Tuesday 28 February 2017

Barnet Tories deserve high praise for assistance to Syrian refugees

Credit where credit is due. This blog believes in calling out the good and the bad. I was heartened to see that Barnets Conservative administration has been receiving high praise for its work with Syrian refugees. A press release on the council website says:

"The Government has thanked Barnet for its role in supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the UK. It follows the publication of new government figures which show that the UK has resettled over 5,500 Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme putting it on track to meet its commitment of resettling 20,000 by 2020. Barnet has currently resettled 37 Syrian refugees out of its commitment to resettle 50 individuals as part of the VPR scheme. Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said: “The support of Barnet and other local authorities has been paramount in helping us resettle so many vulnerable people who have fled conflict. “The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unprecedented which is why we decided to undertake one of the largest resettlement schemes in the UK’s history. “The hard work will continue throughout this Parliament as we provide those who have been traumatised and damaged by war with a safe environment and the chance to rebuild their lives.” Barnet has been housing Syrian refugees with support from central government, which fully funds the first year of resettlement using the overseas aid budget. The VPR scheme is voluntary, but so far more than 200 local authorities have housed refugees. In September 2015, the Government expanded the scheme to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians by the end of this Parliament in 2020. Over the same period, we will resettle up to 3,000 individuals from the Middle East and North Africa through our Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme."

It can only be good that Barnet Council is seeking to trumpet the fact that it has a decent and humane attitude to refugees. Well done to Richard Cornelius and his team.

Monday 27 February 2017

Local residents fail in bid to protect the Green Belt

Last week, a well orchestrated planning application to build an extension to Hasmonean School in Page St on a large area of green belt land was passed by Barnet Council's planning committee. I received the following email.

"I was very interested in your recent post on corporate vandalism in Barnet.  Like you, I was deeply shocked at the decision of Councillors regarding the new Hasmonean school.  I just wanted to highlight that this is not a done deal - the London Mayor now has an opportunity to overrule the decision, but I am not sure if people are aware of this - it is really important that people contact him now to let him know how unhappy we are about the behaviour of the Council.  The Green Belt destruction website http://www.green-belt-destruction-nw7.org.uk/how-to-object has an update, but could you put in another word for them on your blog - I only found out about it from the last time they did a guest post on your blog."
To demonstrate how the campaign was co-ordinated by people outside Mill Hill, checkout this pin map. The red pins are objections to the plan, the green pins are messages of support.  As you can see there was strong local opposiion, but people well outside the area and not affected were highly active.

Sunday 26 February 2017

The idiots guide to surviving an alien invasion!

This week, it was announced that astronomers have detected a solar system a mere 38 light years away with three planets in what is called the "goldilocks zone", capable of supporting life.

This reawakened a conundrum that has long troubled me.  What would be the best strategy for surviving an alien invasion of Earth. Ever since my earliest days, hiding behind the sofa as Daleks menaced Doctor Who as they tried to invade Earth, I've whiled away many hours developing strategies for surviving a hostile invasion by little green men. As we now have Donald Trump in the White House as defacto leader of the world, it strikes me that there has never been a better time for the aliens to decide it is time to show their hand. Of course any strategy has to be tailored to deal with what sort of invasion we had to deal with. There are several options I've considered

1. A hostile invasion to simply plunder earth of its minerals, resources and even worse people for slavery or even food.

2. A benign invasion to get us to sort out our planet and resolve the dangerous envionmental issues facing us, such as global warming, pollution and inequality.

3. An invasion by an expansionist empire seeking living space, resources and workforce, but relatively benign towards a quiescent population.

4.  A "secret invasion" a la Invasion of the bodysnatchers, where people suddenly are 'taken over' and aliens conquer us by stealth.

Image result for alien technologyEach of these different types of invasion would require a different survival strategy, but is there a strategy that would get you through in all instances? The first problem is that for any alien invader to have a serious prospect of success, they would have to have first found a way around Einsteins theory of relativity. This would mean a hyperdrive capable of transporting millions of their race across light years of space. Clearly their technology would be well in advance of ours, which would make the prospects of us achieving a military victory over such a threat rather remote. In all cases (apart from possibly case 2), the first targets for annihalation (assuming this was the invaders preferred strategy)  would be any force seriously capable of mounting a response. So that would probably mean that being a member of the armed forces of a powerful nation is not a good place to be. Having quiesced the military, it would be sensible for our alien chums to keep public order. Therefore they would probably maintain a civilian police force, presumably tightly controlled. So a career in the police, especially in somewhere like the Shetland Islands, which is fairly low down on their list of priorities (one assumes), would seem a reasonable shout for a good chance of getting by.

