Thursday 31 January 2019

Announcement from the Save The Midland Hotel Campaign

The Midland Hotel Hendon
The Barnet Council planning website is now showing that this application has been withdrawn.
This is because the development scheme submitted has so many faults and so many objections to it.

However  no decision notice or any new document have been published; usually an email from the developers to say they have withdrawn the application and the head of planning signing off a decision notice.

These should be available soon. If not, we will be asking the case officer for confirmation.

The good thing with a withdrawn application is that there is no chance of an appeal; appeals are only possible if the planners refused the application.

We have no idea what the developers are going to do next.

The ACV listing for the pub has made it very awkward for them as any plans for the site must consider the ACV listing as a material consideration.
Developers cannot demolish the pub unless there is a very good reason to do so or they provide a replacement pub.
Barnet Council also has admitted that they have to protect our pubs according to National Planning policies.

We don't want a new pub; we want to keep the original!

Meantime, please use our ACV pub as much as possible!!  

Thank you all for your hard work and support.

We must stay alert for the next application.
Barnet Eye Note:
We are committed to supporting the Midland Hotel and all other local community spaces. We are looking to organise  party to celebrate the ACV and the withdrawal of the planning application. Watch this space.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Why Parking Charge Ltd lost their attempt to impose an unjust charge on me

As if there is not enough stress and aggravation in life, yesterday I had to attend Clerkenwell County Court, to settle a parking dispute between myself and Parking Charge Ltd, the company which operates a car park near the cinema in Swiss Cottage. The charge dated from the 15th October 2017. I'd taken the family to see a film at the cinema, paid six pounds for three hours with my debit card and then returned to my car. I realised that I'd gone a few minutes over the three hours, mainly due to needing to use the loo when the film finished and due to the length of the film, having to wait. I went to the machine to see what to do, there were no instructions. I went to see if there was an attendent. No one was around. I read the signage. It was totally unclear as to what to do. The implication was that if you stayed longer than three hours you had to pay a tenner, but there was no obvious option pay an extra four pounds to top up. I felt that paying another ten pounds for ten minutes parking was unfair. There was no mention of any "grace period" for overstaying. There was nothing helpful at all. After about five minutes of mulling over what to do, I thought, this is ridiculous and left.

Three weeks later, I got the following letter through the post.

Click for a readable version

I was gobsmacked. They wanted £60 for a fifteen minute overstay, of which five minutes were down to trying to figure out their bad signage. Not only that, they refused to acknowledge I'd paid a bean. A little lesson for anyone using such a service. Don't pay cash. If you pay on card, you will have an audit trail and proof. You can lose a ticket. A bank statement can be retreived.

I consulted Barnet's parking guru, Mr Mustard. He said "it's clearly wrong, ignore it". So I did. Letter after letter followed, each one was ignored, each demanded more money, it soon rose to over £200. Mr Mustard pointed me to a website that suggested they never took court action. On top of this, the charge letter was factually incorrect.

Eventually, last October, I got a cout summons. Contrary to Mr Mustards advice, they were taking me to court. I submitted my defence. I stated that I had paid for three hours, that the signage was deficient, and that the reason for my short overstay  was due to my prostate cancer condition requiring a visit to the lavatory, where there was a large queue.

The solicitors firm for Parking Charge Ltd wrote demanding proof of my medical condition. They stated that they would share this with third parties. I sent them a link to my cancer blog. That is what I am prepared to share with the world. I am not prepared to share medical records. They wrote back stating that if they required records. I stated that I would bring them to court. That was the sum and end of correspondence.

Yesterday was the big day. I arrived promptly at ten AM. I checked in. I was advisd that Parking charge had a lawyer in attendance. I had my file. Shortly after ten AM, we were ushered in before the Judge. He invited Mr Parking Charge to submit his evidence. He read out what was on the the letter above. He added that I'd made no attempt to contact them. I was then invited to submit my defence. I stated that the charge was completely defective. I had paid for three hours and had a bank statement to prove it. The solicitor for the Parking Charge Ltd claimed that this was the first they had heard of this. Given that they had a payment, this was clearly incorrect. They had also read the defence I had submitted. The Judge asked why I had not responded to their correspondence before th court papers were issued. I advised that my sister is a Barrister and that she'd  advised that as the letter was clearly defective and incorrect and I could prove that, there was no point bothering to answer it as they were clearly trying it on.

The judge then pointed out "but you admit that you were late?". I explained why. I said that the signage made no mentuon of any grace period. He asked what grace period Parking Charge Ltd operated. Their solicitor stated that "in line with insudtry practice, it is ten minutes". He stated that there were nine signs clearly detailing what needed to be done. The judge asked me about these. I said I had only seen one. I asked what the date of the pictures that had been supplied were. He then checked and they were taken nearly six months later and he noted that the signage looked brand new. The solicitor checked. He then said "well the first one was taken at the time". The judge concurred with me that the signage had not been in place at the time.

