Saturday 31 August 2019

The Saturday List #230 - Ten words I never want to hear again

Ten years ago none of these words were on my radar. If I never heard any of them ever again, I couldn't be more happy.

1. Brexit
2. Cancer
3. Prorogation
4. Outsourcing
5. Capita
6. Catheter
7. EDL
8. Deforestation
9. Trump
10. Boris

What ten words would you like to never hear again?

Thursday 29 August 2019

Six reasons why Boris will come to bitterly regret proroguing Parliament

It hasn't taken us long for Boris Johnson to reveal what sort of Prime Minister he will be. I have spent a very long time watching him. I started writing a blog as a direct result of his campaign for the job of London Mayor in 2008. I was very active on the comments section of the Barnet Times. In those far off, heady days, he started as a bit of a buggins turn joke candidate. The Tories had virtually given up on beat Ken Livingstone and saw it as a good way for David Cameron to park him out of the way for a while. It seemed that no one seriously gave Boris a chance, except for Boris and me. I realised something that seems to have passed most political commentators by. Boris had a high media profile and the recognition made him dangerous. Ken Livingstone fought a normal Labour Campaign. Boris ran as a maverick. He smashed the vote, as much to the amazement of the Tory high command as everyone else. I joked the day after that I'd have a tenner on him becoming the Prime Minister. Boris confounded all expectations and didn't become a complete failure, despite many ridiculously stupid mistakes and gaffs. He is one of the few Politicians who is seemingly coated in Teflon. But whilst being a Teflon coated maverick has served him well thus far, yesterday he played a hand that I believe will spell the end of him. There are five reasons. 

The only Pork Pies British voters like
1. The British Public do not like liars. Look at Tony Blair. His period of PM was by far the most economically successful of any post war PM. The economy thrived and the country proudly stood up as one of the leading nations in the world. But Blair lied to Parliament and when that sunk in, his reputation was finished. When Boris and his cronies announced yesterday that the suspension of Parliament was nothing to do with Brexit, everyone in the country knew that he was lying. It was the sole reason. Whilst many Brexiteers yesterday marvelled at what they saw as a masterstroke to deliver their dreams, I believe that as they are decent people, when the intoxication wears off, they will see that we are lead by a man who cannot tell the truth. If he'd come out and said "The People voted for Brexit, this is the only way I can deliver it" then their celebrations would be justified. What he has in fact said is that "I'm going to lie my way through this process". Personally I would have thought that rather than suspending party conferences, with the Brexit Deadlin looming, the Parties should have cancelled them and worked night and day in Parliament to sort the mess out. But however you look at it, Boris has told the British people a whopper and when the dust settles, no one will trust him.

2. Boris has shown just how weak his position is. Boris is a leader who has not won an election and who leads a party that has no majority in Parliament. He needed to build bridges with Parliament to see through his plans. If he had faith in his position, he'd not have needed to take such a desperate gamble. The EU are not fools. They realise that he has alienated Parliament. He had few cards to play and hehas even fewer now. His action has forced all decent Conservative MP's to think very carefully whether they wish to be part of something that undermines the sovereignty of Parliament. He has given sceptical MP's no wriggle room. He would not have done this if he wasn't desperate. 

3.Boris has exposed his bargaining position to the EU. The one card Boris had was to do a deal with The Brexit Party and go for a hard Brexit. Nigel Farage made overtures. He stated that if Boris went for a hard Brexit, he'd stand his party down and let Boris romp home for an election. If Boris had cobbled together a list of demands and said to the EU "Accept this or I'll call an election, sign a pact with the Brexit Party and pull us out with no deal and no £39 million payment to you", then he'd have had leverage. But by Proroguing Parliament, he's said the opposite, which is why Nigel Farage is on the warpath. Farage knows that Boris wants a Theresa May light deal. He's in face saving territory. The move is purely to get this through with no debate. Boris knows Parliament will not accept a hard Brexit, so it will have to accept his deal, no matter how poor, if he refuses to defer the date or revoke article 50. I suspect that all the hard Brexiteers posting triumphantly on Twitter today, will be posting very different things in November.

4. Boris has shown contempt for his own party colleagues. The resignation of Ruth Davidson and Lord Young today show just how much damage he has caused. To lose your leader in Scotland and The House of Lords on the same day is a disaster for Boris. Ruth Davidson is highly respected and has rebuilt Tory fortunes. If Boris calls a snap election, he needs the MP's she brought to the table. As for Lord Young, his resignation shows what men of honour and experience think of his actions. When the dust settles, there will be many Tory peers who are very uncomfortable.

5. Boris has jettisoned all veneer of legitimacy, when he needed it most. Since 2010, we've only had a PM elected and commanding a majority in Parliament for a year. When David Cameron resigned after the referendum, Theresa May had the albatross of legitimacy around her neck. To fix this, she called an election and failed to secure a majority. She had to be propped up by the DUP in exchange for a huge bung. Now we have Boris, not elected and a member of a party that doesn't even have a majority in Parliament, and is one MP away from losing that majority, even with the DUP support. For a man in such a position to Prorogue Parliament is quite ridiculous. He has no legitimacy and has managed to make John McDonnell sound statesmanlike describing the process.

6. Boris has set a dangerous precedent. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that by the end of the year, we'll have a government lead by Jeremy Corbyn. Whilst the Tories lead in the polls at the moment, if Brexit descends into chaos, and a general election falls in the middle of food riots, there could well be a massive swing to Corbyn. Should Corbyn decide that he needs to act unconstitutionally to get his programme implemented, the Tories will be unable to criticise as they have set the precedent. It often seems like a good idea at the time to pull these jolly wheeze stunts, but the law of unintended consequences means that only years after, do we see the true damage that has been caused.

