Monday 31 December 2018

The Barnet Eye New Years message 2019

Normally I look forward to a New Year with excitement and expectation. I am naturally an optimist and I always try and see the good things. I have to say that perhaps for the first time ever, I am dreading a new year.  I feel that we've nothing to celebrate. When my mother was alive, I can remember having a conversation with her about the war. She told me that New Year 1940 was perhaps the worst. Great Britain stood alone, London was being bombed on a daily basis. There was severe rationing and as a schoolgirl she'd been evacuated to Kettering to a place that she hated. It seemed that there was no real hope, no prospect of peace or victory. By 1941 it had changed. She was back in Burnt Oak with her family, the USA and USSR had joined and the tide had turned. There was hope. But 1940 was a year when all seemed lost.

I had assumed that I'd never have  such a feeling. I know that it really is in no way comparable, but I have a truly lost feeling about our country right now. There is no leadership in either the Conservatives or Labour Party. Theresa May has shown herself to be completely inept. She has come up with a deal for Brexit that is the worst possible solution. It satisfies no one apart from big business. It will make Great Britain a semi detached satellite of the EU, with no say, tied forever into a form of serfdom. Theresa May has done this because she knows that the UK is totally unprepared for a Hard Brexit. Personally I am a remainer, but if we as a country really are set on a hard Brexit, then we should have used the two years to prepare for it. We are now totally shafted. I suspect that we'd have got a better deal if we'd said we were going to go down the hard Brexit route and waited for the EU to offer a deal to protect their own businesses, whilst getting the mechanisms in place to prepare the UK for a major shock. I think that would have been pretty disastrous but would be preferable to the mess Ms May has lumbered us with. The EU knows we are completely unprepared. If the Labour Party had a competent Leader, they may have been able to get sensible Tory remainers onside. Jeremy Corbyn is not that person. I like many of the things Jeremy Corbyn stands for, not least his view to outsourcing and his solid support for the struggles we've been having in Barnet. But Brexit is a massive threat to the UK. We need leadership that presents a coherent position. Labour hasn't got a position. Worse than that, many of the people who support Corbyn see people on the right and in the centre in their own party as class enemies. I have always believed that a house divided cannot stand and that this may save the Tories from an electoral drubbing they truly deserve.

In Barnet, we have seen the Tories defy the polls and confound expectations (their own most noticeably) to not only hold on to the Council, but to actually get a massive majority in the Council chamber. They have created an enormous mess. They clearly expected this to be dumped on a Labour administration. Sadly for them (and the rest of us), they now have to clear up their own mess. Bins are going uncollected for weeks on end across the Borough. Next year Council tax will rise by the maximum amount allowed by the rules. Our roads are crumbling, ever more shops are boarded up, independent businesses (such as Cooksleys and The Creamery in Mill Hill Broadway) are being forced out. The lack of leadership locally mirrors the national situation. When we see pothole'd streets, constant flytipping, failing bin collections it spells decline and failure. I may have been less worried if there was some sort of coherent plan for the Borough. All the administration seem interested in is a managed decline and the transformation of much of our pleasant Borough into a faceless, soulless, joyless concrete jungle.

They will of course ensure that the nicer bits, which vote staunchly blue, are spared the worst of this. We won't be seeing too many 16 storey sky scrapers in Hampstead Garden Suburb. I don't want to see the destruction of such places, but I'd like to see Burnt Oak Estate get the same love and care.

There is no such concept as civic pride in Barnet. I'd love to see the Leader of The Council touring schools to talk to pupils about the work the council has to do collecting litter etc across the Borough. He should be getting the message out to young people that every £ spent collecting litter is a £ that can't be spent on facilities in schools etc. In Mill Hill we've organised our own litter picking group. Sadly we've yet to be joined by our local Mill Hill Councillors. They are more than happy to come out to show their faces at local events, but they never pitch in and do the work to make these things happen. I was told by one local prominent Tory supporter that one of them is "very busy and sits of five committees". I was completely underwhelmed. Councillors get a minimum of £10,000 a year. Some of these committees meet only a few times a year. Most of the work is done by officers, councillors job is to provide oversight. I've attended many council meetings over the years and I have been shocked by how few questions are asked in committee. I suspect that myself, John Dix, Theresa Musgrove and Derek Dishman (The Barnet Bloggers) have asked more questions at Council meetings than any of our Tory Councillors.

To me this is appalling. If Barnet was some sort of paradise and nothing was going wrong, I suppose it could be excused. But the council is in a complete mess.

As if things couldn't be any worse, we seem to have a Mayor of London who hates Barnet. I am not entirely surprised by this given that the local Tory Council thought it was a jolly wheeze to pass a motion labelling him an enemy of the people. The result of this was entirely predictable. Sadiq Khan now has it in for Barnet and it's Tory rulers. The result for the residents of Mill Hill is likely to be that the Mayor will give the green light to some very unpopular  schemes. It really doesn't bode well for 2019.

As I survey the future, there is also the huge spectre of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. God help our children as our generation has inflicted these two on us all. Trump has zero compassion and zero care for our planet. Putin runs a superpower that is happy to send agents with nerve gas to other countries to "deal with problems". Trump has effectively handed Syria to Putin recently. This makes Russia the only major credible player in the Middle East.

 Is there any solace to be had? For me it is in music. I suspect that 2019 will be  a great year for music. Troubled times make great music. I think in such times we seek refuge in music. It will be the 40th anniversary for me of the start of my band "The False Dots" and my business Mill Hill Music Complex. We are planning some amazing events to celebrate this. It is funny, I always look at what I've written in previous years before I write this end of the year blog. I've never written one like this before.  I will end by wishing you a happy, prosperous and peaceful new year. I hope that, like my mother in 1940, the year doesn't work out quite how I feared. I will leave you with a little piece of music that I absolutely love and that I think is perhaps my New Year anthem from the False Dots. It is of course Heal Me. Please have a listen. Our community and our world is feeling rather broken. I hope 2019 is the year when we seriously start to see it be healed. The accompanying video features a few of my favourite sights from around Mill Hill. I hope you enjoy it


Sunday 30 December 2018

Bereavement Blog - The happiest time of the year? Not for me

Last picture of Dad a week before he died
We are used to the refrain that Christmas is the happiest time of the year. For many this is true, especially those of us blessed to have small, happy children. There are, however, another group who it is probably the hardest time of the year for. Those who are suffering from loss and bereavement, especially those who are just going through their first Christmas following the passing of a loved one. There is an empty chair, a void that cannot be filled. Perhaps for me the hardest of all the losses I had to deal with was my father when I was 24 and he was 69. He passed completely unexpectedly, of a heart attack. The family was devastated and all dealt with it in our own way. My mother lost her sister the same week, so she had an awful time, but sadly in hindsight I did little to support her, as I was too busy dealing with my own grief.  The first christmas was an exceptionally trying time. My Father died on Jan 29th, so enough time had passed for us all to get back into a normal routine. My mum confided to me that she really didn't want to do Christmas and wanted to be alone. After 43 years of marriage, she really didn't want to celebrate at all. I was going to my in laws. My eldest sister persuaded her to join her and her family. On her return, my mum informed that it was lovely, but next year she would go on a cruise and pretend she'd never had a husband. I was rather shocked. She explained that then there wouldn't be "constant reminders". She was a very practical woman and from her perspective, the less she thought about my father, the better she was, so she made every effort to minimise any memories. She even asked me to "stop going on about him", which I didn't understand at all.