The solicitor, realising his options were running out stated I'd ignored all correspondence from his company. I asked if he had copies of the emails I'd exchanged regarding the Prostate Cancer condition. He said "Yes". I then said "You had my defence, you had ample opportunity to ask any other relevant questions. I said I'd paid, I was surprised you didn't ask for proof".

At this, the Judge, who was clearly irritated with the evidence supplied by Parking Charge Ltd, said "I've heard enough. I am going to give judgement. Mr Tichborne paid, he was most probably back to his car within the grace period, the signage was clearly not appropriate at the time. The case is dismissed". And that was that.

The solicitor for the parking company looked rather upset and wouldn't make eye contact with me. I thought I'd summarise the lessons I learned. If you overstay a ticket, you have a grace period. If you are a couple of minutes late then note this and leave immediately. Take pictures if you can to prove this.

Pay by card. If you are over the ten minutes, check all signage. If there is no instructions for top ups, this will be useful evidence. Photograph all simes, recording how long you have spent photographing the signs. if you get a charge letter, ask for details of grace period and evidence of signage explaining it. A valid defence is that you knew there was a grace period, but this was not specified, so you assumed you were in it. Offer to pay the top up fee. For a short overstay, this will be reasonable. If the overstay was longer. Offer to pay the full day rate, plus a couple of pounds for their trouble. If they reject this, they will have to justify why. The letter above is computer generated. It would cost no more than a couple of pounds to produce. State that you want details and proof of any loss suffered.

The Judge stated that by entering the car park, I had entered into a contract with them. As I had a cast iron case and he dismissed the case, it didn't matter, but I believe his summary was incorrect. You cannot enter a contract without understanding that you are. Take pictures of the outside of the car park. If there is nothing stating that by entering the car park, you are entering a contract, then you should state this and evidence it. Check the signage and check your ticket. If this does not state that this is evidence of contract, then you should state this. It is a valid argument to say that the signage was unclear as to this. If it doesn't say in big letters "read this sign, you are entering into a contract with us and these are the terms", it is far more difficult for them to make the case stick.

Had I really thought it through, I'd have made a far better job of my defence, put in my defence that the claim was baseless and I'd be asking for costs incurred. As it was I just wanted to win the case. Everyone advised me I'd win, so I didn't really think about the fact it was a huge inconvenience and cost me a pretty penny getting studio cover. I was only when I had a quick run through with Helen Michael on Monday evening, who is a solicitor as well as a cafe owner, that it even occurred to me. 

Oh and for future parkinbg queries, Mr Mustard is Barnets Parking Expert. If you have further queries, please contact him. I have a book to write about rock and roll. 

Monday 28 January 2019

Environment Monday - Examining the changing face of Brent Cross/Cricklewood part 1

When the name of "The London Borough of Barnet" is mentioned, many people think of leafy suburbs, mock tudor semi's and lush parks with au pairs walking the family Chihuahua. The mere name Barnet refers to a little town, traditionally part of Hertfordshire, bereft even of a London postcode, stuck on the extreme North Eastern corner of the Borough. At the diametrically opposite end of the Borough is Cricklewood, in the South East. The council ward is known as Childs Hill, which contributes to the fact that many don't even realise that Cricklewood is in the Borough.

Cricklewood is probably the most interesting area of the Borough historically. The arrival of the railways in the 1860 provided the impetus for a thriving manufacturing base. Bentley Motors, Handley Page aircraft, Staples furniture and a whole array of other manufacturers sprang up. Central to this was the railway. As a transport hub, it even boasted an airport in the 1920's, supporting Handley Page. The iconic  Smith's Industries clock and precision instruments factory was also located in Cricklewood as were Smiths crisps.

The railway and these factories lead to a large Irish immigrant population, who frequented pubs such as The Crown and The Cricklewood Hotel and the iconic Galtymore nightclub. Many worked on the railways, as a huge depot, marshalling yards and freight sidings grew. Cricklewood is located on a junction between the Midland mainline, which served the Midlands and Scotland in the north and Southwards, St Pancras, Farringdon, Smithfield market and the south (via the Snow Hill tunnel and what is now known as The Thameslink route). A line, known as The Dudden Hill route heads westwards, providing a freight route to the western rail network and just down the line at West Hampstead to the South, there is another link to Barking, Tilbury and Southend.

The marshalling yards would receive freight trains from all of these locations and  marshall them for despatch to destinations across the country. This all required a huge workforce. The railway ran on coal, which was brough down from the Midlands. Coal was king, it was the main source of heat in most homes. Cottages were built for the workers around the such places, known as Midland Cottages at most locations. These were small, unfussy homes designed for the convenience of workers, at a time when employers recognised the common sense of having workers living near their workplace.