I have seen a few American sites over the years, where survivalists in desolate arears are arming themselves to the back teeth, building bunkers and stockpiling supplies for just such an eventuality. To me this is a highly dubious strategy. Firstly who wants to live in a bunker eating sardines? One would assume that the aliens would consider these sorts pretty useless in their scheme of things. If they can crack warp drives, zapping a few rednecks in bunkers really wouldn't seem to problematical. It would be far more sensible to make yourself useful to the invaders. Of course the experience of indiginous peoples in areas where more "developed" people turn up gives us a pretty bleak outlook if we want to maintain our customs and traditions. In nations such as Australia and the USA, people seeking to maintain there old customs and traditions, have had the choice of retreating to the ends of the earth, the least hospitable and desirable places to live. That or assimilate. So it may well be the armed rednecks are left to get on with it. Those wanting some sort of decent lifestyle would be faced with a very different set of choices.

We have to assume that the aliens would want food, shelter, power and transport systems to operate. Having come all this way, they clearly don't want to have to sleep in the open or in the cold. I mean what is the point conquering, if it isn't to acheive a good standard of living?

Now if the aliens in scenario 2 come, then it would seem that a good strategy would be simplyto be a sensible human being. But what about the other less pleasant options. Clearly the first targets for annihilation would be non useful people taking up living space. So having a job doing something useful to an alien administration would seem eminently sensible. I'd assume that they'd have less use for hairdressers than train drivers so a job doing something useful with specialist knowledge would seem a good way to go. Train drivers need a good bit of training. We have to assume that even aliens have to get from A to B. They clearly wouldn't want too much dissent, so bloggers and political activists would seem to be jobs to avoid.  It would also seem likely that those people in the police who monitor us would be a great asset, as they would need to keep a lid on all dissent. Things like farming pose and interesting conundrum. If they liked steak and lamb, farmers would presumably be well placed, but if they were vegetarian, it would be a different matter. Likewise if they were partial to a tipple. If the alien nation loved scotch whisky, then that would be a good profession to be in. If they didn't and were an absteemious bunch, perhaps it would be a completely different matter.

So what job would be a the best bet? Well whoever were to invade, they'd presumably want a usable planet. Even the worst asset strippers, if they were going to bother to invade, would want a working planet. So there are some jobs that I think would give you a pretty good chance of ensuring an opportunity to survive any cull.  Lets face it, if they just wanted to wipe us out, they'd simply blow the planet up, so all bets would be off. So an invasion suggests that they want a usable planet.

I'd say that the best job security would be to work in nuclear waste reprocessing. If I was a self respecting alien, this isn't a job I'd really fancy doing, but if it isn't done, then the planet you've expended so much effort to conquer would simply have large swathes transformed into irradiated, useless wastelands. It would make utmost sense to keep the people associated with these facilities reasonably happy and contented. So my advice is if you are an idiot and you want to survive an alien invasion, then a job in a nuclear waste reprocessing facility would be just the ticket. It is difficult an dcomplicated enough that they couldn't simply replace you. If they didn't retain someone to do it, someone who knew the gear, it could all go horribly wrong for the invader.  Plants like Sellafield are pretty remote, so won't be too high on the radar for any mass exterminations that a more Dalek motivated invader may plan. I don't think that this could be deemed as being immoral or a collaborator, as if the job wasn't done, it would simply ruin the planet.

My assumption would be that any race that could master the technology of warp drives would have to be, at the very least, more intelligent than humanity. They would have to be not to warlike, as any race that was too warlike would not get past the stage of developing nuclear technology, without blowing themselves up. Of course if they see humanity as a lower species, as we see cattle, then they are not likely to care too much for our health and wellbeing.  One would assume that they would spend a considerable amount of time monitoring us and planning before any putsch. The ideal scenario for any invader is to walk in and simply take the levers of power with little or no resistance and little damage to infrastructure. How would this be achieved and what would we be wise to look out for?

