Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 - Blogs of the Year - Our pick from our archive

Firstly I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

And now for a little retrospective of the Year! Our fave blogs month by month!

January 2014 - We said farewell to Simon Hoggart, former Diary writer for the Guardian and a big influence on my style of writing.

February 2014 - My dyslexia blogs are the ones I'm proudest of. This blog is where I explain how it all came right for me. Mabe it's too personal for everyone else, but it meant a lot to me.

March 2014 - I rather like my Saturday List series. This list was, I think, the best. The ten strangest things I've seen in the London Borough of Barnet.

April 2014 - In April we saw a victory for the Parents of Mapledown Special needs school, who were facing a budget cut from a very unenlightened Barnet Council. We were proud of our small part in helping them. When the good guys win, it is always great!

May 2014 - In May 2014, there was much local news, not least the Local Council Elections. Sadly Council elections in Barnet are irrelevant as the Council is now run by Capita. We had no vote in the process and we have no influence over how services are provided. So at the Barnet Eye, we made a couple of short films to say what we think is wrong with all of this. Capita the Movie part 1 & 2

June 2014 - One of the most visited blogs of the year was this one, how to prepare for a job interview. I wrote this after some exasperating expereniences at work with some rather poor candidates. It struck me how little preparation some people do, so maybe I should let people know where they are going wrong.

How to prepare for a job interview

July 2014 - Every year I volunteer with HCPT and go with a group of Handicapped people to Lourdes in France. This was my account of the 2014 trip.

HCPT group 560 - A week of making a difference
August 2014 - Can your cat actually speak to you? This was the blpog I probably most enjoyed writing all year.  The funniest thing about this was the reaction in certain quarters. Seems like some people just don't get it, do they?

Can your cat actually speak to you?

 September 2014 - How my daughter nearly died this morning. How my daughter nearly burned the house down. This got a huge number of retweets and made a big impact. Lots of people said that they'd checked their smoke alarms as a result. Who knows, if it saves someone, this could be the most important blog of them all?

How my daughter nearly died this morning - or why ...

October 2014 - Barnet Tories planning the decimation of Barnets Libraries. The saddest blog of the year. I find this whole issue sickening, given that in May the Tories had trumpeted how they'd preserved the library service and used it as a campaign tool. It seems that there is no shame in Politics in our neck of the woods.

Barnet Tories planning decimation of Barnets libra...

 November 2014 - How good is your Barnet Councillor? This was our league table of the good councillors in Barnet Council. What surprised me was the huge response and the lack of disagreement from anyone. A couple of people said their councillor was good and shpould have been on the list, but I expected a torrent of disagreement and got none. Believe me, I usually do.

How good is your councillor? The Barnet Eye League...

 December 2014 - The most hated Pope in 1,000 years? My thoughts on Pope Francis. This blog got an extraordinary response from readers. Strangely the response to what I wrote was extremely positive. When my friends tell me in the pub that they thought a blog was really interesting and it starts a discussion, I always feel quite happy. I think I got this one right

The most hated Pope for a 1,000 years?

Those were my month by month highlights. Oddly though, none of these fine blogs were the most read blog in 2014. The most popular blog by a large country mile, was one with no words and no title! It was this blog, but you don't need to click it as the picture is at the top of this blog, that's all it contains. I just saw the picture on Twitter and thought "That says everyting I want to say today".  Maybe Isabella has a lesson for all of us. I for one am thrilled to bits that her message was the one which was most important to Barnet Eye readers this year. God bless you all (and for those of you who don't believe - what ever the suitable equvalent is). I hope you all have a really great 2015. I hope that you and all of your loved ones stay safe and well and that in 365 days time we are sitting here, writing a summary of what an extraordinarily good year 2015 was.

Isabellas picture :-

Tuesday 30 December 2014

The second last day of the year.

It's the second last day of the year. It is icy and cold. But we are past the winter solstace, so was we eke out the final days of 2014, just remember....

In truth, I hate this time of year. Many companies operate holiday calendars that mean you have to use up all your leave at the end of December. What this means is that many of us are forced to use up holiday at the worst possible time of the year. I'd like to see the government pass a law making company holiday calendars have to run from the start of the tax year. At least in April there is the chance of some good weather

Monday 29 December 2014

Rog T's Dyslexia Blog - Who says that your school years are the best years of your life - part 1

For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and toget people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

There is an old saying that your school years are the best years of your life. I often wonder if this was written by a dyslexic, because in my experience and that of many dyslexics the opposite is true. If I divide my life into three bits, before school years, during school years and after school years, I can safely say that during school years was truly horrible, whilst the other two bits have generally been pretty fine. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great memories from school years, but absolutly none of them are to do with the educational aspects. The good bits generally came at evenings, weekends and holidays.

Now before I start to explain, let me first let you in on three things that conspired to make the challenge even tougher than it may already have been. The first one, you've probably guessed. I'm dyslexic. The second one is that my birthday is at the end of August so I was always the youngest (and often the smallest) boy in the year. The third one, only my close family know about (until now). I was what is called a "Blue Baby". That is totally unrelated to my lifelong support of Manchester City FC. It is related to Rhesus Disease, where there is a clash between your blood type and your mothers. Now whilst this really shouldn't have affected my education, it did in a big way as it meant I was six weeks premature and a rather unhealthy specimen to boot. So whereas I should have been born a Libra, in early October, I ended up on the cups of Leo and an August boy. This meant that I was effectively bumped up a year, with educational special needs.

