Sunday 31 May 2015

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 31/5/2015

It's that time of the week again. Here we are, with our most popular regular feature.

1. Mr Reasonable throws down a challenge to Barnet Council and puts his money where his mouth is!

Barnet payments to Capita - £250 to charity if Richard Cornelius can show me the evidence of Capita savings

Have you had a PCN challenge refused when you didn't get a permit reminder. Do not pay up let me sort it

3. Local Tory activist Myles Longfield found this tweet rather amusing. So did we

Seems like the Dutch Prime Minister has finally explained to David Cameron what LGBT actually stands for Embedded image permalink

4. Not really sure if this is an insult or a compliment?

Visited new in neighbouring village of Mill Hill. If Mill Hill keeps on improving, it'll be like Borehamwood in no time.

5. Mill Hill as it was in 1945. No M1 and two Railway lines. Interesting to ponder that if the Mill Hill East to Edgware service hadn't been shut down, Saracens Allianz Park Stadium would have a direct tube link to central London.


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6. Great story in the local paper about local artist Sarah Ezekiel

Wonder of technology allows disabled Sarah to paint with her eyes

7. Neil Belshaw-Fox is keen for you to sign the UNISON petition to ask Barnet Council to refrain from outsourcing any more services.


8. Did you know Londons oldest tree is in Totteridge and you can see it on a TICL walk!

The Totteridge Yew At around 2000 years old the oldest tree in London TiCL App

9. Fancy hearing an excerpt from Eloisa James new book? You can at Hendon Library on June 9th!

Read an excerpt from new book meet her Jun 9th in Hendon

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10. Joe the Drummer rather enjoyed his trip to Mill Hill to do some recordings!

I'm at with my friend Vic and engineer Fil Ross doing some acoustic stuff. 
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Friday 29 May 2015

ISIS and Freedom and fundamentalism

As a country we are forever tying ourselves up in knots, working out how to deal with the behaviour of people who sit at the extremes of religious fundamentalism. I was reminded of this today as BBC London featured a story where an ultra orthadox Rabbi has stated that women shouldn't drive and those that do, and drive their children to school, should be turned away at the gate. Whilst I personally cannot for a second fathom who anyone in this day and age would even want to follow such an ultra orthadox path, it is a free country. I do take the view that if you sign up to a club (or a religious education for your kids), then you sign up to their rulebook however ridiculous. If the women in question don't think that the school is setting a good example for their kids in the year 2015, then take your kids out of the school. If the Rabbi is simply expressing his opinion, fine, so what. You don't have to attend his Shul and there are plenty of sensible Rabbi's in London who run eminently sensible organisations. The way to change attitudes in such hard line communities is to vote with your feet. Of course there are some women who may feel that they can't oppose their husbands views and must stick with this nonsense, but surely if the husband has bought them a car, there is a need for a sensible family conversation.

Perhaps the worst example of extremism we see is ISIS. This organisation is rampaging across Syria and Iraq and perhaps more disturbing, hundreds of Western Muslims are attracted to join its Jihad. Western governments are at a loss to deal with this. I personally believe that we've approached the issue from completely the wrong angle. If I were in David Camerons shoes, I'd take a completely different approach. In a free country, we can't stop people joining ISIS. We can't stop them getting training and participating in military activity in foreign countries. So what can we do? Well I take the view that it is their choice to join an organisation committed to destroy everything we beleive in. Until they've actually committed a crime, they've done nothing wrong. Just thinking about it is a perfectly legal activity. So what we need to do is help them with their thought process. Where they pose a threat to us is not with the thinking about joing ISIS or even going to Syria to sign up. It is when they come back. We send a small fortune on trying to police this. The solution, as far as I am concerned is far more simple. We simply say "If you are planning to join ISIS, give us back your British Passport and we'll pay for a one way ticket to Syria. As you clearly hate our society and values, you won't be coming back though". I wonder how many of those who have gone, would have done so if they'd realised that it was a one way ticket?  As far as I am concerned, we are better off without such dangerous people. I am sure many will say "but what about impressionable teenagers, who have made a terrible mistake?" Teenagers make life changing terrible mistakes all the time. Some injure themselves, some kill themselves in acts of high stupidity. They do not however pose a risk to society at large. I don't believe in forcible deportation of British Citizens, but if they really hate our country and our way of life, then good riddance. I am sure that such a hard line policy would focus minds. Of course some will still go. Some will realise they've made a terrible mistake. There will be heart renching TV documentaries about how unfair the system is. But the bottom line is that if they feel they are old enough to make such a decision, they are old enough to live with the repercussions.