In summary, we have a Prime Minister who has exposed himself as a liar, shown the weakness of his position, damaged his negotiating position with the EU, demonstrated that he has contempt for his own colleagues, jettisoned his veneer of legitimacy and set a precedent that an incoming neo Marxist Corbyn government would find very handy indeed. Those are the six reasons why Boris will come to bitterly regret proroguing Parliament

Wednesday 28 August 2019

How the FA and the Premier League are failing grassroots fans

Bury FC have been expelled from the football league. Bolton Wanderers have two weeks grace, before they too are booted out. Both clubs have been the victims of gross financial mismanagement. i have no allegiance to either club. I've not seen either club play, but as an avid football fan, I have a deep empathy with the struggle of both sets of fans.

Being a fan is not all glory, for most it's tears and cold pies
For the record, I am a lifelong Manchester City FC fan. I've seen massive highs, both in the 1960's/70's and in the modern era. I've also seen the bad times in the third tier. I was at the 1999 playoff final where City overcame Gillingham, having been 2-0 down in the 89th minute, to see them level in injury time. They went on to win on penalties. Seeing your club relegated, lose games they should win, see your favourite player leave to play for your biggest enemy, etc is all part of the life of a football fan. You grit your teeth, you draw your curtains and you watch old episodes of The Sweeney on Gold to take your mind off the misery that your team has inflicted.

What has happened to Bolton and Bury is completely different. To find over a century of history thrown in the dustbin due to financial problems is something that, as one of the people who pay to run football, a completely different matter. Fans of both clubs have paid their dues. Both clubs are part of a regulated league. The FA requires 'fit and proper' people' to run clubs. There are 'financial fair play' rules. But the FA has failed as a regulator. You can't have a game of football with just one team. every other club in the leagues that Bolton and Bury play in are stakeholders. Every other club will lose a days money. Financial problems within football clubs are nothing new. However the huge amounts of money sloshing around in the game are. There is no justification for closing clubs down, when there is ample money in the game to save them.

But the problem is not just one of saving them, the FA and the Premier League should not allow any club to operate at a deficit, except for very exceptional circumstances, such as disasters, etc. Clubs should lodge business plans and projections on an annual basis. They should lodge accounts with the FA and they should all pay a levy, to support clubs who get into financial distress. If an owner fails to manage a club and they get into difficulty, they should lose their interest. The FA should then reconstitute a club, under a system similar to administration. The FA should manage the debts, then appoint a management team. A distress fund should support the club for a six month period, to allow restructuring. This would allow a new structure to be set up to manage the finances on a realistic basis. If the gate & TV income won't support the squad, those players should be exempt from transfer window rules. The club should also be allowed to recruit players from lower leagues on lower wages, to replace any departing player. Young managers should be given an opportunity to ply their trade.

I think that each division should have a 'nominal maximum wage' for players. This should be the amount that any club is allowed to pay a player. This should be based on a realistic assessment of what the league can support. If  a club cannot meet these commitments, based on its income, then they should not be able to play in that division. Relegated clubs, should be given exemptions based on parachute payments, but generally if there were 'model club rules' then the types of problems Bury and Bolton are experiencing could be avoided at source.

What should not happen is that a bunch of stuffed suits in the FA to destroy the dreams of fans who have spent a lifetime paying into football, buying season tickets, travelling to away games, buying programmes, club strips and cold pies. It is only really the fans who are being punished, the one group of people who have done nothing wrong. The players will find other clubs, the business owners will take a tax write off. What other business punishes the customers when something goes wrong? If your bank goes bust, the financial protection scheme guarantees your savings, if your travel company goes bust, the ABTA bond gets you home. If you were missold PPI, you get a telephone call and a couple of grand. But if you are a football fan and your club gets into difficulties, the FA shaft you. That cannot be right.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Some random thoughts on Brexit, Corbyn as stand in PM and putting our broken country back together

Am I alone in being terrified by the edge of the cliff the UK is facing at the end of October? I run my own business. It is a music studio and as we are in the leisure industry, we are the sector hit hardest by recession and times of financial hardship. I have run the studio for 40 years. In that period the only time that our turnover has not increased year on year was between 2008-12 after the global crash. Our customers cut their spending and we suffered big time. it coincided with a huge building project and played havoc with our budgets. The net result was that we couldn't really do what we wanted with our new studio complex. In business, survival is always the first issue. If I didn't have other business interests that supported the studi, it may well have done for us. Given that the studios are now in profit, it troubles me to think that having spent seven years rebuilding the business, it horrifies me to think that we my be plunged back into crisis by the mismanagement of the Brexit process by three different Conservative Prime Ministers in a row. For all of you telling me that "I'm being selfish because I'm putting my interests before the country", tell that to my staff. Depending on the scale of the chaos, we may have any manner of scenarios, from cancelling pay rises and bonuses, to redundancies and closure of the business. Now I hope that all this talk of 'Project Fear' is just that and however badly Brexit is mismanaged, it will have no effect on our business, but if you believe that, you'll believe anything. Thus far, we've seen 28% growth this year. If this were to continue, next April, we'll be able to give our staff a reasonable pay rise, to reward their efforts. Normally at this time I'd be planning the 2020 budget, but it is pointless at the moment. We run a lean ship, so there is little scope for savings. My guess is that every single small business is facing the same dilemma. Yesterday we went to see Madness with friends who run a Kitchen design business. They tell me that all of their customers have put large projects on hold, until they know whether they will still have jobs in November. Mill Hill is full of people working in the financial services sector and they are rightly worried that they won't have jobs. Why would you spend £30,000 on a new kitchen, when you might be signing on in two months?

The sad truth is that over three years after the vote, over five months since we were first meant to leave the EU and a couple of months before the latest deadline, no one has a clue what Brexit means. We have a buffoon of a Prime Minister, who is great at feelgood rhetoric, but is absolutely clueless about actually having a plan to make sure we can all still run our businesses, get the medical supplies and food we need and is in a state of denial about the predictions that his own civil servants are giving him. If we really were going to do a 'Hard Brexit' we should have been preparing for it from the day after the referendum. We should not have submitted Article 50 until we 100% knew we had a plan in place to mitigate the bad effects. As we've been in the EU for decades, there was no need to put our economy at risk by rushing. The argument from the hard Brexiteers is that if you don't rush, then we'd stay in forever. To me this is the argument of charlatans who simply don't understand that other people might suffer. The irony that Nigel Farage will get a tasty, protected EU pension as an MEP is not wasted on me.