So there I was. The smallest and stupidest boy in the class. I still have vivid memories of my first day at school. I walked into a huge classroom with hundreds (so it seemed) of kids in it. I was buddied up with Dale Malone, who was my age and lived up my road. He briefly gave me a run down. "He's **** *****, he's good at fighting, he's ****** ********, he's thick, she's **** *******, she smells, he's ***** ******** he's naughty, she's ***** *******, her brother is in Miss O'Donovans class". Whilst most of the class started in September, my mum thoughtfully held my start back until Easter. The good thing about this was I did two terms less schooling than everyone else. The bad thing was that when I joined, not only was I the smallest and the thickest, I also was an outsider as everyone else had their groups of friends. Whilst in theory the Easter start was a good thing, there I was, at school with no friends. This was back in 1967, so we didn't have pre-school. It was a whole new experience and I wasn't in the least bit socialised. Whilst I'm sure that none of my classmates were either, back in December, they had two terms of bonding. So what do you do, if you are the smallest, thickest member of the class and you have no friends. Well I had a simple strategy. I used to hide. I'd recce out the areas of the school, and work out where people wouldn't bother you. quite hard when you were in a large square playground, full of kids. I sort of figured out that the less interaction I had with anyone, teachers, other kids, playground assistants, the better. The rules are simple. Always make for the emptiest part of the playground, always ensure that there is an escape route (don't hide in corners), don't make eye contact with anyone. Don't put your hand up. Look like you are doing work, even if you haven't got a clue. Never ask for help. Never hand in your homework if you can possibly help it. Never say anything, because the less you say, the less chance that you can be ridiculed. That first term was the longest three months of my life. I have one fond memory of it. We made crocodiles out of cotton reels. I was proud of mine. I brought it home and it disappeared within a couple of days. Doubtless my mum threw the ugly object out. My friend Peter Conway, who was a friend until our late teens when we left school, took his home and it had pride of place on their Welsh Dresser until the day I last visited his house around 1981. Mine was simply chucked in the bin after a cursory "thats nice". It was simply a matter of seeing it through.

Our teacher was Sister Rosalie. She was the baby class teacher, a young nun who was nice. My sister warned me that they always have a nice teacher in the Baby Class (what we now call "reception"). But summer beckoned. The summer of 1967 was the longest summer in history, it lasted nearly 36 months and was bliss. My next door neighbours had two boys. One my age (Ricky) and one two years younger (Luke). Ricky had just turned up, Luke was Pre school age. Ricky, like me was an August baby and even smaller than me. We discussed Thunderbirds, we made dens from cardboard boxes. There was never a cloud in the sky. Maybe school had been a horrid nightmare? Then all of a sudden, my mum announced "It's September, you are back at school on Monday". The 947 days  of August 1967 had finished.

So I was back at school and it was grim. Gone was the relaxed ambience of Sister Rosalie. We now had Mrs Munich. With the coming of September, the skies turned grey, it started to rain and rained for all 3,741 days of September 1967. However long August had seemed, the bleakness greyness of September was so much longer and more awful. We had to drink milk every day. It was lukewarm and smelly. We ate lunch in the school dinner hall. There'd be some vile reprocessed meat, two balls of watery mash potatoe and a dollop of cabbage, that they could smell in Calais. Lunch was conducted in silence. Sounds bad? I used to quite enjoy lunch, we got to eat a pudding and when it wasn't tapioca or Semolina it was quite nice. Chocolate pudding, with chocolate sauce, arctic role and best of all Rice pud with Jam. As I didn't like talking to people, it was no hardship to be quiet.

What was bad was assembly. This was overseen by Gabsy. Sister Gabriel was the Headmistress. Terry Nation, inventor of the Daleks had modelled them on Sister Gabriel. If we were naughty, there were three options. If you were lucky, you got the bat. If you were unlucky you got to stand up in assembly, go up on the stage with Gabsy and stand their with your hands held high in the air. And if you were really unlucky, you got totally humiliated in front of the whole school. One unlucky pair, a boy and girl were caught playing kiss chase, so had to have akiss in front of the whole school. Just to give you a flavour of the menace of Gabsy, she told us that she'd used to make kids stand with their hands on their heads on the stage, but a visiting nun had pointed out it was far more painful to stand with them in the air.  There I was, five years old, being subjected to tortures that writers in the Gaurdian denounce the US government for doing to Gitmo detainees.

As for Mrs Munich. She soon cottoned onto the fact that I was dyslexic. I misspelt train in my Daily news as TRIAN. She called me to the blackboard and made me write it out. I spelled TRIAN. She said "No, the I and the A are the wrong way around. Now write it again", so I did, exactly as I had the first time. I got hit across the knuckles with a ruler. She called me an idiot and then wrote it correctly on the blackboard. They say that Corporal Punishment doesn't work. This is a lie, I never spelled Train wrong again.

Luckily for me, fate dealt me a fortunate hand. My sister had won the Finchley Carnival Queen competition and had secured a modelling contract on the back of it. She went for an audtion for a Tizer commercial. My mum hauled the whole family down. Unbeknown to her, the advert required a family and when they saw us, they just gave us the job on the spot. My career in show business had started. Maybe this saved me. When the advert came out, all of a sudden  people were more friendly. My schoolwork didn't pick up, but I had something I was good at.