Like anyone who joins any fundamentalist religion and signs up to the rule book, they don't have to. If they sign up to one which simply has potty rules like women not driving, that only inconveniences them and is none of our business. If they sign up to one which sees our destruction, then that is a different matter. Then it becomes our business and we have to manage the risk as best we can. To me burying our heads in the sand is not managing the risk properly.

The Friday Joke - 29/5/2015

One day, a shy gentleman was preparing to board a plane when he heard that the Pope was on the same flight.

"This is exciting," thought the gentleman. "I've always been a big fan of the Pope. Perhaps I'll be able to see him in person.”

Suddenly, the man realised his seat was right next to the Pope himself. Still, the gentleman was too shy to speak to His Holiness.

Shortly after take-off, the Pope took a crossword puzzle out of his carry-on bag and began pencilling in the answers.

"This is fantastic!" the gentleman mused. "I'm really good at crosswords. It crossed his mind that if the Pope got stuck, He’d ask me for assistance."

Almost as if providence struck, the Pope turned to the man and said, "Excuse me, but do you know a four letter word referring to a woman that ends in 'unt'? The three Cardinals behind, in front of and beside him shrunk down in their seats, as far as possible, all looking for something on the floor.

The man was in morbid shock. He couldn’t breathe. He went within himself, thought deeper, longer for a plausible answer and after almost a minute, the dark clouds of evil parted in his mind and the sun shone in !

Turning to the Pope, the gentleman said, with reverence and politeness, "I believe, Your Greatness, that you're looking for the word, 'aunt'…"

"Of course," the Pope mused, not taking his gaze off the cross-word, "You wouldn’t have an eraser, would you?…"

Thursday 28 May 2015

The Blatter regime at FIFA is finished

There is nothing more to say on the Sepp Blatter regime at FIFA. It is finished. It has been exposed as totaly corrupt and totally unfit for purpose. That he can even consider standing as president after the organisation has seen a full scale raid by authorities for racketeering and corruption shows how out of touch the man is.

FIFA needs to suspend the election, appoint an interim head untainted and then have a process of root and branch refor to build a fit for purpose body that serves world football properly. End of.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

For God and Country

Just out of interest, reflect for a moment on what the image here means to you? Is it an image that fills you with pride? Is it an image that exemplifies all that is good about our wonderful country? Or does it have a different meaning for you? Does it stir a faint unease of far right extremeists?

This image is one used by the Scout movement, and "For God and Country" is there motto. I was in Edinburgh for a few days and visited the war memorial at the castle. If you haven't been, it is well worth the trip if you are interested in history. The war memorial is a solemn place. Books listing the fallen are present and I was touched at how many people were looking up relatives. Reading the regimental insignias and memorials, it struck me just how much our nation has changed. How many people would sacrifice their lives "For God and Country" today? I suspect that many of us would still make an ultimate sacrifice to defend our family and friends. But what about "For King and Country"? When Charles ascends the throne, will protecting his life be you primary concern?

On the flight back yesterday, I was pondering these things. There was a fascinating article in the Telegraph by Stephen Fry about Apple. Apple is the worlds largest company with a turnover of over $700 Billion. In 1970, it didn't even exist. Before Steve Jobs rejoined and they launched the iMAC it was viewed as on its last legs and ready for the knackers yard. Why the turnaround? Because it makes consumer products far better than anyone else. Apple makes brilliant things that we didn't even know we wanted until they make them. Then they become a central part of our lives. It is quite interesting that in the story of Adam and Eve, it was the Apple that God told them to leave well alone. The forbidden fruit of knowledge. It never occurred to me before, but as I read the news on my iPAD, maybe this wasn't a fairytale, but a stark warning for all of us, of the dangers of consumerism?

