Thursday 31 October 2019

The Barnet Eye Manifesto for Education, Mental Health, Music and Sport

So a General Election is upon us. Whilst I suspect that Brexit will be the major topic, it shouldn't be. There are actually far more important matters, that affect the day to day lives of all of us, that are being totally ignored. Whilst it may be tempting to vote purely on the matters of Brexit, if any party gets a majority, that will be done and dusted in a couple of months, whereas we will have five years of a government that will effectively have had a policy free blank cheque election. The job of bloggers like me, is to make sure that everyone in the country recognises that if any of the parties get in with a majority, we will all have to live with that for five years. The irony is not totally wasted on me that we had a stable period of government for five years under the coalition and then total chaos from 2015 once the Conservative Party secured a majority. What has happened since 2017 is nothing short of scandalous and I passionately believe that MP's should be compelled to repay their wages for the period, as they've done anything but govern.

A friend collared me yesterday and asked what I thought about the election. He was doubtless expecting a diatribe about Brexit. He stated that he was shocked by my response and asked why I wasn't standing for Parliament. The answer is simple, I've got a business to run and people who rely on me. So what did I say?

The sad truth is that the country is in a mess. This is the fault of the Labour Party, The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party. I think you can accredit blame in that order as well. The problems started in 1997. Tony Blair was elected with a massive majority and had the mandate to sort the country out. What did he do (ably assisted by Gordon Brown). He committed the Labour Party to the Conservative's spending plans. He blew the chance to renationalise the railways, even though the Railtrack fiasco and the problems with franchising were there for all to see. He lead us into an illegal war in Iraq that has left the Middle East in flames and lead to untold misery. Those are the things we talk about, but it is the things we don't talk about that have really screwed us over. Blair brought in PPI to build hospitals and schools, which has been a budgetary disaster. The Labour party brought in tuition fees, which has been one of the most corrosive and destructive taxes imaginable, if we are trying to build a modern, knowledge based economy. The OFSTED system has made schools into exam factories that have put huge stress on pupils and teachers and we have a mental health crisis.   Labour were seduced by rich sponsors into supporting the concept of academies, this started the process of fragmentation of the Education system.The Labour government did nothing to stem the sell off and development of playing fields, nothing was done to improve sports provision that helps build fitness and self esteem. The music and creative sectors were left to rot. The Labour government had no policy for promoting UK music, protecting studios and venues, beyond inviting Oasis around for tea. Music is an area that generates £4.5 billion for the UK economy, but received no support from Blair or Brown. Music in schools languished.

Then in 2010 we had the coalition. I joined the Lib Dems and stood as a candidate for council attracted by the tuition fees pledge. 2010 produced a hung parliament, the Tories and the Lib Dems jumped into bed. The Tories attitude to education was that the system needed to be smashed into a million pieces, with only the wealthy cushioned from the effects. All of the policies of Labour that so damaged the education system were not abandoned, but ramped up. University fees were trebled, Academies were pushed harder than ever, Free Schools encouraged, but money was not made available to support all of this, so we now have a situation where every school in London has a budget crisis. I know this, I am the chair of a trust that helps fund a local state sector school. Our former headmaster even went public on the matter. I resigned from the Lib Dems as a result of the University fees policy change. I think the Lib Dem MP's who supported it got what they deserved in 2015. Had I known what David Cameron had in store for us, I'd have held my nose, stayed and taken the brickbats, because once the Tories got a majority, we all found out that he wasn't the man we thought. He will go down in history as the man who destroyed the UK, if we see a Boris majority. Northern Ireland and Scotland will leave the Union and we will find ourselves as a little England in a very hostile world. Will we have a society that is able to face that challenge? Modern economies rely on the skills and education of their workforce and yet we have a deliberate policy of deskilling our young people.

Theresa May did the seeming impossible task of being an even worse PM than Cameron. To the shock of many, she gambled  on an election and lost. She then drafted in the DUP, who supported her, in return for a large cash bung. Since the 2017 election, there has been no real government, no reform, no new policies. School budgets have deteriorated, but the government has done nothing. Money has been put into treatment for mental health, but no one has dared ask why it is so much more prevalent and what we can do about it. As for sport, the Football industry has been all but taken over by gambling companies. Premiership stars earn millions a year, but school kids are having their pitched torn up. Grassroots and yout football is neglected. As for music, there was an enquiry last year by Parliament into live music. Sadly much of this concentrated on the issues around secondary ticketing resellers. Little of substance has happened. Labour's London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has done nothing for live venues. He appointed Amy Lame as the night economy Tsar, but clubs and venues are still shutting and nothing happens.

And then in the summer Boris took over. If we are being fair, we can't judge him as a PM as he's lost just about every vote he's had and has not actually tried to do anything other than focus on Brexit and General elections. As I predicted, he'd go for a general election as soon as he could, before the public realised he was a phoney and a fraud. I personally feel that he should have put his deal to the electorate in a confirmatory referendum. If as the Brexit supporters claim, there is a democratic mandate, that would be that. With that out of the way, a general election would be appropriate, based on how we deliver a post Brexit successful economy (or a remain if people have changed their mind).