The downside? The nuns who ran St Vincents decided that I was a bighead, so I never got cast in any school play and every rebuke started with "You are not on telly now Mr Tichborne". The upside was that by now, I couldn't really give a monkeys about what the nuns said. I'd realised that the school was equally horrible to everyone, good, bad, clever and thick alike. So when it came down to it, we all suffered. Being good Catholics, we were all wracked with guilt. Except I wasn't. I sort of realised quite early on that spelling train wrong wasn't bad or evil. I didn't know why I was rubbish at everything (I only realised I was dyslexic in my 30's). I asked a visiting priest if it was possible to commit a sin if you didn't know what you were doing is wrong. This completely stumped him. He asked me to give an example. I said "well my dad says the Pope doesn't like the Dave Allen show. Suppose you put on the telly and it's on but you didn't know the Pope doesn't like Dave Allen?" (at the time I didn't know what the Dave Allen show was, but I'd heard my parents discussing it). The priest said "Does your Dad watch the Dave Allen show?" I replied that I didn't know, as I was always in bed when it was on. At which point he said "You should only watch programs your Mum and Dad say are decent". I realised he'd ducked the question.  That was pretty much what St Vincents was like in the 1960's. No matter what you did, you could never win.

To be continued......

Sunday 28 December 2014

The Barnet Eye Barnet Civic Awards 2014

It's that time of the year again. We have renamed our awards this year, to reflect the fact that Barnet is an embodyment of Big Society. Harsh budget cuts have forced the citizens of Barnet to step in and fill the gaps and we are extremely proud to say that this has on occasion happened. Examples of this are the Colindale Foodbank and the homeless night shelter scheme, run by local churches. Without these schemes it is not inconceivable that local families would have gone hungry and people may have frozen to death. Now it seems to me that in an area of London with some of the most expensive real estate in the world, this is a complete disgrace, but hey ho, what do I know.

Without further ado, here are our awards.

Barnet Person of the Year.

Maggi Lamb. Maggi is the co-ordinator of the Mill Hill Churches night shelter scheme at John Keble Church. The Mill Hill Churches have organised the shelter to participate in the local night shelter scheme. Churches, Mosques and Synogogues have participated in the scheme. John Keble has hosted the scheme one night a week throughout the winter. Maggi has pulled this together, working her socks off to make it happen. I've volunteered for the scheme for several years, spending the night at the Shelter to ensure the clients are safe and sound. Now every participating organisation in the scheme will have a Maggi Lamb, a driving force who makes it happen. They all deserve the award equally, but as I've seen Maggi in action, I've given it to her on behalf of all of the volunteers who have cooked, driven equipment, spent the night, washed up and made the shelter happen. The likes of Maggi do not run these schemes for accolades, but they damn well deserve them!

Barnet Blogger of the Year.

John Dix AKA Mr Reasonable. Johns blog is a must read for anyone interested in what is happening in Barnet. John works his socks off, collating information and writing blogs exposing just how badly the council are spending our money. He exposes the lies of party manifestos and the broken promises of dodgy local politicians - - In a Borough without a credible political opposition, John is the nearest thing to the voice of sanity.

Barnet Tweeter of the Year.

Brian Coleman. Now this may shock a few readers, who will say "how on earth can that terrible man be given any award?". The answer is quite simple, although his tweets swerve between repulsive, disgusting, mildly offensive, delusional and just plain odd, they are strangely compulsive reading. Whether he's poking fun at Cancer victims for being ill, attacking Londons firemen, defending the rights of politicians to travel first class at public expense, or being rude about ex colleagues and foes, it is all jolly entertaining. Happily Brian has no influence or role in London politics since he was convicted for attacking Helen Michael, so we can just sit back and enjoy his tweets. Well we could if he hadn't blocked us -

Barnet Politician of the Year.

There can only be one! Richard Cornelius, Leader of the Barnet Conservatives.  Against all odds and expectations, he oversaw a victory in May. Whilst Tory regimes collapsed all over London in May, Richard held on. Many expected a Palace Coup to follow the election, but Richard also survived this threat, with the suspected plotters either being turfed out at the election or the remaining ones being shown to have balls of straw. Richard has shown himself to be  asurvivor and he seems to thrive in the role. Wheras Mike Freer often looked tetchy and drawn when running the council, Richard clearly thoroughly enjoys it. At a social event I had a chat and he told me he thinks its the best job in the world. Whatever you think of his politics, he has done a marvellous job herding the cats that make up the Barnet Tories and delivering his program, however flawed you may think it is. Richard has the one characteristic that Napoleon said made a great General. He is lucky. He's lucky to have Alison Moore as opposition Leader. He's lucky Brian Coleman got himself kicked out of the Conservative Party and most luckily of all, he's lucky that most of the rest of his colleagues are completely spineless and so don't have the guts to kick him out.

Barnet Event of the Year.

Sadly, since the Conservative administration came to power in 2002, we've seen the demise of many of the civic events we love, such as the Watling Festival, the Finchley Carnival and the opening of new exhibitions at Church Farmhouse museum. There was however a welcome return of the Fireworks display at Copthall Stadium, organised by Saracens RFC and the Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum. This was a great event and well attended.

