Saturday 31 March 2018

Details of celebrations to mark the 100th Birthday of the RAF this year

On 1 April 2018, the Royal Air Force is celebrating its 100th birthday. To mark this momentous occasion, we want to reflect on the history and the achievements of the RAF. We also want to celebrate the work the RAF is currently doing and look forward to the next 100 years. 

The centenary itself will be marked by special events, activities and other initiatives at local, regional and national levels running from April to the end of November 2018.

The RAF Museum in Hendon has a full programme of events, click here for details.

Following logbbying by the Barnet Eye and other local organisations, Barnet Council has released a commemorative video celebrating the links between the Borough and RAF Hendon. It is well worth  a watch. There will also be a civic celebration, details to be announced.

The centrepiece of RAF100 will take place on 10 July, with a centenary service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade in The Mall and spectacular flypast over Buckingham Palace. 

The RAF100 Static Aircraft Tour will be coming to a city near you this year. There are opportunities to get involved with our city collections in Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. You will also be able to get up close to a selection of aircraft. 

The RAF Museum will be unveiling its multi-million-pound transformation of the museum’s Hendon site which will welcome visitors to discover a new green heart of the community in Colindale, reflecting the historic RAF Hendon airfield. 

To celebrate the centenary, prayers will be said at the 10am service at St Michael and All Angels Church in Mill Hill tomorrow. I am honoured to have been asked to lead the prayer, in recognition of the wartime service of my Father, who was a Flight lieutenant in the RAF, serving with 40 Squadron in the UK, North Africa and Italy during world war II. Please join us. 

More information about the 100th Anniversary of the RAF here.

Friday 30 March 2018

The Barnet Hospital parking scam on a not so Good Friday

It is a tradition at the Barnet Eye, we don't have a Friday joke on Good Friday. We have something a little more reflective. Only this year we don't. I spend most of my life mentally planning blogs, but today's planned blog all went out of the window. My heart just wasn't in what I'd been preparing.

Last night, we were playing five a side at Mill Hill Powerleague and my son hurt his knee going in for a tackle. He had to limp off and today, as he can't put weight on his leg, we had a trip up to the hospital. Well actually two hospitals. The first one we went to was Finchley memorial. On arrival, I tried to register for the parking, only to find that all of the parking machines were broken. There is three hours free parking, but you need to get a ticket. After wandering around in the rain, I decided to inform reception. They said "Oh, don't worry they are broken". A sign would be nice chaps, when you have someone who is immobile, it really is not good. After waiting half an hour, we were seen by a nurse who examined his leg, informed him that he needed an X-Ray and that as it was a bank holiday, the X-Ray unit was shut. She advised a trip to Barnet General.

So off we went to Barnet General. My wife had advised me that the parking machines took card, so I didn't bring any coins. Silly mistake. The machines only take coins. In the end, I had to register for the parking app. It took me ten minutes, standing in the rain. My son shuffled off to A&E on crutches, whilst I cussed and cursed. Adding insult to injury, it is 30p more to pay by phone. Four hours costs £4.30, which to me is a total rip off. They have a captive market. Most people visiting don't have the option of free parking on a side road half a mile away. By my reckoning, this makes it a scam, one which massively discriminates against less mobile citizens. In principle I have no issue contributing £4.30 to the NHS as my son saw a nurse, a doctor and had an X-Ray. I guess that in the USA the cost would be in the hundreds of pounds. I do however object to the fact that the money goes to a parking management company. As a business owner with a retail business, I know that handling cash is far more expensive than handling cards or electronic payments. The extra 30p for a pay by phone transaction is simply daylight robbery.

If Finchley Memorial can run their operation with free parking, how does Barnet justify the charges? If you have a relative with a chronic or terminal illness, then this could start to mount up and be a major expense. One that you can avoid if you are fit enough to park elsewhere, but if you can't for whatever reason, you are simply there to be fleeced.

I live in Mill Hill. Public transport would simply not have been an option for my son today, even on a good day, it would be two buses and a lengthy walk. We have three Conservative MP's in Barnet. One has to conclude that they don't give a damn.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Sunday service at St Michaels Church in Mill Hill to mark the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the RAF

My Fathers Squadron badge
This Sunday sees the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the RAF. It is no exaggeration to say that without the sacrifice and courage of the pilots of the RAF, the concept of free speech, democracy and equality would not exist today. The efforts of the few, as mentioned by Winston Churchill in his famous address to the houses of Parliament on 20 August 1940, where he said "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" was the turning point in the second world war. 

Hendon is the spirtitual home of the RAF and has a long association with the service as well as the history of aviation as well as housing the amazing RAF museum.  I was rather surprised that the London Borough of Barnet had not planned a civic service to mark the event. My enquiries to various councillors were met with a response of "we are leaving it to the RAF museum to do all that" (click here for their events calendar). This is a matter that is close to my heart.

My father was a bomber pilot with no. 40 Squadron of the RAF. Bomber command suffered 55,000 casualaties during the second world war. For their efforts, they went unrecognised. My father died in 1987, without even receiving a campaign medal, despite flying 40 active service missions, being shot down, losing his best friend Spud Murphy (see below) rear gunner in the process.

I published my fathers war diary from 1944 several years ago to mark Remembrance Sunday. It is a remarkable document, mixing tragedy with moments of fun. Here is a short extract. Quite chilling really.

Mon 7th Bombed Padria Italy 9X500HE. Bombs fell right on Marshalling yards full of trucks (target). Jimmy Keily and crew missing. Arrived back at 06.00 slept all day 

Wed 9th - Went to Barletta. enjoying wine tasting almost as much as we bought. Blagged our way through the door. Soaked on the way back

Thurs 10th - Innoculations for Typhus today. testing aircraft 
Sun 13th - did two trips to Anzio - dropped 36 X 250lb HE bombs. Had bad weather freezing -29C Spud (rear gunner) had almost to be chiselled out of his box. Hope 36 X 250lb bombs did good work on the Jerries.