It is clear to me that Boris wants a blank cheque and little discussion of the policies that will shape the future. I have been working on my own manifesto for Education, mental health, music and sport. These policies are simple and deliverable and will make us a stronger, happier country. These are based on the fact that I run a successful business, have three children who have been through and are going through University, employ people, chair an educational trust and have worked in the music industry for 40 years.

The UK will not succeed, unless we ensure that our children receive a suitable education. This is at every level, nursery, primary, secondary, university, post graduate and adult learning. Ultimately a country cannot succeed if it does not properly fund education. The harsh truth is that we need to pay more tax to support all of these. Even if you have no children, you will need doctors, carers, engineers, gas fitters etc. Parents subsides the old age of the childless, a fact that few seem to recognise. Last year, we paid over £24,000 in University accommodation fees for our three children. I am lucky that I can afford it, but many can't. As a society, we shouldn't be taxing young people via fees. There are ways to soften the blow. I'd give tax breaks to companies that fund students and employ them. Companies that take students on placements etc should be given every incentive. We also need to pay teachers more. You may say "How can we afford to do this?" I would say "How can we afford not to". And to those who say "Why fund arts degrees?". My answer is that the UK is the world leader in creative industries. My nephew is the director of the Clangers. He did 3D animation at Westminster University. He has a shelf full of BAFTA awards. You don't get that studying accountancy and his work has generated millions. We need a Royal commission to look at our schooling system and how we can make it work for everyone. I don't support the Labour Party's plans to abolish Private Schooling. There is a role for it, but reforms are needed in this field. I do not really see why the richest people should benefit from the tax breaks such schools get as charities. I would ensure that the richest parents pay a private education tax. They can afford it. Anyone with an annual income of over £500,000 should not be getting disguised tax breaks. It is important to get these schools to give scholarships to bright children from homes that can't afford to pay.

Mental Health.
We need a holistic policy. We need to understand the triggers and we need proper diagnosis and early treatment. We need to remove the stigma. I believe that if we identify people who are developing issues and treat them early, it will save the economy billions. The causes are many and varied, but as someone who knows of several young people in our family and friends circle who have committed suicide, it is not trivial and needs addressing.

The UK Music Industry contributes £4.5 billion to the UK economy. This can only continue, if there is a constant supply of fresh talent. I would urge everyone to read the aims of the Save London Music Campaign. This addresses some of the challenges to live music in London. But we need so much more. We need to reverse the cuts to music education budgets, we need to open up the teaching of instruments to all. We need to recognise the mental health benefits of playing and listening to music. We need to protect our world leading position. But most of all we need a dedicated minister for Music, who knows what they are doing and understands the industry.

Lets hope England win the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. Rugby is thriving locally due to Saracens and the local clubs. This is a great model of how professional clubs can work with the local community. Sadly the Premiership of Football does not have the same agenda. Some clubs are good, some not so. Given the huge sums of money in Football, the clubs should pay a 5% levy to support grassroots and youth football. This should not be administered by the FA but by local authorities, who manage most pitches etc. This should be ring fenced and not replace the existing budgets. I would also ban advertising by betting companies. Gambling destroys lives. If grown ups are stupid enough to want to gamble, that is there business, but the wall to wall ads on TV during football games etc are corrosive and dangerous. It may bring money into the clubs, but gambling is not an industry that is good for society. It may bring some short term pain for clubs, but in the long run, society will benefit.

Do you agree?

Wednesday 30 October 2019

The Wednesday Poem and Barnet Cultural Round Up - 30/10/2019


Winfield boots and pic and mix,
Pots and pans and evostick,
Foam filled teddies and polar bears, 
cushions, fans and dolls house chairs.

Woolworths, where have you gone?
the palace of so much fun,
the Jewel in our town High Street
It's all become just so downbeat.

Iceland just don't cut the mustard,
Frozen pies and tins of custard,
Woolworths, Woolworths, please com back
Gives us all the magic back!

Copyright 2019 Roger Tichborne

What it's all about....
Just looking in an old diary. 20 years ago, my then three year old daughter had successfully swam a width of the swimming pool at David Lloyds in Finchley. Her reward? I told her that when she managed it, she could go to Woolworths and I'd buy her anything in the shop she wanted, but only one item. After about ten minutes deliberation, she chose a milk shake maker. When her elder sister had been given the same choice, she'd chosen a big bag of pick and mix. We had a ritual on Sunday. They would go to ten O'clock mass. After, we'd go to Woolies and they'd be allowed a selection of pick and mix. They'd be allowed two scoops each. I'd buy records their, paint, glue, cheese graters etc. I knew the company secretary of the Woolworths group, who lived in Finchley. The company was not killed by changing shopping patterns, it was killed by asset stripping which ruined the business model. Sadly the money men who ran it and destroyed it, propagated the myth that it was an out of date business. When my kids have kids, there will be no such fun. I don't have a problem with Iceland, which is a decent enough shop, full of decent bargains, but High Streets need shops like Woolworths. I miss it and I think it's demise is yet another example of the way we are squeezing all of the fun out of everything.  Woolworths was an icon and a jewel.

The Borough of Barnet Cultural Diary

Here's this weeks round up. A few rather tasty treats!

Amazing Jazz at the Mill Hill Jazz club tonight!