Local industrial historian Mark Amies has a fascination with Cricklewood and recently appeared on The Robert Elms show detailing the lost factories. Mark also put several fascinating tweets on the subject on his timeline.

Cricklewood not only had a rich industrial history, it also has a great cultural heritage. In the 1920's and 30's it had its own film studio. Between 1979 and 2000 a new studio operated at The Production Village site. Most famously the film Breaking Glass was produced at the site.

But as we all know the sands of time move on. As London moved from coal to gas and electircity and rail moved to diesel and electric power, the sidings declined. As British Rail phased out wagonload freight, the marshalling yards disappeared. With the advent of the Thameslink route in the mid 1980's, even the maintenance depot disappeared and all that was left of the huge railway works disappeared. The Thameslink trains were now serviced at Selhurst, near Crystal Palace and the mainline Inter City 125 units were serviced in Leeds. All that remained was a few carriage sidings.

The factories closed, one by one, as the land values soared. In the 1970's the adjacent Brent Cross site, formerly home of Hendon dog track became Brent Cross shopping Centre. This was the UK's first big "out of town" shopping centre. Despite being only a mile from Cricklewood, it was extremely difficult to get from Cricklewood Broadway to the centre. The railway and the North Circular made it one a very difficult walk and a rather arduous drive for such ashort difference.

The GLC decided that Cricklewood was the ideal place to send all of Londons rubbish to. Ken Livingstone's GLC built a huge waste transfer plant. Dustcarts from across London arrived to have the rubbish loaded into containers for shipment to Sandy in Bedfordshire for burial in pits excavated to produce bricks. Skip hire and reclaimation firm Donoghues also moved in, making Cricklewood the waste capital of London.  The waste trains were noted for their pong, especially in summer. If you were unlucky enough to be on the platform at Mill Hill when one passed, you were in for a gut wrenching experience. Seasoned commuters avoided the trains that exposed you to this.

Fortunately for Mill Hill, London produces so much waste that these pits were filld. A new dump was found, and the trains now are taken down to West Hampstead, and then sent down the Dudden Hill route to a site elsewhere. Apparently the residents of the luxury flats next to the railway are none too impressed. Having a pongy train full of rubbish next to your house for an hourm whilst the engine changes ends of the train is no fun.

Cricklewood is blessed to have an amazing community spirit. The Cricklewood Town team have worked tirelessly to make the best of what the town has to offer. I know them well. My company helps them with musical arrangements for the numerous events they stage at the Cricklewood village green (a large sloped grassy area, next to B&Q). Town fairs are held and music and childrens entertainers are laid on in the summer. The station has been decorated and is perhaps the most interesting of all stations on the Thameslink route. These tweets give a flavour of how the community has come together.

But there are huge changes being planned for Cricklewood. I like to think of the local railway station as the heart of Cricklewood, and the rail lines as the arteries, bringing in the lifeblood. But Cricklewood is about to have a heart bypass. A brand new station is being built and the preparatory work has already started. Cricklewood station, due to its layout, cannot accomodate the 12 carriage trains which now operate on the Thameslink route. A huge scheme to regenerate the 1970s shopping centre at Brent Cross and build approx 30,000 new dwellings has been prepared. To facilitate all of this a new station is being built half a mile up the railway line. The whole scheme will be the largest building site in Western Europe if and when if comes to fruition. What is not in doubt though, is that the new railway station will be built.

Infrastructure projects such as this fascinate me. I was delighted when Robin Morel of Network Rail offered me a tour of the carriage sidings and an explanation of how the new station would affect the railway. I hadn't appreciated the scale, size and timescales of this. I asked Mark Amies to join me. We made a video with Robin to explain just how major these changes are. What is clear is that the impact on the area will be huge. Robin is one of the good guys, a life long rail man, who worked for British Rail, Railtrack and Network Rail. He has a huge passion for his job and his enthusiasm for the railway is infectious. He is also highly knowledgable.

There were many things that Robin told us that were of interest to anyone who lives near the site. The Waste Transfer station is closing. This will mean no more smelly trains annoying the residents of West Hampstead. Apparently, with recycling, there is not enough waste to fill a train, so it will now be moved by road. An aggregates depot for the Brent Cross development will open on the other side of the tracks this year. This has been delayed as DB Rail forgot to apply for planning permission and there was not enough noise and dust suppression planned.

There is also a freight siding operating, removing spoil from local developments. This will go. The whole railway will need to be closed to build the new station, as tracks are moved eastward to accommodate the platforms. The carriage sidings and old shed at the north end of the complex will go completely.