The obvious way would be to subert the human leadership of planet Earth. Install greedy, unprincipled people who care none for  the citizens they are elected to serve. People who clearly are vain, avaricious and morally bankrupt, would be ideal proxies. Get such people in charge of the major powers, the countries that control the biggest nuclear arsenals. Persuade people that all manner of terrorist threats exist, so that they can monitor our every move. Ensure that the police are tooled up to deal with 'any situation'. Persuade people to buy into a "ready meal society", where people are malliable and unable to fend for themselves. Have huge databases of peoples every detail, so you can easily assess their worth, value and capabilities. Set up websites where people can share views and personal information, so you can know all of their actions and vulnerabilities. Have a society where people cannot function without checking data and finding out what we are supposed to think. It would also be necessary to break down traditional power bases and security agreements and systems, so people continually feel edgy and nervous.

Luckily for us, we have great statesmen such as VladimirPutin and Donald Trump. Paragons of honesty and deceny. This gives me great comfort and no reason to worry at all. I haven't looked at this at all ;) http://careers.sellafieldsite.co.uk/vacancies/

So you may wonder. Do I think we are likely to see an alien invasion in short order. No, I don't. I really can't see why a race that is more advanced than us and with better technology would bother. But then, what do I know.

Saturday 25 February 2017

The Saturday List #119 - 10 acts of corporate vandalism in and by the London Borough of Barnet

This week, the councillors of Barnet Council voted to destroy a large area of Green Belt in Mill Hill, to accomodate the expensaion of Hasmonean School. Whilst the Barnet Eye recognises that we desperately need more school places for local children, we strongly disagree with the destruction of the Green Belt to facilitate this. Sadly this is not the first act of corporate vandalism I've seen in my lifetime. All of these things below could have been prevented by an enlightened council and planning committees that cared.

 Here are my top ten.

1. Closure of Mill Hill Swimming Pool. This was bequeathed by a wealthy local resident to the people of Mill Hill to be used in perpetuity as a swimming pool. In the 1980's the then local Conservative Council ignored this and flogged off the site to become a Garden Centre.

Image result for watling boys club
Derelict Watling Boys Club
2. Closure of Watling Boys Club. Watling boys club was a thriving youth centre in the heart of the Watling Council Estate. Sadly the council doesn't seem capable of understanding that if you don't provide activities for young people, you get social problems.

3. Redevelopment of Pavillion Way playing fields. Yet more lost recreational facilities in Burnt Oak. Yet again there was a covenant on the site that the council ignored.

Image result for hendon fc claremont road ground
Derelict Claremont Road - Home of Hendon FC
4. The destruction of Hendon FC ground in Claremont Road. The Barnet Council Tories hate football and football clubs (unless they are Rugby Football Clubs). Hendon FC had a great little ground in Claremont Road, steeped in history. Barnet Council saw to it that the site was redeveloped and the club forced out.

5. The destruction of Barnet FC ground in Underhill. The Barnet Council Tories hate football and football clubs (unless they are Rugby Football Clubs). Barnet FC had a ground at Underhill, steeped in history. Barnet Council saw to it that the site was redeveloped and the club forced out. (note the crafty cut and paste job - they make blogging about their evil intent easy on occasion!).

6. The closure  of Mill Hill Library childrens section. It seems that the Conservative Councillors of Barnet (most of whom are well past child raising age), see no need for a dedicated space for mothers to take their toddlers to read. Mill Hill library has lost its childrens section. Unlike me, our councillors seem to think child literacy is rather unimportant. Sadly Mill Hill isn't the only library to be dismembered, but having done the cut and paste job once, I think you'd get a bit bored if I did it for all the libraries.

7. The demolition of The National Newspaper Library in Colindale. Some acts of corporate vandalism are just beyond comprehension. This is pretty near the top. Why on earth Barnet did not fight tooth and nail to preserve this important historical site is beyond me.

8. Closure of Church Farmhouse Museum in Hendon. A fantastic museum, oldest building in Hendon. Fascinating exhibitions and displays. Shut down and left to rot. Now just another bit of Middlesex University. Local kids have lost a fascinating window into the past of their community.