When my father died, a very strange thing happened. Two days after he died, I awoke to find him standing at the end of my bed. I was shocked and not a little disturbed. He gave me a message to pass on to my mother. The thing was it made absolutely no sense to me. I decided that it would not be helpful to pass this on and that the whole thing was probably simply a figment of my imagination. Having said that, I was deeply troubled by the experience. At the time I considered myself an atheist and what had happened did not really sit well with my view of the universe. The only solace was that the message seemed so nonsensical to me that I had a degree of reassurance that it was all in my mind.

True to her word, she spent the following Xmas on a long cruise. When she got back, for the first time since my fathers death, she had recovered a bit of her spark. My mother was a glamorous woman, who was confident and intelligent. She'd spent the best part of two years feeling sorry for herself and being rather depressed. Her long list of ailments seemed to grow. On returning from the cruise, she seemed ten years younger. She told me she'd made friends with a Dutch woman who had informed her that "your husband is dead, you are not, you have a life to lead and you only get one go, so stop feeling sorry for yourself" For my mother, this snapped her out of her cycle of depression. She spent the cruise drinking and dancing and came back, if not happy, then most certainly in a better frame of mind. A couple of weeks after she returned, for the first time she brought up the subject of my father. Over a glass of Guinness (my mum was of Irish ancestry), she said to me, completely out of the blue "You know I simply can't believe that your father went without trying to say anything to me". Misunderstanding her statement I said "He had an unexpected heart attack downstairs". She corrected me and said "No, we made a pact that if one of us went first, we'd make sure the other knew that we were OK". Although my partner (now wife) was aware of the strange experience I'd had (as she was in bed next to me, although she deliberately didn't open her eyes), I'd not told anyone else of my father's visit. Although I didn't want to upset my mother, I felt I had now to tell her. When I told her that he'd appeared at the the end of the bed, she was stunned. She said "Why you?" I said "I don't know, but he gave me a message. It makes no sense at all. I didn't want to tell you as I thought it was simply my imagination". My mother, who was extremely superstitious and a practising Roman Catholic started to become cross "Surely its for me to decide if its important, what is it?", so I told her "He said he was truly sorry that he'd left, especially as he'd promised he wouldn't but he had no choice". It was like a gunshot hit my mother. For the only time I can recall, she burst into uncontrollable floods of tears. For me this vindicated my decision. I said "I'm sorry". I thought she was so upset as it was nonsensical and that she'd wanted a message such as "I love you" or the suchlike.

Eventually she got her composure and said "I have spent the last two years feeling furious at your father for his betrayal in leaving me. He promised he'd stay with me to the end. How could you not tell me that?" She slung me out of the house on the spot in a massive temper. The whole thing was simply too much for me. I didn't see her for a couple of weeks, as I thought she was so angry at me that she wouldn't want to see me. Eventually she told my wife to tell me to come up for a Guinness. I didn't raise the subject but after a while she said "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to be like that". I said that I was sorry too. She then explained that she'd gone to bed furious at me. In the night, she dreamed that she was with back with my Dad alive. Then she remembered what had happened and said "Why did you tell Roger, why didn't you tell me or one of the girls who would have passed the message on?" He replied "I knew you weren't ready for it. I knew he'd tell you when you were ready to hear it".  She said that she was still angry for a few days, but had thought about it and realised that if one of the girls had told her, she'd probably have not really taken it in during the aftermath of the funeral etc. If he'd have told her, she'd have dismissed it as dreaming or imagination. As it was, the fact that I'd thought it was nonsense and waited till she was strong was proof for her that he'd actually told the right person. She said that she felt guilty for doubting my father, but I said "Don't be stupid, anger is a big part of bereavement. You can't escape it.".

I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this was simply all a figment of imaginations that desperately needed some kind of reassurance. I drew my own conclusions. At this time of year I always think a lot of my father, who passed in 1987 and my mother who died 31 years later in 2008. Whilst my father's death was a shock and I was left with a bitter sense that he'd gone far too early, my mother's death almost came as a relief. She'd had a stroke just before Xmas 2000 and had never really been the same again.  In 2006, she broke a hip and nearly died of c-diff whilst on a recovery ward. Her eyesight had started to go, robbing her of the ability to read, which was, along with alcohol, was one of the few remaining pleasures in life. I was abroad with my family when she had another stroke and passed away. In truth I wasn't surprised. It is hard to find more of a contrast between my feelings when my father and my mother died. I was sad and I do miss her, but there was no sense that it was wrong or I was cheated of time with her. Over Christmas I gave this some thought. I think that when you are in your 40's and have children of your own, you are far better equipped to deal with such things as when you are 24 and have little experience of life.

Paul stage left with The Falsedots at Dingwalls 1984
Every Christmas, as a family, we always raise a glass to lost friends and relatives. The list gets longer. Losing parents is one thing. Losing close friends is another which I've struggled with. Back in 2012, I lost Paul Hircombe, one of my oldest and closest friends. We'd played in the same band, The False Dots on and off for 28 years. We toured Scandinavia and got up to all manner of shenanigans. Paul was a massive risk taker. He was full of life and full of mischief. Sadly this lead to drug addiction, prison, poverty and the estrangement from many friends. Following a spell in HM prison Belhaven, he vowed to get his life back on track. Ultimately we never found out how seriously he was taking this commitment because he developed cancer of the oesophagus. A year of ever more debilitating illness ended in a horrible death. Paul was two years younger than me and I struggled to make any sense of what happened. Although I'd not seen Paul at Xmas too often in recent years, it is a time when my thoughts return to him. As teenagers in a band and in our twenties, we shared many an Xmas partying and getting up to all sorts. New years in 1986 is one that sticks out. I'd just met my now wife and we all went down en mass to Dingwalls to see Desmond Dekker, then adjourned back to my sister's flat in West Hampstead to party into the morning. I recall very clearly something Paul happened to say, a throwaway comment at the time. He quietly said to me "you know I think this will be the best new year, this will be the one we always remember". At the time it seemed a very odd thing to say, but strangely it came true. Due to work/life/other commitments that group of friends never spent New Year together again. We never saw Desmond Dekker again and though we've had some great ones, they've all been slightly tame in comparison.