I'm not a luddite and I think Apple products are fantastic and if ever there is a company which deserved to be the biggest in the world, it is Apple. They simply make things better than anyone else. But how did we get from the nation where "King and Country" was our ethos to one where rampant consumerism is our national religion. I guess the moment was 22nd September 1955, with the launch of ITV. That was the moment when ITV was launched. Up until then, the TV was all about public service broadcasting. ITV made programs so that you'd watch commercials. The better the program, the more people that watched it and the more advertising they could sell. Once companies realised the power of TV advertising, the world changed. There are constant debates about what should and shouldn't be advertised. When I was a child, tobacco advertising was perhaps the most lucrative. It seems bizarre today that a dangerous and addictive product could have been mass marketed.

TV advertising exposes us to things and we in turn want to buy them. This is the way of the world. I was intrigued to read that the Pope hasn't watched telly for decades. He doesn't even watch football. I think for many of us this would be almost impossible, nearly as impossible as putting down the iPAD and the iPHONE (or your cheap and nasty equivalent).

What is interesting though is that this new world has delivered a less violent, more tolerant society. Ireland voted at the weekend for same sex marriage, something I thought would never happen a few years ago. In the UK rates of violent crime are falling. Are we all to busy on our mobile phones to actually thump each other anymore.

In Stephen Fry's article, he detailed the massive new campus Apple are building to drive even more growth. I can only ponder on what products they are inventing that we don't want, but in a couple of years will be a central part of our life. I wonder how long it will be before the iPAD is a museum piece and seems as distant a memory as the sacrifice as the generation who gave their lives For God and Country?

Monday 25 May 2015

Home brew Smack and the end of Islamic fundamentalism

I read with interest about proposals to genetically engineer yeast to make it produce heroin as a by product of fermentation. This is being proposed not to create a new generation of home brew junkies, but to allow industrial production of medical opiates for use in pain relief. What really interested me though is not how this will save money for the NHS but the effect on world politics when the inevitable happens and illicit drug producers get hold of the yeast.

At present, Afghanistan is the epicentre of the world heroin trade. This generates billions of dollars a year for warlords and their allies. Organisations such as the Taliban extort a 'tax' on production and this is used to help spread radical Islamic policies. Warlords are well aware that if a political settlement is ever reached, allowing Afghanistan to become a governable entity, the gravy train will inevitably come to an end. As a result, the best thing for business is total chaos. IS in Syria and Iraq has the same backers and supporters as the Taliban. IS has only achieved success due to billions of dollars being pumped in. Bullets cost money as do armies. It is 100% clear that IS is good for the drug dealing business, and whilst Iraq is in flames, no one is too interested in ending the drug trade in Afghanistan. What I find intriguing is how we never see any discussions on how IS is funded. Armies do not run on fresh air. Bullets, food, fuel and wages have to be paid. Anyone who thinks IS is self funding are deluded. It is clearly a well funded and well organised organisation. You don't route a national army without training and excellent logistics.

But what happens if you can make heroin in the shed for a few pounds? Now, expensive couriers bring the drugs in, and bribes and taxes are paid to the Taliban. If the trade dries up, as cheap home brew smack replaces the Afghan crops, there will be no lucrative stream of income for the warlords. In short the primary tumour in the middle East will have been removed.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that a nation of junkies brewing home brew smack will be anything other than a huge social disaster in the UK. This will inevitably lead to a massive upheaval in attitudes to drugs and enforcement. Unlike cannabis factories, home brew kits will be virtually undetectable. There is no great need for light and heat, which are the tell tale signs of cannabis production. Of course drug gangs will set up huge factories, but I can see a huge cottage industry spring up. I am of the opinion that this will lead to a more rational approach to drugs and law enforcement, where education and licensing are the key aspects.