9. The monstrous sculpture outside Hendon Town Hall. Famously described by punk poet Pete Conway as "two tons of scrap metal on a pile of broken stone". Dumped there by the then Tory Council in 1980. The leader said "residents will come to love it and people will come from all over to admire it". This was to justify the tens of thousands they wasted on it. Do you love it? Has anyone ever come from miles around to admire it.

10. The Borough's pavements. Barnet Council used to have proper granite paving stones in most of our streets. Sadly the council decided that these were too expensive to maintain. So now we either have cheap concrete ones and even cheaper asphalt, where they could get away with it. This has nearly completed the uglification of the Borough.

I have come to conclude that the Barnet Tories hate football, children, young people, local history and anything which looks vaguely attractive. They also prefer to breath car fumes than fresh air. I usually try and refrain from using the Saturday list to make political points. Saturday is a day to relax and have fun, but I'm afriad that I cannot say nothing today about what is going on.

Friday 24 February 2017

The Friday Joke - 24/2/2017

The weekend is upon us. Let's start in the traditional style.

Larry's barn burned down and his wife, Susan, called the insurance company.
Susan spoke to the insurance agent and said, "We had that barn insured for fifty thousand, and I want my money."
The agent replied, "Whoa there, just a minute. Insurance doesn't work quite like that. An independent adjuster will assess the value of what was insured, and then we'll provide you with a new barn of similar worth."
There was a long pause, and then Susan replied, "If that's how it works, then I want to cancel the life insurance policy on my husband."

HS2 - If it's the answer, what is the question?

Today the bill authorising HS2 was passed into law. As someone who has always had an interest in transportation and railways, I have very mixed feelings about the project. I have no doubt that when (if) it's built, the arguments will all be forgotten and everyone will say it's a brilliant way of travelling. Whenever there are large infrastructure projects in the UK, there is always much nashing of teeth. Yet the more I look at it, the less I see that it is the best use of £50 billion on transport infrastructure. If I was planning to spend such a huge sum, I'd start by looking at where the biggest problems are. So lets start with road congestion. What are the busiest roads in the country. For me this would be the logical place to start, check the road stats. Notice a patten?

All Roads, All Vehicles, 2014

  1. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Hillingdon
  2. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Slough
  3. M1 between J7 and J8, Hertfordshire
  4. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Salford
  5. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  6. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  7. M25, Sarratt Road, Hertfordshire
  8. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  9. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Buckinghamshire
  10. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  11. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Windsor and Maidenhead
  12. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  13. M1 between J6A and J7, Hertfordshire
  14. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Bury
  15. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Salford
  16. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Bury
  17. A406, North Circular Road, Redbridge
  18. A406, North Circular Road, Waltham Forest
  19. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Surrey
  20. M25, London Orbital Motorway, Hertfordshire
  21. M6 between J20 and J21 spur, Warrington
  22. M6(T), M6 Toll, Warwickshire
  23. M8 between J16 and J15, Glasgow City
  24. M6 between J21 spur and J21A, Warrington
  25. M56, North Cheshire Motorway, Manchester
  26. M4 between Hillingdon boundary and J4, Hillingdon
  27. M4 between J4B / M25 and Slough boundary, Slough
  28. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Stockport
  29. M61, Kearsley Spur, Bolton
  30. M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road, Salford
How many of these will see traffic allieviated by HS2?

What about busiest trains?

1. 07:00 Brighton  - Bedford
2. 07:34 Didcot Parkway - London Paddington
3. 04:22 Glasgow Central - Manchester Airport
4. 16:00 Manchester Airport - Edinburgh Waverley
5. 07:51 Heathrow  Terminal 5 - London Paddington
6. 07:32 Woking - London Waterloo
7. 07:07 Henley-On-Thames - London Paddington
8. 08:08 Sutton - St. Albans City
9. 17:46 London - Euston Crewe
10. 07:14 Alton - London Waterloo

What about the most overcrowded routes into London?