Whenever I hear Desmond Dekker, I always think of that. I always make a point of listening to "The Israelites" at New Year and I always shed a tear for Paul. We wrote many songs together and it has taken a good few years before I can play them in a setup with another bassplayer and feel happy. Over the years, I've repeatedly had dreams that he's come back to step into the band, assuring me that the dead can do that any time they like, they just choose not to. Then I wake up and I realise that it's all a dream, a very difficult one. I've often read that dreams help you deal with things, I've found that in relation to bereavement they have quite the opposite effect and just make you start feeling bad, when you think you are coming through something. It is nice to be reminded of those we love but to repeatedly have that snatched back from you can be very hard to take.

In some ways I'm lucky. Dealing with the loss of a child or a partner must be the most devastating loss of all. That is something that thus far I've been spared. The thought of it is too monstrous to want to even contemplate. The one thing the loss of people I've loved has taught me is that you should not hold on to anger with people you love. We never know when the grim reaper will come knocking. I am in some ways lucky that I've been in a good place with all of those that I've loved who have passed away. Perhaps the people who struggle most are those who feel they have something to say or some unfinished business with someone they lost. In my father's case, this was so nearly true. We had a massive bust up a year before he passed away. We didn't speak for six months. Eventually a very good friend of mine, Ernie Ferebee (also sadly departed), took me to one side, told me in the most unflattering terms that I was being an arse, told me this was really upsetting my parents and pointed out that my Father was getting on a bit, wasn't in great health and wouldn't last forever. He then said "how would you feel if you woke up tomorrow and he'd died of a heart attack". I was lucky as I took this to heart and made up. Shortly before my father died, my mother went away and we went for a curry and a few beers at Mill Hill Services Club and a nightcap. It was one of the very few adult conversations we had. I felt robbed of the ones we couldn't have but at least my last memories of my father were 100% positive. The last conversation I had with him was by phone for Xmas 1986. He was in Florida visiting my sister. It was a short conversation, neither of us knew what would happen. I can't even remember what we said, it was along the lines of Happy Christmas, hope you are enjoying yourself, don't get too pissed". Like everything in the real world, it was really quite unsatisfactory in the context of what happened next. But we can't lead our life as is for each of us, it may be the very last day. Sadly that means that when we get to Christmas and we think of those we love who have gone, it is always tinged with an element of regret.  As I get older and the children have grown up, I've got to like Christmas less for these reasons. We always have the conversation about all of those who used to come when I'd cook dinner for 22. "Oh there was my mum, Clare's parents,  Aunty Jo, and Mary and Tommy and Uncle Leonard and oh yes there was.....". And this year there was eleven. So that is a lot of empty places at the table.

Saturday 29 December 2018

The Saturday List #201 - My Top Ten gigs for 2018

I go to a lot of gigs. It can be hard to remember them all. I played more this year than for many a year and as ever I went to a bucketload. These are not necessarily in order of bestness! Each one is a different category of gig at a different venue. Just to show the diversity of the music on pour doorstep.

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The False Dots live on Mill Hill Broadway
1. The False Dots live at The Mill Hill Summer Market
It has been a life long ambition to play live on Mill Hill Broadway in the sunshine. How on earth could I have picked another gig! The whole day was pretty magical, great bands and a lovely vibe. I am a big fan of local music festivals. They bring communities together. This was my performance of the year.

2.Eli Paperboy Reed at The 100 Club - June
This was by far the best gig I saw all year, absolutely brilliant. I left totally elated. Not the most professional video but you get the idea!

3. The Silencerz Featuring Lee Thompson at The Chandos Arms, November.
This wasa great gig. The best local gig of the year for me. Well worth  a watch.

4. The Pogue Traders at The Dublin Castle, December

A tremendous gig. If you love the Pogues and Irish music probably the gig of the year.

5. The Family Stone at the 100 Club

Absolutely awesome, the funk gig of the year. This really rocked.

6. The North Finchley Festival.

The best local festival this year, ace performances from all manner of local bands, but a special mention to The Silencerz, The False Dots, Kadoo, The Rock and Roll Sons and Kid Wondr, who all stood out for me.

7. The Jive Aces at Ronnie Scotts.

For me this was the Jazz/Swing gig of the year. I love the band and I love Ronnie Scotts. They were doing the Sunday lunch slot, which is always a blast. For some they are a bit too cheesy, but they are great fun.  Cheesy gig of the year!

8. Joan Armatrading at The St Albans Arena

Joan is a genius and can do no wrong. A great gig and an honour to see such a legend. Love and Affection still sends shivers down my back. My Legend gig of the Year.

9. Janet Kay at Under The Bridge

Janet is another legendary figure. It was a fantastic night seeing a brilliant artist. My reggae Gig of the year

10. The Lightning Seeds at Kenwood.

Kenwood is one of the few places I enjoy open air gigs. Amazing setting for summertime frolics. The Lightning Seeds are a great soundtrack for such a fine venue. Open air gig of the year. 

That's all folks, have a gret year!

Friday 28 December 2018

My favourite artist - Pauline Boty

Boty's last work
Who is your favourite painter? Mine is British Pop Artist Pauline Boty, who died aged 26 in 1966, shortly after giving birth to her daughter. Her death was absolutely tragic. On finding she was pregnant, she went for a check up only to be diagnosed with malignant cancer. She refused an abortion or chemotherapy to protect her unborn child and died five months after the birth of her daughter Katy. We often hear of people's battle against cancer as being "heroic" but I can think of nothing more heroic or selfless than Boty's approach. But it is her artwork which made me love her. I had seen a few of them in various places over the years without bothering to find out much about the artist. When I finally put it all together, I was astounded to find that such an amazing painter seems to have been completely forgotten by the British public. I wonder if she'd have been quite so overlooked had she been male, although her work was very feminine and feminist in its themes.

Boty by Bailey
I have something in common with Pauline, we were both photographed by David Bailey in the 1960's. I suspect that Pauline made rather more of an impression on Bailey than I did on whatever the advertising shoot was. She is one of those people who have a timeless look. To me, Baileys pic could almost have been taken yesterday. If it was the cover to a new album by an emerging band, you wouldn't be in the least surprised. Boty also had numerous acting credits, she even appeared as one of Alfies (Michael Caine) girfriends in the iconic 1960's film.