Thur 17th - Flying Kit stolen. 1 Blue Kit bag. 1 Leather helmet, 1 pr Gauntlets, 1 Suit, 1 pr shoes, 1 pr Sunglasses, 1 pr sick gloves. Bombed San Stefano. Had trouble all the way with 'B' but made grade OK. Brought back a perfect photo of Target.
Fri 18th - Went to flight and told 1-B had been repaired. Ken Lyon was blown up on take off in 'B' - the kite I had the previous night.
My father in flying suit
What is perhaps most poignant for me is the way that the tragic entries are interspersed with the tales of fun and frolics. The crews were quite clearly living under the  shadow of death, which could strike at almost any time.
Whilst my father was remarkable, he was just one of 125,000 airmen who served. Each was as remarkable in their own way. Recalling them, I realise we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

I discussed the anniversary with Fr Steven Young at St Michael and All Angels church. I mentioned my Fathers service and how I'd like to see the anniversary marked in Mill Hill.  He kindly asked me to attend the Easter Sunday mass at St Michael & All Angels church and lead a prayer remembering the valour and sacrifice of the RAF. For me this is a great honour. The service will be held at 10am this Sunday.

At the moment, the issue of anti semitism is a hot topic. Without the sacrifices of the aircrew of the RAF, their would be no debate to be had. I sincerely hope that as many people as possible who wish to pay tribute to the RAF can come along. I believe that to build a better future, we need to have an appreciation of the past and the sacrifices of those that helped us build such a free and fair society.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Overdevelopment means local GP and Dental Services at breaking point

Millway Medical Practice
Millway Medical Practice
At what point does overdevelopment in Mill Hill and the London Borough of Barnet become a public health concern? Given that there is a proposal for 800 odd flats on the Pentavia site and no plans for more doctor or dentist facilities locally, I would say that point has been reached. 

This was graphically demonstrated by a live thread on the "Mill Hill Families" Facebook page (this is a closed group so you will need to join to see the full thread). A simple question resulted in a deluge of replies, all demonstrating a very worrying theme.

A Mill Hill Resident asked the following question
"Does anyone know if Millway surgery has changed their appointment booking times? It used to be from 8am. The phone is ringing out with no answer and no appointments available online. Thanks"

The post resulted in dozens of replies. Here are just a few.

I was on the phone at 8am holding yesterday for 30 minutes listening to classical music & then I hung up! 

I tried to get an online appointment at 8.01 this morning. Had two attempts but by the time I had typed in the reason, they had both gone. Harder than getting Glastonbury tickets! Very frustrating. 

I spoke to them yesterday. They had 29 appointments and 26 people queuing in person. The remaining 3 appointments were put online and gone by 8.03am.
I called a few weeks back at 08:00 and after being on hold for 25 minutes, 15 of which I was "number 1 in the queue" I went round there. The surgery was empty and the receptionist told me there was a problem with their phone system (this was approx. 30 seconds after telling me there was a room full of people answering the phones so I should just call). Never did get an appointment!
This is just a flavour of the thread. To summarise, there are simply too many people in Mill Hill for the number of GP's and the number of dentists. To add another 800 flats in the locality will make a critical situation impossible. I've been a patient of Millway Medical practice for decades. I know many of the doctors well. When I signed up with the practice it was still in Millway, where Busy Bees nursery is now. The current site in Hartley Avenue was formerly the head office of Pizza Hut UK. When they vacated, the growing Millway practice used the opportunity to move to a then state of the art facility. My then Doctor, the esteemed Dr Carswell, told me that the new practice would mean that Mill Hill would have the best GP medical practice in Barnet. They would have nursing services to perform blood tests and all manner of other backup services, that patients had previously had to attend hospital to get. That was twenty odd years ago. Mill Hill has grown. We've had the Millbrook park development. Just about every small space has been built on. As I've been canvassing, I've noticed that all of the small plots of land are gone. The Mill Hill Lawn Tennis Association on Syvain Avenue is a small estate. Featherstone Garage is now Colenso drive. The plot of land opposite my studios on Bunns Lane is a housing development. Just a few of the small developments that have added to the pressure on Millway Medical practice. This is repeated across the Borough. Sadly we've not heard a peep out of our councillors or the Conservative Administration. 

Everyone knows that people need homes, however if there are not enough places at the GP surgery, not enough dentists and we haven't got more ambulances and fire engines to match the rising population, then we've built a dysfunctional town that is not fit for purpose for local residents. Barnet Council needs to hold a public enquiry into the state of local infrastructure. We need to identify the risks that overdevelopment is posing to residents. 

I have a strong vested interest in this. In 2011, I damaged my knee playing football. I went to see my GP who suggested a 360 degree health check. As there was nothing wrong with me, I wasn't overly worried, but the tests showed I had prostate cancer and two years ago I had to have a medical procedure to address it. From what I am seeing on the Facebook thread, I wouldn't have got to see a Doctor, I wouldn't have been recommended to have a series of what may have seemed unnecessary tests. I would probably now be facing a seriously life threatening diagnosis, where the Prostate cancer had spread. As a result of my condition, I require a quarterly blood test. Up until last year, I'd simply book into my GP surgery and a nurse would do it. This was part of the excellent service that Dr Carswell excitedly told me about when the surgery moved. Last year, the blood test service was withdrawn. Now I have to obtain a form from my GP, then go to Barnet or Finchley Memorial hospital. Why was it withdrawn? I was told that the surgery no longer had the resources to provide it.  Both Barnet General and  Finchley Memorial are difficult to get to via public transport. In short, Mill Hill residents first class medical service has been downgraded. The GP's are still excellent, but the whole issue of getting apppointments, forms for blood tests, repeat presecriptions is becoming ever more problematical. I am fit, healthy and active. I can use the web based booking service and I can work whilst I am hanging on the phone waiting for an answer. Sadly many elderly and disabled patients find this impossible. For some, not being able to get hold of a doctor is positively traumatic. 