Busiest routes into London (% over capacity*)

1. Paddington 10.1%
2. Moorgate 8.0%
3. Blackfriars (via Elephant and Castle) 7.6%
4. St. Pancras 6.9%
5. Fenchurch Street 4.9%
6. Waterloo 4.6%
7. Euston 4.2%
8. Liverpool Street 3.9%
9. Marylebone 3.9%
10. King’s Cross 2.7%
11. London Bridge 1.9%
12. Victoria 1.9%

Or the worst performing rail Franchises

Top 10 worst performing operators 

  1. Govia Thameslink Railway – 81.5 per cent of trains were on time
  2. Virgin Train East Coast – 85.2 per cent
  3. Caledonian Sleeper – 86 per cent
  4. Southeastern – 86.9 per cent
  5. First TransPennine Express – 87.8 per cent
  6. London Midland - 88.1 per cent
  7. Abellio Greater Anglia – 89.3 per cent
  8. CrossCountry – 89.5 per cent
  9. Great Western Railway – 89.5 per cent
  10. South West Trains – 90.1 per cent

Or  the worst pollution?


 And what about the top ten air routes?


 What is quite shocking, to me at least is that by any measure I can see to justify a huge transport investment, there doesn't seem to be an issue with the core London to Birmingham route. It won't address road congestion, the slowest rail lines, the worst pollution or the busiest air routes.

I am also slightly bemused that given that there are two main line rail routes, offering decent services from London to Birmingham. One already runs from London Euston to Birmingham. The current journey time is 1 hour and 28 minutes. You can also travel from London Marylebone to Birmingham in 1 hour and 46 minutes. This is the only rail mainline that has no plans to be modernised and electrified. Isn't it bizarre that we are seeking to build a completely new rail line, when there is one that is still running with Diesel trains? The time from London to Birmingham  will come down to 49 minutes by HS2. Now clearly this is a huge benefit for travellers who want a quick Journey time, but does that mean it is worth the money? A modernisation of the Chiltern route surely should have been done first?

One thing that strikes me looking at the most congested roads is that they are by and large orbital ring roads on the edges of big cities. 12 of the top 20 congested roads are on the M25 and four are on the M60 ring road in Manchester. Back in the 1960's the Beeching report destroyed the network of rail branch lines that provided orbital routes. if you want to travel from London to Birmingham, there are rail routes that are a practical alternative. If you want to get from Hatfield to Watford, a distance of 10.3 miles, the road journey time is 26 minutes.  To travel by train, you have a journey of 1 hour and 21 minutes with three changes. Why do I pick this exampe? Because it was a route that did have a rail line, which was closed by Beeching. There are hiundreds of examples of such routes that were closed.

Much of the worst stretch of the M25 is around Heathrow. Any journey to Heathrow by train from just about anywhere (apart from Central London) involves a journey into London and one or two changes. The main rail service is from Paddington, which is perhaps the worst connected Terminus apart from Fenchurch St.  I find it amazing that there are no proposals at all for an outer London Orbital railway. Such a line connecting Heathrow with the outer suburbs would have a massive impact on road congestion and economic activity. I don't know the traffic flows around Manchester. but I am sure that similar opportunities exist.

Diesel trains at Marylebone
The silly thing is that much of the infrastructure to put an outer London Orbital rail route is in place and simply needs a bit of joining up. Heathrow could easily be joined up with Brent Cross and North West London by a relatively cheap update to a lightly used freight only line running from Cricklewood to Acton. There are freight lines and disused lines that offer the opportunity (with a few gaps being filled) to link this with the Barnet branch of the Northern Line. Campaigners have dubbed this the "Brent Cross railway". Given the huge number of homes being built in Mill Hill East, Colindale, West Hendon and Brent Cross, this seems to me a complete no brainer. There are similar schemes being proposed all over London and the rest of the country.  A few examples I know of  are lines such as the Woodhead Route from Sheffield to Manchester. Why this was ever closed is beyond me. This was one of the first mainline railways to be electrified in the UK. Another example is the Oxford-Cambridge varsity line. In 2014, the Scottish government reopened the Borders railway. This has been a disaster. The reason? They massively underestimated the demand for the service and it has been plagued with overcrowded services.

Another example of a successful reopening is the Corby branch on the Midland mainline. This was reopened in 2009 and has seen large annual increases. It is now scheduled for electrification in 2019.

The point for me, that seems to have been missed is that these sort of schemes are relatively low cost and deliver huge benefits. How many such schemes could be delivered for the cost of HS2? The Borders Railway has carried over a million passengers. The Corby Spur carried over a quarter of a million passengers last year.