The concept that we could do a trade deal with the USA is bonkers beyond belief. Donald Trump would want to see us lower our food standards, open the NHS up to US corporations and our countryside to US frackers. You may think this is marvellous, but the EU is our biggest market for food products and if we adopt US standards, we won't be able to sell into the EU, causing havoc for our farmers. My fear is that we'll become a dumping ground for sub standard US products. Every projection says that the £ will take a battering if we have a hard Brexit. It has already lost  almost1/3rd of its value since the referendum. This is why so many products are more expensive. This will get worse.

I was listening to Jo Swinson on BBC Radio London this morning. She explained that if there is to be a no confidence motion and 'Government of National Unity' to negotiate an extension to Article 50 to see us through an election, then she didn't feel that Jeremy Corbyn would be the right person to lead it. She suggested Harriet Harman or Ken Clarke. Her reasoning is that neither have long term ambitions. My personal view is that Ken Clarke should be considered. As the job will be for a couple of months, I agree with Swinson that someone without long term ambitions would be the best placed person. Clarke has huge experience of government, which would seem to be very useful. An MP with no experience of the Civil Service is likely to be walked all over. When an MP is elected and knows they have five years to settle scores, the Civil service are more circumspect, but I honestly think they would shaft Corbyn if he was the 'Prime Minister of Last Resort'. I don't think Clarke would fall for that.

I actually think that if Corbyn said "for the good of the Country, we need a period of stability to sort the mess out" he'd win huge kudos and perhaps answer some critics who claim he is too narrow, too factional and too wrapped up in his own ideology. It is not unprecedented. The Labour party put Winston Churchill into power in 1940, at the time of the last existential crisis for the UK. When the war was won, Attlee won an election and founded the NHS. Sometimes doing the right thing and waiting is the right thing to do. I believe that any leader of a government of National Unity should be from the largest party and a figure that people from all parties can work with.

Don't get me wrong, in no other circumstances would I argue for the next Prime Minister to be a Conservative, but this is a very different scenario. Clarke would not be anything more than a safe pair of hands, until an election could be held and hopefully some degree of stable government could be put together.

The problem with all of this is that country is split 50/50. Whatever happens re Brexit will see a lot of people feeling very let down. I personally do not think that even after an election, with a stonking majority, either Boris Or Corbyn could heal this. How do we put the country back together again?

Well one of the biggest myths is that Remainers do not understand democracy, as they 'won't accept the referendum result'. The whole point about democracies is that you can change your mind, you can lose an election and a referendum and you don't have to change your mind. After the 1975 referendum on the Common Market, no one said that people who lost had to change their mind. They spent the next 40 years doing exactly what Remainers are now doing, telling the other side that they were wrong. The reason that Nigel Farage has a career is precisely because he didn't accept the previous referendum. The Brexiteers wheel out all manner of reasons why the 1975 referendum was not relevant. We were lied to, it was a long time ago, it was about the Common Market not the EU, etc. The bottom line is that in politics, the losing side is always bitter. We are not in 1934 Germany, where if you didn't agree with the Nazi's (who came to power via an election, political turmoil and a coalition rather like Mr Johnson, - and that is pretty much where the similarities end) you were sent to a concentration camp. Here, you grouch and you campaign for another chance.

What the Remain side have never done is made their case properly. They never pointed out that the 'Single Market' was something Margaret Thatcher passionately fought for. She hated the political side of the EU, but recognised the need for free trade. They seem allergic to mentioning that the money we pay the EU enables us to have common standards that allow our products to be sold anywhere in the EU. They don't mention that EU fishing policies have seen the North Sea recover its fishing stocks. I've never been an EU enthusiast, it's just that I've not seen any properly argued case that leaving the EU will be in the best interests of the UK. There are arguments for all manner of single issues that you can demonstrate that the EU is not particularly good, but that is very different from a coherent argument that UK would be better off outside the EU. I've lots of Brexit supporting friends who will tell me things like "we don't want Brussels telling us what sort of sausages we can eat".  These sort of arguments show just how well the Mail and the Sun have managed to convince the UK population that such matters are of national importance. Last time I looked, we can still buy tasteless sausages in Tesco's (other supermarkets are available). Then there are those who say "We'll be better off under GATT 24 WTO rules". Sadly, I've yet to have anyone who understands economics explain how this would work in the real world. If this was true, surely by now a group of senior economists would have explained how this could happen. This is usually met with a response that "THE EXPERTS ARE ALWAYS WRONG". This is the same logic that has made people abandon MMR jabs and is why we are now seeing a Measles epidemic. They say that "look at the predictions of doom after the referendum". Well if you look at the exchange rate of the pound, you will see just how much damage has been done to the UK.

This is not ta sign of a wealthy, prosperous and successful  country. It is a sign of a country that has made a very bad decision. This is based purely on market sentiment. This tells us that the rest of the world does not want to invest in the UK. Every dip on the graph has been when a Hard Brexit has seemed likely.

I don't think anyone advocating Brexit or Remain should be described by the other side as 'Traitors', the language terrifies me. It seems to me that some demagogic figures are ratcheting up this sort of language to try and scare the other side. I believe in sane, rational discussion. A UKIP supporting Brexiteer living in Burnt Oak has the same right to his view as a Lib Dem remainer in Mill Hill. If both are truly patriotic, they would reach our to each other, find common ground and some sort of way to get over this mess. I can't see how at this moment, but I suggest that Twitter is not really helpful in this case. I can't see how when something is a binary choice such as Brexit that divides people so much, and there is a 50/50 split this can be done.