That is why we need a GP service that is not overstretched. Barnet Council has allowed the local population to grow to such a level that we simply can't get to see doctors when we need them. If that is not a public health crisis, I don't know what is. 

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Rog Tuesday Reviews #1 - Steam Dreams Daytrip to the Settle & Carlisle Railway

Welcome to the first in a new series in the Barnet Eye. There are many great things in London, which residents of The Borough of Barnet have on their doorstep. A couple of readers of the blog have mentioned to me that I often talk about the things I do and the places I visit. They have suggested that it would be good to do reviews, so that any readers who are interested will know a little more. We will be concentrating on things that you can do in a day from Mill Hill Broadway. I hope you enjoy this series.

We start with a rather special day out. As our wedding anniversary is shared with our daughters birthday, we normally do something special on a different day. This year, we decided to take a luxury vintage train over the scenic Settle & Carlisle route. We did a similar thing last April, going on a train from Mill Hill Broadway to Bristol. It was a glorious day and we thought that we'd do it again.

We selected the most expensive package, in the Pullman carriage with a full English champagne breakfast and a four course dinner. I made a short video of the day, which gives some idea of some of the amazing scenery we were privileged to see.

The train was hauled by a steam engine between Carnforth and Farington Junction, which is near Blackburn. The passengers were divided between people like us, who were there for a special day out and the hardcore rail fans, who were primarily excited by the prospect of being on a steam train. For us, the excellent food, the magnificent scenery and the chance to see the historic town of Carlisle were the main draws. In the Pullman carriage, I'd guess that most were there for the same reason. The enthusiasts were in the cheaper seats, with packed lunches and thermos flasks!

The train left Euston at ten past seven, so it was an early start. The engine for this section was a preserved electric locomotive. It was immaculately turned out, with an impressive, gold embossed name plate. When we boarded the train, we immediately noticed something that would be a bit of a feature of the trip. The coach was cold. Our hostess, the very efficient Aimee Stevenson told us that the electric heating was being switched on and the carriage would soon warm up. In the meantime, blankets were distributed. The date of the trip was Saturday 17th March, which was the coldest day of the year and a blizzard was blowing as we left London. Aimee informed us that normally the Champagne was the first thing dished out, but they were bringing tea and coffee first to warm us up. As we departed Euston, the heating started working and the carriage started to warm up.

Breakfast was excellent, washed down with a rather nice glass of champagne. As we left London, the snow was coming down, but by the time we got to Staffordshire, it was actually quite bright and sunny and there was no snow on the ground. Clare took the opportunity for a snooze, whilst I read the papers. It is quite pleasant just watching the world go by. At Carnforth, they swapped engines. I was a bit disappointed. The station at Carnforth is famous for the tearoom being used as a location for the iconic film Brief Encounter. I'd been looking forward to having a look around, but they changed loco's in the good yard, so we couldn't get off. The changeover took approx 30 minutes, and we left more or less on time. As we approached Carlisle, we were moved into a passing loop and several express services passed. This meant we'd slipped behind schedule. We arrived late at Carlisle, which meant we only had an hour to look around, which was a bit of a shame.

It was however bitterly cold and the snow had returned. We had a look around the Cathedral, which is magnificent and the Castle, although we didn't have time to go in. We returned to the train at the suggested at the time.  The engine had not come back to pull the train, so we waited around for half an hour. Eventually it returned, it turned out that Network Rail had held it up in a siding, whilst it was turning around. When we set off, the train was approx 30 minutes late. We were told that they should make up the time.

As we set off down the Settle and Carlisle route, the snow really set in. There was a massive blizzard and the wind was blowing at 40mph. We were told the outside temperature was -5C. Unfortunately, the steam engine was unable to heat the carriage due to the steam heating pipes freezing. This meant the carriage became bitterly cold. The blankets came in very useful. The scenery was spectacular and it was quite magical seeing the moors in the snow. Despite the cold, I am really pleased that we got to see the moors in their winter glory. The Steam engine had to have a couple of watering stops. Although we had the opportunity to get off at Appleby, we declined as it was blowing a blizzard and we didn't want to get even colder.

As we progressed, dinner service started. We started off with some excellent canapes, the roasted courgette were the tastiest, really delicious. The starter was sun blushed tomatoes with mozarella cheese and broad beans. Very tasty. The main course was a Duck leg with Mash. It was delicious. We also had a bottle of decent red wine. The desert was caramalised Apple Tart with cream, which is one of my favourites followed by cheese.

When the electric engine was reattached, the heating came back on, which was very welcome. This happened just before sunset, so that was really the end of the nice scenery. When we finished off the wine, we had a beer to finish. The drinks are reasonably priced, which is unusual for transport companies.

Despite the problems, the Steam Dreams staff were excellent. We were kept informed of everything and were made to feel looked after. I emailed the company with some comments about the cold and other issues and the managing director called me back to explain the issues, which was appreciated. Steam Dreams is run by people who love vintage rail and want to make sure everyone has a great time. He explained that there are many logistical areas that are outside their control and that delays etc were down to Network Rail prioritising express services over charter trains. As to the cold, this was due to an unprecedented cold snap in March. I was assured that my comments would be taken on board and lessons learned. You can't really ask for much more.