This weeks gigs in Barnet

The Arts Depot

Board games for over 55's

The Bohemia
Hampstead Theatre
Live music in Mill Hill

Tuesday 29 October 2019

The truth they are hiding about the Grenfell Tower fire

I cannot tell you how shocked I am to hear some of the coverage of the release of the Grenfell Tower report today. If ever you wanted to know just how wrong our society has got its priorities, this is perhaps the finest example. 

If a plane crashed and killed nearly a 100 people and it was immediately clear that the reason was systemic bad design, every other plane of that type would be grounded immediately. This is done to avoid risk to the public. In aviation, we are risk averse and do not let people fly in dangerous aeroplanes. If you compare and contrast this with Grenfell, where people are still living in blocks clad with deeply dodgy materials, you cannot help but ask "What the hell is going on?". What is the difference between the lives of the council housing tenants of Grenfell type blocks and the lives of the relatively better off people who have historically used air travel? 

I have some insight into aircraft safety. My father was an air accident investigation officer for the RAF at the end of the second world war. He told me that he'd learned many things, but the main lesson was that no disaster was ever caused by a single failure. There was always a long trail of bad decisions and a coming together of circumstances that conspired to cause the tragedy.

Let's take the Grenfell tragedy. It started with an electrical appliance catching fire. Was this a defective design? Are we allowing dodgy products into our homes? Of course if it happens in my house, we've smoke alarms and we only have to open the front door and scarper.

If the dodgy appliance had been on the top floor, it would also have been a different outcome, as flames travel up. Not particularly relevant, but I listed it to demonstrate the random nature of such events. 

Then there was the cladding. An accident waiting to happen, a death trap and not fit for purpose. How could anyone allow that to be signed off. But it was bad fire breaks, dodgy window seals and poor all round maintenance that made it so lethal. Should a firm sell such products, knowing they are not safe? If you clad a plane in a flammable material, you'd go to prison, but a building?

Then there was the fire brigade. Did they do the right things. Again, I have my father to thank for an insight that many lay people would never have. He explained that on air bases, fire crews train constantly to deal with fires. They practice and practice and practice and they learn the layouts of planes etc. But sometimes, they come across situations that are not what they've been trained for. Being well trained will mean that you get the best outcome 99% of the time, but he explained that when the 1% of the time happens and you are outside your comfort zone, things can go horribly wrong. He explained that this is usually down to being trained to do a set drill and then finding that the real life situation has a different environment. This can result in delays as the teams on the front line argue with controllers on a phone or radio, who do not understand that the situation is not developing as expected. As I heard the criticism of the fire service, these words came back to haunt me. 

The teams at base, managing the response were following flawed protocols. The staff on the ground probably realised, but the command and control team took time to respond to this, resulting in vital minutes being lost. This is not the fault of the fire officers, or even the management. Sure they need more responsive protocols, but this situation wasn't their fault. I find it sickening that people who have never put their neck on the line ever feel enabled to phone radio shows and criticise them.

People should be in prison now for allowing occupation of unsafe buildings. This would set a very useful precedent. Every resident of every block in the UK that has dangerous cladding should be rehoused until their dwelling is safe. 

Of course, I one person was taken to court as a result of the Grenfell fire. DO you remember the stupid idiot who made a cardboard model of it and set it on fire. That is the UK, we can take idiots to court for being grossly insensitive, but the real culprits, the people who allowed people to live in a building with multiple safety issues walk free and untroubled. How sick is that?

Fancy a little party on Friday night?

Many of the readers of the Barnet Eye blog have become friends over the years. It would be really nice to see as many as possible at a little event I've organised. Don't be shy

This Friday marks a very special anniversary for me, as it is forty years since my studios officially became a business and had our first paying customer. I am proud that we've become a centrepiece of the Mill Hill community and of our support for events such as the Mill Hill Music Festival and many other events. 

To mark this auspicious event , we are putting on a very special gig in Mill Hill! Save the date of Friday the 1st November at 8pm. It will be a very special night at the Adam and Eve Pub in Mill Hill.

We not only have The False Dots, the band that started the studios, but also The Ron Lewis Partnership. Anyone who saw the Ron Lewis Partnership at The Mill Hill Music Festival, will know that they are a brilliant Rhythm and Blues band in the style of Dr Feelgood. They are a most appropriate choice, being one of the three original local bands from 1979 still going. They one of the earliest customers back then and they are still are.We will also be having some other very special guests, to be announced. The music starts at 8pm. I will also be DJ’ing, playing my favourite Ska and Reggae sounds. So come down for a brilliant party.

Please come down. Make a note in your diary. Here are a couple of tasters of what to expect

The Ron Lewis Partnership

The False Dots

Monday 28 October 2019

Environment Monday - Should we be giving Deliveroo and Just Eat a wide birth for the sake of the planet?

Fresh food  is healthy
If you've read our environment Monday column before, you can skip this paragraph. It just explains what it is all about. So you want to save the planet, combat climate change, leave a legacy for your children that you can be proud of but you just don't know where to start? I started the Environment Monday series of blogs to try and spread a few practical ideas, things that are practical and work. I'd love your ideas, guest blogs and help. The old adage of think global, act local has been my mantra for decades. If we all start with ourselves, look at our lifestyles, look at the small changes we can make in our carbon footprint, on our own we will make a miniscule difference, but if we do it and it works, maybe our friends will sit up take, notice and over time (which is precious), together we can start to make a big difference. Each week, we will explore a different theme, a different way that we can all make a difference.