Robin also explained that the proposed West London Orbital Route will not be stopping at the station and will have its own station. It has proven impossible to integrate this into the current scheme. Robin explained that there are currently low speed freight lines that run from West Hampstead to north of Hendon station. These don't have overhead wires, so cannot be used by Thameslink trains. There is a proposal to electrify these and increase the linespeed to 100 MPH. This will massively increase the capacity for passenger trains through this section. In short, the whole area is in for a massive change. Robin assured us that there is no proposal to close Hendon or Cricklewood station, but it is clear that the new station will get a vastly superior service.

Robin also explained how a massive bridge across the rail lines from Cricklewood Broadway to the Railway terraces had been descoped. It had been part of Boris's master plan. Clearly, if the Brent Cross scheme is ever built, the station will become a vital hub. With the West London Orbital route opening, it will be an important interchange for passegers wishing to access West London from the Borough, if the conundrum of platform layouts can be resolved.

The bottom line for anyone concerned with the environment, rail is the greenest, safest option for urban travel. The work and dedication of people like Robin make it happen. Robin invited us back in two years to see how it has all panned out.

The Barnet Eye will be returning to Cricklewood for this series, to focus on the social history for our next instalment in this series. The final part will be a return with Mark, to have a look at the non rail industrial heritage. Our view is that the Environment should be harnessed to make the lives of the people who live in it as good as possible. This means lowering pollution, giving people healthy options and building communities. We believe that the Cricklewood has the best community spirit in the Borough, and it is essential that we all support them. It is amazing that Network Rail are happy to be open and transparent about their plans. I asked Robin if he wanted to see the film before I published it, but he said "No, there are no secrets". That is how public bodies should be.

Saturday 26 January 2019

The Saturday List #205 - Ten unexpectedly wonderful London Experiences

This morning I joined local industrial historian Mark Amies of Robert Elms show fame for a tour of Cricklewood Railway Depot and Signal box courtesy of Robin Morel of Network Rail. It was absolutely fascinating. I will be making a video so that anyone who is interested in our local industrial history,  or wants to know how the area will be reshaped by the forthcoming Brent Cross Development will find this to be a really interesting trip.

I had expected it to be interesting, but Robin is a great host and I was completely fascinated. I've been busy writing my memoirs, so I hadn't planned a list for this week. However, as I made my way back I thought, when was the last time I had a day out to somewhere really unlikely that was also really enjoyable.

1. Cricklewood Railway Depot tour with Robin Morel of Network Rail.
You'll have to wait for the video!

2. Visit to the Roundhouse to record a slot for the 50th Anniversary radio show.
I was invited to the Roundhouse to record a slot for a radio show, with the former head of security. We dicussed the heady days of the 1970's and got a little tour. It was amazing. They chose me as I wrote a piece for their 50th anniversary site.

3. Fullers Brewery Tour.
I was gutted to hear that Fullers are selling their breweries. A few years ago, I did a brewery tour with friends. It was wonderful. It was emphasised that the brewery was steeped in London history. To hear that the brewery has been sold by Fullers is something that makes me very sad indeed. It is well worth doing the tour whilst you still can.

4. BACS Ltd Open Day.
I used to work in the IT department of BACS back in the late 1980's. We never got to see anything more than our desks as there was massive security on site. It was based at the top of Mollison Way in Burnt Oak and old aircraft hanger. Once a year, the staff were given a tour of the whole operation. When I did this I was amazed at the scale of the operation. It was totally fascinating.

5. RAF Day at Hendon RAF museum.
I was most honoured to be asked by former Barnet Mayor Hugh Rayner to be his guest at this years RAF day celebrations. I've always loved the museum, my Dad was an RAF bomber pilot, but I was especially thrilled to be entertained by the wonderful Jive Aces, who did a live show under the wing of a Sunderland flying boat. Amazing.

6. Tour of the House of Commons with Andrew Dismore.
Back in 2000 I was a Labour Party member. The then MP Andrew Dismore invited me for a tour, with other Labour activists. It was fascinating. I'd urge anyone who loves history to do this, should you ever get the chance. I especially liked the cupboard were one of the Pankhursts spent the night, so they could register their address on the census as The Houses of Parliament.

7. Sitting at The top of Metropolis House in the sun.
I've always enjoyed the thrill of being naughty and going places I'm not supposed to be. I used to work for a company that rented offices in Metropolis House, a twelve story building on Percy St, just off Tottenham Court Road. We were on the sixth and seventh floor. One day, I was working on a Saturday and decided to go for a nose around. I found myself on the roof. The view was amazing. The following week, I did it again with binoculars. I could see the now demolished NIMR building in Mill Hill. Looking over the edge was a bit scary though.

8. Sitting in the back of a Police Car on a Blue light.
Many years ago, a mate of mine was a Policeman. I happened to bump into him and his mate in a cafe in London having a crafty coffee. He was knocking off in half an hour and suggested we go for a beer. Again rather naughtily, he suggested I jump in the back of the car. As we were driving back, he got an emergency call. On went the blue light. He had to drop me off arround the corner before he got to the incident as you are not meant to ferry your mates around. It was fun, but he was pissed off as he missed his beer. I found it to be rather exciting.