All in all it was a fantastic day out. It is a great way to spend a special day out. We will definitely be doing something similar again when we see a suitable destination and have something to celebrate. I would recommend it to anyone, but check the weather forecast and if sub zero temperatures are forecast, bring some warm clothes.

Monday 26 March 2018

Colindale Foodbank launches urgent appeal for donations for the Easter Weekend - Watch the video to find out why

For many people and families dealing with financial hardship, times such as Easter are especially difficult. Colindale Foodbank today launches an urgent appeal for donations to help people get through this time. To support this appeal, Colindale Foodbank invited local filmmaker Roger Tichborne down to see the operation in action and show why the donations make such a difference. The video dispels the myth that Foodbanks give handouts to people who don't need it and shows that it can help turn people's lives around. Roger said "It was a  real eye opener to see the Foodbank in operation and hear the stories of the volunteer and clients. Whilst all compassionate people would prefer it if there was no need for foodbanks, if we don't generously support them, the hardest pressed families in our community go hungry. Whilst we need to find long term solutions to alleviate poverty, in the short term a donation to the foodbank is a practical way to make a difference". 

Urgently needed items include:

Small packs of Washing powder
Cooking oil 
tinned fruit
UHT/Powedered Milk
Sponge Pudding (tinned)
Tomatoes (tinned)
Rice pudding (tinned)
Instant Mash potatoes
Tinned meat and fish
Tinned Vegetables
Biscuits or snack bars

There are several local drop off points for your donations

The Sacred Heart Church, Mill Hill Broadway - First Sunday of every month  (2nd Sunday in April due to Easter)
St Michael and All Angels Church, Flower Lane Mill Hill - Every Sunday - 10am
Waitrose, 2 Langston Way, Mill Hill East - Hours - 0800 – 2100 front of store near exits
Tesco, Brent Cross Hendon Way Superstore  - Hours - 24 hours inside store
Trinity Church, Northwest Centre, NW9 5QY Tues & Thurs 12-2:30pm

Find out more about the foodbank - Colindale Foodbank | Helping Local People in Crisis

Sunday 25 March 2018

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 25/3/2018

Once more unto the breach.... Its the tweets of the week......

Don't forget to follow any Tweeters you like the look of.

1. Well done to Dan and his Dad! What a great way to spend your birthday!

2. My daughters flat was burgled this week, unlocked back door, unsecured side alley. Lost her computer and her camera. Shame she hadn't seen this tweet. You have so don't make her mistake

3. Time for action on flytipping and litter!

4. One for all you dog lovers in Colindale and Grahame Park

5. Colindale has a new landmark!

6. Lovely tweet of a picture of the late, great Viv Stanshell in Finchley

7. Fancy a bit of Jazz this Wednesday? The Mill Hill Jazz club are having their traditional end of the month Jam night

8. My Dad would be 101 on Easter Sunday. He flew these beasts for the RAF during World War II. The one in the clip is at the RAF Museum in Hendon. Coincidentally, Easter Sunday is also the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the RAF. We love a bit of history here!

9. In a band, fancy a gig? The North Finchley Fest is on the lookout!

10. This is brilliant, check out the video!

That's all folks!

Saturday 24 March 2018

The Saturday List #170 - Ten ways to improve your health in Mill Hill!

This is a list I've been meaning to write for some time. One of my new years resolutions was to get fitter and lose weight. We are now nearly a quarter of a year through. How has it been going? Well the weight is down from 17st 5lbs to 15st13lbs. My wife bought me a fitbit for Xmas and my resting heart rate is down from 65 on 31st Jan to 51 as of yesterday, which I think means I've gotten fitter. I've met all of my exercise goals and have been averaging well over the 10,000 step goal. I've also met my goal to have three alcohol free days a week. I think this has helped with the goal. I have several incentives to see this through. I live in the shadow of Prostate cancer, I have my yearly consultation coming up, following the HiFu treatment two years ago. I have chronic back problems following an accident in 1988 where a car ran me over. As such I've tried all manner of things to try and keep the constant pain in check. I can't take anti inflammatory pain killers such as Neurofen, due to a stomach bleed I suffered in 1983. In short I'm a walking wreck. But I am still walking, in fact I still play football twice a week. So as you can probably now see, trying to keep healthy is a sensible idea.

Here is my personal list of ten things I do to try and keep myself healthy. Please note that I am a dyslexic punk rock guitarist, not a qualified medical professional, so any tips for improving your health are clearly not medically recommended!

1. Walk as much as possible. We are lucky in Mill Hill to have some fantastic walks. As an added incentive, we've got a dog. My favourite walks are across Arrendene and around the Darlands Lake Nature reserve. I also enjoy a stroll around Scratchwoods.

2. Play football. I play once or twice a week at Powerleague on Pursley Road. This is on the site of my old football teams clubhouse, so I've been playing on the site for nearly 40 years. Powerleague has all weather pitches and is a fantastic part of Mill Hill's infrastructure.

3. Yoga. Many men think that this is something just for "ladies of a certain age". It isn't, It is something you can either do in a class or at home. The stretching exercises and core strengthening are one of the reasons I've thus far managed to avoid surgery on my back. We have an amazing Yoga teacher at Mill Hill Music Complex if you are looking for a class. There are other great classes in Mill Hill as well. It may strike some of you as funny, but I've even written articles for The Londonist on the benefits of Yoga.

