like a puzzle, read this DPR

And consider this tweet from the Metropolitan Police on 18th June
 other crime figures. Domestic violence up 3% Youth violence down 18% Racist/Religious crime down 15% & Knife crime down 1%

Barnet Eye Mythbusters #1 - The NHS is not a free service

This is the first in a series of blogs destroying some of the myths and misconceptions we all seem to have about public services. The subject? The NHS and the commonly held belief that it is a free service. It is not. It never has been and it never will be. Every single man woman and child who has ever had money has in some way shape or form paid a contribution towards the running of the service. Ah, you say. Not true, what about the single teenage mum on benefits, who has never done a days work, spending all of her benefits on fags and booze? How much tax has she paid? Well surprisingly, probably quite a lot. Alcohol and cigarattes are taxed to the hilt. When little Johnny and Gemima go to the sweetshop, 20p of every £1.20 they spend on sweeties, goes to the taxman in the form of VAT. If you give little Johnny a pound a week pocket money and he spends it on sweets and toys, £8.67 of what he has spent goes to the treasury every year.

Then there is the argument "I never use the health service, so why should I pay?". I doubt there is a single reader of this blog who hasn't benefitted from the health service. Most of us had innoculations as children, which have gone on protecting us. Diseases such as TB, Diptheria and Smallpox have disappeared (sadly TB is making a comeback). Some selfish parents do refuse to innoculate, but they are given a degree of protection by the fact that society in general has been, removing plagues of these diseases. The people who say they would rather take responsibility for their own health care and sod everyone else, neglect to acknowledge the fact that in the USA, people become uninsurable. What happens then?

In the UK we spend about 8% of our GDP on healthcare. The Americans spend 15%, yet we have universal coverage. It is true that there are some specialism, especially in the cancer field that we don't have, but for the average person in the street, you are far safer here. Why do the Americans pay nearly twice as much for a system which delivers far less to the man on the street? Because it is run by insurance companies and private hospitals. It always amuses me when right wing pundits say "I'd rather pay for my own healthcare" and cite insurance schemes. This is because in the American system, like our you don't. The healthy people in the scheme pay for the sick people in the scheme. It is like car insurance. I must have it by law. I have never (touch wood) had an accident, so I've paid thousands for nothing. If I did have a major accident, then the dynamics would change. I would become subsidised by everyone else. This is how healthcare in America works. The insurance companies make huge profits, which are paid as dividends to shareholders. That is where much of the money goes. Americans claim that their hospitals are more efficient, but a significant portion of the money is siphoned off to the shareholders of the insurance companies before it even gets to the hospitals.

The hospitals themselves are corporations. They make money by supplying services. Many tests are run, which would never get run here, purely to avoid the minute possibility of malpractice lawsuits. This ramps up costs (and profits for the hospitals). The difference between a taxpayer funded health service and a private health service is not that you only get what you pay for. It is that in the NHS, you will get treated. In a private health service, there are a million reasons why you may not. If you have ever had an break in and had to claim on your insurance, a loss adjuster comes around and tries to minimise your claim. The same thing happens in private healthcare. The companies are far keener to take the cash than pay it out.

Getting back to the point I made at the start of this blog. The NHS isn't free. We all pay for it. If a single man, who is a layabout and has never worked for a single day, has also never been ill, he will have paid a fortune into the NHS by the day he dies. He still pays VAT on most of his purchases, as well as duty on alcohol and cigarettes.

Another point about the NHS, which right wing comentators never mention is that it is good for business. Many multinational companies will locate in the UK, because there are no costs associated with healthcare for staff. In the USA, many people are tied into jobs they hate, because they need the medical cover supplied by the firm. This restricts peoples life options. Losing a job can mean losing healthcare benefits. In some major cities, such as Detroit, the death of the US motor industry, lead to the partial death of the city. People could not stay in a city without healthcare. That meant that by the time new industries were attracted to the city, the workforce had left.