Barnet Charity of the Year.

For this we've chosen the Colindale foodbank - - which has done fantastic work distributing food to the most needy people in Barnet. This has been supported by people all across the Borough. In a perfect world, we wouldn't need such a charity, but the UK in 2014 is far from perfect.

Barnet Museum of the Year.

Sadly the Conservatives closed Church Farmhouse museum, so our choice is even more limited than it was when we started writing this blog. This year, marking the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI there can only be one winner, the amazing RAF museum it is well worth a trip, especially to see some of the incredible WWI displays.

Barnet Restaurant of the Year.

As you know, the Barnet Eye enjoys our food. Over the course of the year, we've visited many great restaurants across the Borough and eaten lots of very tasty food. Our winner this year is luckily for us, just around the corner. El Vaquero in Mill Hill is an excellent destination for a night out serving Argentinian style barbeque food. Don't eat before you go as you will be sumptuously fed.

Barnet Pub of the Year

We give this to an establishment which has really caught our eye, since it was taken over by the amazing Emily Ovenden in the summer. The Chandos Arms has gone in a few months from being a pub black spot to being a thriving community pub, with music and all sorts of other great events. They even do a free hot dog with every pint on a Monday night. Check it out -

That's it folks. Hope you have enjoyed 2014, nearly as much as Rcihard Cornelius has!

Saturday 27 December 2014

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 27/12/2014

Without further ado....

1. Christmas comes late to Edgware... Boo Hoo Hoo

Sat 27th Dec 02:12 - It is in Edgware, United Kingdom -

2.  Thanks to Tim Dunn for a great picture of East Finchley in 1962
Stationman Eric England clears the snow from East Finchley London Underground roundel, 1962. (C)

3.  Another reason why we should value Barnets Libraries

4.Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner visits Mill Hill Fire Station on Xmas Day. I suspect he was made more welcome than a certain other rather notorious ex Mayor might have been. Good to see Hugh appreciates the efforts of our finest!

25/12 Visiting Mill Hill Fire Station. Firefighters called out during visit. Thank-you being there when we need you!

5.Deputy Mayor of Barnet, David Longstaff launches a brand new Shomrim patrol vehicle - Seems like Barnet is the type of place where we now need to start our own Police forces to stay safe in our homes. Can't help but feel a bit depressed that the Police are no longer seen as the solution to keeping our neighbourhoods safe.

The new patrol vehicle, launched at last night’s excellent Annual Chanuka Event and Award Ceremony. 

6.Mr Reasonable calls into question the Barnet Council libraries consultatio

Cost of Barnet's library consultation £80,930. Only 1 bidder, ORS. Why no other bidders and is it value for money?

7.  Andrew Dismore tells us that things can only get better worse

was the worst service in the country last year. Performance of new operator even worse than before.

8. Russell Brand is supporting West Hendon residents. Sadly the council couldn't care less.

TrewsReports is on an unbelievable housing scam by Barratts and West Hendon council. Check it

 9. Barnet Council planning to flog the Family Silver

10.  And finally .... A little message from Mill Hill Music Complex for all of us contemplating 2015

Some things are hard, Some things are impossible. Hard things only become impossible when you believe those who tell you they are impossible


The Saturday List #74 - 2014 Highlights and lowlights

The current Facebook craze is to use an app which generates a little ebook entitled " 2014 has been a great year, thanks for being a part of it". Sorry to be the ghost of Christmas present, but it hasn't been a great year for me. I'd describe it as mixed at best. I put up a comment on Facebook asking why people I know have had a rotten year, have used the app. Maybe I'm just a bit strange, but I don't really get why we need to say things are great when they are not. Why can't we say "It's been a pretty awful year, thanks for helping me get through it"? I think this is all a symptom of our society, whereby we are forced to say things are great when they are not, we are made to feel bad for not wanting to go to the party and joining in the conga. Generally life is a series of bad things and good things, randomly interspersed. In a good year, the bad things are little bad things and there are not many of them. On Monday a friend of mine missed their train, got soaked going home and got a parking ticket. He remarked that this was typical of the awful year he'd had (lost friends and family, issues at work). In a good year, maybe he'd have taken it on the chin, but he seems to think 2014 has a down on him personally. When I was thinking about this list, I was trying to think when was the last time I had a great year. After much analysis, the last classic year I can remember was 1999. Everything seemed to be going very well then. I was earning loads of money, the studio was on a big upwards swing and myself and my business partner Ernie Ferebee were making big plans for exciting future developments. My mum was alive and in excellent form, going on regular cruises with Mike, her then new partner, my inlaws were in good form and enjoying life. My wife was pregnant with our third child, our eldest was at primary school and enjoying herself. My health was great, what could possibly go wrong? Now that was a great year. Don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of great bits and pieces since then, but there has not been a classic year.

Anyway that's enough Bah Humbug from me. As I said, this has been a mixed year. The bad things? A couple of friends have passed away casting a shadow over the whole thing. I've been working far too hard and making far too little money (I'm a greedy sod). I guess when you have teenagers, there are always issues, but our house is not the calm, tranquil refuge from the stress of the outside world I'd ideally like (having said that I love em and they are great). I've not had nearly enough time for friends, I've not had enough time for making music, doing a paltry one gig all year.