If like me, you enjoy a tasty takeaway, then this blog might make awkward reading. We are being bombarded on TV with ads for food delivery apps. There's Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats and God knows what else. Living in North West London, you'd be hard pressed to find a cuisine that you couldn't have delivered to your door. You know the drill, get your phone, load the app, tap away and half an hour later a large bag, full of plastic tuns of tasty food arrives. You put on the box set of your choice and munch away. What could be more blissful?

But just for a minute, have a look at the bigger picture. If you care about the planet we live on, how sustainable is this way of living and how healthy is it for you? You may also want to consider the rights of the employees of the many staff working in the gig economy. It is throwing up a massive challenge to established restaurants, especially independents. Many have to use such services to get by, but this is actually cannibalising their businesses. When you buy a takeaway via a delivery service, the restaurant gets a far lower amount and loses out on sales of drinks etc, staff lose out on tips. This may not bother you, but the model works far better for large corporations. As someone who loves small independent restaurants, I fear for the future. It is not good for Londons night time economy, which is something I am a passionate campaigner for. So lets summarise the problems with these services.

1. Carbon footprint. London seems awash with cars and scooters delivering food. Many people can't be bothered to walk around the corner to collect deliveries. This all generates CO2 which adds to global warming. Deliveroo have a scheme to encourage the use of electric vehicles as have Just Eat. I would like to see these firms legally compelled to make this mandatory for all food deliveries except for independent companies. In London, there is no reason why 90% of deliveries couldn't be made by bicycle. When Domino's opened a pizza delivery service in Mill Hill, they had to provide a 'delivery plan' to mitigate the effects on neighbours. Locals asked for a commitment to bike and electric vehicle delivery. The council never even discussed this with Domino's, so we will never know if the company would be receptive. It just shows the level of apathy amongst those who could make a difference.

2. Waste and packaging. There is a huge amount of packaging generated by food delivery services. Perfectly reusable plastic tubs and bags go straight in the bin. It wasn't always this way. Back in the late 1960's, I recall "The New China Garden" chinese restaurant opening in Mill Hill. It was based in Station road and later became Hee's takeaway. They used to charge for the containers and if you brought them back, washed out, they'd give you your cash back. The charge for plastic bags has made a huge difference. I think we should compel delivery companies to operate a similar scheme. If a plastic bag costs 10p, then surely a plastic tub should cost 20p. I'd like to see standard packaging, so that these could be returned to a central point. Give them back, washed out, and you get your 20p back.

3. Health. How healthy is it to sit in your front room, munching away on mass produced food high in saturated fats and salt, with few fresh vegetables? It is an easy habit to get into. At least a walk down to the High Street to pick up a takeaway uses a few calories, but that is seen as very passe and with many orders having free delivery, why bother? The delivery price structure is often set at a level so that you order just a bit extra to get free delivery. No wonder there is an obesity crisis.

4 Rights of Employees. There are clearly issues with many of the firms working in the gig economy for such firms. Generally when massive firms do not have trades unions, there is a real risk of unfair employment practices. I read an article highlighting some of these recently. Ken Loach also addressed this in his latest film, Sorry we missed you. Should we turn a blind eye to this? Do we really want to see tech entrepreneurs getting rich on the back of exploiting young people who have few prospects. It is something you might want to consider when you place that order.

5. Destruction of the restaurant industry. Going out for dinner should be a pleasant experience, where good food is savoured. Delivery services have made food into an almost worthless commodity. I heard some people at the gym talking and one said "We got Just eat last night, there's a place in the High Street we used to go to, but now we get it delivered as it's cheaper, as we just get a bottle of wine from Tesco's and don't have to pay for coffees". What was interesting, was I recall the same guy telling me five years ago about how great the restaurant in question was. He'd said it was good value, friendly and a nice place to eat. That clearly counts for nothing in our society. As the restaurant will lose the wine and coffee sales, the waiters will lose out on the tips and the service will have to be paid for delivery, a business that was successful could find that it has cannibalised itself. Sadly, the experience of eating a well cooked meal had simply become an accompaniment to watching Eastenders. He also joked that it was better as he didn't have to talk to his wife. Although it was a joke, it said a lot to me about the way our society is going. The logical conclusion of this is that there are no restaurants, just huge factories providing bland mush at cheap prices.

I had a look at the Justeat responsible business section of their website. This is what it said

Responsible business

Our approach to responsible business is built around our company vision of creating the world’s greatest food community and is embedded across our business. Our food community is made up of our Restaurant Partners, Customers, suppliers, partners and our People.
We acknowledge that each of these groups has a role to play in ensuring Just Eat has a positive impact on the communities in which we operate.
We know that much of the impact we have is indirect, which is why we have broadened the scope of our responsible business activities beyond our owned operations.
We believe in:

Sadly nothing about the Environment. I had a look on the Deliveroo site and couldn't find a statement there either. I think it is right and proper that we draw attention to these issues and encourage such companies to work to achieve carbon neutral status and address the issues caused by the packaging. As a society we need to consider the wider issues, such as health, employees rights and the effects of such new technologies on the way we live our lives. There is clearly a massive  role for companies such as Deliveroo and Justeat in our society, but part of their cost of business should be to do things in a way that is good for the environment, our health and our high streets.

