Thursday 31 December 2020

My highlights of 2020 (yes really)

 No one will be sorry to see the back of 2020. It is the year where I've seen the least live music, watched the least football, played the least football,  played the least music with my band, seen the least of my friends. I've seen one of my best friends lose their beloved 19 year old daughter. I've lost my favourite and last auntie. What good could come out of such a year? Strangely enough, I've done some of the work I am proudest of. 

The year started with a short film about the decline of Edgware. Whilst it is a grim subject and perhaps something that sort of sums up 2020 as a year, it has received a magnificent response, with over 4,000 people viewing it. It has made an impression on people, which as a video maker is something I strive for. I am indebted to Mark Amies who did the hard lifting here. Mark is a wonderful chap. Yesterday he published an update on his own blog. Please read this.

In early March I made another video that I was really pleased with. This was a video celebrating the opening of a mural which marks the association of Cricklewood with Handley Page aircraft manufacturers. This is the sort of film I love making, hyper local and celebrating events that seem to pass the mainstream media by. I thoroughly enjoyed making this. It is just a shame that with lockdown, so few people see the mural. It is my intention to do a film which will properly do the story of Handley Page justice in the new year. I had been inspired by the people I met at the opening, but sadly lockdown scuppered that. 

In June, I wrote and released the only new piece of music of 2020 from the False Dots. Sadly for us, Allan our singer has been unable to rehearse or record, due to his circumstances. The Black Lives matters movement inspired me to write a song and I was lucky that I was able to enlist Charlie Honderick from The Hamptons to stand in for Allan. This piece of music had to be made. I am especially happy with the video. This was made in lockdown. I used a stack of paper cuttings from my archive and I think it really captures the moment. As an artist, I've always believed that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. I seek inspiration from the likes of Marvin Gaye, Desmond Dekker, The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers, who make great music that has a powerful message. Please watch this. The comments of the Daily Mail about Lewis Hamilton receiving a gong show that this work if far from done.

My final piece of work was the video I made for the Sacred Heart Choir in Mill Hill. Fr Eugene and Clare Shah, who runs the choir, asked me about the feasability of making a video to be shown at Xmas masses as there was no prospect of live music.  I discussed it with Clare and we decided that the way to get the best result was to record a backing track in the studio and then get the choir to socially distanced sing along to it in the church, blending the amazing acoustics of the church with the clarity of the studio recording. As for the video, I shot footage of the performance. The choir did four takes and I managed to blend these. I also shot footage of the various aspects of the Church which I thought were inspiring and appropriate.  Initially I also intended to use footage from the studio, but I felt this made it look a pop video and lacked spirituality. I ended up spending the night editing it. I was pleased with the final cut. The Church also posted it on Facebook, here are a couple of the many positive comments "How lovely. So special! Thanks you."  "

❤️ beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas all ❤️"

These positive comments make the effort worthwhile. 

I did actually get to see a couple of rather good gigs early in the year. The Boys at The 100 club at their annual punk festival was great, as was seeing Judy Collins at the Union Chapel, a proper legend. 

In early December, before we went into tier 3, I thoroughly enjoyed spending a day on the Midland Pullman, a new luxury train, which is an Intercity 125 painted and decorated in the style of the old British Rail Midland Pullman service from St Pancras to Manchester. It was great to get out and see some of the country, even if it was damp and wet!

On the football front, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Manchester City beat Aston Villa in the League cup final in March, that does seem like a different world!

And I've really enjoyed watching Hadley FC progress to the 4th round of the FA vase this season. I've always loved Non League football, through Edgware Town, Barnet Fc and now Hadley. It is a joy, I hope that I can get back to the terraces there sometime sooner rather than later

We managed two short breaks. A few days at the seaside at West Wittering. I'd been there as a kid with my Dad and have always wanted to return. It didn't disappoint

We also had a very nice break in Madeira

It is always good to remind yourself that there is always good and bad in any situation. 

So there you go, it wasn't all bad. But I do hope and pray that 2021 will be a damn sight better! 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

My five guiding principles for success in life

As I assess all around me, I find myself happy with my lot. I am blessed, I have great family, amazing friends, I play in a truly inspiring band, I am 58 and I still play five a side football. I love my job, I've loved my career. I have no desire to retire as my job is as much fun as many peoples hobbies for much of the time. Sure there have been many bumps on the way, not least dyslexia, cancer and residual pain from a car accident in 1988, but I've never seen these as anything more than mountains to be climbed. I believe that I was blessed to be born in 1962. This meant I was a teenager in the mid 1970's  and gave me a punk rock ethos. Many see punk as a nihilistic movement, all about being anti everything, but the biggest aspect was the 'do it yourself' aspect, which launched independent labels, grassroots music promotors, self published magazines and cottage industry merchandising. When Mark Perry famously said "Here's three chords, now form a band", many of us did and it changed our lives.