9. Drinking beer with The Ruts in Stonebridge Park.
I used to be good mates with Paul Fox, guitarist of The Ruts. He invited us down to a Rock Against Racism gig in Stonebridge Park. I think it was the Ruts second gig. They were supporting Misty in Roots and The Vibrators. It was a free gig with two of my favourite bands. Hearing that a mates band were supporting was even more incentive. To be honest, The Ruts hadn't found their feet. Misty were awesome, I can remember just sitting on the grass, sswigging warm beer with the Ruts watching them. Oddly, although the Vibrators were my favourite band at the time, I've no recollection of them at all that day.

10. 1977 Tour of St Pancras.
We start and finish with railways. As part of my schoolwork in 1977, I did a project on the history of St Pancras. I contacted British Rail and was kindly given a tour of the then dilapidated palace by an old railwayman. It was fascinating. The maine hall of the hotel was being used to store instant coffee. The drivers tea room was a haze of smoke. The catacombes underneath were spooky. I took dodgy pictures with an instamatic. I loved it, but my teacher hated my project. It was meant to focus on the building and construction techniques. Like many things in my life, my best work was totally unappreciated.

Friday 25 January 2019

The Friday Joke - 25/1/2019 - Dogs....

It's Friday, so here is the joke.

I took two stuffed dogs to the antiques road show.
The expert enthuses over the exhibit and asked me

"Have you any idea what these would fetch if they were in better condition?"

I replied "sticks!"

Thursday 24 January 2019

Midland Hotel Hendon - Update from West Hendon Councillors

Save The Midland - pub & music venue
This afternoon, the Barnet Eye has received the following update on the progress of the planning application for the Midland Hotel in Hendon.

The Barnet Eye has been spearheading the campaign to save the pub from demolition. We have been working with local residents, councillors, MP's and pub campaigners to ensure that the pub is preserved.

We have been following the story from the start and will continue to support the campaign.

The planning application is still pending decision. Officers know that the local community and cllrs andMP are against the planning application. Officers also hold significant objections to the planning application, which were conveyed to the applicant in the autumn. In response to the objections that we expressed, officers met with the applicants planning team & received a commitment to withdraw the application (rather than it be refused) by 31 January, so that they can establish the feasibility of accommodating the changes requested. If they do not withdraw the application, the only other option is for officers to refuse. The changes that we need to see happen are too significant to be consistent with or similar to the current planning application. The case officer is chasing them, and officers won't entertain changes to the scheme and will not be recommending an approval. Any decision to approve the application will require a decision to be made by the Area Planning Committee (v unlikely!). All changes dictate consultation with the public and a new application will be advertised to residents when and if received.
The Barnet Eye is slightly concerned that having collected over 500 objections against the original application, a whole new batch of objections will have to be collected if the new proposal referred to happens to involve the demolition of the pub. We will keep you informed.


Tuesday 22 January 2019

Why the time has come to stop writing blogs

Every day I spend two/three hours writing and researching this blog. It is a Labour of love. Over the last ten and a quarter years, I've written a total of 5,714 blogs to date. At an average of 1,200 words per blog, that means I've written 6,856,800 words. To put that into some sort of context, William Shakespear wrote around a million words. Of course, I am not claiming I'm William Shakespeare. If I dropped dead tomorrow, by the end of next week, most of you would have completely forgotten I ever existed. I doubt that anyone will be quoting my witticisms in 400 years time.

When I look back on what I've achieved as a blogger writing about the London Borough of Barnet, I think it is extraordinary. As the first of what has been called "The Barnet Bloggers", I kicked the whole idea into life. I felt that hyper local stories were not being covered by anyone. I believed that there was a huge amount of interest in what was going on in our community and that no one was writing about it. I believe that the fact that there are 2.6 million views of the blog have born this out.

When I set up the blog, I committed to writing a blog every day. To do this, I've had to do a huge amount of research. Sometimes I've sat up until 3am and then got up for work at 7am. But I do feel its been worth it.