There are some things that are clear. London and Scotland are staunchly remain and the rest of the mainland isn't. Northern Ireland is in deep trouble unless we stay in the Customs Union. The country is not prepared for a hard Brexit. Parliament is aanti Brexit and the Civil Service is anti Brexit. Foreign press owners are pro Brexit. Donald Trump, who hates the EU is Pro Brexit. Vladimir Putin is also pro Brexit. When it comes to treason for a UK citizen, pushing for the breakup of the UK used to be viewed as a treasonous activity. So when people who support a policy that is supported by foreign powers who don't have the UK's best interests at heart, a policy which could result in the disintegration of the United Kingdom, start calling people who believe the opposite traitors, maybe, they need to sit down and have a moment of quiet reflection.

One final thought. Just suppose Boris gets his way and prorogues Parliament to force a hard Brexit. There are two realistic scenarios that may scupper the "best trade deal ever" that Trump is promising. The first is that Jeremy Corbyn wins the election that will inevitably follow. If you think that won't happen, just check the headlines from the day Theresa May called that election. The second is that it is not entirely impossible that the Democrats will win the election in the US next year. I suspect that they will take a totally different view to Trump, especially if the Irish get shafted by us.

Never mind though, we have signed a trade protocol with Luxembourg.


Sunday 25 August 2019

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet

It's sunny, it's a bank holiday weekend. What more could you possibly want? Well I rather hope you'd like my round up of the best of this weeks Tweets from our little corner of heaven.

1. We always try and support people who are trying to make their community better, so this week, we give pride of place to our friends at Inside Mill Hill, for their work trying to get this huge flytip sorted

2. Well done to the Burnt Oak Police for catching this scumbag, personally I'd have like to have seen him be given a few weeks inside. Stealing from Churches and charities is a high form of scumbaggery and a strong deterrent is needed

3. This incident in Colindale sounded horrible. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and we hope he has a full recovery

4. Whenever I see the Cricklewood Cow I smile!

5. A musical date for your diary

6. This must be my picture of the week!

7. We love a good Pot Hole repair here at The Barnet Eye. Sadly this isn't a good Pot Hole repair!

8. My historical tweet of the week, not least because my house is in the picture!

9. Like a bit of Jazz? A date for your diary

10. If you are a London based musician, this really is something you should be aware of

That's all folks!

Saturday 24 August 2019

The Saturday List #229 - Ten Tasty Treats growing in my garden right now

I'm lucky. I have a rather beautiful garden, even if it does have the Thameslink mainline railway and the M1 motorway at the bottom of the garden. It is something that I not only love, but is a resource that helps our household budget. So I thought I'd go out and show you the pick of the picks!

Here are the top ten tasty treats currently on display. Many will be on our plates for breakfast/lunch and dinner in the coming weeks.

1. Runner beans. These are in flower and will soon be ready for the frying pan. My tasty tip. Slice thinly, fry with olive oil, garlic and chop in a few chillies.

2. Broccoli. I used to agree with George W. Bush on the matter of Broccoli, but I found that it is a great way to eat hummus! 

3. Blackberries. We've had a fine crop of them this year. Great in the morning bowl of porridge.

4. Peas. We've had a good crop of peas this year. They've gone rather nicely in the Paellas we have. 

5. Sweetcorn. In a couple of weeks this will be ready for the barbeque.  Sweetcorn is delicious when charred.

6. Cox's apples. These are nice and sweet and also go well in the porridge.

7. After a couple of years where a fungus wiped out our crops, they are back and thriving.  I love fresh tomatoes on toast, with a bit of black pepper and sea salt.

8. The courgettes are also in full bloom. We've had a couple already. I love courgettes fried in olive oil with garlic. They are also great for dips.

9. These greens are most tasty, especially finely chopped and stir fried in olive oil and chilli.

10. I planted a pear tree about ten years ago. It gives a fine crop most years. They are great in porridge and we'll be having a pear tart in the not too distant. 

We probably have a crop worth £2-300 a year from the garden, all fresh and all organic. A special thanks to my neighbour Pat who does all the hard work for us, in keeping it spic and span.

Friday 23 August 2019

The Friday Joke 23/8/2019

Lets hope it's a glorious bank holiday weekend. To set the mood, here's my favourite joke of the week

An elderly couple suffering from deteriorating memory signed up for a power memory class to improve their memories. The power memory method taught them to remember things by associating these with familiar objects. After completing the 5-day course, the old man was discussing the merits of the course with a neighbour in his backyard. The old man claimed, "Signing up for that power memory class was one of the best things I've ever done." The neighbour asked, "So who was your instructor?" "Well, lemme see," said the old man. "What do you, ahhh, call that flower that smells nice but, ummm, has those thorns..." "A rose?" volunteered the neighbour. "Yeah, right!" nodded the old man who then turned towards his house and yelled, "Hey, Rose, what was the name of the instructor in our power memory class?"

Have a great weekend

Thursday 22 August 2019

It's my birthday and I'll die if I want to!

I realised I've not written a birthday blog since 2016. The reason is I've been away for the last couple of years. When I'm away, I usually bank a few blogs to keep you entertained, and I don't write them whilst away as I consider it work, which I avoid on holidays and especially on my birthday. However I've no aversion to writing fun blogs, which I hope this is.  I awoke to the realisation that for me, the day of my birthday is perhaps the most perilous of the year. Not only is it a day I drink too much usually (this year is an exception, as I am playing five a side football later, so I won't be in The Bridge until 10pm, resteicting boozing time,  please feel free to join me for a half if you are at a loose end).