4. Eat healthily. In November, we took the decision to try and eat as healthily as possible, where possible with organic food. The benefits of organic food are often misunderstood. The chief benefit is the absence of pesticides in the food. We have little understanding of the long term effects of exposure to these chemicals. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was given a book called "Anti Cancer - A new way of life". It was written by a medical professional and gives all manner of advice on how to improve your chances of beating cancer or if not beating it, living as long as possible with it. Organic food is definitely something to consider. Waitrose have a great selection. Highland Organics butcher in Mill Hill East are good as is the greengrocers there. We use a delivery service from Abel and Cole for most of our veg.

5. Stress reduction. The effects of stress on the body are well documented. I have a strategy that I have two one hour periods every day where I do no social media and no electronic stimulation. I read, play guitar or meditate during this period. I have one in the morning and one in the evening. I try and avoid looking at my mobile phone when I am out as well. I'd strongly advise anyone to take up a musical instrument, draw/paint or other activities that allow your brain to be calm. I have also come to find attending religious services calming. As a child I'd find them hellishly boring, but being forced to do nothing for an hour is actually very invigorating, once you make the commitment to do it. I know it may not be for everyone, but it works for me.

6. Massage. With my back problems, I find that regular massage is very beneficial. In Mill Hill, we are very lucky to have Siam Sanctuary, which is an excellent Thai massage specialist. This makes a huge difference to the level of back pain I have to endure. Thai massage is very firm and not particularly relaxing, but you feel great after. It is all above board and many of the customers are female, my wife and daughters have had massages as well.

7. Osteopathy. At times, the pain from my back can be excruciating. At these times, I am lucky to have an Osteopath up the road in Millway. Dominic Eglinton is an excellent osteopath. I suspect that half of the people I know in Mill Hill have used Dominic at some point.

8. Swimming. Of all the forms of exercise you can do, swimming is the one that is easiest on the body. Unlike running or football, it doesn't impact on knees etc. We have Copthall swimming pool that is currently being redeveloped, which has excellent facilities.

9. Watch Live Music. Listening to music is a great way to relax and unwind. In Mill Hill we are lucky to have the Mill Hill Jazz Club. If you've not checked it out, it really is worth a visit.

10. Red Wine! The health benefits of red wine are well documented. A glass a day (not two bottles!) is believed to help combat heart disease and prevent cancer. In Mill Hill, we are lucky to have Mill Hill Wines, which is a fantastic wine shop. If you really want to be healthy, try the organic wines.

Friday 23 March 2018

Police cuts are destroying our community

The Police service is at breaking point. Whilst you may doubt such a statement if I say it, when the Conservative supporting Daily Express says it, you really should start to listen.

Cuts to police budgets are a false economy. Whilst it enables the government to say that "we are keeping household tax bills down", the net effect on Taxpayers wallets and quality of life is devastating. We now have to turn our homes into mini Fort Knox type security bunkers. I used to do a paper round in Mill Hill. Recently I noticed just how many homes on my old round are completely inaccessible, with security gates, high fences and cameras. This is a sign of just how worried people are. These precautions cost a small fortune. Insurance premiums are rocketing in Mill Hill and other areas of Barnet due to the high burglary rate. We may be saving a few pennies on our tax bill, but that is more than made up for by hikes in premiums.

Here is a breakdown of crimes in Mill Hill over the last few months from the Police website. (note that this is reported crime. Many of us can't be bothered reporting crimes as we know that there is zero chance of anything happening about it. Sadly there are no figures for the true level of crime in Mill Hill )

If you live in a district where there is a burglary nearly every day, then you will be paying through the nose for household insurance. Likewise with Vehicle crimes. This directly feeds into your premium.

We have the choice. Fund the police properly and see crime fall or cut their budgets and pay through the nose for insurance, security measures and live in fear of crime. The Mayor of London offered Barnet a 2 for 1 increase in beat police numbers. If Barnet Council would fund one officer, the Mayor would fund another. The Barnet Conservatives turned this down. Sadly, rather than Barnet Council working with the Mayor to make our streets safe and bring in more resources, the relationship has degenerated to name calling. The Conservative Council passed a motion declaring that Mayor Sadiq Khan was an "Enemy of the People".

In Mill Hill, people are only too aware of the problems that these police budget cuts are causing. I don't want to live in a Fort Knox style house, in fear of my safety and property.

I believe that if local people had the choice, they'd rather see their cash spent on more police and safer streets rather than high insurance premiums. I'd like to see the police given the resources they need.

One interesting issue that the Daily Express picked up on was that the Police do not spend enough time reviewing CCTV footage to catch criminals. I had first hand experience of this when Mill Hill Music Festival banners were slashed by thugs carrying knives in Mill Hill Broadway. Despite repeated requests, nothing was done. I am a local. I walk through Mill Hill every day. I requested the opportunity to review the footage, to see if I could identify the culprits, as the though was it may have been someone with a grudge against the festival. Sadly they could not facilitate this sensible request.

I genuinely think the Police do a stirling job in difficult circumstances. We need to give them the tools to do the job. 

Thursday 22 March 2018

Today is #Potholeday in Mill Hill - Tell us about your favourite - Mill Hill Pothole map
Many Mill Hill residents have been commenting on social media that local roads have become ever more riddled with potholes and other dangerous hazards. The Barnet Eye yesterday photographed some of our favourites on our daily doggy walk. We do this walk most days it is a circuit of Millway, Station Road, Woodlands Way, across Mill Hill Park, Daws Lane, Goodwyn Avenue, Millway. Yesterday, I set myself a challange to photo the best potholes on the route. Here's my pick!  I see these every day, I feel like they are almost old friends. Sometimes the council fills them in and they disappear, but like my faithful doggy, they soon come straight back. Do you have a favourite Mill Hill Pothole?