But her standout work was as an artist. If you like Pop art (and I prefer it to all other more pompous forms) and you are not aware of Pauline's work, just do a quick google of her name (using image search). What I find fascinating is just how contemporary her work looks. It could have been done yesterday. My eldest daughter is doing a fine art degree in Leeds at the moment. When I see the work being done in some of the exhibitions we attend, I see the influence of Boty in much of it. I write a lot of blogs, but the ones which give me the most pleasure are sharing my loves of great artists. Pauline was definately one and I think she deserves far more recognition than she seems to have.

Pauline Boty, by Pauline Boty - NPG 7030
Stained glass window

The Friday Joke - How Great Britain lead the world 250 years ago

Have a great weekend!

Thursday 27 December 2018

The Tweets of The Year in The London Borough of Barnet 2018

As is our tradition at this time of the year, we look back over the year and choose our fave tweets from each of the last 12 months. Regular readers will know that we choosed ten tweets of the week every week, so there are over 500 to choose from. Here's our pick.

Sadly the year began with the tragic death of Vijay Patel in Mill Hill. I read somewhere that the average teenager witnesses over 1,000 violent deaths a year in movies and on TV. Sadly these images give no hint to the devastation and hurt that evry single death causes wives, children, parents, husbands, friends and neighbours. I didn't really want to start the round up on such a sad note, but it would have been inappropriate to not mention Vijay.

No round up of the Tweets of the Year could fail to mention the amazing work done by Mark Amies in regards to local pubs and in particular The Railway in Edgware. Mark probably could have provided a years worth of Tweets of the year, but I chose February, as this shows just how long the saga has gone on

No round up of the year could fail to mention the Beast from the East in March.

April saw the start of the the controversial demolition of The National Institute for Medical Research

May saw Barnet's fave cafe win a prestigious award

In June, we saw some great work from The Compton School discussing womens rights at #ExposureOrg

It seems a long time ago when we picked the first blackberrys of summer

Summer saw many local waterways dry up. Sadly the lake at The Darlands nature reserve was one of these. It has been mismanaged by the Council for decades, they want shot of it and sadly just don't care at all.

Not everyone thinks of farms when they think of Cricklewood. Maybe they should think again

No summary of Tweets this year would be complete without a mention for our local litter pickers


In November, we chose this tweet from the 2nd Edgware Scouts.

If you can make someone happy, you have done something wonderful. I think that our award to Mencap achieved that. We don't often give ourselves a pat on the back, but I think we really do deserve it for this. It is a lovely picture.

That's all folks

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Sorry, I'm not really here and none of this happened

A very strange thing happened to me yesterday. I woke up at five AM in a cold sweat, I've been fighting a cold for a few days and I was overcome with a massive sense of anxiety that I'd not be able to put together the Xmas lunch for the ten family and friends who we'd invited for lunch. So I did the only sane, rational thing. I got up and got to work on the preparations. By 8am all of the spuds, sprouts and everything else were prepared. Then the doggies had to walked. Then the dinner had to be executed. I always write a plan. In my snot fuelled haze, I forgot to put the carrots on the plan. As a result we've got a stack of uncooked carrots in the Fridge

Fortunately, there was so much food that they weren't missed. After a couple of glasses of wine with lunch (I never touch a drop on Xmas day until the dinner hits the table), I started to feel really unwell. Despite the Missus telling me it was rude, I felt dizzy and sick, so had to lie down. I just felt feverish and hot and fell into one of those feverish sleeps, where you are transported to strange and disturbing alternate realities. What I've never been quite able to understand is how your brain managed to construct a complete alternative reality and life story for you in such slumbers. Even stranger is how they are prepared with such random narratives and no back story. So one minute I'm having lunch and drinks with the family. The next minute I am sitting in Sidoli's Cafe in Aldgate on Leman Street. This has long been demolished. I used to nip in every day for a cup of tea and chat to Marg, the tea lady.

Image result for "Marine Broker" "Leman street"
Sidolis and The Marine Broker
The family who own it live locally in Barnet. They sold up and it is now a block of flats I believe. I always felt really at home there. They also owned a wine bar next door called The Marine Broker. I spent many a drunken lunch and evening in the place. It was a very friendly bar and somewhere that time passed far too quickly (and drinks flowed too easily). The family had owned it for decades and would tell how it used to make its money selling breakfasts to dockers and sailors from the Port of London. When I was working there, the main source of customers were from the huge Nat West IT centre in Goodmans fields next door, although the manager of The Lap Dancing club over the road would often nip in for a cuppa before starting work.

So that is the reality (well our reality) of the area. When I worked down there, I'd see a big issue seller every day and a couple of regular buskers in the subway. I got to know them quite well. One day, the Big Issue seller stopped me and said "Thanks for your support over the years, I won't be here any more, I've got a job and flat lined up. I'm getting myself sorted out. I am going to be alright". I was overjoyed. We'd first really talked on day after an "expose" in the Sun (I think) that said Big Issue sellers were earning thousands a week and living the life of Riley. I happened to be walking past as an obnoxious city type gave him a mouthful and started waving the article at him. One of my faults is that I tend to get agitated by bullying, which I saw this as a clear example of. So I challenged this young man and said "Hang on mate, if it's so easy, you swap places with him. Don't you remember how the Sun lied about Hillsborough". Like all bullies, the said individual immediately ran away. The guy selling the Big Issue was rather upset. I went and got him a cup of tea and a bacon roll from Sidoli's and said "Listen mate, don't judge us all by his behaviour, he's a twat". I then spoke to all of the people I worked with and made sure all (apart from a couple of rather unpleasant individuals) bought a copy.

When he was leaving, he said there'd be a new seller on the patch. That didn't turn out as well. The guy had serious substance abuse problems. One day, another seller was there. I asked about the previous one. "Oh, he's in the Whitechapel Hospital, he's got gangrene. He'll be dead in a couple of days. They wanted to operate but he wasn't prepared to give up drinking to let them anaesthetise him". He'd been banned from Sidoli's for pissing himself in the cafe (as I recall). Sid's would usually give the sellers a free cuppa so long as they behaved themselves and didn't bother customers, which most would never dream of doing. The story of this poor young man always disturbed me. Perhaps what disturbed me as much was that his replacement thought his reaction was perfectly natural and normal. I've always loved life.