It is the day of the year when my family encourage me to do perilous things on the basis that I should enjoy near death experiences. In actual fact, I'm pretty risk averse. I've no inclination to do a parachute jump, a bungee jump, do a tarantula or King Cobra handling experience at London zoo or even eat raw, uncooked fish at overpriced restaurants. My family seem to think my aversion to these sorts of activities is because I am a miserable git. I can sum it up in a song I wrote in 1981 called Action Shock. There is a line that reads "Please not me I love my life". And I do. It is precious and not to be wasted by the prospect of unnecessary death. As I get older, I find myself thinking more about death. I am, as of today, a mere 12 years younger than my Dad was when he had a heart attack and popped his clogs. I am the age he was in 1975, an age at which he downed a pint of scotch at a Parish do at the Sacred Heart and had to be dragged home by my elder brothers. He was lying in the middle of the road outside Woolworths, unable to move.

A couple of years later, at my sister Valerie's birthday party, a friend of hers spiked the bowl of punch (remember when they were obligatory) with a large bag of amphetamine sulphate to make the party go with a swing. I was 14. My Dad was 60. We both had several large glasses of the punch. The party went with a swing. I guess I am one of the few people who's first experience of Class A drugs was with their parents. My father used to be given the drug as a bomber pilot during the second world war, to stop him falling asleep whilst bombing the Germans. For me, it was a very revealing experience. For the first time in my life, I felt like a normal person. I later learned that they use amphetamines to treat ADHD. As no one died and everyone had a great time, it gave me an interesting perspective on drug usage. It took a few years to realise that drugs were not made me feel normal, it was having the confidence to be myself. I wouldn't condone spiking anyones drinks, even if everyone has an amazing time. A few years later, at my 21st Birthday party, my then girlfriends sisters partner spiked a stew with Opium. I didn't have any, my band were playing. We realised something was wrong when our friends started behaving like extra's in Shawn of the Dead, walking around like Zombies, throwing up, falling asleep in the strangest places. My then girlfriend spent two hours throwing her guts up and went to bed at 10pm, much to my disgust. I thought she'd just drunk too much. We had to rescue my brother from the M1, he'd wondered up onto the motorway and was about to be arrested. I only managed to get the Police to release him as I explained he had learning difficulties (he hasn't but he was completely Zombiefied). As I was 100% sober they had no reason to doubt me. I doubt too many other people had birthday parties in Mill Hill that stopped the traffic on the Motorway. My Brother was also taken home to bed by his highly annoyed wife.

These days, I rarely awake on the 23rd with even a hangover. I tend to just have a meal and a few drinks. If the date falls on a Saturday, I may do a family barbeque, but generally we are away. A few years ago, I realised that as it's my day, I should be selfish and do what I want. As far as I'm concerned, as my Dad was an Aussie it starts when the Sun rises in Queensland, so I had a tasty curry last night at The Mill Hill Tandoori, followed by a couple of beers with friends at The Services Club. I'll have lunch with the family and then a nice long walk with the doggies.

As birthdays go, 57 seems unremarkable. Maybe I'll have some baked beans, as I was the face of Heinz beans fifty years ago when I was a child actor. Anyone of my age or older, will have seen the advert "We can't go on holiday without the beans mum!". That was me. That ad paid for my first guitar.

Anyway, that's me done for blogging today.  Here's a little tune from the False Dots for your delectation. I rather like it. It's a live track from our show last year at The Midland Hotel. The sound is a bit 'Live' But it shows us at our best rocking and having fun!

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Information every working musician needs to know in the event of a Hard Brexit

The London Music scene is facing a huge threat from plans for a hard Brexit from the EU. Due to the UK departure from the Customs Union and new rules on free movement of people, working and tax arrangements, musicians deriving income from the EU, be it through sales/licensing, merchandising and touring need to be aware of what will be required.
For many bands, operating on tight margins, this will present a massive challenge and will most definitely have a big impact on the London music scene.
Many UK based artists and bands rely on earnings from touring in the the EU, selling merchandising and playing gigs which enable them to make ends meet We have been asked to share the official guidance document with our customers. This is the governments advice for musicians who live, work or tour in the EU concerning what legal changes will be required following a hard Brexit scenario.
There are many changes that UK based musicians and UK citizens living/working as musicians in the EU need to be aware of. This is recently released government guidance. There will also be implcations for UK acts which feature EU citizens. This document, put together by UK Music (the industry wide organisation supporting musicians) contains recently issued government guidance. 

As No-deal Brexit will pose an immediate challenge to the ability of bands to tour and perform across Europe, it is important for musicians to be fully aware of these rules. For many, touring in the EU is an important source of revenue, vital to ensure that musicians have an income stream capable of supporting a career.
Of particular relevance is that  when touring in Europe it is likely equipment, instruments and gear will have to be declared on a customs document called a Carnet.

You can find European Commission advice here:

The Save London Music campaign will share all information we are made aware of in updates and  Keep up to date with whats going on at our Facebook page.

This article was first published on the Save London Music website

Monday 19 August 2019

Does a week in Lourdes really counter 'Love Island' culture?

There was a fascinating article in last Fridays Guardian, that suggested that a week in Lourdes may be the 'perfect antidote to Love Island culture'. The article states

The true miracle at Lourdes is the way in which sick people take centre stage. Lourdes functions because of the many volunteers who help look after the sick, with their chairs and stretchers, and take them down into the baths to the healing waters. There are specialist medical staff available but the volunteers, many of whom use their annual leave to do this work, ensure that those who are ill or disabled are the top priority. Many of them are young and say the encounter with people with illness and disabilities has changed their approach to life and helped them make friends with people they would otherwise never have met. As one of them said: “Lourdes teaches us that we are all equal in God’s eyes.” It’s rare to have that sense of people’s equal worth endorsed elsewhere. Bodies certainly matter in Lourdes, but so does the soul. In our culture, we pamper the body, whether through food or beauty products, but spirits seem to be withering from neglect; depression and anxiety are rife.