The battles we've won, saving Friern Barnet Library, overturning the illegal parking charges, getting the Midland Hotel listed as an Asset of Community Value, getting rid of some truly rotten councillors and a criminal GLA member, saving respite care at Mapledown School and saving Barnet residents millions by exposing the Metpro scandal are things that spring to mind. These are campaigns we've been at the spearhead of. It has made all of the hours, all of the sleepless nights, all of the personal insults from former Council Leaders, all of the standingin the snow on marches, drinving around the Borough with a video camera, all of the sitting through unbearably boring meetings listening to intellectual leprechauns who masquarated of Councillors talking absolute nonsense, seem worthwhile.
But this is a special year for another part of my life, in many ways to me a far more important part. I've spent my adult life playing music, running a music studio and organising gigs and music festivals. This year is the 40th Anniversary of the start of my band, The False Dots and the founding of Mill Hill Music Complex studios. When the studios started, they were a very different beast. They were known as "The Cottage", as we started in the derelict caretakers cottage in Bunns Lane Works. As a bunch of rather naive 16 year olds, we didn't realise that the term Cottage had a meaning in the LGBT community that didn't really reflect the activities we were hosting. As these anniversaries loom, I have realised that they really should be marked properly. The studios now play host to approx 2,000 musicians and artists a week. We directly employ 12 people, around 30 more people (tutors, choreographers, ballet teachers, Yoga teachers etc) rely on our studios to earn a living. 50% of our customers come from more than five miles to use our facilities, so we bring money into the Mill Hill economy. The journey from a small musicians collective into a massive hub has been a veryinteresting story. In parellel the story of the band, totally intertwined with the studios has been perhaps even more interesting. The only reason I started the studio was to ensure I had a place to rehearse. The fact that it has mushroomed into such a massive feature in the London Music scene is purely down to the fact that I needed a place to play my music in.  When I realised others also neeeded a place, I decided that we would run it properly as a business, rather than as a musicians collective and a hobby. The change came in 1992. We'd rebranded the studio from The cottage to Unit 25 Studio to aoid confusion as to what we did. When I bought out my previous partners, we rebranded again as Mill Hill Music Complex.

The False Dots
As for the band. It has undergone a huge number of changes. We've had 38 people play with us, played in Scandinavia and Belgium as well as all over London and The Home Counties. The story of some of the people in the band would make a book in their own right. The story of our 1982 tour of Scandinavia would make a brilliant film. The story of our long time bassist, Paul Hircombe would make a brilliant Ken Loach tale of lost innocence, redemption and tragedy. Our current line up would probably make an excellent TV sitcom.  I am surprised that no one has ever made one about the shenanigans of a bunch of 50-60 year old wannabe rock stars. Perhaps the most interesting part for anyone watching would be the end of rehearsal discussions we have, where anything from mental health treatment to holidays in Cromer are discussed.

I've decided to put all of this down. I am writing a book, provisionally entitled "How to succeed in the music business with no talent at all". It was one of my new years resolutions. It has to be out by the end of the year, as does the False Dots retrospective album "Songs of Love and War",which is a mix of songs from 1983-5 and new compositions, as performed by our current line up.

I have sadly come to the realisation that it is impossible to write the book and write the blog. In life, I've learned one thing. The only way you get anything done is to have a degree of self discipline and structure to your life. You set aside time to do the things you have to do. For the last year or so, I've allocated the time between 10am and noon for writing and researching this blog.  My wife made me commit to not doing the 3am shifts after my problems with cancer. With family life, running the business etc, this means something has to give.

As there are some issues I care passionately about, I have decided to commit to a new timetable in my life. Last May, in their wisdom, the people of Barnet decided to renew the franchise of the organisation known as The Barnet Tories to run the Borough for another four years. Not only was it renewed, they were given a hugely increased mandate. Unlike some I respect democracy. I fully intend to spend the next three years working to ensure that in Mill Hill, they are booted out and sensible local people replace them. But it is futile to blog like a headless chicken about them. It has become clear to me that whilst I've nearly killed myself working to stop the worst excesses of their policies hurting the most vulnerable people, I've been cut out of many of the activities that oppose them by people who don't want anyone from outside a small cabal with a very set agenda. They are happy to use me when it suits them, but constantly seek to deny me a wider platform at all other times. I've noticed that recently references to the "Barnet Bloggers" fail to mention me at all, whilst heaping praise on other bloggers, more in tune with their views. Given that I've been far more active I find this rather sad. I am not the type of person to throw my toys out of the pram, but the fact that I get no support at all in what I'm doing and no useful information to help me write blogs means that I have to work ten times harder just to get the information out. It has simply occurred to me that if people co-ordinating campaigns don't want to supply the information, write the guest blogs, and use the amazing platform this blog gives, it is simply a waste of my time trying to do it all by myself.

So what does this mean for the Barnet Eye blog? Well it is not going to go away, far from it. But it will be changing into a slightly different beast. I have had a long, hard think about what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I am committed to my Environment Monday series of blogs. This is a passion, so I will continue to spend the three hours on a Monday putting them together.  I love the Friday joke and usually this take five minutes, so that will continue. I enjoy putting the Saturday list together, so that will continue. I also enjoy putting the tweets of the week together on a Sunday. That only takes half an hour whilst I watch football. So all of those things will stay.

What else will stay? Well I am 100% committed to the fight to Save The Midland Hotel. That is central to what my band do. It is central to our community. I will continue to support Mark Amies in his fight to Save The Railway hotel. So if there is anything I can usefully do, I will.