But then again, I don't think it's been a bad year either. There have been enough good things to rescue it. So here is the list of all the things that have saved 2014 for me.

1. Manchester City FC won the Premier League and the League Cup.
2. Watling FC (my sons team) won the Harrow Youth under 14 Division four championship
3. The False Dots gig at the Midland Hotel on Sat 20th December, a great night.
4. My daughter getting 3 A grades at A level (takes after her mum in that department thank God)
5. The Silencerz Featuring Lee Thompson at the Chandos Arms, Colindale in October
6. My Dogs, who every day make me smile
7. My cousin Jim's 40th Annniversary of becoming a Priest and the party for it, seeing family
8. My trip to India in late October and seeing the Taj Mahal, Red Fort etc
9. The Specials at the Roundhouse
10. My Nephew's birthday, where he staged a special cinema screening of the Empire Strikes back.

I hope you had a great year. I am making several new years resolutions, perhaps top of the list is to do everything I can to make 2015 a great year. We can't control many of the things that make a year bad, if we could there'd be no tragedies. But those things we can do something about, we should work on.

So I plan to make more music, see more gigs, catch up with friends I haven't seen for ages, travel and try and go with the flow a bit more.

Friday 26 December 2014

The most hated Pope for a 1,000 years?

There is a report on the BBC website stating that the Pope is highly popular in over half of 43 countries surveyed.  Many commentators, who are not normally fans of Popes have written about how this new Pope is a welcome change for the better. For many Roman Catholics in the UK, who are by and large a pretty liberal bunch, it is a pleasure to be able to have a conversation with non Catholics about the Pope which doesn't involve a tiresome justification of the unjustifiable. As a member of that community, I personally can only be happy that we have a man in charge who seems genuinely concerned about dealing with issues of poverty and inequality. The fact that unlike many predecessors, he is not hung up one trying to tell people how to conducttheir sexual relationships, is perhaps the most telling sign that things have changed and changed for the better. That he has taken an active role in trying to resolve dangerous issues around the world, such as in Cuba again can only be seen as positive.

Whilst most of the citizens of Planet Earth are genuinely pleased when we see a religious leader doing his job properly, and whilst most of us afford respect to any Leader who is working for Peace, Justice and Equality, it seems that the feeling of goodwill towards Pope Francis is not universal. I'm not referring to the nutcase contingent of uber right US fundamentalists who believe that every Pope and probably every Catholic is a Satanist and an antichrist. This ragged bunch, who are probably the most damaging aspect of all of Christianity, cannot stand the fact that someone who falls foul of their rather warped ideology, could possibly be respected and seen as a force for good. I had a small insight into their mindset a while back when one engaged me in conversation on the street. They chose a bad day, when I was up for a row. The said numpty asked me if I had embraced Jesus Christ as my saviour. Generally I tell people it is none of their business. On this occasion, I made a mistake, I decided to engage in conversation. I said "Actually I am a Roman Catholic". I was immediately informed that the Pope was the AntiChrist and I would burn in hell unless I repented. I thought I'd try logic and reason so I said "Today I woke up at 6am, got the train from Mill Hill to Victoria, to spend the morning serving breakfast to the Homeless. Is that evil?" The response was "That is evil incarnate, you are trying to lure the poor homeless into your demonic religion". To this I responded that the rules of the Passage, where I volunteer, specifically ban us from trying to proseletise the clients. At this it was suggested that this was typical of the lies and subterfuge that the Prince of Liars, who was my inspiration, would come up with. At this point I thought I'd step off the back foot. So I said "Ok, it says in the bible, 'When you were hungry you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty you gave me to drink', how many homeless people have you fed today? All you are doing is making people think that peope of faith are uncaring nutcases. People like you are divisive and dangerous. You live a lie and you are like the religious elites Jesus denounced in the bible, caring only for practice of ritual and nothing for the poor and downtrodden". With that I strode off, in an even more foul mood than I'd started the conversation. But such people are not really a problem for Pope Francis. It wouldn't really matter what he did, they'd still hate him.

The big problem or Pope Francis is the fact is that it is becoming ever clearer that his own Vatican bureacracy don't like him. He gave them a severe dressing down, leaving them in no doubt as to his opinion of them. He listed 15 ailments of the government of the Catholic Church in his address to his senior staff. They were seemingly none too chuffed. Pope Francis did not work at the Vatican prior to his election as Pope. It seems to me that he's arrived and has been horrified by the extravagance of the organisation and the total disconnection from the billion followers across the world. His list of ailments highlights the fractuous, closed, inwards looking and bitchy nature of the organisation. Has any Pope in the last 1,000 years taken on his own inner circle?

Many of the elderly Cardinals who oppose the reforms and changes Pope Francis wants to bring about are completely out of touch with the daily lives of the people who live across the world and go to mass on a Sunday. Many have spent decades being mollycoddled in the Vatican, having their every need looked after, whilst being greeted with acclaim and reverence whenever they step out of the cocoon. No wonder they dislike alight being shone on their activities.