Mum's 80th with my brothers
What is interesting is that the author states that she's not been to Lourdes, put off by the commercialism and tat shops that abound. What was interesting for me was that the article was published on the day I was travelling back from a week in Lourdes with HCPT group 560, a trip I've done most years since 2001, the year after my mother had a major stroke. My mum accompanied me four times on the trip. She had gone from being a happy, independent woman, who looked ten years younger than her 75 years, to a frail, totally dependent old lady, unable to speak or walk more than a few feet unaided, looking ten years older than her age in the blink of an eye. For me it was a seismic shock, one for which I was totally unprepared. Sadly she was also totally unprepared for life dealing this card. Like many people who suffer a debilitating brain injury, she was depressed and had lost the joy of life. I have a small confession to make. The main reason I took her was a subterfuge, cooked up with my brother and sister. We needed to get her out of the house, to do essential repairs. She lived on her own, and her flat had become dangerous. The carpet was worn and had holes, an ant infestation needed treating and several appliances needed replacing. She refused, saying it was a waste of money. My brother and sister knew I could sweet talk her into going, whilst I was away, the work would be done and when she got back, there would be nothing she could do.

To all of our amazement, she agreed to go as soon as I suggested it. She was a devout Roman Catholic and she confided that she felt a strong desire to return one more time. As HCPT run a hostel set up for disabilities in Bartres (a couple of kilometres from the centre of town and in the Pyrenene foothills), with a spectacular vista to greet you every morning and an ample supply of willing volunteers to help with all tasks, it was ideal. My mothers only concern was that she would be able to drink the three pints of Guinness and three scotches a day that she needed to maintain her equilibrium. I assured her that she could drink what she liked and this was included in the fare ( there is a group funds contribution and drinks with the group came out of this). She agreed and the tickets were booked.

For me, it was a bit daunting. I've had a troubled relationship with my faith over the years. Until I was 14 I was devout alter server. The combination of a Parish Priest who told me it was 'not the Churches job to run youth clubs and my discovery of Punk Rock, had made we switch my allegiances to Atheism and Humanism,  a path both my elder brothers have chosen. From the age of 14 to 24, this was very much how I identified myself. When I was 24, I had severe health problems. A need to 'sort myself out' lead to me taking up Yoga. Under our Yoga teacher Joyce at the Flower Lane centre in Mill Hill, I found that the nihilism of Atheism couldn't supply satisfactory answers for my journey. I became aware of and connected with spirituality. The death of my Father in 1987, massively affected me and I found that I was at sea spiritually without a paddle. I went to mass a couple of times, but the experience seemed to confirm that the Church didn't provide the answers. I had developed an unshakeable belief that there was more to the universe than we could see and feel, and that the spirit persisted after death. However I couldn't really piece the jigsaw together. I was in this hiatus until 1995, when fate intervened yet again. My Brother in Law, Tim, had a horrific accident. He was knocked off a moped in Greece. He was not wearing helmet and suffered a massive brain injury, multiple fractures and had a blood pressure of almost zero in the ambulance.

When we heard, we assumed he'd die. As many people do, in times of trouble, I prayed. I promised God that if Tim survived, I'd go to mass every week that I realistically could. Sadly I thought that my prayer would be ignored. But Tim made a nigh on miraculous recovery. I felt obliged to keep up my side of the bargain. I did this with a  heavy heart, but I love Tim so I felt I had no choice. Every time Tim had a setback, I'd get asked if I'd skipped mass. It became a standing joke. For the first year or so, I found it to be a rather difficult chore, but one I felt obligated to perform. Then a new Parish Priest arrived at Mill Hill. Father Perry Gildea turned up. He was a breath of fresh air. His sermons connected with me. They were interesting and thought provoking and I found that rather than analysing the previous days footie in my head for an hour, I was listening. He constantly reminded us of our duties to our neighbours, he explained biblical passages in a way that was relevant. For instance, I'd not realised until he explained, but the example of a Samaritan was used in the parable of the good Samaritan as they were despised in Palestine at the time. He then pointed out that 'Asylum seekers' were the modern Samaritans. It wasn't the waffly language I'd been so accustomed to. Perry was the chaplain for HCPT group 560 and his description of the week intrigued me. I felt that I should do it once.

The view that greeted us each morning
So that was how I got to be a member of group 560. Travelling with my mum was a daunting experience. She was a difficult character and extremely stubborn. She was depressed and in a rut. Almost on arrival, she demanded that I take her home. I told her that I was staying and she could just lump it. She didn't speak to me until the evening. By this time, she wanted a Guinness and as she had problems making herself understood, she knew she had to ask me. I got a couple of tins and we sat on the terrace drinking. She relaxed and apologised. She said she'd just been really tired and overwhelmed. She relaxed and as often happened, once she was comfortable, her speech improved. A few other members of the group joined us, and for the first time since her stroke, she was relaxing and enjoying herself in the company of strangers.

Several of our group were young people in wheelchairs, with quite debilitating conditions. After a couple of days, my mum started getting up and getting her own drinks. She told me that she'd realised how lucky she'd was. She'd only been struck down at the age of 75 and she could still walk, go to the toilet on her own and live independently. She started helping feed one of the girls who needed assistance at lunch and helping her with drinks. By the end of the week, the turnaround was remarkable. She was chatting and interacting fully with everyone. It was like a curtain had lifted. For me, I felt I had my mum back.

Enjoying some refreshments
When we flew home, she told me 'That was great, but never again'. She went a further three times until she had another major stroke, two weeks after the last visit that sadly killed her. My sister Cath accompanied her on the next three trips, which was an added bonus. Cath is 14 years older than me and had left home by the time I was seven. We reconnected and it was great to build a close relationship as adults. As for the rest of the group, many became firm friends. The group is a remarkable bunch of people. It contains the former BBC director of light entertainment who killed off Dr Who in the 1980's, a Davis cup playing Tennis player, one of the countries leading Downs syndrome actors, a Michelin star winning chef, an esteemed retired doctor, several nurses, and teachers. It also contains some of the most amazing people I've ever met, for whom every day is a challenge.