As to the rest of the time. I'll publish any sane and rational guest blogs that I am sent. I will publicise events such as The Mill Hill Music Festival. I will give updates on how the book and album are coming on. Clearly if some terrible thing blows up in the Borough of Barnet, I will also blog about that. So there will be new content here from Fri-Mon along those lines and presumably the odd thing during the middle of the week. I still support things like the #KickOutCapita campaign, but I won't be writing any blogs on the subject, unless there is something monumental. I won't be trawling through council papers.

One of the things I will be doing is making a few more videos, combining the music of The False Dots with issues affecting locals in Barnet. I think this is the future for local bands such as ours. Here's the one we did last year for the #KickOutCapita campaign. I think it is rather good. It immortalises the demolition of the NIMR.

There are a few things that will be exceptions over the next few weeks. There are a few outstanding FoI requests that may warrent a blog. There is also one major scandal that I am aware of that will be subject of a major blog, when the time is right. If there is anyone who wants to contribute a guest blog, I'd love to publish it. But life has moved on, so this will be the last Tuesday morning that I sit, listening to Robert Elms on BBC London, writing a blog like this.

Many thanks for your support. We hope that this will continue.

And if you know a good literary agent, let me know!

Monday 21 January 2019

Environment Monday - Rats and Rubbish - A risk to your health

In the last four weeks, I've seen more rats on my walks around Mill Hill than I've seen in the last ten years. Barnet has historically been a relatively rat free Borough, in 2017 we were 21st in the list of rat reports. Given that we are the second largest Borough and have the largest population, that is something that the Council would have been able to say is a very good performance. The reasons for this are largely down to the fact that Barnet adopted wheelie bins for refuse collection, which are not rat friendly and they were historically very good at collecting them. Since the 5th November, this has all changed. Rubbish has been piling up and rotting everywhere. As far as rats are concerned, this really was a great reason to celebrate Christmas. Whilst it is unlikely that the rat population of Barnet has grown significantly in that period, the rats are far more likely to be seen as they forage in the piles of waste.

Rats pose a clear and present threat to public health. Rentokil list the following disease risks from rats (other local pest control companies can be found with a simple google)

Rodents carry a wide range of disease-causing organisms, including many species of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths (worms). They also act as vectors or reservoirs for many diseases via their ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites, as well as some diseases carried by mosquitoes.
In fact, rodents are thought to be responsible for more deaths than all the wars over the last 1,000 years.

 We urge all Barnet residents to take any sightings of rats seriously. If it is on public land, notify the council. If it is in your house, I strongly suggest you contact the council or  a pest control company and wash down all affected surfaces with disinfectant. Many of these diseases can affect pets as well.

Many Barnet residents have been wondering why we've got the problem with bin collections. Members of staff have compiled a list of the issues and root causes of the problem. It is quite extensive and pretty shocking

  1. Because of the split depots and the traveling time to and from rounds and to and from tipping stations (Hendon and Edmonton) area based working does not appear to work.
  2. The Round sheets were wrong from day one and are still wrong, which is frustrating for the drivers.
  3. Work has been taken off some rounds, but it is still showing on round sheets, no one appears to know why this is happening?
  4. The maps were wrong from day one and are still wrong.
  5. Assisted collections are still wrong.
  6. Route and round risk assessments have not been done
  7. The mileage being walked by the loaders is too great.
  8. The rounds are too big.
  9. Putting agency staff on the same round who don’t know the borough, don’t know where they’re going and who have had no banksman training is very dangerous.
  10. The trade rounds are too big and having only one loader is very dangerous, with R.A.T.S left uncollected for weeks because a big vehicle just can’t get in the alleyways.
  11. Restricted access rounds have been biggest problem, again because big vehicles just can’t get into small locations.
  12. Flat rounds have been a big problem, again because of access problems and the sheer volume of tonnage involved.
  13. Green waste rounds have been impossible to complete even a single day because of the size of the rounds.
  14. No lessons have been learnt from previous years about Xmas collections and the sheer volume of waste and Xmas trees to be collected.
  15. Bulking area problems, not helped by off-hiring1 artic cab, deleting 1 job and using the other 2 staff to drive refuse rounds, leaving 1 worker to run site.
  16. Too much recycling for the area to cope with, so it is up to the roof and left on site overnight. Add to this tons of green waste tipped in unsuitable holding bays also left on site overnight.
  17. Not all staff trained on new vehicles.
  18. Vehicles left full overnight and not fuelled up, causing knock on effects for the morning crews, also rat damage and fitters unable to do repairs, servicing and MOT’s.
  19. When work is left uncompleted, no proper procedures in place to identify what’s been left and on what round or road, with sometimes several crews sent out to clear up only to find work has already been cleared.
  20. No way of monitoring tonnages.
  21. Supervisors and managers unable to do their jobs because they have been out loading or driving.
  22. No procedures in place to pick up loaders to drop them off to other rounds to help them or take them back to the depot.
  23. Bin deliveries regularly cancelled
  24. Clinical waste regularly cancelled
  25. Hazard round too big to complete and regularly cancelled
  26. Fear some staff working over their driving and working hours to clear up work.
  27. Staff being abused by members of the public because of their frustration
  28. Members of the public reporting they can’t get through on the help lines and when they do no one gets back to them.
  29. Staff off sick with stress, depression and injuries.
  30. Household waste left uncollected for weeks.
  31. Trade waste left uncollected for weeks
  32. Flats left uncollected for weeks
  33. Green waste left uncollected for weeks/months
  34. Drivers coming from Harrow to pick up loader or vehicles in Oakleigh depot
  35. No shunts have been available
  36. Occasions where there may be up to 6 vehicles working on the same road
  37. Saturday and Sunday working almost since the new service started.
  38. High level of agency staff at both depots
  39. Lack of keys or FOB’s or codes on round sheets
  40. Some support crews cancelled
  41. Emptying refuse, recycling and green waste into same vehicle
I urge all Barnet Residents to not discard food and other edible waste in the street, or anywhere that can be accessed by rats. One of the most unfortunate things residents are doing is leaving food waste in parks and public places used by children and dog walkers. This leads to rat infestations where children play. No one wants children and pets to be exposed to these dangerous diseases. The best way to stop them is to dispose of rubbish responsibly. Always wash your hands with an anti bacterial hand wash if you have come into contact with anything which may have rat urine contamination. We recommend anti bacterial hand wipes.