Over the years, I've developed an ethos which I live by. As we approach the New Year, I thought I'd share this with you.

1. The harder you work, the lazier you can be.

I love both hard work and being lazy. What many people fail to realise is that there is time for both in life. If you work hard at the right time, then you can be lazy. The secret is to work productively and spend your lazy time doing things that relax you and that you enjoy. For me, music is a great release, there is nothing I love more than chilling and listening to a classic album or going to see a great band. I can only indulge my love of it properly because of the hard graft I've put in. If you want to stay balanced and level, your down time is as important as your working time, use it wisely. I always plan a reward for myself when I am working. This may be a pork pie at lunchtime if I acheive my target, it may be a pint after work, it may be putting a pound in the jukebox, or buying tickets for a gig. It may be a holiday in Australia. These times have been hard, but I've kept myself sane by rewarding myself when I've met my goals. I view it as I view nature and growing a garden. When I was nine years old, I saved up and bought a pear tree from Barry Edgars garden centre on Hale Lane.  I took it home and planted in our back garden. I still live in the same house and each year the tree rewards me with fresh, tasty pears. As you sow, so you reap! People often say that in negative sense, but it is also a very positive statement. Sowing good things is hard work, but reaping the rewards is the best thing.

2. Don't be too busy watching your back to see where you are going.

Too many of us are held back by worries, negative thoughts, self doubt. We are always looking behind us, so much so that we don't see the massive hole we are about to fall into. We all have baggage, but your baggage is there to help you when you arrive, not to hold you back. Pack light and pack the things you need in life. Set your goals and keep your eye on them. It is the road ahead that matters not the path you've walked. And remember all journeys are best enjoyed with companions to help you keep going.

3. Healthy doesn't need to be boring

Many of us equate healthy lifestyles with giving up things we enjoy. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, I realised that I needed to make lifestyle changes. I gave up dairy products, I brought in a three days a week off alcohol rule where I have three booze free days a week. I've always been fairly active, but buying a fitbit, I try and ensure I do my 10,000 steps a day. So whilst there is a list of things I don't do, the secret has been to replace the things I really miss with things I really enjoy. With not drinking on three days, I ensure that I cook on these days and cook healthy food that is satisfying and fun. I spend the day planning what I'm going to cook. We buy organic fresh vegetables and never buy microwaveable 'ready meals'. We've found the food we avoid is generally far more bland than freshly prepared meals. Over the years, we've expanded our array of herbs and spices and grow many fresh these days. |I must say, the one thing I really miss is cheese, so I allow myself one day a month when I have some really good cheese. This may be on a cheese board after a good meal. As to drinking, we spend some of the money we save on buying nicer, better quality wines and beers for the days we do drink. Then when we drink them, we actually look forward to them, rather than just habitually quaffing them.As to the fitbit, in Mill Hill, there are amazing walks. I've learned to plan them so we easily hit the target and see some wonderful scenery. London is a wonderful city. When I worked in the centre, I'd often go for a stroll, around the parks and south bank. In fact I believe there is nowhere in London too far from some amazing walks. Being healthy is only boring if you don't make the effort.

4. Your enemies are your greatest asset

We all come across people we don't like, people who work to thwart us, people who bully us, people who beaver away behind our backs trying to alienate people from us. When we were children and didn't have the tools to deal with this, it could be very destructive. When we become adults, your enemies become your greatest asset (so long as they are not in a position of power to control or harm you such as a boss or your in-laws!). Although it isn't pleasant, learn to recognise the benefits. When you acquire a person of poison into your friends group, you will learn who your real friends are. If toxic characters find like minded people, you really don't need them in your friends group. If your friends won't stand up for you, are they really friends. It may be unpleasant at the time, but such people come and go and usually take the detritus with them. When you run a business, your enemies and competetors keep you on your toes and spur you to greater achievements. As nothing ever stays the same forever, having challenges will ensure you keep progressing and developing.  It is always worth analysing criticism from whatever the source, as there are only two alternatives. Either criticism is justified and that offers room for improvement which nice people are too polite to say, which is good and the opportunity should be embraced, or it is not valid and justifiable. It is worth reminding yourself that there is a difference between opinions and facts. Much criticism is simply a question of personal taste. There is little point wasting energy on people who simply have a stylistic difference and cannot be polite about it.