As you can see, any of these has the potential to damage a car tyre, throw a cyclist off a bike or trip a pedestrian. Often cars see the pothole and swerve. If you happen to be on your bike when this happens, you may end up in hospital as a friend of mine recently did. In short the roads of Mill Hill are falling apart. 

Whilst this has been going on, the local Conservative Councillors have been busy fighting each other. Last week, this culminated in the deselection of Councillor Sury Khatri as a Conservative candidate in the forthcoming council election. Cllr Khatri resigned the Tory whip in protestThe last eighteen months have seen a marked deterioration in the roads in Mill Hill with many becoming dangerous to pedestrians and vehicles. 

The Barnet Eye has been out and about in the Borough and was interviewed by Beril Naz Hassan from the One Show for the City News show. 

It is not just car drivers and cars that suffer from the dangers of potholes. On dark roads, they are especially dangerous for cyclists as a pothole can dismount a cyclist and write off a bike. For pedestrians they represent a trip hazard and drivers suddenly swerving to avoid potholes is an added danger. 

The Hendon Times has picked up the story. Sadly none of Mill Hill's Conservative Councillors wanted to explain why they've allowed our roads to get into this state. Instead, they wheeled out Dean Cohen from the other side of the Borough, who simply reeled off some party political guff about money not being mentioned in the Lib Dems proposed budget. The reason is quite simple. We believe that our proposals will have no impact on the overall budget, whilst delivering a better and more sustainable solution. We believe that repairs of Potholes has been mismanaged and we will ensure that all Potholes are inspected by qualified council engineers before invoices are paid. Whilst it may be cheaper in the short term to do a bodged repair and not inspect it, the continual repairs to the same potholes are expensive and counter productive. Our scheme would see potholes fixed once and fixed properly. 

We would also require refuse collection crews to report all potholes back to the council as soon as soon as they start to appear. The quicker they are repaired, the less damage to the road substrate and the cheaper the repairs. In short, you get more repairs, better repairs and less disruption to traffic and a net cash saving. As an engineer, I recognise that quality control is the key to saving money. Sadly the councillors who run Barnet Council have no such background and don't understand that the council needs people who are qualified to ensure that in an outsourced council culture, staff are employed to ensure that contractors do the job properly. Only by proper quality control of repairs, will we see any change. I am amazed that the councillors running Barnet do not get this. 

We don't have all the answers, but we believe that there are plenty of residents out there who will support us and will understand that by working together and harnessing the fantastic talents we have in our Borough, we can build a better Mill Hill. Respected local blogger and oustourcing expert John Dix posted the following comment on the Barnet Times website today.

Rog T is correct that Barnet no longer have a team of engineers inspecting road repairs. Indeed I asked the specific question how many Barnet council staff monitor road repairs. The answer....ONE person for all of the road repairs in Barnet. Contractors monitor themselves. Outsourcing costs us a fortune and delivers a rotten service.

You may say "What does he know about Highway Repairs?". The answer is very little. That is why I spoke to an engineer friend who works for one of the main companies that repairs potholes in London. He explained how a properly managed, pro active strategy of road maintenance, backed by an engineering based approach saves money and delivers better roads. His five suggestions are as follows:-

1 - Identify problems early and fix properly before the substrate is damaged.
2 - Ensure that repairs around manholes and other fixed items are done correctly. These require more than simply bunging some tarmac in as the movement generated when vehicles pass over destroys surrounding tarmac in no time.
3 - Ensure that all repairs are properly sealed against water. Freeze/Thaw activity will soon destroy bodged repairs. If water gets underneath the surface, the whole road will start to disintegrate.
4 - Ensure that all repairs are inspected and signed off by a qualified engineer before the invoice is paid
5 - Track locations and if there are recurring repairs, find out why and fix properly.

Back in 2010 I suggested that refuse collection crews be instructed to report all potholes and other road hazards back to the council, rather than waiting for residents to report the issues. The existing system means that potholes are only reported once they are actually dangerous and the road surface has sustained serious damage. By this time the road substrate layer is damaged. If they are identified early then the repairs are easier and will last. The tweet above showing the deteriorating surface in Millway is one such area that should be fixed immediately. 

There are three ways that this situation is costing us a fortune, money that could be saved if the council was run properly.

1 - Repeated repairs cost a fortune. Although a proper repair may individually cost more than a bodged one, the repeat visits mean that overall the cost is dwarfed.
2 - The council is paying a fortune in compensation for damaged cars, injured pedestrians, broken bikes and hurt cyclists.
3 - The council is quite happy to pay PR consultants to "manage the perception" of the council in the face of these issues. If they spent less on PR and more on engineers to get the job done then we'd all be happier. 

Sadly we have an administration that is too busy fighting amongst themselves to look for solutions. In Barnet Council there is a culture of "ringing a management consultant" when they perceive there is a problem. They pay a fortune for reports and have endless restructures. All the while services decline. This is why Mill Hill roads are starting to resemble the surface of the moon. We thought we'd end this little article with some fun and run a Spot the difference competition
Woodland Way NW7

Image result for craters on the moon
The surface of the moon

Wednesday 21 March 2018

The Wednesday Poem #42 - God Save Us from the Limp Side Salad

God Save Us from the Limp Side Salad

This meal looks tasty, 
won't you say?
But what is that, 
coming my way?

The lettuce leaves are slightly grey,
The thin pink sauce seen better days,
The sliced tomato looks so dehydrated,
Not to be masticated!

Does anyone really eat this muck,
I tried it once and exclaimed "Yuck!",
But being English we're not that rude,
To send away disgusting food.

I have a theory, let me tell,
about the Devil and the nature of Hell,
It's not really fire, brimstone and torture,
Just all of your left over salad portions.

For ever and ever Amen! 