Last week the Evening Standard reported that over 600 homeless people have died in five years in London, with the average age of 44. This is a fact I was sadly aware of . My experiences with these guys in Aldgate made me want to do more than simply buy Big Issues and cups of tea. I took the decision to volunteer for The Passage, a day centre for Homeless people, based in Victoria. I figured I could nip in before work in our London office and help with a breakfast shift. Through this, I learned a hell of a lot more about the situation. Some of the clients were amazing people, who simply had been unfortunate that life hadn't worked out right. An alarming number were ex service people with PTSD, people who had put their life on the line for the UK and been casually thrown away when they were no longer useful. There were migrant workers, who had run out of money and luck, there were people with mental illness and substance problems. Some of these could be quite difficult and rude, but you just have to accept this and smile. It was worth it for the nice ones and the odd occasion where you met an ex client who was back on their feet.

Anyway, I digress, this will perhaps give you some sense of background to what happened ten or so minutes after I left the dinner table, laid down and dozed off. I found myself absolutely freezing cold (probably a side effect of the cold I was suffering on my metabolism). I found myself dazed, confused, not knowing who I am or where I was wandering the empty streets of London. Then I saw a welcome sight. I saw Sidoli's cafe. Knowing that this was a good place and I could have a cup of tea and get my head together, I walked in. Sadly the people in there were not the friendly faces of Lou and Marg. They were people I didn't recognise. As I walked in they started screaming at me to get out. I was even more confused. I asked why "We told you yesterday not to come back after you pissed on the floor". I had no recollection of this at all, but walked out into the cold. I realised I was cold, alone, dishevelled, without cash or a friend. I tried to think where I could go to get warm, then I simply thought 'Why bother, what is the point?'. At that point, our dog jumped up on the bed and woke me up. When you are in the middle of a dream and you are violently woken up, you have that horrible experience of not knowing what is going on. I was still in the alternate reality, but I was in a warm bed in a comfy house with a friendly dog licking me and wanting to play. I was confused, had someone taken pity on me? Then it all came flooding back. No I'm not down and out walking the streets. If Sid's was still open I'd be more than welcome. I'm not incontinent, I am not cold, I'm not alone, I have a nice new wardrobe following Xmas, I have cash, my house was full of friends.

My mind had gone to all of that trouble to construct such a different reality? Why? I guess I'll never know. If I had the choice, I know which life I'd choose. I'd have to be insane not to. But then, if I was insane, would I have the choice. Maybe somewhere in London, some poor soul has just been thrown out of a cafe, is lying cold and completely demoralised. Maybe they are having a fevered dream that they are in our house, part of a loving family. I just feel sorry for them when they wake up and confront their reality. Christmas in 2018. For far too many, there is no room in the Inn.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas to all our friends - Our Xmas Day playlist!

Merry Christmas to all our friends. Here's our super cool Christmas playlist for the happiest day of the year. Have a great one!


Monday 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve - A special message from The Barnet Eye

If like us, all of your teenagers have returned from Uni for the season, I'm sure you are having fun with your routine thrown out of the window. Much as I love having all of the children home, I'd forgotten the joy of hearing them squabbling. My solution, put on some really loud punk rock music to drown it all out. This is the tenth time I've written a Christmas Eve blog. What was my message ten years ago? I thought I'd have a look. I wrote

For me personally 2008 has been an awful year. I hope it's been better for all of you.  

Peace and goodwill to you and in the words of the great and wise Leonard Graves-Phillips - keep watching the skies !!!!! 

It was a rotten year. My mum had died, my father in law had died, my mother in law had had a heart attack and unbeknown to us was about to be diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. There had been a global credit crunch, with the country plunged into recession. Boris Johnson had replaced Ken Livingstone as London Mayor, Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, David Cameron was leader of the opposition and I was still a very disaffected member of The Labour Party. David Bowie, Mark E. Smith, Amy Winehouse and Pete Shelley were all still alive and kicking.

A lot of things have changed. Gordon Brown and David Cameron have long gone. We had an Olympics in 2012 when the whole world saw Great Britain at its best. How times have changed.

But my message to you at this time of year, when we hook up with old friends and new, see family members that we've not seen for ages (some we wish we weren't seeing at all), eating, drinking too much and generally enjoying ourselves is the same. So Peace and goodwill to you and in the words of the great and wise Leonard Graves-Phillips - keep watching the skies !!!!!

This year we lost Mark E. Smith of the Fall. Here is one of his finest compositions, which has a rather festive tone. Enjoy!

Sunday 23 December 2018

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 23/12/2018

The festivities are almost upon us. The timing of Xmas this year means that it seems like a very lengthy period of festivities. But the world keeps spinning, so lets have a look at what the tweeters of our little piece of paradise have to say.

1. This is a great little clip featuring the beloved Hendon Way! I do love an old movie filmed in our manor

2. When I see tweets like this, it really dos make writing this blog seem worthwhile. Mencap are our charity of the year. If you can make someone smile at Xmas, then you've justified the oxygen you consumed today

3. I don't like the look of this big red plane over Mill Hill!

4. This seems to be a very reasonable comment.

5. The good people of Mill Hill really have had enough of flytipping!

6. Historical tweet of the week, I bet you didn't realise what a dangerous place we live in

7.Xmas in Mill Hill. Carols and the Big Issue outside M&S

8. Nothing like freshly grown brussels. I like to fry them in Olive Oil with salt, pepper and smoked paprika! What's your Xmas dinner tip?

9. Last year, Colindale Foodbank were our Charity of the Year. They continue to be an inspiration. Hats off to the pupils at Whitefields School for their efforts.

10. In a band? Fancy a free rehearsal tomorrow?

That's all folks!!!

Saturday 22 December 2018

The Saturday List # 200 - #SaveLondonMusic - The top twenty tracks recorded in London Recording Studios

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London Calling - The iconic London Song
So we reach our 200th Saturday List. To mark this, I have put together a special list, that has taken a rather long time to research and check. 

For me, nothing is more important than the London Music Scene. On Saturday, we had the Save London Music Xmas party with The False Dots and epublic of Brentford, on Monday, I went to see Ian Shaw at Le Crazy Coq's, last night I was at The Dublin Castle in Camden for The Pogue Traders  Tonight I'm at The Dublin Castle for the Barnet  band of The Year, The Silencerz. This is not a chore, its a privelige for me. We are so lucky to live in London and have all this on our doorstep, great music at grassroots venues.

As I run a recording studio, another aspect of London Music that I especially love is the recorded history of recorded music in London. I have been researching this and put together my personal top 20 tracks recorded in London Recording Studios. The rules are simple, the tracks must be recorded in a London Studio (or live at a London venue and be iconic) and there can only be one per artists/band.