As to the question in the title, that is something you'll have to answer for yourself. I've reached my conclusions.

Sunday 27 October 2019

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 27/10/2019

So what has been happening in our little corner of paradise? Well here is our summary of the week, through the eyes of our local Tweeters.

1. Rules are made to be broken! I normally avoid political blogging at the weekend and I don't include Tweets about Barnet Council in my round up, but this really is the most important tweet of the week, so I simply had to include it.

2. Today is a momentous day in the history of Burnt Oak

3. It is quite extraordinary how we are throwing away our local architectural heritage

4. We break another rule today. We only include tweets about the London Borough of Barnet, but as Stanmore is only down the road, I found this intriguing and I hope you do as well. Did you know there is a Stanmore Tourist Board. Maybe we need the same for Mill Hill?

5. Credit where credit is due. IT looks like Barnet Council have done a fine job here.

6. Some good news for our readers in the Golders Green area

7. It seems that there is more than a pint of beer on the menu at the Masons Arms in Edgware

8. Some very sad news from Finchley

9. An interesting little piece of Hendon history

10. This week sees a very notable anniversary

That's all folks

Saturday 26 October 2019

The Saturday List #238 - Your favourite record labels

Last week I published a list of my favourite record labels and the reason why. I've had a fair few comments on  Facebook, Twitter etc from some of the readers of the blog and a few suggestions of labels that would have warranted inclusion. Whilst I am happy with my list, there are quite a few that would make the cut. So I thought that as it was rather popular, I'd list a few of the suggestions and my 11-20 list.

Mark Collins

"Deram, Deutsche Grammophon, Blue Note"

Allen Ashley

"Personally, I might make the case for Elektra (Love, The Doors), island (Amy Winehouse), Charisma (early Genesis, mid-period Hawkwind), Harvest,(Pink Floyd) and Reprise (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell). Then there's Capitol (Frank Sinatra) and all those old jazz labels like Blue Note. And what about East West (early Tori Amos) or Cherry Red (Dead Kennedys, some Hawkwind)...?"

John McCann

"For me 'Nuclear Blast' check out the bands on that level."

Michael Griffin

"Elektra and Island for me and Parlophone"

Boz Boorer

"rough trade"

Deadly Doug

"You are bonkers if you have a list without Sun Record and RCA"


"No RAK records? Suzi Quattro and Sweet"

If I was going to pick another ten based on these suggestions, mine would be

11.  Sun Records

12. Blue Note

13. Harvest

14. Reprise

15. Capitol

16. Rough Trade

17. RCA

18. RAK

19. Elektra

20. Island.

Of course all of the other suggestions are worthy, and the fact people have bothered to suggest them shows just how important they are. It is fair to say that none deserve to be left out, given that years on, we still love them

I definitely think this is an interesting subject and I have what I think is a brilliant idea to follow this up. Watch this space........

Thanks for all of your suggestions.

Oh and just a little reminder for you, if you are not doing anything next Friday, come down for a night of music and fun at The Adam and Eve at Mill Hill at 8pm. Make sure to say hi...

Friday 25 October 2019

Dyslexia Blog - What I told Vanessa Feltz about dyslexia this morning

My schoolwork aged 9
For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays instalment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called
Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and to get people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

If you were listening to Vanessa Feltz at just after 9am this morning you would have heard me chatting to Vanessa about my experiences of living with dyslexia. Click the link and forward to 2.07 -

It is very hard to explain to someone who is not dyslexic exactly what it is like. When I listened back, I think I made a reasonable job of getting some of the issues over. What perhaps I didn't properly manage to get across was the fact that for most dyslexics, especially of my generation, dyslexia is the least of your problems. Generally once it is recognised, it can be dealt with. You can be taught strategies to cope, you can get extra time in exams etc. You learn to play to your strengths. The problem for most dyslexics is that it isn't recognised. You just under perform, get labelled thick and don't get help with some very basic things that could help you cope. As you soon realise that people who are less intelligent than you are outperforming you in exams etc, you get frustrated. Often this makes you disruptive at school. This has all sorts of ripple down effects. You develop anger issues, that affect relationships. Humans are a successful species because we are adaptable. Dyslexics who are underperforming at school are no exception. We do what we have to do to get by. For those who get demoralised with reading issues, this can result in severe literacy problems. Without these basic skills, survival in our society often means living on the edge of it. A friend of mine, who developed a severe class A drug habit, and ended up in prison was shocked to find that as someone who could read and write, he was in a minority in prison. In 2012, the following shocking statistic was announced in Parliament.

"The general average in prison-based studies is about 30%, although rates of serious deficit in literacy and numeracy generally reach up to about 60%. According to Ministry of Justice figures published earlier this month, we currently have more than 86,000 prisoners, so we can estimate that about 26,000 offenders in UK prisons suffer from some form of dyslexia, but we do not know for certain."