For me, I learned a very important lesson about spirituality. It is not about some 'mythical being' and some 'magic process' where we become marvellous and go up to sit on a cloud and play a harp. Spirituality is about empathy with those around you, with the beautiful planet where we all live and an acceptance of all of the mystery and strangeness of the universe that we don't know. My view is that our time here is a phase, a small part of our existence, but a hugely important one, where we should learn as much as we can, we should be as kind as we can to one another and where we should make the world as good a place as we can. Travelling to Lourdes has always pushed me way out of my comfort zone. That is a good thing. It has taught me to value everyone. I don't mean this in a 'worthy' way. The sheer ridiculousness of some of the situations can be hilarious. There is some amazing banter and you soon learn that laughing is more powerful than tears in such situations. You get to appreciate that just because someone is in a wheelchair, talks a tad strangely or is immobile, they have the same needs, desires and sense of humour you have. There is a perception amongst those who've never been that it is all about 'holiness and praying'. We had a day on the beach in St Jean De Luz, which was amazing fun. Life has many aspects and there is nothing bad about having fun.

In Catherine Pepinsters article in the Guardian, she talks about the tat on sale in the town, the wealth of the church on display in the Churches and Basilica's and tourist kitsch. It is sad she hasn't been, because if she had, she'd also talk about the friendships forged in the busy cafe's, the moments spent spotting trout on the bridge over the river Gave, which runs through the domain. This year my 19 year old son accompanied me. Whilst I can't drag him near the Church in Mill Hill, he's been going for the last ten years with our group. Watching him interact with the rest of the group makes me enormously proud. I've no idea if he is immersed in Love Island culture. What I do know is that, as he has been with our group on numerous occasions, he knows that there is another side of life. He was a helper for a grown man who needed help washing, dressing and shaving. Not quite the sort of holiday many teenagers choose, but one he's done for years.  Whatever faith he has or hasn't (he doesn't discuss it with me), he has got something priceless from his association with our group. He's learned that we are all the same. Cut us and we bleed, tease us and we cry, rile us and we anger, but show us love and we will return it. Our group is not exclusively Catholic or even Christian. One year, my daughter bought a friend who is Jewish. He got as much out of it as anyone else. His Grandfather was delighted to hear that Father Perry thought he'd make a great Rabbi (although no signs of that yet). We've even had atheists in the group. They have 'got it'. There is no effort to convert anyone or change anyone. That isn't what Lourdes is about for us. The miracle for us is that such a diverse group of people can go away together and come back with a better appreciation of what is good in our life. Whatever you may or may not think, that is gift beyond comparison.

Catherine Pepinster asked whether Lourdes could cure 'Love Island Culture'. She's asked the wrong question for me. I don't think that the modern day Lourdes is about seeking miracle cures for anything. It is about sharing a journey and an experience and emerging from it a more whole person. There's no reason why you can't enjoy both Love Island and trip to Lourdes. I suspect I know which one will mean more to you in ten years time though.

Sunday 18 August 2019

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet

I've been away, more of that tomorrow. So I've had a quick scour to see what I missed. Here is what If found.

1. Once more, Mark Amies is on the trail of despair in our community!

2. Always happy to give great small businesses a plug

3. We like a nice bit of stained glass window. Which is the best in the Borough?

4. A date for your diary if you run a small business

5. Fabcy some Jazz next Weds?

6. A good start to the season from our local football team

7. And if you prefer oddly shaped balls

8. Historical tweet of the week!

9. This is a project we support

10. Great to see the next generation of Rockstars are flourishing in Mill Hill

That's all folks

Saturday 17 August 2019

The Saturday List #228 - Ten reasons why I'm a pleb

Are you a toff or a pleb? Tory Minister Andrew Mitchell used the term pleb as an insult to a police officer who rather inconveniently insisted he follow the rules. In certain circles, being seen as a pleb would be worse than death itself. However the foolish, the self appointed elite who have such prejudices clearly are ill educated fools, unaware of the long and rich history of plebs. I've always been associated with plebian tastes. As the youngest of six, I was the only one of my siblings who did not have a private or grammar school education. As I'm dyslexic, my parents wisely concluded that it would be a complete waste of money. The down side for them was that I never developed refined tastes. My sister Caroline often teased me when we were younger about being a pleb. Then along came punk rock and being a pleb was cool. I was in the right place at the right time and I found myself comfortable in my plebian skin. My wife feels far less comfortable with the concept. It is one of the many things that she thinks she'd like to change, but has come to realise that my plebian tastes are in fact usually far more fun. Whisper it very quietly (she will kill me if she reads this) but I've been far more successful in plebifying her than she has been in gentrifying me. I am always open to try new things, none of the things here have been said without trying the alternative.

There are four types of people in London. There are the patricians and the plebs. These are quite well defined. Then there are the plebs who would be patricians. There's also the patricians who want to be plebs. In our family, we've had all of these over the years.

I always felt my father was a patrician who desperately desired to be a pleb. The Tichbornes were a wealthylLand owning family from Hampshire, my great grandfather, not being the eldest, emigrated to Canada to make his fortune on the Canadian Pacific Railway. My grandfather moved from Canada to Australia to make his fortune as an engineer, boring for oil and water in the Outback. Sadly alcohol and misfortune took him too early. My Father came back to England as an Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (I've often thought his posh name opened doors for him), but whilst he could mix with the Hoi Poloi, he was always more comfortable with working men, a hangover from his days working in Goldfields in the outback.