There may seme to be some strange omissions/inclusions. Some are down to my personal prejudices, some are because songs that we always think are London tracks were recorded somewhere else (a good example is 20th Century Boy by T. Rex, which would be in but was recorded in Japan). I'd love a top 30, but it would need to include pre 1960's and post 2000 music, which are not areas that I am especially up on. My main knowledge is between 1965 and 1995. When I expand to 30, Parklife by Blur will def be added as would Kinky Afro by The Happy Mondays. Amy should be there, but the albums weren't recorded in London.

Here is my list, have a listen and take some pride that all of this music was recorded in our amazing City.

What would you add? Please check whether the song was actually recorded in London

Friday 21 December 2018

The Saving of the Midland Hotel - How to run a model community campaign

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John from The Midland receives an award
Is there a future for pubs and live music venues in London? Before we consider any issues about campaigns, we need to consider this fundamental question. The evidence I've seen this week confirms what I've long believed the situation to be. On Saturday night, at the #SaveLodonMusic/Barnet Eye Xmas Party and annual community awards, we presented The Midland Hotel in Hendon with Barnet Eye pub of the Year and the Campaign to save it with the community campaign of the year. I had a long chat with John, who is the Landlord. I've known John for a good few years now, but it is actually the first time I've had a proper conversation with him. The Midland was formerly owned by Greene King breweries, who sold it to developers three years ago. John explained that since he became a free house, when Greene King sold up, he's been making far more money. This surprised me, but John explained "Under Greene King, I was a tied Landlord and had to pay a fixed rate for the beers. Now I can shop around, I can get most at almost half the price and offer a better selection of beers". John has been highly supportive of the #SaveLondonMusic campaign, welcoming us on numerous occasions for gigs at the pub. It is clear that far more people are using the pub and the work John has done has massively improved the ambiance. He's brought in a table tennis table and transformed the ambiance. It has taken time. Sadly in September, the developer, who had not spoken to John of their plans, dropped a bombshell, as a planning application to knock down the pub appeared on the Barnet Council planning portal. The Barnet Eye blog immediately issued a rallying cry to the local community to object to the plans.

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At the heart of the community
That is the background to the campaign. A thriving pub business up against a developer who simply sees the site as a way to make a quick buck (or a million of them). It soon became clear that Barnet Council had been working quietly with the developers for a considerable amount of time behind the scenes on the plan. The Capita run planning department had apparently been advising the developers that there should be know problem getting their plans through. It really is quite astonishing that a local authority should not have considered the impact on local people, but that appears to be exactly what happened. There have been many worries about the effects of outsourcing the running of the planning department and the conflict of interest between the council making decisions and advising developers. The case of the Midland would seem to us to be a prime example.

As a result of the Barnet Eye blog, a flurry of objections were posted on the Council website. Once local people became aware of the issue, a group to Save The Midland was formed. The primary focus initially was on getting as many objections as possible, as this was the number one priority. This was highly successful, getting an unprecedented number (over 600) of objections. Local councillors were contacted, who in turn involved the local MP. Local community groups, both formal and informal were also involved. The next step was to get the pub listed as an asset of community value. This gives the pub a degree of protection from redevelopment, putting major roadblocks in the way of development. Local groups and campaigners made submissions. This then went to council and was granted this week.

This has been a major victory. Of course there are still many things that could happen. The planning application is yet to be officially determined, although it would be perverse if this was now granted. There may be appeals etc. But what the campaign has shown is that when a community gets together, it can change things. My expectation is that this is not done and dusted yet, but I think that ultimately the Midland is now highly likely to survive. The developers are still getting a decent income from the pub so have not lost money. I hope that they realise that they are actually sitting on a great asset, and whatever they do, they put the pub at the heart of it (although I know of few developers who actually think like that).

I think that the Midland Hotel Campaign is an absolute model of how to run a successful campaign.

Here are the key elements.

1. Kick start the campaign using all available social media resources, such as Twitter, Facebook, local bloggers, local Press and local radio. All of these have been deployed by the Save The Midland campaign.

2. Set up a committee to manage the campaign. Make sure this includes local people who are directly affected and also people with direct experience of running campaigns. For the Midland Campaign, an absolutely vital aspect was the support of local councillors, notably Councillor Helene Richman, who is a qualified Lawyer and has proven invaluable in ensuring that the campaigns arguments are legally sound. The Rev Julia Candy from St Johns had an influential role in gaining cross community support and should be acknowledged.

3. Ensure that the absolute maximum number of objections are posted. The Save The Midland Campaign actually set up an "objection station" in the pub with a laptop and someone to help locals object. A local council cannot ignore these. If more than five objections are received the scheme has to go the planning committee. If more than 500 are received, councillors will realise that the people who elected them are taking a major interest.

4. See if listing as an Asset of Community Value is feasible. This is the next best thing to being listed to preserve a building. It is worth checking out the details of the Midland application, as this is a model for how to do it.

5. Run local events to raise awareness. The Barnet Eye organised a party, which resulted in a packed pub and a whole stack more objections to the scheme. Ensure that all users of the pub make representations. The ACV application for the Midland had support from CAMRA, The Save London Music Campaign, the Montague Road Association and local residents. Angels Fancy Dress also provided a list of social events at their local pub.

6. Remember the job is never done. I suspect that every pub under threat can expect to have to fight for years, or even decades. Until the planning laws are adjusted to reflect the distortions that skyrocketing property prices are causing in our communities, we will see more not less of this. The Midland is a successful local pub. The only logic for knocking it down is that a developer can make a quick buck. If developers know that an authority is not going to facilitate this, then maybe, just maybe they will think twice. That is why it is so important to fight. Why not pop into the Midland for a pint over Xmas. We will be and why not become a Facebook friend

If you need any help or advice in how to help save your local music venue, please contact the #SaveLondonMusic campaign for advice and help

Wednesday 19 December 2018

The Wednesday Poem #52 - Christmas in Burnt Oak

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A roof collapse in Burnt Oak in the 1970's
Last poem before Xmas, so I thought I'd rework the twelve days of Christmas encapsulating my fond memories of Burnt Oak, past and present.

There are some great pictures (see left) of Burnt Oak on the Mempics website (Click here)
I love Burnt Oak, my band had a residency at the Bald Faced Stag in 1983/4, I spent many an hour bunking off lessons and drinking tea's in the Betta Cafe (often with Boz Boorer, until he got banned for asking if the automatic spoon greaser was broken). It still has two fine fishmongers, if all the pubs are gone.