On average, the cost of jailing someone is around £32,000 per year. So the cost of jailing dyslexics in the UK is approx. £832 million. I believe that 90% of that should have been avoided. I see no reason why dyslexics should have a higher crime rate than a non dyslexic person. A government with an ounce of foresight would see these figures and realise the huge potential for saving money, setting aside the fact that it is the right thing to do. The answer is to identify dyslexia early and tailor education to ensure that the outcomes are better. We should also be identifying dyslexics in prison and offering them help with their issues. Help with numeracy and literacy, as well as anger management would make a huge difference to literacy rates. Many dyslexics would do anything to avoid classroom situations. My own experience and the anecdotal experience of dyslexic friends is that we suffer self esteem issues.

The trouble is that people who have no experience of dyslexia do not understand any of this. Many see it as an excuse. A couple of years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend on the subject. He said "it's just an excuse for failure in life". I was (internally) furious. I asked if he thought I was a failure. He replied that he thought there was nothing wrong with me and I just said I was dyslexic for effect. I was almost shocked into silence. How can you argue with that. He said "if you were dyslexic, how come you can write a blog?". I said "do you not know the difference between being dyslexic and illiterate?" Whilst dyslexia can lead to illiteracy, this should never happen. What should happen is that you learn to do it. It might take you longer, it might be a bit harder, but there is no reason why you can't do anything that a non dyslexic can do. When I read a blog or a book, I want to read the content. I don't care how long it took the writer to put it together. If it's interesting I am not too bothered about the spelling and grammar (although I use autocorrect on my blogs most of the time). I don't care if there are out of place apostrophes and lost consonants.  Maybe that's just me.

So am I. Was I well served by my teachers. Click on the picture of my school work, with a nice big tick, from St Vincents, when I was 9 years old. You tell me. When I compared that with my own childrens work at the same age (they are not dyslexic), I was horrified.

I spoke to some dyslexic friends about that conversation. The reaction was shocking. One friend said they'd have punched the lights out of the person who made the statement. Another said that would be the end of the friendship. A third said they simply don't bother discussing their dyslexia with 'normals'.

For me, that is not an option. I have a mission to educate. I am not eloquent or clever enough to always succeed, but I will die trying. My hope is that by talking to Vanessa and writing these blogs, someone, somewhere, who is dyslexic might just feel a bit better about themselves.  A modest ambition, but one that, to me, is worthy. 

Thursday 24 October 2019

The Thursday Local News Roundup -24/10/2019 - Local Fireworks displays & other news

A lot of people have been asking about local organised firework displays, so I thought we'd do a special.

Saracens - Mill Hill


Moss Hall School - Finchley

North London Collegiate School - Edgware

Mill Hill School

And if you are attending the display at Saracens on Friday 2nd, why not adjourn to the Adam and Eve afterwards, for a night of music and fun!

Other news

There has been much talk about the Mayor of London's ULEZ zone. It is worth noting that this has lead to a huge decrease in air pollution, which any sensible person would welcome. (courtesy Barnet Times)

Want to get fit? Why not try Rugby training

And we finish with some good news!

Monday 21 October 2019

Environment Monday - Is the Guardian's climate change pledge worth the paper it's written on?

If you've read our environment Monday column before, you can skip this paragraph. It just explains what it is all about. So you want to save the planet, combat climate change, leave a legacy for your children that you can be proud of but you just don't know where to start? I started the Environment Monday series of blogs to try and spread a few practical ideas, things that are practical and work. I'd love your ideas, guest blogs and help. The old adage of think global, act local has been my mantra for decades. If we all start with ourselves, look at our lifestyles, look at the small changes we can make in our carbon footprint, on our own we will make a miniscule difference, but if we do it and it works, maybe our friends will sit up take, notice and over time (which is precious), together we can start to make a big difference. Each week, we will explore a different theme, a different way that we can all make a difference.

So today we are looking at the media and the Guardian in particular. They have made a 'Climate Change Pledge". This intrigued us. Regular readers of this blog will know that we have made a real commitment to the environment. My business has worked to become carbon neutral, and we are net exporters of electricity to the national grid and our new studio block has the highest achievable rating for insulation. We have work to do, but we believe every business should work as hard as possible and be honest about their aims and achievements. The Guardian, as a paper that has lead the way in reporting on climate change for decades issued their pledge on Tuesday. Is it worth the paper it's written on?

Let's start by looking at what they are doing.