Copyright 2018 Roger Tichborne

When I was at school, my Catholic education involved ever more graphic descriptions of Hell. Demons taunting those that hadn't said their prayers before bed, unbaptised babies sent to Limbo ( I was puzzled when there was a Limbo craze shortly after). Satan was at the same time presented as a sadistic monster of the Alien ilk and a seductive charmer. I was even told that the devil would possess women just to steal your soul and give you impure thoughts. I once asked a visiting priest if the Devil had favourites in Hell. Whether he was meaner to the child who hadn't said his prayers than the sadistic serial killer. The priest said "The devil is equally evil to everyone". I couldn't really get my head around how the devil could possibly be an equal opportunity torturer. Other questions troubled me. As the Devil was torturing you for eternity, wasn't there just a small chance he'd get bored and give up? As I get older, I learned of Sado-Masochists. What does the Devil do with them? If they enjoy being tortured and watching other people being tortured and are surrounded by all of their friends? The more I thought about it, the less I could really understand it. Then I realised that Hell is really nothing like that. Hell is the lack of hope, the lack of friendship, the lack of warmth. I was trying to consider the embodyment of Hell many years ago when I was unfortunate enough to go for a curry with work colleagues. One was a committed born again Christian who followed a preacher called Reinhardt Bonkke (I kid you not). He was monopolising the conversation. At the time I was a vegetarian (well a non meat eater who ate fish). He spent half an hour lecturing me on how the bible said vegetarians were less intelligent than meat eaters. As I suffered this, not wishing to upset someone, I realised I'd discovered the true nature of hell. I'd finished all of my Tandoori prawns, as the portion was tiny. I was still hungry and all I had was the brown, shrivelled side salad listening to this chap pontificate. Imagine that for ever?

Sadly I am not someone who has limitless patience. I eventually asked him "If that's the case why didn't Jesus turn the fish into Lamb Kebabs when he fed the 5,000?" Sadly this suggestion did not go down too well. One thing was clear. He certainly didn't provide a limp side salad. Where do all the uneaten side salads go?

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Veteran Councillor lambasts her "misogynist, anti Christian" Tory Boss

Last night, veteran Conservative Councillor Joan Scannell chaired her last ever meeting of the General Functions Committee of Barnet Council. Of all the committee's of Barnet Council, this is usually the most boring. Amongst items for discussion last night was "health and safety policy review". However last nights meeting was perhaps the most explosive of any in the recent history of Barnet Council. As regular readers of this blog will know, Joan was one of four well known veteran councillors deselected by the local Conservative party. Of the four dumped, three were "Ladies of a certain age" (the fourth was Hendon Conservatives sole Asian councillor).

Joan is a friend of mine. We've worked together for many years on the Mill Hill Music Festival. She is a hard worker and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Joan has been absolutely devastated by her deselection. The circumstances of which are quite appalling. Last night, she told Councillor Daniel Thomas, boss of the Hendon Constiteuncy organisation, responsible for deselecting her, exactly what she thought of him. Watch this video and then I will give some context.

As you can hear, Joan says that shes the victim of a "misogynist, anti christian, anti family" organisation. You may wonder why on earth Joan would make such a charge. When you know the facts, it all becomes rather clear. The facts of the charge are clear. The Barnet Tories have known for four years what the date of the council elections in May would be. It is a fixed date. From my own involvement in planning all manner of events, many less important than a Council Election campaign, I know the first thing you do when sorting out the calendar of events is to get the diary and ensure that you avoid key events on dates that may be inconvenient for key players. If people are required to attend, then you make sure that the date is as convenient as possible for everyone.

Anyone who knows Joan, knows that there are two things more important to her than the local Conservative Party. The first of these are her children. She thinks the world of them. The second is her Christian religion. Joan and her family are very active within the Salvation Army. Joan is responsible for organising the regular concerts that the Salvation Army play for the Mill Hill Music Festival. It may be a bit old fashioned. but Joan takes the issue of her religion and the Sabbath seriously. No one would expect a Jewish Councillor to break Sabbath and any selection meetings would be arranged to accommodate them. However the Hendon Conservatives decided that of all the dates they could have arranged to interview and reselect candidates for the forthcoming election in Six weeks, they chose Mothers day. For Joan, as with many mothers, this is a special day. She wanted to spend it with her sons. It was also a Sunday and Joan has religious duties that she considers sacred.

When Joan was informed of the date of the meeting she was horrified. There was no way that she wanted to upset her family. She felt that it was a highly inconsiderate imposition. When she was informed that the meeting could not be moved, she offered to supply a video presentation. Dan Thomas, as head of the reselection committee refused. Joan did not expect any issues with the committee. She has a spotless attendance record and a lifetime of service to the constituency organisation and the party. Whilst she was upset at the timings, she had no reason to suspect that there was any reason to be concerned. She was not informed that there was any reason to expect anything other than a rubber stamping of her candidacy. As such, whilst she was annoyed at the timing, she saw no reason to worry.

When she was informed of the result, she felt that she'd been completely stitched up. She feels that she's been mislead and that the constituency party had deliberately timed the meeting in such a way that she could be pushed out and not given the chance to defend herself. Joan feels that her faith, her family and her sex have been weaponised against her. Joan feels that a party than claims to support family values should not be discriminating against Mum's on their special day.