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My brothers Baptism at The Annunciation
My parents were married by Fr Fred Smyth at The Annunciation church in 1944, my Grandma lived at 56 Milling Road, my brother Laurie met his wife in The Annunciation Social club in the 1970's, she was working at Burnt Oak Library at the time. Their first home was a council flat in Gunter Grove (remember when young couples could get them?). I went to School at Orange Hill School, next to Watling Park, which is one of the finest parks in Barnet. My son played youth football for Watling Boys FC. The area has changed, but it is probably the most vibrant and lively area of anywhere in the Borough.

The area has changed. The famous "Burnt Oak Boot Boys" of the late 1960's and early 1970's have been replaced by a large Romanian community. The Pubs have gone, but there is now all manner of different cuisines being sold at restaurants and cafe's. The market is has been closed for a while, the little alley from the High Street has been closed.

I have seen some very 'interesting' sights (and smells) down there over the years.

The 12 Days of Christmas in Burnt Oak

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Six Halal butchers, Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's
Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers, Five blokes in Bling
Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eight massive potholes, Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers
Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Nine fresh fruit sellers,
Eight massive potholes, Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers
Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Ten smackheads sleeping, Nine fresh fruit sellers,
Eight massive potholes, Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers
Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eleven Watling boy, Ten smackheads sleeping, Nine fresh fruit sellers
Eight massive potholes, Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers
Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Twelve boot boys meeting, Eleven Watling boy, Ten smackheads sleeping
Nine fresh fruit sellers, Eight massive potholes
Seven late buses, Six Halal butchers
And Five blokes in Bling, Four Romanian Cafe's, Three Closed pubs, Two fine fishmongers
And A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea, and A Betta Cafe cuppa of tea

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Barnet Council reveal their utter contempt for local taxpayers and residents

There are many things I could write a blog about this morning. Jose Mourinho has been sacked as Manchester United manager, the cabinet are discussing a "No Deal Brexit" and last night I went to an amazing gig at Le Crazy Coqs to see Jazz pianist Ian Shaw. All of these are interesting in their own way. However, I have just received an email that left me speechless. A Barnet resident emailed the Council about a matter of concern. The resident has a long running dispuet with the council, and rightly or wrongly feels most aggrieved. The response he received from a senior council officer was the most disgraceful response I've seen to date to a resident from a paid officer

From: Tatlow, David
Sent: 18 December 2018 07:23:10
To: N******** D****; Tsangari, George
Cc: Charlwood, Andrew; Gaudin, Fabien; Hooton, John; Cornelius, Cllr Richard
Subject: Re: 3 Sunny Gardens Road, Hendon, NW4

Please do not respond as advised previously. His complaint is closed.

I have blanked out the name of the recepient for privacy reasons. What is 100% clear is that the leader and the CEO of the Council have been copied so will have seen this crass act of rudeness. Most interestingly, I recently emailed the leader and CEO of the Council about a matter of utmost urgency.  

To: ; Richard Cornelius ; Cllr Daniel Thomas ; Cllr Anthony Finn
Cc: John Dix; Derek Dishman ; Theresa Musgrove ; John Burgess;
Sent: Thursday, 13 December 2018, 11:05:52 GMT
Subject: Urgent - Capita Response to Grant Thornton reportr

Dear Sirs,

I read in disbelief the response from Capita to the Grant Thornton report. This response, in effect calls Grant Thornton incompetent and unprofessional.  (Financial controls -

The response states
"Capita statement in response to Grant Thornton report

Capita wholeheartedly refutes the conclusions of this highly caveated and limited report, which Grant Thornton themselves admit is not a comprehensive formal audit.

The report’s conclusions regarding financial controls across the council and Capita’s CSG and DRS contracts have not been independently verified, are not underpinned by clear evidence, and in many instances seem to be based on opinion and hearsay.

Capita accepts that this case highlighted failings, which we have worked in partnership with the council to overcome. All the actions raised as a result have already been delivered by Capita and are in the process of being audited. We are committed to continue working with the London Borough of Barnet to deliver all of the activities in its rectification plans to achieve improved financial controls across Re, CSG and the Council.  "

There are only three possible conclusions that can be drawn from this statement.
1. Grant Thornton are incompetent and Barnet Council should commission a new report from a company that is recognised as capable of doing the job and not presenting "opinions and hearsay" as fact. If this is the case, Capita should demand that a new report is commissioned by a company that can be deemed "independent". If this report exhonorates Capita, Grant Thornton should pick up the tab. If it confirms Grant Thorntons findings, then Capita should issue an apology and pick up the tab.
2. Capita have issued a defamatory statement that is both misleading and libellous. If this is the case, then presumably Grant Thornton will sue Capita (and possibly Barnet Council) for publishing it. No potential customers of Grant Thornton could possibly consider working with a company that has such serious doubt cast on its professional integrity. In this case, the Council should call time on the Capita Contract in short order.
3. Both Grant Thornton and Capita are equally culpable. Capita have failed to deliver the services that they were commissioned to provide and Grant Thornton have failed to provide a competent assessment of the failings. The only way that this can be proven would be to commission a new, independent report. Should this be proven, then both Grant Thornton and Capita should pick the tab up between them.
It is clear that Barnet Council need to take this accusation seriously. Unless Grant Thornton seek a retraction and apology in short order, a new report is required that is beyond reproach. At a recent Audit meeting the chair assurred me that Grant Thornton were a professional company with great integrity. Given that Barnet Councils chosen partner and procurement agent have issued such a scathing assessment of their work, this assessment has clearly been called into question. I seek your assurance, as  council tax and business rates payer that Barnet Council will take immediate action to ensure that residents can have confidence in the management of the Capita account. Following this statement, there can be none until either Grant Thornton are exhonourated or a new report has been published.
Roger Tichborne

I can only assume that the recepient of the email from David Tatlow was never supposed to see the response and was sent due to gross incompetence. The only other possible explanation was Mr Tatlow simply wanted to be rude. Either is inexcusable. This leads to the question as to whether there is a blanket policy of not responding to residents. This morning, prior to receiving a copy of this email, I'd actually emailed Leader and Ceo of the Council asking for an explanation as to why my communication had been completely ignored. I assumed that this was probably just down to workload, but in light of this latest development, I must now conclude that there could be a far more sinister reason. 

At a recent Council meeting, a Council officer told a blogger that asking questions was a waste of everyones time. It now seems that the Council no longer feel that they are accountable to us. I believe that this is a result of the Barnet Conservatives receiving a massive majority in the May Council Elections. They no longer think they need to bother about us, the voters. I had previously believed the Council Leader to be a basically decent and affable chap with impeccable manners. There is now evidence that his administration holds the general public in contempt. 