If criticism is not justified and clearly malicious, you usually find that your enemy has revealed their own weakness and vulnerablities, as that is what they perceive to be weak spots.  Once you have established that your worst enemy has the looks, personality, intellect, personal hygiene and work ethic of a dead haddock,  their criticisms should become a source of amusement. If they don't have the CV to back their criticism, then look no further than their green eyes and move on with a song and a giggle. Have as little to do with them as possible, Where this is not feasible, analyse their methods of attack and develop a strategy to mitigate any damage they may do, whilst correcting any valid criticism they may throw up. If this happens to be on social media, just block. If possible, develop a sense of humour. This is the best mechanism, as you find that the worst people have no sense of humour and irony at all. Once you realise that, you can almost enjoy their behaviour. Just remember the old saying that the person who has no enemies has achieved nothing in life.

5. Give generously and expect nothing in return

This is the one I fall down on most. Not because I don't intend to, but because I forget and get too comfy. It is strange that the more comfortable and happy we become, the less we remember to give something back. It is so easy to forget that if we are successful, luck and being in the right place are as much a part of the equation as our own skills. If you are 'right with the world' the world will be right with you. These are difficult times. Spread a little love. Money can make you comfortable, but it won't make you truly happy. For me true happiness comes from being around other people that are happy. When I talk of giving generously, I am talking as much about love and your time as money.We only get one shot at this life, so why wouldn't you want to spend as much time as possible making other people happy and being in a loving supportive environment? When we do things such as dropping of food at the foodbank, buying a homeless person a sandwich, helping a Scouts/Guides group, working at a homeless shelter, arranging flowers at the local Church, doing the teas at the local charity fair, taking the day off work to take the kids to the Zoo, stopping off to chat with an elderly neighbour, etc, we are doing something far more powerful than making a money transfer to a TV charity appeal. We doing a good thing for someone else, but we are also improving ourselves. Just before Xmas I made a video for the Sacred Heart Church choir. I was up all night transferring the footage, editing it, mixing the sounds. The church showed the video at the Xmas masses and posted it up on their Facebook page. One parishioner commented that "there wasn't a dry eye in mass when they showed that".  When I read that I welled up. Yopu really can't buy a feeling like that. Don't try. 

Just getting back to my opening paragraph. The punk ethos is that you don't wait for someone to do something for you. Get up and do it yourself. Do it with love and do it as well as you can.

Monday 28 December 2020

2020 - The Year in blogs, the year when we got in touch with ourselves


My moment of the year

At the end of the year, there are several traditions here. We did one of these yesterday, the Tweets of the year. As ever this got a great response. Now we move on to my review of the year through the blogs I wrote. This has evolved over the years. I find it fascinating seeing how years develop. Looking at last years list, it is clear what a hurricane of year this has been. As a blog conceived to cover local issues, a global pandemic has been a difficult subject to address. I felt criticism of the council was rather pointless during this period. They have enough to do without having to deploy media resources to address (or more usually ignore) issues raised by local bloggers. It is also true to say that I am less concerned about mending potholes than making sure locals stay alive. I never really wanted to become a commentator on national issues, but with what has gone on this year, it would have been impossible to write a 'normal local blog'. I've been far less inspired as well. This year has seen me write less blogs than any year since I started. I happen to think the quality has been better, but it really has not been the Barnet Eye as we know it. I've tried to put up stories of interest, as I know many readers have been a tad bored with the lack of social interaction. So looking back, what caught my eye?


The year started on a positive note, wishing  Happy New decade to all of the readers of the Barnet Eye  I rather rashly predicted that Crossrail would open. I won't make that mistake again! I also rather glumly anticipated the Pentavia development, that bit the dust when Google acquired the site for a distribution depot. We now know what getting Brexit done means. I suppose my prayers have been answered in as much as we look to have escaped the worst of what Brexit could have meant, but I for one am not convinced that it is much better than the worst, but I don't want to go into that here. I stated that I was optimistic about the music scene. How wrong could I be, I have serious doubts that there will be a grassroots music scene as we know it in a years time. I was also feeling positive about High Streets. The pandemic has put paid to many great businesses. How will it bounce back? Well unless there are massive rent reductions and some more enlightened banking practices it won't. Elite sports are just about surviving, but grassroots teams like Hadley FC are once again in Limbo. My thoughts on Politics haven't really changed. I think that the last few years and the shape of the government has shown that UK politics is broken. We need PR and we need to see an end to the Hegemony of the Eton brigade. I wasn't a fan, but Thatcher was someone who got there on merit and saw the UK needed to move away from the old way of doing things. Sadly, Cameron and Boris have taken us back. As for Kier Starmer. He may be more electable than Jeremy Corbyn, but he is as inspiring as a bowl of slightly rancid haddock. I've no idea what he believes in. Like all Non Tories, I've enjoyed watching him monstering Boris at the Despatch box, but I want to see a politician that has passion and believes in helping those at the bottom of the ladder. Starmer has not convinced me that this is his mission. 