I also predict that it could spell the end of radical Islamic politics. Once the billions dry up for the warlords, the Taliban and all of the other unpleasant side effects of the drug trade will hopefully fade away. If we can have a sensible approach to managing this seismic shift, we may well find the world becomes a much better place. Once the billions are no longer rolling in, the poppy growers may actually find a reason to grow products that benefit society and ordinary local people may start to realise that education rather than drug money is the real key to a better life.

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet 24/5/2015

Without further ado....

1. Mark Amies is pondering the future of a Burnt Oak landmark

The sad, decaying cinema, Burnt Oak. Please someone, save it!

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2. Sean Bone is worrying about a spaceship that looks set to crash on Edgware

"Russia's Progress spacecraft to hit Earth within 24 hours... trajectory puts Edgware most at risk of falling debris"

Photo published for Russia's Progress cargo spacecraft set to crash to Earth

3. Finchley Lit festival had an exciting climax at Cafe Buzz

Mimi Romilly, singing about her mother's protest songs from WW1  

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4. Aaron Bass is none too impressed with the Thameslink service from Mill Hill. We tend to agree with him!

So why is the 8:21 from mill hill this overcrowded

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5. Colindale was rocking to the Eurovision song contest!

We're loving the show in Colindale!

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6. Mike Coulson is touched by the extraordinary generousity of  Barnet Council towards private property developers

7. Did you know Londons oldest tree lives in Totteridge?

London's trees can tell incredible stories, like the capital's oldest tree, an ancient yew at Totteridge. 2moro!

8.  Donald Lyven is fascinated by the Fungus Gnats of Barnet!

These are Fungus Gnats, from the Mycetophilidae family; but which? Dunno, there are around 3000 described species!

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9. Richard Ferrer is upset that a bunch of Nazis can hold a rally to intimidate the Jewish population of Golders Green and the Police are powerless to stop them. We rather think he has a point

EXCLUSIVE: Police can't prevent far-right groups from demonstrating against 'Jewish privilege' in Golders Green -

10. Serena Deena has brought some glamour to Mill Hill

Some quality time at the studio last week

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Saturday 23 May 2015

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Why Inter Continental Hotels are failing cancer sufferers

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 51 years old and in October 2011 I  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 a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0 . My latest PSA test in February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  an increase but according to my Doctor nothing to worry about, in other words the downward trend has slightly reverseed. 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?

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt recall the appalling treatment I received at the Holiday Inn hotel at Kings Cross in March. My wife had arranged a Spa treat and a massage for me at this swanky hotel, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. When I arrived I was given a "health questionairre" and duly filled it in. What followed was extremely upsetting and annoying. Having prepared myself for a massage, lying on the treatment table, I was informed that they couldn't treat me, due to the fact I have cancer. My first response was incredulity. I had clearly stated that I have a low grade, non aggressive and localised cancer in my prostate gland. In fact, my doctors have advised that massage is good for relaxation and poses no clinical risk. I informed the hotel that I was quite happy to sign a disclaimer and that I had taken medical advice. They informed me that it didn't matter, it was company policy. I then informed them that under the disablity act, what they were doing is illegal, as cancer is clearly defined as a disability ( If you have any cancer then the Equality Act 2010 covers you. The Equality Act is a law that protects anyone who has, or has had, a disability - cancer is classed as a disability under this law. Even if you no longer have cancer, you are still protected against discrimination.) The staff at the spa were very contemptuous when this point was raised.

As an adult, I believe I have the right to make choices. I can go and drink myself to death in the hotel bar, I can eat high fat foods in their restaurants. It is my choice. All of these things are far more of a threat to my health than a massage. If the hotel had any grounds to doubt my sanity, then they would have a point perhaps, but they certainly at no point raised this. As my wife was with me, they could have asked her. A company has the right to take reasonable precautions to protect its business, but denying a perfectly healthy person a beneficial treatment is clearly both illegal and immoral. If you operate a "health club", surely you should be aware of the health implications of what you do and the law. The stress of having my anniversary treat was probably the worst aspect of the whole experience. I feel extremely sorry for my wife, who not only felt very upset, but had to put up with me being in a foul mood on what should have been a special day.