I would suggest to Mr Cornelius and his cohorts that this is an exceptionally bad policy. There is likely to be  General election sometime soon. Whilst I am sure he believes that the local Tory MP's are unassailable, that is often what happens just before out of touch political structures are toppled. As a blogger, this only inspires me to shout about what I see on a daily basis even louder than I would otherwise. 

Earlier this year, I made a short movie about how Barnet Council are more interested in serving the shareholders of Capita than the general public. Many of these comments resonate even more loudly in light of this latest revealation. The Current regime is totally uninterested in ordinary residents. The executive are purely interested in their own jobs and making sure no one rocks the boat. They are no longer even bothering to conceal their contempt.  I wonder how many other residents are on Mr Tatlows blacklist.

Monday 17 December 2018

Environment Monday - Barnet Council and a sustainable transport policy

Every Monday, we look at issues affecting our local environment. Today we look at the transport policies of Barnet Council and how they are working with The Mayor of London todeliver a coherent transport policy. The answer sadly seems to be "they aren't".

The relevant page on the council website says

Local Implementation Plan

The Mayor of London produces a transport strategy for London. Local Implementation Plans set out what individual borough's will do to implement the Mayor's Transport Strategy locally.

Local Implementation Plan for 2005/6 – 2010/11
 We are consulting on the new Local Implementation Plan from 2011/12.

After more digging, I found a draft version of a 2018 plan.

The objectives are described, interestingly it says
The aspiration to increase sustainable travel to a mode share of 80% presents significant challenges for Barnet, where the car remains an important mode of transport. A significant number and proportion of car tripswithin and across Barnet originate  elsewhere and are  between origin and  destination points outsideof the Borough on keystrategic routes (e.g. M1, A1, A41,  A406). Equally, the origins and destinations of traffic on these routes are not necessarily within  Barnet and traffic
reduction strategies will require cross-borough collaboration significant input, and potentially funding, from TfL. Those who administer such roads (TfL and Highways England) must help contribute to vehicle reduction targets on their networks in Barnet, especially in relation to freight.
 So is 80% "sustainable" achievable? The answer is that it certainly should be, but before we can answer, we need to be sure what sustainable really means. I can find no proper definition of this in the document. It could be argued that the only truly sustainable form of transport is walking. Even cycling requires raw materials, steel, rubber and plastics and requires a smooth carriageway. A human on their feet is the best all terrain vehicle. In fact probably the only place that a human being is not at home travelling on is a road or cycleway. But realistically most people would not walk more than a mile if they need to get somewhere. If you live in Cornwall, this makes walking more or less anywhere impractical, however in the London Borough of Barnet, good design should put facilities in easy walking distance. I live in Millway, the shops, railway station are 1/4 of a mile. My place of work is 1/2 a mile. I rarely need to drive. I tend to take Thameslink to town and use the bus and tube network. It is quicker and cheaper than a car for such journeys.

When I speak to people who drive into town from Mill Hill, the reason is generally they live more than a mile from Mill Hill Broadway Station and when they factor in the cost/hassle of parking at Mill Hill station, they find a car journey more pleasant. Typically they do not work in the centre, but in places such as Hackney and Tufnell Park. The question has to be, how do you encourage such people into "modal shift". The options for some is a bus journey or cycling to the station. Many of the buses are packed or don't serve their roads. For people living in areas like Bedford Road, the walk/cycle to Mill Hill Broadway station is from pleasant. The nearest bus to the Broadway is the 251 which involves a ten minute walk in the wrong direction, for a service that is often packed.

I've long been a fan of the concept of small hopper buses that serve specific estates and locations, opening up public transport to estates a mile or two from stations. These are ideal for electric or hydrogen cell vehicles. Such solutions are not necesarily sexy, but do offer a simple, quick win. This is recognised in the strategy "Work with TfL to review bus routes to serve new development and lessaccessible locations and to realise the  delivery of orbital express bus provisionand demand responsive public transport.". It will be good to see what comes out of this review

Then there is cycling. From my perspective, the biggest issue in the Borough of Barnet is safety. To cycle safely, there should be segregation between cars, cycles and pedestrians. Juncions such as Apex Corner, Henleys Corner, Brent Cross and Mill Hill Circus are quite simply lethal. Cars and Lorries often drive aggresively as soon as they see a cyclist and are resentful of cyclists riding defensively. Cycling is an excellent way of travelling distances of between 1-3 miles. Whilst I mentioned that there are environmental costs compared to walking, it is the greenest vehicular form of travel. Barnet Council should be identifying journeys in the 1-3 mile band, that are potentially popular, and installing segregated cycleways. All stations, schools and hospitals should have clear paths between local housing estates etc and such sites. This would reduce pollution and traffic and increase health. Sadly there are virtually no proposals to make cycling safer in the Borough. This is a real missed opportunity. Barnet likes easy to implement schemes such as cycle parking, and training schemes, but have an intense aversion to actually making safe cycleways. There are opportunities, such as the disused rail lines between Mill Hill and Edgware and Mill Hill Broadway and Mill Hill East. These should be converted to cycle lanes ASAP.

Then there are the railways and tube network. The Thameslink network has had a major upgrade. Once the teething problems with the timetable are ironed out, this will massively improve travel options. Interchange with Crossrail at Farringdon will also make travel to Heathrow far easier. The proposed Brent Cross Railway will also open up West London to Barnet residents. Sadly there are no plans to extend the line to Colindale and Mill Hill, which would open up the RAF museum to mainline train travel and the new developments at Graham Park and Colindale. The Northern Line also needs to explore ways to improve travel options to Mill Hill East and beyond to Copthall and Saracens. Perhaps the major improvement would be to have step free access at stations. It is totally unacceptable that 2 million people a year use Mill Hill Broadway, but none are in a wheelchair. This is recognised in the strategy "Step  Free access is proposed at additional Northern Line stationsin the borough at Mill HillEast, Burnt Oak and in the major growth areas of Colindale andBrent Cross.The delivery of Brent Cross West will provide a new National Rail station with step-free access and London Borough of Barne thas  undertaken a study and provided information to Network Rail, forapplication to the DfT regarding proposalsfor introduction of step-free accessat Mill Hill Broadway Station" This is a painfully slow process. When the idea of a London Mayor and TFL was first mooted, we were told that this was just the type of thing they would make happen. Sadly we've had three Mayors over  a period of eighteen years. Two were obsessed with grand schemes and the third seems unable to make a decision about anything.

The plan talks about consultations. Sadly the date for this has been missed as it was between 2 November 2018 and 7 December 2018 (according to the document). This is a ridculously short period of time and sadly I completely missed the deadline. Many other Boroughs actually ask local bloggers etc to contribute. That's not how things are done in Barnet.