We are blessed that the government after the second world war set up the NHS. For all it's problems, it is by far the best way to manage the nations health. Anyone who says otherwise, probably has a vested interest. During the last US election campaign, I was in America. Various republican figures would appear on the TV every single day, denouncing Obama and claiming he wanted to "introduce a socialist healthcare system like the British NHS". They would then claim the NHS was evil, didn't work and was hated. They would quote obscure right wing pundits (most of whom no one has ever heard of). In short, they would talk complete bollocks. I was chatting to one rather rabid, right wing American about the subject. I asked him what he thought of Margaret Thatcher. He was fullsome in his praise. I then asked if he realised that NHS budgets had massively increased in the period of her rule. He was quite taken aback. I then also pointed out that Winston Churchill had been a supporter, during his time as Prime Minister. I suggested that it was quite unlikely that the NHS was a "communist plot" as these two had not abolished it.

What Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and every other Prime Minister since 1945 has known is that the NHS is the one institution that is sacred to the British people. Even the slightest hint that it may be dismantled is enough to end a political career. In some ways, I actually believe the Tories get away with many things, because in a Faustian pact with the British people, they leave the NHS alone. Whatever the truth of it, just remember, it is not free. We pay for it and we should be bloody proud of it to boot.

Guest Blog - The definition of Evil by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

Roger, as you have defined "STUPID " can we now define evil. People need to know what ATOS have been up to and not be taken in by their promotion of the Paralympics, stopping them gaining brownie points over the Paralympics is vital to disabled and sick people.
  " Definition of   Evil "
" ATOS "

Records show Atos have sent an average of 32 sick and disabled people per week for the last few months to an early grave. 

They have forced people back to work against medical advice that has resulted in their early death, and forced others to suicide.
More than ONE THOUSAND sick and disabled people have been sent to an early grave by ATOS.
Don't be fooled by their support for Paralympics, the policies of ATOS are the personification of "EVIL "
 John Sullivan is a Barnet resident and carer. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

Sunday 26 August 2012

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Understand your enemy

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 50 years old and I last year had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

This blog is in effect Part II of the blog posted yesterday. That dealt with my feelings towards cancer from a mental and spiritual level. This blog deals with my attitude to the disease from a practical point of view and addresses my current strategy for dealing with it.

My father was an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force during the second world war. He flew Wellington bombers, which at the time were virtually obsolete in the North African and European campaigns. He flew 40 missions and was shot down on the last mission of his tour. He served time as a prisoner of war, then lead a successful mass breakout from the camp in Bucharest.

When I was a small boy, he'd impart all manner of useful information to me. How to make molotov cocktails, how to make nitro glycerene, how to booby trap a door, how to write letters in secret code, how to plan an escape from prison and how to disable a vehicle. Fortunately, I've not had much need to call on these skills. My father impressed the need to always understand your opponent, their strengths, their weaknesses. He was rather keen on the story of Achillies, the mythical greek figure, who was made invulnerable by being dipped in a magic river. Unfortunately, where his mother held him, he had a weak point and this was his undoing.

What has all of this got to do with cancer? Well as I see it as my adversary, I followed my fathers advice. To fight something, one must understand what you are fighting. As I've mentioned, I've been reading everything I can on the subject. During my recent break, I picked up perhaps the definitive book on the history of the disease "The Emperor of all Maladies : A biography of cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Dr Mukherjee is  a doctor working in the field of cancer research and his book chronicles mans struggle against the disease over the years. It is not an easy read, but as our struggle is not easy, it is worth the effort. Of all the books I've read on the subject, there are only two I'd say should be mandatory reading. This is one, and the other is  "Anti cancer : A new way of life" by David Servan-Schrieber.

Both books are written by medically qualified doctors. Both will increase your understanding of cancer immeasurably. They are however very different. I read Anti Cancer first. I would suggest that you actually read "The Emperor" first as I see "Anti Cancer" as part two, filling in the holes Dr Mukherjee left out.

I don't think it would be possible to sum either book up adequately in a blog, especially if you are a dyslexic punk rock guitarist like me. But I will try. Perhaps the most interesting fact I learned from Dr Mukherjee's book is that a cell becomes cancerous following repeated mutations. Although cells can have thousands of mutations without becoming cancerous, it appears that there are 13 or so genes that if these mutate, the cell behaviour will change and cancerous behaviour will start to occur. This behaviour involves some genes being switched on and some being switched off. The genes which are switched off are ones telling the cell when to die. The ones switched on are the ones telling it to divide. These genetic changes are caused by all manner of things, radiation, viruses, stress, exposure to carcinogens and other processes which we don't fully understand at present.