Oddly the two rail routes that the government predicts to have the biggest growth are London to Newcastle and Edinburgh. Neither of these will directly benefit from HS2. The more I look, the less I see a case for making HS2 the priority.  I am convinced that the government has pushed this because they can understand a grand scheme. Just suppose that instead of spending the £50 billion on one big scheme, they'd used it to fund say 100 small schemes of between £100 Million and £3 billion, removing bottlenecks, reopening disused branch lines, resuming passenger services on freight only lines, electrifying busy routes which are currently relying on diesel technology. Which would benefit more people, reduce pollution more and improve interchanges with airports?  The government has told us that HS2 is the answer, but I really don't think they've laid out what the question is. I don't see a huge clamour of people saying "the two existing mainline services between Birmingham and London just don't cut the mustard". I do see a huge amount of dissatisfaction with London commuter services. I know from personal experience that I would not use public transport from Mill Hill to Heathrow. We all know about poor air quality on London streets. It seems bonkers that passengers will still be arriving at Marylebone and breathing diesel particles from diesel particles when HS2 opens. That is Great Britain today. Everything is spin, smoke and mirrors.

Britain’s top 10 polluters 13MayPollutedCitiesWEB

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/environment/forty-areas-uk-breach-world-health-organizations-pollution-limits/

Wednesday 22 February 2017

The Wednesday poem #12 - Shadow


The lady in the bed,
just a picture of mum
She looks just the same 
but her spark has gone,
Never emerging from the shadows,
Just waiting to die,
Breaks my heart, 
makes me cry

Copyright 2017 - Roger Tichborne 

(Rog note : I wrote this in 2001 shortly after my mum had a stroke. Perhaps one of the most despairing pieces I've written. She was in hospital and I didn't think she was coming out again. But she rallied and ended up living back in her own flat for another 7 years. It was difficult but we did have good times again)

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Another turn on a bumpy road

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested. 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 53 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 gave 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,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer), albiet with small mass. On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, which means that the direction is positive . 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?

It is now just over a year since I had HIFU therapy. I had a PSA test in January. The news was promising, it was down to 3.5. I also had an MRI which is part of the trial protocol. Today I went to see the consultant for th one year follow up. I'd already heard the PSA result, as I had this at Finchley Memorial Hospital and they'd sent the results to the GP. So I was in reasonably positive spirits. But as we all know, this journey is not without its twists and turns. It seems to be the case that whenever I start feeling a bit too positive, cancer gives me a slap to bring me down to earth. And so it was today. It started with the normal questions, How was the leakage situation? It is fine. How is the sexual function? Fine thanks. Do I need viagra? No. All very good. My consultant looked a bit surprised at the last answer. Maybe I just imagined this. I guess that doing well is a good thing?

Then we came to discuss the MRI. This was where the news was not quite so good. Lets be clear, its not bad. It appears that when they zapped the cancerous area in the prostate with a HIFU beam, they may have missed a small bit. Then again, it may be an artefact (scar tissue/debris left by the procedure). There is only one way to tell. I need another set of biopsies , targetted on the splodge exposed by the MRI. Depending on what this shows, its either a) nothing b) something to watch c) Something which requires another round of HIFU or d).........(the unknown unknown). My consultant tells me it is a 30% probability that it will require treatment.

So I feel rather deflated. I was happy with where I'd got to and really wasn't looking forward to another round of biopsys and HIFU. Keeping things in perspective, I'm in a pretty good place. Whatever it is, it is small and very likely to be treatable. 95% of men who have small prostate tumours don't know. I have mine under survelliance. In light of recent changes to the way the NHS approaches prostate cancer, I'd not have had a PSA test and I'd not be in a program. I am lucky.

I just don't really feel it right now. But given the choicem I'd rather be where I am than growing a tumour in ignorant bliss.

Monday 20 February 2017

Barnet Council Playing fields consultation - closes 27th February

Barnet Council is currently consulting residents on its playing field strategy. Anyone who gives a stuff  about the future of our Borough, the health and fitness of our young people and green spaces really should read this and make a submission. Please forward these details to anyone who you think may be concerned.

Having read the document, I must say that this is a definite good starting point. I was quite upset to see that the Burnt Oak Lesiure centre football pitch has degenerated to be a "poor" site. There is also no mention of Cressingham Park in Burnt Oak, home of Watling youth FC.