 We will continue our longstanding record of powerful environmental reporting, which is known around the world for its quality and independence. In April 2019, the Columbia Journalism Review said, 'For some time now, by far the best daily reporting on climate change has come from the Guardian, which covers the science, politics, economics, and health aspects throughout the world with great force and clarity.' We will prioritise and give prominence to environmental journalism from The Guardian and Observer, bringing you the news and information you need. Our reporting on the environment, from our international team, will never be influenced by commercial or political interests and will always be rooted in scientific fact.
 We will report on how environmental collapse is already affecting people around the world, including during natural disasters and extreme weather events. We will bring you the world’s leading voices on the climate crisis, and we will cover issues across food, travel and lifestyle in order to help readers live sustainably. We will undertake investigations into the economic and political structures that underpin the carbon economy, and examine the role the climate crisis plays in many other critical issues - including inequality, migration and the battle over scarce resources.
 We will use language that recognises the severity of the crisis we’re in. In May 2019, the Guardian updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world, using “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” instead of “climate change” and “global warming”. We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on the urgency of this issue.
 The Guardian will achieve net zero emissions by 2030. We are developing a detailed plan for how to achieve this, involving a full audit of our emissions. Our priority will be to reduce our carbon footprint meaningfully and permanently.
 We will be transparent with our progress. We have announced today that we have become the first news organisation to acquire BCorp certification, which means joining a community of businesses from across the globe who openly commit to driving positive societal change. This is an important milestone in public transparency and accountability for our global environmental footprint.
Environmental journalism from the Guardian and the Observer has a powerful impact around the world and we have received financial support from readers in more than 180 countries. This support means we can keep Guardian journalism accessible to everyone. We hope you will consider supporting Guardian journalism today with a contribution or subscription — every form of support, however big or small, is so valuable for our future.

I was quite excited to see the news of the pledge. I naively assumed that this would be a blueprint that other UK organisations, big and small, could use. Sadly I was very wrong. As a friend of the Guardian, I was more than disappointed. So here are my views on their pledges.

1.  We will continue our longstanding record of powerful environmental reporting, which is known around the world for its quality and independence. 

So the Guardian is going to carry on doing what it's been doing for years and give itself a pat on the back for being marvellous. This is not a good start. Any organisation which starts by patting itself on the back and saying how marvellous it is, needs a good kick up the backside. My view is that we all need to do more and if we start from the perspective that we are amazing it means we have our heads shone up a place where the sun doesn't shine. There are plenty of things wrong with how the Guardian does their business and fixing these should be priority one, before lecturing us on how marvellous they think they are.

2. We will report on how environmental collapse is already affecting people around the world, including during natural disasters and extreme weather events.

I despaired when I saw this. Surely this should go without saying. This has all the hallmarks of an editorial team sitting around and saying "we'll what should we be reporting on about climate change". They have not done the one thing that they could that would really make a difference. They give news space over to people who are at the front line of fighting climate change. They should be encouraging genuine debate and they should "blank column" polluting organisations who won't respond to serious questions. The Guardian has a massive platform and there are plenty of people out there, who are not journalists but who have important things to say. The paper should also offer serious editorial support to make sure their messages are put across eloquently. I have no problem with balance, so have a section a day (maybe a page) entirely written by members of XR, etc, with responses (or blank columns if they refuse) from polluters etc. Also engage academics and experts to provide proper commentary on these.

3.  We will use language that recognises the severity of the crisis we’re in.
This is yet another typical Guardian response to a forthcoming disaster. It should go without saying that they should use appropriate language. The Guardian is a serious paper and are they seriously saying that they've been using inappropriate language up until now. It is worthy to state this, but we've had three pledges so far and it has all been waffle.

4.  The Guardian will achieve net zero emissions by 2030. 
This made me feel physically sick. XR have called for zero emissions by 2026 for the UK and yet the Guardian cannot even get their act together for over ten years, missing the XR target by four years.To launch this "climate change pledge" without even bothering to do a full environmental audit and giving themselves a date that is no way challenging, exemplifies why the organisation is fundamentally in denial. What will be in the audit? We will have to wait and see, but there are many things that the Guardian could do to meet the target by 2026 rather than 2030. Here's just a few things.

a) Adopt a 'No company car' policy.
b) Ensure all staff use public transport, cycle or walk for journeys in the UK, unless impossible due to remote locations. Ensure that this is reflected in payment of expenses.
c) Carbon offset all air travel.
d) Encourage working from home and give staff allowances for installation of solar panels, rather than pay rises and bonuses where possible.
e) Commit to only having fully sustainable food and drinks on all Guardian locations.
f) Use recycled paper
g) Use electric vehicles for all transport of goods and materials.
h) Ensure all buildings and offices are properly insulated and energy efficient and a carbon offset paid to ensure a carbon neutral goal achieved by 2026.
i) Do not take advertising from any major polluters.

I accept that some of that is difficult, but if you are going to make a pledge and blow your own trumpet, you have to suffer pain to achieve it.

5.  We will be transparent with our progress.
Again, this should go without saying. What really grated with me is this pledge finished with the following "We hope you will consider supporting Guardian journalism today with a contribution or subscription — every form of support, however big or small, is so valuable for our future." So the peldge ends with a call for cash. It strikes me that this whole "Climate Change Pledge" is more like a clever bit of marketing with a rather tardy attempt to drum up some cash at the end.

If you are not familiar with this blog, you may think I''m one of the army of Guardian bashers, who despise the paper. The opposite is true. It is one of the two papers I get delivered every day and I read it before I get out of bed. I am a Guardian Top London blogger, and I have written and contributed articles to the paper previously. I thought very long and hard about writing this blog, but concluded that if you can't tell the truth to your friends, then you are not a friend at all. I 100% support the Guardian's ambition which states We want the Guardian to play a leading role in reporting on the environmental catastrophe.  As a friend I want to help them achieve it and I want them to do it in a way that the malicious soul's at large in society can't ridicule and lampoon with ease.