There are also other factors to consider such as the bodies own immune system and defences. These are designed to protect us against rogue cells and threats. Cancerous cells subvert this process for their own ends, once established. The book also details the history of the treatment of cancer. I hadn't realised it, but the development of chemotherapy started with the treatment of leukemia, as this was the only cancer where you could actually measure the effects of treatments, as you can count the number of cancerous cells in the blood.

The book explains the difficulties of treating cancer and how it is an elusive foe, which has the ability to move around, hide and change form. The book also explains the genetics of why some people are more predisposed to cancers than others. Unfortunately some of us already have some of the cancer forming genes activated (or de activated in some cases). That means that far fewer other mutations need occur within cells to trigger the outbreak of the disease.

What the book doesn't really help with is what us as victims or potential victims can do to improve our chances of survival. This is where "Anti Cancer" comes in. "The Emperor" lets us understand what we are fighting. "Anti Cancer" gives us the tools and personal strategies to improve our chances. It does not claim to be a cure or even a prevention. What it does is it says "if you change your lifestyle accordingly, you will increase your chances of survival if you have cancer, and lessen your chances of contracting the disease".

The book looks at various studies into foods, exercise regimes and de stressing regimes and their effect on the progression of the development of cancers. The book looks at populations where cancer is less prevelant and seeks to understand the factors that contribute to this. It looks at studies into foods and drinks which seem to have a beneficial effect. The book looks at the bell curve of survival. It says "if the average survival rate for the cancer you have at the stage you have it, is one year, that does not mean you have one year to live. It means you may have a week, you may have two years". It says that for such a prognosis, living two years in stead of one year is a good result. Living three years is an even better result and so on. It looks at ways to make your body more resilient.

"The Emperor" describes how as we age, our cells go through successions of mutations. Most of these are harmless, but there are thirteen or so, which seem to be ever present in cancerous cells. As an example, smoking causes more frequent mutations in the lungs, therefore smokers develop cancer more regularly than non smokers. This relationship is well recognised and understood by the medical profession. It is not so well understood by the man in the street. How many of us realise that every time we smoke a cigarette, we stress out the cells in our lungs. Every so often, one of these cells will mutate and the more we smoke, the more likely they are to mutate. In effect, we are rolling the dice every time we smoke. If we get three sixes, we get a mutation. If that is one of the thirteen, it may be the one which switches us on to lung cancer.

What "Anti Cancer" says is that if you don't want to get cancer, you remove as many things as possible from your life which cause cancer. It also says that you avoid things which cause inflammation, as this feeds cancer. This means avoiding such things as Palm oil, which is high in omega 6 oils, which promote inflammation. At the same time, taking foods and drinks high in antoxidants which have been shown to slow down the mutation rate. It also recommends exercise and relaxation, which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on stress levels. Lowering stress levels has been shown to be good for the immune system (as does eating a well balanced diet).

The message is a sombre one in many ways. You can't completely remove your chances of developing cancer. If you have it, you may be able to increase your chances of surviveability by diet, exercise and relaxation. "Anti Cancer" also stresses that you should work with your doctors in your strategy, as the graveyards are full of people who have ignored them and simply "gone organic" or followed charletans.

In my experience, the doctors will nod in a patronising manner and say "well it won't do any harm and if it makes you happy it is not a bad thing". For me, that is the most infuriating thing. I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that they are not at all interested in lifestyle changes as part of the strategy of survival. One of the most disturbing things in "The Emperor" is the way  different medical disciplines do not work together in the fight. I think that every cancer victim in the UK should be given access  to nutritionalists familiar with the current thinking on anti cancer strategies. With the internet, we have a huge resource, where we could soon spot statistical trends for people following "anti cancer diets".

As an example, I drink at least five cups of green tea a day, a glass of pomegranite juice, I avoid dairy products and try and eat tumeric and cooked tomatoes every day  as these are recommended. If my PSA levels and those of people in my position were measured against those who do nothing, over 10-20 years, we could be in a position to see whether my efforts were worthwhile and should be recommended as a strategy. As no one has even bothered to ask me, no one will ever really know.