Another criticism of the document is that every pitch should be listed and classified, perhaps in an appendices, with a full status, in the form of a table. I worry that  unlisted sites will be designated "not a playing field".  There is also a lack of detail. Each site should have its facilities (ie chaning rooms and showers) listed and classified. I am not sure whether these ommissions are worrying or not. but the council must do this important exercise properly.

It is interesting that there is no mention of school tennis courts. Do they still have tennis courts? I note there is no mention of other more minority sports, such as Lacrosse, American Football, Archery, Athletics, etc. I think we need a holistic approach to these.

The document does not list what consultation and input has been received from clubs to develop this document.

So in summary, I'd say this is a decent starting point, but we need a far more comprehensive document that encompasses all sporting users of all sporting fields in Barnet.

I've attached the document below.

The council say on their webpage.


Barnet Council recognises the need for good quality sports pitches and it has listed them as an important factor in its Parks and Open Spaces and Fit and Active Barnet Strategies. Barnet is the fastest growing borough in London and it is necessary to make sure that an adequate number of pitches are provided in the future.
Working in partnership with Sport England and the relevant National Governing Bodies of Sport (England & Wales Cricket Board, England Hockey Board, Football Association, Lawn Tennis Association & Rugby Football Union), the council is developing a Playing Pitch Strategy which will also address the needs of Gaelic football in the area.
The Playing Pitch Strategy will provide a strong future action plan for Barnet’s provision of sports pitches.  This information will be used to inform the borough’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which looks at current provisions and identifies existing and future needs. It will also underpin the Local Plan making sure, amongst other things, planning considers the provision of sports pitches.
Whilst developing the strategy, current facilities and future needs were identified and local sports clubs, leagues and pitch providers were consulted.  Now that a draft Playing Pitch Strategy has been written, we would like you to give us your views on the specific recommendations.

Why We Are Consulting

The consultation is open to all Barnet residents, businesses and community and interest groups, together with sports clubs and individuals who play sport on pitches in the borough.
We want to find out what you think about the sport, area and site specific recommendations contained in the draft Playing Pitch Strategy.

Give Us Your Views

Please take the time to read the recommendations in the Strategy and then give us your views by completing our online questionnaire.
For any further information, or to request a questionnaire in an alternative format, please contact Ruth Miller, Project Manager, by:
  • telephoning:  020 8359 4642, or
  • emailing: Ruth.Miller@barnet.gov.uk, or
  • writing to: Barnet Council, Barnet House,1255 High Road, Whetstone, London, N20 0EJ.

Sunday 19 February 2017

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet

So what has been going on in the Wonderful world of The Barnet Twitterati?

1. We start in Burnt Oak with a small kindness that is rightly appreciated.It's always really good to hear such stories.

2. The work never stops on allotments in Finchley
3. Homeless Action in Barnet got a donation this week. Lets hope they can get a few more.
4. Looking for a new motor? This would do nicely!
5. I'm not really quite sure what message Colindale Police are trying to put across here?
6. A great demolition shot from C&D London
7. Last Sunday, West Hendon held a memorial ceremony for the 76 killed by a Nazi bomb in 1941
8. The Hendon Salvation Army are moving home.
9. Interesting Question from Martin Slaine
10. A Mill Hill landmark celebrated a Milestone this week

Saturday 18 February 2017

The Saturday list #118 - Nostalgia central - My 10 favorourite 1970's TV characters

I was discussing 70's TV over lunch yesterday and the subject of favourite characters from the 1970's TV came up. A fine subject for a Saturday list, don't you think? On making the list, I realised that all the characters who made the list are what we may call "interesting". I don't really like the one dimensional hero characters. These aren't characters I necessarily like. They are characters who I think make great TV.

1. Jack Regan - The Sweeney. I think we all believed that policemen were like Jack Regan in the 1970's.  Regan's life revolved around "booze, birds and motors". At the time he seemd to me to be a heroic figure, but watching reruns, with more life experience, he's quite a tragic character. Having said that, if I wanted any copper in the country to catch the nasty characters who burgled my studio I'd want Regan to!

2. Fletcher - Porridge - Fletch was the other end of the scale. He was the unreformed old lag. He was the one who was always trying to beat the system. He was someone who, if he'd come from a different background, may have been a philiospher or a politician. Completely amoral in some ways, but totally moral in other ways. I don't think anyone really wanted to be Fletcher, but we all hoped that if we found ourselves in prison, we'd have Fletcher as a room mate.