It seems to me that Pope Francis has struck a chord across the globe because he's identifed many of the issues which are of  concern to all citizens, not just Catholics. He has realised that the Church has had its reputation dragged through the mud, alienating many previously loyal and devout Catholics, by covering up child abuse scandals. He has realised that the only way to save the organisation is to completely reform the broken machine that has allowed such scandals to be swept under the carpet. Along with these reforms, he's worked to shed the image of a sex obsessed, out of touch church full of repressed and slightly odd individuals. Pehaps the biggest change is that he simply seems like a normal person. When he moved to Rome, he rang up his old newsagent to cancel his delivery of papers.

Living in London, the vast majority of my friends are Non Catholics and it is clear that Francis has made an impression. Whilst I doubt any will be seeking to convert any time soon, it is clear that they see a genuine, decent man, trying to make a difference for the good. I'd suggest that for all people who care for their fellow citizens, it would be a good thing if Pope Francis has a successful time in office. There are several reasons for this.

1.  The Pope has huge influence and if it can be used to resolve conflicts (such as US/Cuba) then this has to be good for us all.

2.  The Pope has said that part of his mission is to help those suffering from poverty, injustice and inequality. He seems to be one of the few world figures talking this language. If he can spread this message to the national leaders, then we may see real change. In the UK, these groups have been major victims of the coalition austerity policies, whilst millionaires have had tax cuts.

3. The Pope is working for better interfaith relationships. It is completely ridiculous that in the year 2014 we are still murdering each other because we interpret a few chapters of a book in different ways. Only the most sick mind can ever believe that religious persection is a good thing. Sadly the sick minds are making the headlines and the innocent generally suffer.

4. If this Pope is derailed in his attempts to reform the Catholic Church, the Church will not go away (as the likes of Richard Dawkins would like). It will simply morph into a worse organisation, which rather than using its influence for good, will simply continue the navel gazing.

One of the conversations I've had most frequently with atheist friends is the one which says that the religion is a complete anachronism, totally out of date and having no place in the modern world. I don't subscribe to this view. I was discussing this with my 17 year old daughter, who has stopped regularly attending church. She summed it up pretty well. She said although she doesn't enjoy church or get anything out of it, it can only be good that people have a centre for the community, where they are constantly badgered to do good deeds, help other people, play an active role in the community and not be selfish. I sometimes fear that we are moving to a society where we sit insulated in our house, watching TV 24x7, getting all our shopping online, oblivious to the fact that 50% of the citizens of the planet live in total poverty. Until such time as there are no people who are oppressed, in poverty, suffering injustice and being marginalised, there is a job for a Pope to remind us of them. The only issue is whether we get a bloke who is actually up to the job. The sad truth is that whilst we appear to now have a bloke who is up to the job, there are a whole load of bureacrats in the Vatican, who have had their comfy little jobs turned on their heads. Lets hope that he holds sway. He may be the most hated Pope among the curia for 1,000 years, but for the rest of us, he is a breath of fresh air.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Christmas -  A time to let sleeping dogs lie !
To all readers of the Barnet Eye. Have a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a fantastic day filled with love and happiness.

Sunday 21 December 2014

What did you do last night? Why live music is important

I decided to dig out my old band scrapbook, first started in 1979 to track the rise to fame and international stardom of my band the False Dots. There are dozens of old newspaper clippings friom the late 1970's and early 1980's detailing our trip to nowhere, via various London clubs, Sweden, Finland and Belgium. At some point in the very early days in 1980, I left a comment in the book

"What a joke, nine line ups and one gig. An exercise in obnoxiousness, lousy music and general suburban decay!"

It rather made me laugh. Maybe Brian Coleman had secretly gotten access to my scrapbook (not that I knew he existed in 1980). That has always been the pattern of the False Dots. Over the years we've had 37 different recorded members. The nationalities are quite interesting, British, Irish, Welsh, Nigerian/Jewish, Jamaican, Portuguese, Sudanese, New Zealand, Swiss and Slovakian. Strangely after my rather disgruntled comment in 1980, things improved. The gigs are now numbered in the hundreds. This has been a quiet year, with only one, last night at the Midland Hotel in Hendon, wiith our "Heritage" line up from 1985 (as best we can make it as both bass players from that particular year have sadly passed away).

Our first venture into the local press was on Thurs Jan 8th 1981.We'd done a gig at the Harwood Hall in Mill Hill in December, an Xmas gig.  It had been relatively successful and we got the press down to cover it. I'd asked for other local bands to get in touch, which they did in large numbers. We ended up putting on two more, one of which is immortalised in this video (from the days when bands didn't make videos) by The Vektors, a band from Edgware School (now the London Academy).

You'll notice a large Mill Hill CND banner behind the band as they blast out "Sound of the Suburbs". This series of gigs were the first I ever organised. In truth the band could hardly play and I had't got a clue about promoting gigs. I just hired Harwood Hall for a tenner, got a couple of mates to do the door and invited a few bands to come down and play. We didn't even have a proper PA, we simply used what we had and shared gear. I've always been keen on the idea of using music to promote good causes, so we worked with local groups such as CND and Friends of the Earth to give the gigs some sort of reason and theme.

Whilst music has always been the number one thing in my life, I've always been keenly aware of how you can use it to raise peoples awareness of issues and also as a fundraising tool for good causes. Since I started writing this blog, I have become far more aware of the way the mind of the political class works. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that many people who get involved in politics are simply rather strange people who think they are a bit brighter than the rest of us and have a God given right to tell us what to do. I have the opposite view. I think no one has a right to impose their will on another human being. Laws should be passed because there is a consensus that people think a particular behaviour is abhorrent or it can be shown to be detrimental to the good of society.