I have mentioned my friend Paul, who died of cancer in April, on many occasions. Paul submitted himself to every medical treatment on offer, but adopted none of the strategies advocated by the "Anti Cancer" book. I cannot help but wonder, what would have happened had he chosen to? I can never know, but as I mentioned, it is a cause of guilt for me that I didn't try and persuade him to go down this route.

For most of the last months of his life, Paul survived on milkshakes. These are high in calcium, which the books I've read seems to indicate plays a big role in the formation of tumours. Paul carried on smoking. The "anti cancer" book says "cut out the carcinogens". He didn't drink the green tea and eat the cooked tomatoes. I can't say whether he'd have lived a single second longer, if in April 2011, he'd been advised to do all of these things and stuck religiously to the advice. When Paul got his diagnosis, I was unaware of all of these things. I only started to learn in November 2011, when I had my own diagnosis.

I still do some things which are "pro cancer". I probably drink too much. I love barbeque'd food. I probably have slightly too much processed meat and red meat (although I'm not sure what I can get away with). There are other foods which I'm not even sure I should avoid. A cancer nurse suggested avoiding eggs, so I have.  My wife bought a "prostrate cancer healthy cookbook" which makes no mention of eggs being bad and includes recipes with them in. The nurse told me that eggs contained high levels of hormones which could promote tumour development. I've not seen much mention of this elsewhere in credible material".

I am near the start of my particular journey. I have much to learn. My guess is that the majority of people who specifically read these cancer blogs, either have the disease or know someone who has. The thing which upsets me most of all, is that I believe that this should be taught in schools as part of the sylabus.  Many people know of the government advice to eat five portions of veg a day. Most people don't really know why. The reason most people don't is because they are a little bit lazy. Processed, prepacked meals are less bother. I actually thought I was living a healthy(ish) lifestyle before I was given my diagnosis. I was shocked to find out how many things were bad for me.

Perhaps the oddest side effect of the new diet and the new regime is my relationship with alcohol. With my new diet, I no longer get hangovers. I suspect that cutting out much of the fat actually allows my body to process alcohol more efficiently and better. I had a fair skinful last night, but awoke feeling fine.

It is an odd thing to say, but I am pleased I was given my diagnosis. I am pleased I had the PSA test, the biopsy and was given the chance to address the issue. I hope the strategy I've adopted is the right one. Even if it isn't it makes me feel stronger, which can only be a good thing.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Richard Cornelius Interview - Sometimes outsourcing is better !

What the Barnet Eye is about to say may seem like heresy, but we agree with the Leader of Barnet Council. SOMETIMES OUTSOURCING IS BETTER !!!!!

Just to prove it, here are two interviews with Richard Cornelius. The first is produced by Barnet Council, to celebrate his first year as Leader of Barnet Council. As you will see it is rather heavily edited to remove what? We don't know. The second is the interview which Richard did with Charles Honderick, in it's entirity. This interview is on the Tale of Two Barnet website gallery and has been since shortly after the realease of the film. This is not edited at all. Which do you find more interesting. The Charles Honderick interview was filmed in February, when Richard had been in the job for six months - - I suppose it is worth making the point that unlike Richards inhouse interview and the One Barnet Outsourcing program, Charles Honderick's interview didn't cost the taxpayer a penny.

Official In House Barnet council interview

 Charles Honderick's outsourced interview

You may notice that you can actually hear Richard on Charles Hondericks interview

The Saturday List #12 - Ten shops win Mill Hill Broadway which I really miss

1.  Woolworths - Mill Hill is not the same without Woolies

2.  Maxfields Art Shop - Every High Street should have an art shop

3. Stephen Sigers Record Shop - Moved from Edgware to Mill Hill in the 1980's

4. Budgens - Now M&S - I preferred Budgens, more a shop for the ordinary man !

5. Nat Jacobs fishmongers - When the fishmonger goes, the High Street starts to die.

6. King & Co - Greengrocers - A fine establishment, produce always fresh

7. Kentfields toy shop - Tiny shop, which as a child was like Santa's grotto

8. H.A Blunt and Sons - AKA the Model Shop. Trainsets, Scalextrix, Airfix models, fantastic !

9. The David Anstee - The last proper baker in Mill Hill Broadway

10.  Acceleration - Car accessories.

Put all these back and you'd have a proper High Street. So what have they become?