 3. Rigsby - Rising Damp - Rigsby - a tragic figure, in truth I probably didn't get him at the time and found his obsession with Frances De La Tour a bit creepy. In the early episodes, his clumsy attempts to belittle Phillip, a student who claimed to be son of an African chief backfired in the heat of Phillips superior intelligence. Rigsby is pretty much what most of us expected small time landlords to be like. Seedy, penny pinching and devious. Sadly, my experience of the rental sector as a tenant didn't overturn this opinion. The series would have just been so boring without Rigsby.

4. Alf Garnett- Till Death Us Do Part - A figure who straddlled the 60's and 70's. Garnett was a charicature of a East End working class bigot, struggling to cope with the massive changes in our society. Racist, sexist and ignorant. His wife was the "silly moo". Black people were derided, his son in law was a scouse git. The genius of the writing was that it was able to show just how ridiculous such views were. What Johnny Speight perhaps didn't anticipate when he wrote it was how many people would empathise with Garnett and his hatred of how Britain was changing. Alf Garnett was in many ways UKIP before UKIP existed. Anthing that takes the mickey out of such views and such people is fine by me.

5. Col Paul Foster  - UFO - Interceptor pilot, part time moonbase commander, skydiver pilot, investigator. If ever there was a character on TV I felt empathy with, it was Paul Foster. He starts as a military test pilot, getting accidently shot down by SHADO (the anti Alien organisation), sets out to investigate and expose them. He is then recruited and becomes a senior figure. In one episode, he befriends an alien, but cannot prevent SHADO killing him. This makes him become rather cynical. As a teenager, I was obsesed with aliens and conspiracies. I believed that there were organisations such as SHADO, operating secretly. As I grew up, like Foster I've become more cynical. I now believe that as a race, we are far too greedy and stupid to pull off such conspiracies.
6. Stan Ogden - Coronation Street - Stan was and remains a real hero of mine. Serially unlucky, lazy, uncommunicative, and the script often hinted at his infidelity. He was a serial disappointment to Hilda, his wife. But she loved him.  Perhaps the best period was when Eddie Yeats, a scouse binman became the Ogdens lodger. The dialog was witty and gritty. In many ways Yeats was a surrogate son. As Ogden grew old, Yeats stepped up and looked after him. What I loved about Stan was he was a very believable figure and for all his failings, he had a lot of love. He just had demons as well. These days, it seems there is no warmth in soap stars and few are truly believable working class characters, surviving on the edge.

7. Bet Lynch - Coronation Street - Another epic character from Coronation Street. Bet Lynch was what we all wanted our barmaids to be like in the 1970's bold and brassy and not prepared to take any nonsense from anyone. It seemed that every pub had a Bet Lynch. In those days, you'd walk in the pub and your pint would be on the bar by the time you got there. That is how it should be.

8.  Mrs Slocombe - Are You Being Served? -  She was the archetypal batty auntie character. (I won't say which of my aunties!). She is the pivot around the humour. You never quite new if she was serious or not. The victim of much sexist innudendo and resentment. It seemed to me that she was a bit of a victim of bullying, but very resilient, in many ways having created her own parallel universe. One of the things which most amused me (given that my mums family origniated from Oldham) was how she'd affect a posh accent that gave way to the northern twang when she got cross. As such I felt great affection for her. I once told my mum that Mrs Slocombe reminded me of her, she went absolutley nuts.

9. Frank Spencer - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - A true comedic genius character. Michael Crawford was immense in this role. This was absolute must see TV. Some of the stunts were awesome, most notably the scene on the roller skates. Truly brilliant.

10. Huggy Bear - Starsky and Hutch - Although a supporting character in the main premise, I loved Huggy Bear. His whole way of talking was just different. His lifestyle seemed to hint at a whole different side of America that we never saw in US shows. Starsky and Hutch was probably the biggest show of the 1970's, but for me Huggy Bear was the only interesting character. He is described in wikipedia as "street-wise, ethically ambiguous, "jive-talking" Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas), who often dressed in a flashy manner and operated his own bar". In other words a far more interesting character than the fairly one dimensional stars