I have heard that some of the young Tory males have found her reaction quite funny. They seem to think that if you can't miss the odd mothers day celebration with your family, then you are in the wrong job. They feel that her outburst at the meeting has vindicated their stance and that Joan is simply a dinosaur who had to be removed. They want a young, dynamic team, who don't use "dinner with the kids" as an excuse. I suspect that is why we've seen such cock ups in the Barnet Tories as the attempt to close down after school respite care for handicapped children at Mapledown School. This gives parents of handicapped children time to do family activities with other children. The "boys" saw this as an unnecessary expense. It fell to another deselected Tory female of a certain age, Maureen Braun to scupper this heartless policy. Braun said "What are we here for if it is not to protect the parents of disabled children". It seems that compassion and family values are not things that are valued in the Hendon Conservative party. Maybe you want heartless, cold politicians that don't give a stuff for their kids feelings on Mothers day. For the rest of us, I am sure we find the treatment of Joan Scannell and the other deselected Tory ladies quite abhorrent. You would think that as the misogyny in the local Conservatives has already been widely criticised, they'd be a bit more sensitive. Clearly not.

Monday 19 March 2018

The Monday Motivational Moment #1 - "Do it safely, do it properly, do it once".

Monday is the start of the week. Monday is the day when it is hardest to get out of bed, especially on a day like today, when the ice is on the inside of the windows. If you were to make a list of songs, Monday is the one which has all the negative connotations. The Boomtown Rats famously sang "I don't like Mondays" and New Order sang ""Blue Monday". As you arrive at work, you know that there is a whole week ahead. I have a ritual. I get a cup of tea, log on to my Laptop and check my diary. I make a list of everything that has to get done this week, everything that should get done this week and everything that it would be nice to get done. I then sort them by priority and launch into the most urgent. Often by the end of Monday, I've actually got all of the really important stuff out of the way.
Rog T's Monday Motivational Moment
Except that is for days like today. Today has been a nightmare. Due to a problem on the National Grid, five of our studios are without power. This means that we are earning no money from them and have upset customers. Today there was no cup of tea. Our in house sparks, Dave was on site at 4am. He identified the problem and called the National grid. By 7am and engineer was despatched who confirmed his diagnosis. He said that this was a priority call and someone would be with us shortly. Dave estimated that it would be two hours work to rectify the problem. 

At 5pm, having been on site for 13 hours and made numerous calls, Dave was informed that they would be with us "within 12 hours". Like many of our team, Dave is a freelance worker. He is highly committed, and so will stay for the duration. As you can imagine, there will be a rather large claim going into National Power. The problem was identified in January and a quick fix was done then. 

People like Dave are the people who keep this country running. They go that extra mile. They drop everything to sort out serious issues for their customers. With Dave, there is no Call Centre to negotiate. There are no excuses. He turns up and works. 

As someone who runs a successful business, I feel it is my duty to pass on some of my tips to any young people out there who are thinking of starting out on their own. I was lucky when I started out. My parents ran a business for all of their working life together. They were always there to offer me advice. I also had a brother and many older friends, who ran businesses. They'd always pitch in with some help and advice if I asked and often if I didn't.

The workplace has evolved since 1979 when I started my studio business. When we started, I had no insurance, we had no health and safety policy, we had no safeguarding policy. We just rented a disused workshop, got hold of some musical equipment and started renting it out to musicians. Much of the early building works and electrical conversions were done by mates, in return for a few rehearsals. Over time, the studios evolved. One customer suggested that our studio wiring was unsafe in the mid 1980's. I replied that we "hadn't electrocuted anyone yet" rather immaturely. He responded in a very adult fashion "You are running a business, you have a duty of care to have safe wiring, you need to fit approved circuit breakers and have this place rewired. If you don't then when you do kill someone, you will be liable". We then got an approved electrician to rewire the building. It was a wake up call. I realised we had no insurance and the whole business was an accident waiting to happen. 

I realised, in very tragic circumstances, just how lucky I'd been about 20 years ago. A lovely guitarist, who was a customer of ours, bought a new amplifier and rented out a room to try it out. The only problem was that when he tried to play it, the amp blew all of the breaker circuits in the room. I reset them and they immediately popped again. We identified that it was his amp causing it. He complained about the studio, but ended up borrowing an amp. I suggested that he really needed to get it serviced. He said that there was nothing wrong with it.The next day, we were informed that he'd taken the amp to a gig and when he used it, he'd electrocuted himself. It was tragic and completely avoidable. 

For me however, what happened was a massive motivational moment. It may seem odd to say it, but it reminded me of something an old boss of mine said "Do it safely, do it properly, do it once". When I worked for him, he'd insist that every job we did, we put safety first. The safety of ourselves when we did the job, the safety of our customers when they used it. He said that if we did it properly, then there would be no comeback. He would say "So long as you can explain why it is taking longer than you thought, I will support you" and he did. He would always insist on talking through how we approached a task. He'd make sure we thought of any problems and recognised any dangers. Often he'd quote for a job and fail to get the work, because he'd be the most expensive. He'd always say "I don't mind. They'll be back in six months when they want it done properly". He'd always make sure he explained to prospective customers why he cost more and what would happen if they took a cheaper quote. Often, he was right. They would be back, tail between their legs saying "We should have listened to you the first time". We worked on one house that the 240 bus used to go past. The paintwork I did lasted 20 years before it was repainted. 

With my studio business, the same maxim applied when we have a problem with a studio or piece of studio equipment. We have seen a massive fall off in build quality for studio equipment over the last 20 years, with the advent of outsourcing of electronic equipment to China etc. Many of the Vintage amplifiers manufactured in the 1970's and 80's are still working fine, whilst ones bought three or four years ago fail under the rigour of constant studio usage. One rep even said to me "Amps aren't designed to be used all the time". It is all quite ridiculous. 

We need to get back to a culture of building things properly. We need to get back to an old school work ethic, as Dave demonstrated so admirably as I write this. And we need to say  "Do it safely, do it properly, do it once". 

We will be featuring a regular Monday Motivational moment.