1. Iceland. Yawn !
2. Jewellers
3. Hairdressers
4. Marks and Spencers
5. Half Full Cafe
6. Dry Cleaners
7. Phone Shop
8. Estate agents
9. Costa coffee - yet another coffee bar
10. Financial Services company 


Rog T's Cancer blog - Why I'm not celebrating my birthday

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 49 years old and I recently had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

On Weds I turned fifty. I usually have a big party to celebrate my birthday. It is one of the things in the year I really look forward to. This year I haven't bothered. In fact there are quite a few things I really enjoy that I can't be bothered to do at the moment. None of this is down to any physical problem. As I've come to understand, most men die with prostate cancer, not of it. In fact other than a slightly raised PSA at the moment, there are no symptoms at all. The problems are psychological. They are not even caused directly by my diagnosis. This blog is more about the guilt and sense of loss I'm feeling at the death of my friend Paul Hircombe. Paul was the bassplayer in my band, The False Dots for 27 years. He died earlier this year, from cancer of the osophagus.

In this blog, whenever a friend of mine dies, I write an obituary. At least I did until Paul Hircombe died. I have found myself unable to write an obituary for Paul. Why? Two reasons, denial and guilt. Both of these are irrational, but I cannot escape the feelings. First lets deal with the denial. Paul quit the band three times in his time. The first two times were in the 1980's when he "emigrated" twice to France, with his then beautiful french girlfriend Christine. He went to live in Chambery. Both times the emigration lasted a couple of months and then he came home. Both times, I didn't bother replacing him, just had a break from rehearsing, awaiting his return. The third time he quit the band was in 2008. He moved to Portsmouth to become a career criminal, robbing gaming machines to support his cocaine habit. Of course that wasn't what he said at the time. Up until that point, Paul had managed to hold things together, but he'd hooked up with a few guys in a gang and the lure of easy money and excitement was to alluring. Sadly, it all went wrong. The gang attracted the attentions of the Police, he went on the run, got caught, was sentenced to 2 years for conspiracy to rob. He served ten months. Prison did Paul a world of good. He got his head together and realised that he'd gone down the wrong track. He did courses in prison and got himself fit. He came completely off drugs and vowed to sort things out in his life. Whilst in Portsmouth, he'd split with Christine and met a new girl. The plan was job, marriage, children. Paul was discharged from prison on a tag in October 2010. He came off the tag in April 2011 and had secured a job with Wandsworth Council.

Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer in April 2011. The job was never taken up. Despite chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, he died in April 2012. As I said, the two previous times he quit the band, we just waited. In 2008, we didn't and recruited Ady Denton as his replacement. Until June last year we were fairly active. As soon as I heard Paul's diagnosis, I lost my desire to play the songs. No disrespect to Ady who is a great bassplayer. I just found the old material depressing. I am sure that soon, we will get going again. It's just there is a part of me that can't accept that Paul will never again play bass in the band, write songs with me or just be around at all. In truth I didn't even pick up a guitar until July, when I went to Lourdes with HCPT as a helper. That did me some good. I renewed my love affair with the instrument. I just have this irrational feeling that Paul is coming back. Of course he isn't.

Then there is the guilt. Why should I feel guilty that a friend died of cancer? This is the really hard bit. By the time I got my diagnosis in November, Paul had already been told his cancer was untreatable. He was on borrowed time. As soon as I was told, I started madly reading everything I could about ways to improve your chances. Paul didn't go down this route. He simply did what the doctors told him and followed the regimes and treatments they suggested. Now of course what Paul did is in many ways eminently sensible. It's just that all of the books I've read deal with ways to extend your life. The sensible "alternative" view of treatment is that you can enhance your prospects of survival by making lifestyle changes. I'm not talking about turning your back on conventional medicine, just doing everything in your power to improve your chances. This is done by diet, exercise and relaxation. There is a body of evidence that suggests you can slow down the progress of cancer by eating antoxidants and other beneficial foods and drinks. Also by cutting out other foods which promote cancer cell growth, you can slow down the tumour progress. Meditation and relaxation also stimulates the bodies own defences.