Anyway, after the event several things happened. I was deluged with emails from massage therapists, posting links to articles stating the positive benefits of massage in my situation (thanks for the support). I was also contacted by someone who is a personal friend of a senior member of the Inter Continental Hotel board (who own Holiday Inn). They told me that they'd raise the issue with him. And we got a tweet from Inter Continental Hotels, asking them to email them. We did this. We had a short exchange of emails, the last of which was this.

Dear Mr. Tichborne,

Thank you for your prompt response regarding your experience and greatly appreciate the time you have spent to bring this matter to our attention. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience the level of customer service may have caused you.

We are hospitality professionals who pride ourselves on delivering world class customer service and it is our regret that we failed to deliver an exemplary performance in this context. We want our guest to have a pleasant and professional experience when interacting with our staff. We sincerely apologize we fell below your standards on level of customer service provided. 

It has always been the goal of IHG to provide world class accommodations and services to all of our guests and members. The feedback we receive from our valued guests, like you, enables us to target problem areas, and take the necessary actions to ensure similar situations can be avoided in the future. 

I have also forwarded your comments to the General Manager and ownership of this hotel. We certainly do take these matters very seriously and assure you the circumstances leading to this incident will be thoroughly investigated internally to prevent another guest from experiencing a similar inconvenience. We understand the value of our guests and stress the importance of quality guest service.  We trust you have experienced this higher level of service at our hotels and with our office in the past, and know that we do care about you as our guest.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. We value you as our guest and hope you will continue to choose IHG for your future travel needs.


Zelyn Navalta
eMedia Coordinator
Reference # 84771920

We received this email at 9.28 on Weds 25th March. I naively assumed that when the General Manager and the Ownership of the hotel realised what had happened, we may have got at the very least a personal apology. Sadly this apology from the "emedia coordinator" was the last communication we received. I thought it may take a week or two for them to review the situation. I think two months is quite long enough to conclude their review. 

Every company gets things wrong sometimes. Only a fool expects otherwise. I judge a company by how they deal with situations when there is a problem. So how do I judge Inter Continental Hotels? 

Well I think we can safely say that if you are living with cancer (which one in 3 of us are, often without realising), then they will discriminate against you and deny you services, based on no medical evidence. They will quite happily embarrass you and make you feel like a second class citizen and bring home to you that "you are different" (the first time this has happened since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011).

We can also say that if you are there for a special occasion and there is an issue with the service that causes you to be dissatisfied with service, you can expect "a sincere apology" from the "emedia coordinator". Don't expect the people responsible for the problem to bother getting in touch or trying to make amends. I run a business. If a recording or rehearsal session has a problem, I don't get the bloke who runs my website to apologise, I try and make damn sure I sort the issue out myself. I can't say we always sort things out, but we try. DO you think Inter Continental hotels have tried?

I really don't think it is too much to expect that a large multinational brand, that operates health clubs, has a proper policy for dealing with people with cancer and other conditions. If my wife had been informed that the hotel would not give massages to ANYONE who has any form of cancer, no matter how beningn, we wouldn't have bothered using the hotel. I personally wouldn't choose to use a chain with such a policy, even if I wasn't in the situation I find myself in. I am sharing this experience with you so that you can also make the same decision. When the emedia coordinator contacted me, I sort of assumed that I'd get a follow up call or email and they'd sort this out. I can't pretend I'm not disappointed. I am also mildly surprised.

When this incident occurred, I was furious, not least because my wife was extremely upset that what she thought was a lovely treat that would make me happy couldn't have gone more horribly wrong. If you run a company which is in the business of providing "world class accommodations and services to all of our guests and members" don't you think they should try a bit harder. As I said, I was furious. Now I am just rather sad that in this day and age, large companies can be so useless.

If you have had a horrible experience somewhere as a result of company mistreating you due to issues with cancer (or any other illness), please feel free to submit a guest blog. We can only change things if we name and shame these corporations that simply do not care.