Barnet Council detail what they do and don't do and how to report rodent infestations on their website. We strongly urge everyone to make sure they report all rodent sightings.  
We don't investigate complaints of mice outside, but we're able to investigate complaints regarding rats outside or rats and mice inside premises. To report a rat or mouse problem please contact the Environmental Health Service on telephone 020 8359 7995 or email that includes your address and telephone number as well as details of the premises where the rats or mice have been seen. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 requires land owner/occupier to keep their land free from rats and mice. The Environmental Health Service is able to take enforcement action against a person failing to comply with the legislation.

And finally, please email your local councillor to ensure that they take the issue of rodent infestations seriously.

(Please note that we have not been paid by Rentkil to post this blog).

Sunday 20 January 2019

The Tweets of the Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 20/12/2019

It's that time of the week again for us to view the our corner of paradise through the eyes of our local tweeters.

Don't forget to follow any that tickle your fancy.

1. We start with a tweet that exemplifies British humour when faced with things that really are rather poor

2. Once again pub champion Mark Amies, a regular feature on BBC London Radio talking about London history has been putting in a shift for the campaign to sort out the sorry tale of The Railway Hotel in Edgware

3. Historic Tweet of the week, Angel cottages Mill Hill

4. Urban wildlife picture of the week!

5. A great show from the 2nd Edgware Scouts at the @BarnetScouts Gala

6. A big thumbs up to the efforts of the Colindale Litter Pickers

7. Great tweet signalling changing times at the MPS Peel centre in Hendon

8. We still have some amazing walks in the Borough of Barnet

9. The brought a smile to my face. I saw the play, it was written by an old friend, Laurence Lynch

10. Great to see local musicians raising mony for Cherry Lodge Cancer Care

That's all folks!

Saturday 19 January 2019

The Saturday List #204 - Every gig I've been to in 2019

Todays Saturday list is a list with a difference. Every other list is frozen in time when it is done. This list won't be finished until Jan 1st 2020 (unless I drop dead in the meantime). I thought it would be good to write a quick review of every gig I've seen this year. So this blog will just grow and grow!

My new years resolution is to see a minimum of 52 gigs this year (one  a week) and to visit 1 new venue a month.

Sat 5th January - The Tremolites live at the Pizza Express

The Tremolites are a Ska/Soul outfit playing a mix of originals and quality covers. They were excellent. It is a nice little venue which I'd not been to before.

Weds 10th January - Stewart Curtis and K-Groove at Mill Hill Jazz Club

Stewart is our in house brass tutor at Mill Hill Music Complex. He is an amazing musician. K Groove are a mash up of Klezmer, Latin rythme's and Jazz. Fortunately his playing is infinitely better than his jokes.

Weds 17th Jan - Giles Robson & The Cinelli Brothers at The 100 Club

This was meant to be Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Sadly he had health issues, so blues Harp, Giles Robson stepped in. He was brilliant but what really blew me away was the support act, The Cinelli Brothers. They are awesome, the singer is a real star. Check them out

.Sun 20th January - Kenny Charles and Friends at The Highbury Inn.

A pretty stonkingly good night. Proper funk played well with some great musicians getting up and guesting. Kenny used to be a regular at The Mill Hill Jazz Club when Paul Amsterdam used to book bands.