In my experience, when you play music, it breaks down barriers. From what I've seen of the political classes, this is the last thing they want to happen. They quite like things just the way they are. Great Britain leads the world in the field of music. Our musicians and song writers are the most inventive and inspiring, our music scene is the most innovative. You would think that a government which had a brain would recognise this fact and do everything they could to protect the industry. Sadly you'd be wrong. Live music is under attack. Is this just because the powers that be are so stuck in their ivory towers that they don't know that big artists start as players on a local circuit? Or is it because they don't like the fact that music lets people like me reach an audience? When people get together they talk. When they talk, they exchange ideas. When they exchange ideas they get better ideas.

I've come to realise that  Social media is not the same. When we meet, we talk and exchange ideas. On social media we simply shout at each other with fingers in our ears. Last night I helped organise a gig at the Midland Hotel in Hendon. 35 years after that first Xmas gig at the Harwood Hall, we are still here. I caught up with many friends old and new. We finished our set with a song I wrote in 1981, at the time of the Falklands War. Allen Ashley, who sings with me (Allen is a well known author and poet to boot) always says the song is more about the first world war. Over the years dozens of people have asked me what it is about and why I wrote it.

Action Shock

Distant Hearts, will scream tonight 
They know their loved one, is going to die
A red stain on a battlefield, a drained body with a soul to yeild

Life, Mines not for sale
Death an unmarked grave

Spend your life on a piece of land
But you are far cheaper do yu understand
Bullets cost money people cost food
Thats the theory so what are you

Life Mines not for Sale
Death an unmarked Grave

 One time fun time come on son,
Forget "Peace man" and grab a gun
Annihalate another man, 
It's easy son, you know you can

Life Mines not for Sale
Death an unmarked Grave

Distant hearts, wont scream tonight 
Face to face, you and I
One of us will not survive
Please not me I love my life

Life, mines not for sale
Death an unmarked grave
Its my life, you just can't fail
tts my death, I'm not your Slave

It is a song that always makes an impression. It is hard to ignore. It has a catchy riff and a strong Chorus. It is just a song, but it does make people think. All over the UK there are people playing music, writing songs, saying things to an audience. We go, we play music, we chat to friends. Some of us write songs about love, some of write songs about injustice, some of us just write instrumental tracks. I've done all in my time.  People don't go to gigs for lectures, they go to have fun and listen to music. We as musicians write songs because we want to convey an emotion. Those of us who acheive commercial success connect with millions of people, but those of us like me who play to a hundred or so people have a smaller audience, but I believe our role is just as important to the UK music scene.. The reason is because without a healthy local music scene, the vine will wither. At present the music industry seems happy to take the easy path, They simply want people regurgitating other peoples songs, seeking the lowest common denominator, stifling creativity. The X Factor mindset says that you can short circuit the whole thing by going on a talent show.

I believe that this rotten stage in the cycle is coming to an end. Last night the pub was packed and there was some excellent music played. You may wonder why I bother reproducing the lyrics of a song you've probably never heard that was written 33 years ago?  The reason is because I want tyou to know I am passionate about my music and it is not something I just do simpy because there is nothing on telly. Every song I've written I've put a bit of my heart and soul in.

When I write songs, I try and tell a story and convey an emotion. When I play live, I try and connect with the audience. I think I do most of the time. I love playing live and it seems to me that the audience generally enjoy it as well. But it goes deeper, I also enjoy playing with other bands and seeing and listening to what other musicians are doing as well.

All in all, what I am trying to say, is that we should treasure our local music scene, support our venues, watch our friends when they play and ensure that we make sure that we protect this gem at the heart of our cultural heritage. 

Lets all work together to make 2015 a great year for live music. This can only happen if we all work together as a community of music makers. Here are five ways you can make it happen. Please share on your timeline.
1. Go to a local live gig featuring musicians you dont know. Spend money at the bar. Venues need support.
2. Set yourself a new years resolution to see a band you love but you've not seen live in 2015.
3. Support your local music festivals. Go to the gigs and tell your friends.
4. If you see a great artist or band, make sure you mention it on Facebook.
5.If you have friends who play in a band, go and watch them play and get a few friends to go to make a proper night out of it.

If we all commit to do this, then 2015 could be the start of a new golden age of live music. Venues are struggling everywhere. Use it or lose it!

The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar - Sunday 21st December

So it is the last Sunday before Christmas. The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar has only a few days left to run. We hope you've enjoyed a few of the clips we've posted showing just what a different world the Borough is today, to how it was in the early and middle part of the last century. Todays clip is one I found extremely interesting. It is a Pathe News clip of the Finchley Carnival Baby show in 1961 (the year before I was born), to raise money for the Imperial Cancer Research fund.

There is a statement in the film, where the commentator says "In this day and age, we spend millions on missiles and hold flag days for Cancer". What have we learned in the 53 years since the film was made? Well now we spend billions on missiles, but we still hold flag days for cancer, so I guess we my must conclude that we've learned absolutely bugger all.

I suppose the good news is that many forms of cancer are treatable. This is due in part to the flag days and baby shows we've held for the last 53 years to raise money for Cancer Research.As someone living with Cancer, I wholeheartedly support these efforts. Please can I make a simple request. As Christmas approaches, why not buy one of your friends or family a present from a local Cancer research UK shop?