Sunday 20 October 2019

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet

So while the world goes mad around us, a sense of calm and sanity still reigns over the The London Borough of Barnet, where everything is always fine and dandy. Here are some very fine and dandy tweets from the tweeters of Barnet!.

1. The chuffing sounds of a steam train disturbed the peace in Mill Hill yesterday. A fine sight to behold, sadly I was fast asleep!

2. It has to be said that the Cricklewood Town team have done a marvellous job of sorting out the Cricklewood Village Green

3. This looks worth checking out if you are in Cricklewood and fancy a Céilítastic time!

4. We love a bit of Rock and Roll history!

5. And the railway that might have been.....

6. The Guardian featured Hendon Cinema this week

7. Our friends at Mill Hill Rugby club would like your help!


8. Want to hear some quality Jazz this week?

9. This is a lovely tweet! Very missed

10. And finally, a date for your diary!

That's all folks!!!!!

Saturday 19 October 2019

The Saturday List #237 - My top ten record labels

This is perhaps the hardest list to put together that I've had to do. I thought it would be rather easy, but when I thought about it, there were all manner of variables that need to be considered. The inspiration for it was the 60th birthday of Tamla Motown records. How can you possibly compare an organisation like Motown with one such as CBS? I mean, the Clash were on CBS, and there albums were absolutely pivotal, but what did CBS add to the mix? Likewise, how do you compare EMI with Trojan? I mean without EMI there would be no Beatles, but without Trojan, the whole SKA scene and the Reggae scene may not have come about. As a music industry insider, I guess this may be more interesting to me than many, but I hope you enjoy it.

So here is my list. It is based on the influence and the change that the labels made. Of course it is very much biased towards my personal tastes. It is not in any particular order.

1. Stiff Records. To me, Stiff was everything that an independent label should be. They released the first UK Punk single - New Rose for the Damned and the first punk album, Damned Damned Damned. Their artists included a whole bunch of artists who probably would not have seen the light of day (or the light of the Charts), such as Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, The Pogues etc. They changed the rules. The Stiff tour was one of the pivotal moments in UK music history.

2. Trojan Records. I think that Trojan may be the most important label of all. They brought Ska and Reggae to a world audience.Successful Trojan artists from this period including Tony Tribe, Lee "Scratch" Perry's Upsetters, Bob and Marcia, Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff, Harry J All Stars, The Maytals, The Melodians, Nicky Thomas and Dave and Ansel Collins. Without Trojan, I doubt Bob Marley would have ever become the icon that we know, even though he wasn't a Trojan artist.

3. Tamla Motown. Motown is worthy of a book, let alone a brief blog mention. I did a top ten Motown Tunes blog a couple of weeks ago. Check it out. Motown was the sound of soul. Imagine a world without Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder. It just doesn't bear thinking about.

4. Stax Records.  Stax was the other major US Soul label. Otis Redding, Booker T, Albert King, Eddie Floyd were all in the stable. Wheras Motown was in your face soul, Stax was sublime. One of the biggest dilemms for me is whether I rate Otis or Marvin higher. The honest answer is I rate whichever I am listening to at the time higher.

5. Sire Records. Although there is more to Sire than the Talking Heads and The Ramones, such as The Climax Blues  band and Focus, for me it was their championing of the US CBGB's punk scene that made the label iconic. If you'd asked me in 1977 I'd have said that the Ramones were the most influential band ever. I wouldn't make the claim today and I'd probably say that Talking heads actually were far more influential. Just check out the list of Sire Artists. I am often puzzled by how little it is talked of as an iconic label.

6. Two Tone records. The label that launched the UK Ska revival. The Specials, Madness, The Beat, The Selecter etc. All were launched on 2 Tone. Their iconic logo was another feature. Few labels are held in such reverence and have such a defined sound.

7. Greensleeves Records. Greensleeves is the sound of reggae for many. Artists such as Clint Eastwood and General Saint,  Eek-A-Mouse and Dennis Brown are some of the artists associated with the label. If you like reggae music, then Greensleeves is the hub of your collection.

8. New Hormones Records. There is probably no label in history that has achieved so much with so little catalogue. Although there are in total 30 New Hormones releases, the one that matters was Spiral Scratch by The Buzzcocks. For many it gave permission to start their own labels, self release and it defined a new pathway for UK artists. I don't think any label achieved so much with a single record.

9. Virgin records. Virgin was a maverick label. They signed the Sex Pistols and released Never Mind the Bollocks when no one else would touch it. Previously best known for Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, I think we all owe Branson a debt of gratitude for taking on the establishment and the stuffy old labels. After the Pistols, the label released the Public Image album, and then got heavily into dub. I can't say I'm a fan of Branson, but I admire what he did as a label owner.

10. EMI records. Given the role of the Beatles, it would be insane to have a list without EMI. There catalogue is immense, there studios in Abbey Road have produced some of the most amazing albums of all time. Like many of these labels, it warrants a book (of which there are many), not just a mention in a list. The first rule of blogging and lists is that the bigger a topic, the harder to summarise in a paragraph. EMI is fascinationg and well worthy of further study. Maybe a blog for the future.