My mother's father was from a family with strong Irish Republican links. She was delighted to marry my father, as she could ditch the name Fanning, which identified her as Irish working class and become a member of the aristocracy as a Tichborne. She soon ditched the Oldham (where she'd been brought up) accent on arrival in London as a 13 year old. She changed her name from Gladys to the far more sophisticated sounding Celia. Strangely, after she had a stroke in 2000, she reverted to Gladys. She told me that she was through with trying to impress people over a guinness in Lourdes. When I asked why, she simply informed me 'It's my name'. She had been named after her aunty Gladys, who was her godmother and reputedly had a few bob. I've never really been sure whether I'm a patrician who wants to be a pleb or just a pleb. My sister Caroline has always been sure. She often told me that I'm just a pleb when I was as a child. Ironically, she introduced me to punk rock and having spent the first eighteen years of her life trying desperately to be a patrician, she rather uncomfortably had to connect with her inner pleb when punk made it cool. My missus is definitely a patrician and desperately regrets her low brow tastes in men. She had convinced herself, despite all evidence to the contrary, that I'm really a patrician. She thinks my plebness is simply a vehicle to further the goals of my immense ego. Sadly I suspect that she'll be bitterly disappointed if she ever finds the truth out.

1. I prefer Ska music to classical music. If you want to listen to a tune with no words, then try The Liquidator by The Harry J All tSars

2. Now if you want a bit of singing, I don't really like the warbling of Opera. I can manage a bit occasionally, but I prefer a different kind of passion from the singers I like. To me, this is best exemplified by John Lydon's first single with Public Image

3. I'd rather buy four bottles of six pound a bottle plonk than one bottle of exquisite £24 wine. There is nothing worse than having a nice romantic dinner and finding that you've run out of plonk before the second course.

4. I prefer to read 2000AD comic than translations of Dostoevsky novels, fine though they are.

5. I passionately believe that the smaller the portion, the worse the restaurant. There is nothing worse than ordering a 'Seared Scallop' starter and finding that it is just that. One tiny scallop on a massive plate.

6. If I want to sing, I do not feel inclined to join a choir, I prefer to travel to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and sing songs of celebration of the genius of Pepe Guardiola.

7.  My idea of virtuoso playing of an instrument is best exemplified by Johnny Ramone. This was the first Punk Rock track I ever listened to and there are few finer examples of the art of making a sound on a musical Instrument. Johnny Ramone proved that less is sometimes more

8. Prince Charles feels that unless a building looks like it's designed to be a bad mock up of something Julius Caesar erected in Rome, it is a monstrous carbuncle.  I disagree. The one building in London that I always enjoy seeing is the Shard. This is my favourite London view.

9. I do not understand the fascination with steam engines. A couple of years ago, we saw an advert for a steam train going from Mill Hill Broadway to Bristol. The trip came with a magnificent champagne breakfast and a three course dinner on the way back, in a Vintage Pullman carriage. The train was meant to be hauled by a steam engine. My brother lives in Bristol, so it was a great treat for our wedding anniversary and a good chance to see him. The Steam engine broke down the day before and they put a diesel engine on the front instead. It got us there an hour earlier, so we had an extra hour seeing my brother. The dinner was just as tasty, but everyone else was royally pee'd off. I quite like a bit of modern technology, especially when it works better!

10. I prefer to shop in TK Max to Harrods. now, I have nothing against Harrods, it is a fine store and I always take tourist friends there if they ask. I think London is a far better place for having Harrods, and it provides work for thousands, directly and indirectly, but when it comes to buying stuff, I nip up to TK Max . in Hatfield. Just before my recent trip to France, I stocked up on T shirts and found a great pair of trainers and a great set of boots. I think the last thing I bough from Harrods was a scarf for my Mum about 25 years ago fro her Birthday. Cost a fortune and she gave it to my sister as a birthday present a month or so later. 

Thats all folks!

Friday 16 August 2019


This has been the view I’ve woken up to for the last week. We still have a beautiful planet. All we need to do is learn to cherish and respect it.

Whatever faith you may or may not have, we are blessed to have so much beauty in the world. We all need reminding of this occasionally. Later today, God willing, I’ll be back in Mill Hill, hopefully enjoying a curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori. It has been great recharging the batteries and not watching the news.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Why would anyone bother to read a blog?

This is a question I often ask. I am amazed at how many people have had a peek at this blog over the years. I'm even more amazed at how many people message me about the contents, tip me off about things going on in Barnet and just thank me for raising things. In Barnet we are blessed with some fine blogs. John Dix, Theresa Musgrove and Derek Dishman have all made an amazing contribution to our community. We also have two retired bloggers, David Miller (former Chair of the Chipping Conservatives) and Vicki Morris, who moved away but helped define the world of Barnet blogging. Finally we can't forget the rather spikey individual that was Dan Hope, a former Conservative Councillor, who fell foul of Mike Freer and his regime. Dan sadly passed away a few years ago, but dedicated a huge amount of time to videoing council meetings and making sure transparency in Barnet was maintained.

All of these bloggers have one thing in common. We all put a huge amount of time into ensuring we have content that is worth reading on our blogs. I spend a huge amount of time researching blogs, writing Freedom of Information requests, collating stories from various stories, speaking to various councillors and council officials (in darkened doorways sometimes). The people who talk to me care and want the stories in the public domain.

Why would anyone read a blog? The sad answer is that if you really want to know what is going on in our locality, really want to know the stories that matter, there is no other real source of information. The local papers no longer have the resources to do in depth coverage of stories. It would simply be uneconomical for them to spend three days collating a single story. Some of the blogs I put together take weeks or even months to put together. You get a tip off. You put in an FoI request or attend a council meeting, sometimes, you have to go to several, over a period of months. Sometimes it is disheartening for me to put all that work in and only get a couple of hundred reads, when the next day I do a light hearted list of pictures of three legged dogs playing football that gets 27,000!

Over the last year, I've done a lot less political content. It had been my intention to stop that altogether, however the new Leader of Barnet Council has declared war on the public in Barnet and so like the old First World war vets in 1939, I've had to dust off my uniform, dig out my helmet and head off back to the trenches. There is work to do and thanks for being part of the journey. I have only one small request, for all the time I've out in. Please can you tell all your friends to have a little peak at my blog and that of the other Barnet bloggers. There is a lot of things going on in Barnet. Maybe your friends will not be interested, but if they are, then why would you want them to miss out on the fun.

Thanks for your support.