The trouble is, I didn't say to Paul, "read this, please give it a go". I don't know why I didn't. I just felt he was happy with his regime. The other thing I didn't do, and this is really irrational, but I do feel guilty about is even more bizarre to those of you who are non religious and non superstitious. For those of you not of the roman Catholic persuasion, there is a religious shrine in Lourdes, which has a spring water that is reputed to have miraculous powers. Whether or not you believe or not, there have been some incidences of miraculous cures ascribed to the waters. Like many Catholics, I have a supply of the water. I subscribe to the view that even if there is no scientific basis for something, if it's free and there is a chance it may work, there is no reason to not give it a go. The problem was that Paul was an athiest. Although I wanted to say "give this a go", I didn't. You don't have to be a Catholic or believe in God to drink a bottle of water do you? If he'd have done it to humour me, then I wouldn't feel like I do. The reason I didn't give him the bottle of Lourdes water is even more strange. I was actually scared it would work. Just suppose he was instantly and miraculously cured? What message would that send to all the parents of sick children who go to Lourdes and die? There is a part of us that wants to be selfish and see our friends get better, but it just seemed to me to be the wrong thing to do, to give him the water. Of course, if he'd asked for it, I'd have been straight around.

Now I know all of you readers are thinking "he's completely bonkers" reading the last paragraph, or perhaps "he's a religious nutcase". If I was I'd have been around saying the rosary over Paul. I wasn't. It is only after the event that all these doubts and guilt have emerged. I had hoped that medical science would work. I respected Pauls views and did say I had a few books that may be interesting. He responded that he was happy to follow what the doctors told him. They told him he may as well carry on smoking, because he was terminal. The books I read say "cut out all carcinogens". Paul made his decision. As I said, all of the feelings I have are irrational.

The thing is that I can't get away from these feelings. We can't change the past. Having had the situation with Paul, I now know that if another friend finds themselves in the same situation, I would approach the situation in a different manner. I would buy them the books, give them the Lourdes water and say "This stuff may help, it's up to you, please at least consider it and if you don't want to, then fine". How hard is that?

Which brings me to my feelings about my birthday. I am not celebrating for the simple reason that I don't really like myself very much at the moment.If I live until I'm a hundred, I'm half way through my life. I feel like I should feel happy and settled. I don't I feel angry, frustrated and restless. We live in a very imperfect world. The thing is that for reasons which I can't fathom, there seems to be a massive conspiracy being enacted to make it even worse. The NHS is under constant attack. We are denied education about healthy lifestyles and the effects of food. Food products which are scientifically proven to damage our health are sold without warnings. People are sleepwalking into cancer, heart disease and death. The environment is under constant attack by the forces of greed. In this country, there is constant pressure on the green belt. In the wider world, rainforests and coral reefs are being destroyed. I sometimes look at humanity and wonder if us, as a race are like a cancer, out of control, destroying the host planet. We could do great things, if we put our minds to it, we could solve all of the problems facing humanity. If we diverted one tenth of the money we spend on arms and one tenth of the worlds armed forces into sorting out the problems of poverty in the world, then the problems would disappear. I believe that if we eradicated injustice, organisations such as Al Quaida would simply disappear. If you look at how much money the Russians, Americans and British have spent in Afghanistan on war, arms and destruction, and say "what if we'd pulled the soldiers out, stopped supplying weapons and instead spent some of the money on developing a decent society".

It is odd, but reading about the physiology of cancer, has made me conclude that humanity could learn a lot from cancerous behaviour. The basic truth is that due to cellular mutations, cancer cells become "selfish". They gobble up the resources meant for other parts of the body. They create new blood vessels to support their selfish lifestyle, they invade other areas of the body which are living harmoniously, destroying them and laying them to waste. In the end, this selfish behaviour destroys the body. Unless humanity learns to moderate it's selfishness, that is the future for our race and our planet. That is why I don't really feel too much like celebrating right now. How can I condemn the cancer within my body, when we behave like that?