So if you were one of the bouncing babies at the1961 Finchley Carnival Baby show or even if you weren't, here's your local Cancer research shop, pop in and buy something. My greatest hope is that one day, cancer Research UK can shut all its shops and say "Job Done". One way or another this day will come all the sooner with

Mill Hill
37 The Broadway , Mill Hill, London
0208 9064628
24 The Broadway, Stanmore, Middlesex
0208 9540462
69 Ballards Lane, Finchley, London
N3 1XT
0208 3494962
124 Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
0208 2076366
North Finchley
775 High Road, North Finchley, London
N12 8JY
0208 4468289
75 High Street, Barnet, Herts
020 8440 1658
Golders Green
871 Finchley Road, Golders Green, London
NW11 8RR
0208 4586914
East Barnet
276 East Barnet Road, East Barnet, Hertfordshire

If  you can't make it to a shop, click here to donate
0208 4490850

Saturday 20 December 2014

Don't you let nobody turn you round! - An auspicious anniversary

On Sunday the 17th December 1978, I went to the Marquee Club to watch The Fall and Manicured Noise with bass player/vocalist Pete Conway. We met a guy called Dave Edwards and his girlfriend Mandy Spokes. We agreed to meet up on Weds 20th December at the Railway in Mill Hill, 36 years ago today, to discuss forming a band - The False Dots. None of us could play, we had no equipment and we had nowhere to rehearse. We decided that this was no impediment.

I bought a Hofner Galaxy guitar and a FAL amp. Pete bought a bass and Dave bought a drum Kit. I agreed with my Dad that we could rent the derelict caretakers cottage at Bunns Lane Works as a practice studio, We then got in touch with another local band, called Kabuki, run by the Malone Brothers, who agreed to lend us a bass amp, in return for a rehearsal space. Seven weeks after the meeting, on the 14th Feb 1979, we officially opened our new studio in the derelict kitchen of the cottage and had our first rehearsal. Although we didn't know it at the time, this was the beginning of Mill Hill Music Complex Studios, as some of the friends who came down immediately asked us if they could rent the space, so they could rehearse there as well. Like many great businesses, it started by accident!

From the very beginning, all I heard was "You can't play", "Your songs are crap" and ""The cottage is a S**Thole" from siren voices, but we persevered, We persevered through line up changes. By 1981 the band were touring Scandinavia and the studio had a loyal hard core of bands who supported us. Amongst these early customers were Rockabilly Superstars The Polecats and Alan Warner from the Foundations,.As time went on the studios developed, to the point where we have 17 studios and over 1,000 musicians a week using us, in a purpose built air conditioned complex.

So today is the day is the anniversary of the day the whole idea kicked off. To celebrate, I'm doing a few numbers at the Open Mic night at the Midland Hotel in Hendon,with Allen Ashley who was our vocalist in 1985, Drums with Gray Ramsey who has been our drummer on and off since 1984 and Fil Ross, who many of you know from the studios who has played with the band since 1998.

It hasn;'t ever been easy but it's always been a blast. Thanks so much for all your support and don't you let nobody turn you round, if you have a dream. I wish I could say that the achievements of the last 36 years had all been part of a brilliant plan, but like most things rock and roll, the truth is that God/Karma/The stars were aligned in our favour and we were in the right place at the right time.

Rog T

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 20th December 2014

I know you've been waiting all week for these

1. Our congratulations to the Nutmeg young achievers, receiving an award from Barnets Mayor (Nutmeg are one of the charities featured in the Barnet Eye Advent calendar)

Young achievers awarded by Mayor of Barnet & President of Hendon Club at our exclusive awards event


2. Great picture from the Mill Hill & Edgware Times Editor Martin Buhagiar showing a tree blocking the Ridgeway

Fallen tree blocks road in The Ridgeway, Mill Hill.

View this content on 's website

 3. The Mayor of Barnet has been distributing sweets and cheer in Edgware

18/12 Mayor joins local churches giving out hot drinks and spreading the Christmas message in Edgware tube station.

Embedded image permalink

Seeking Helpers for Winter Warmers in Burnt Oak, Edgware and East Finchley. Please sign up.

Looking 2 spread word 4 homeless shelter seeking jugglers, music, entertainers :)

6. Barnets fave Baker has been having a Party!

Bake Off Xmas party tonight. So great to catch up. Thanks to & for the hospitality  

7. The Who fan remoinds us what the band were doing 50 years ago in Golders Green!

50 YEARS OF THE WHO 26 June 1964: The Who. or rather, The Who's as they are billed, playing tonight at the Refectory pub in Golders Green.

8  Many thanks to Robert Russell for letting us know that Santa is in Totteridge and he's swapped his Reindeer for a Dalmation

There is a Middle Aged man dressed as Santa, walking his Dalmatian through Totteridge. C'est magnifique.

9. Free parking and luxury Spa sessions today in North Finchley!

FREE PARKING in North Finchley n12 today. Xmas trees light etc still available at Tally Ho Discount. Luxury beauty at

10. Mill Hill Music Complex have a suggestion for a New Years resolution

Why not say "In 2015, I'm going to dig out the guitar/drumkit, get together with my friends, get a band going and make some awesome music"

Have a great weekend!