I think the best blog was the collabaration with local Industrial historian Mark Amies. We made a film exposing the dire state of Edgware -  The Fall of Edgware - Time for action on the massive Edgware Railway Hotel fly tip - Do this now!

This video has now had over 4,000 views and has attracted much comment. Sadly Edgware looks worse than ever a year on. When tier 4 is lifted, I feel another video is due.


A blog I rather enjoyed was the Five random 'What if' questions about the Borough of BarnetWe explored a few key changes that have happened to the Borough and explored how things may have worked out different had different decisions been taken. These questions always intrigue me.  We did a series of blogs on the Barnet Council Draft local plan. These were the last normal 'Barnet Council blogs' we did in the true sense of the word. Sadly many are now waking up to what these plans contain. I commented on the Mill Hill Plan  Barnet Council Draft Local Plan Analysis - 3 - Mill Hill - No plan and no vision Sadly, no one really paid much attention to my comments. What more can one do?

Another blog that got a good reception was my blog about the books that have made an impression on me and my struggles with reading as a dyslexic. It is interesting that dyslexics get this whilst people who aren't think it is all a bit weird. Dyslexia Blog - My journey through #dyslexia in books - I am always pleased when I get random messages and emails saying that I've helped someone. This generated a few. 


March saw the end of normal civic activities as we know them. In early March, I visited Cricklewood and made a short film as the Town Team unveil Handley Page mural at Cricklewood Station This was a great day. The mural is amazing and shows just what you can achieve as a community when you have effective local organisation and people are prepared to work together sensibly for the common good. 

There was also a nice guest blog with  Memories of the M1 coming to Mill Hill - A Guest blog by Chris The Millhillian it is great being able to capture these memories and share them. I feel privileged to do this. 


In April we were locked down, which gave me the opportunity to have a good old rummage through the family photo archive. The product of this was  Mill Hill and Motors from the 60's and 70's - Some pictures and reminiscences from my Dad's collection
I wasn't really sure whether anyone would be interested in this, but the response was amazing. I'm not sure whether that was good blogging or people were just bored, but I had all manner of weird and wonderful responses.

Another blog that got a huge response was one originally from 2009, The tides of change in Mill Hill Broadway - 1958 to 2009 (updated with pics 2020)  a guest blog by my Aunt Audrey Shaw, who had made a list of shops on the Broadway in 1958 and a comparison list in 2009. I updated it to the lockdown and added pictures of all the shops. Audrey passed away from Corona Virus in early April, this was a tribute. She worked in Lloyds bank for many years, I was touched by the number of people who remembered her.


In May, I took a journey   From Mill Hill to UCH, a lockdown journey through London as you've never seen it before  for an MRI scan as part of my ongoing treatment for Prostate Cancer. The journey was at the height of lockdown, so I thought I'd record the journey for posterity. It is strange seeing London so deserted 

As part of our mission to entertain and keep spirits up in Lockdown, I posted a number of quizzes about the local area, they all got a great response. If you didn't try them then, why not have a go now  The Mill Hill and Surrounding Areas quiz no 3 You can click here for the answers.


We saw the Black Lives matter protest kick off in June. I felt inspired to put a number together with a couple of members of my band and with Charlie Honderick guesting on vocals. I passionately believe in using music and video to get a message over. I was very happy with this  Get your knee off my brothers neck - why words are not enough 

Guest blogs have always been a central part of the blog. One of our best guest bloggers is Richard Wilkinson. In June he provided Guest Blog - The Musings of Richard Wilkinson part 1 Mill Hill as it was I always love reading these. They are funny and very nostalgic. Amusingly, there is another local blogger who has become rather jealous of Richard's cult following and has taken to posting nasty Twitter messages about him. Richard tells me that this has provided all of the justification he needed to stay well away from Twitter. Fortunately 99.9% of people are not nasty and enjoy such posts for what they are, a bit of fun. Sadly the 0.1% mean that people who actually have something to say on social media give it a wide berth. 

Another of our rather good guest bloggers, Mark Amies, who is also a guest contributor on BBC Radio London had his book published in June.  London’s Industrial Past by Mark Amies - A review  if you haven't bought a copy, I'd suggest you do. It is well illustrated and an easy read.


In June I went back to work as Lockdown ended. By mid July, I was missing it!  Back to work - five things I'm missing from lockdown  I've got to confess, I sniggered when I re-read it.

My fellow Barnet blogger Mr Reasonable, AKA John Dix wrote a very good analysis of the Capita Contract and its performance in July. I did a short blog to draw attention to it. This is the best Barnet blog this year IMHO. Is Capita working for the London Borough of Barnet?
I strongly suggest your read it.


My favourite blog from August was What are the Trinobanjes and the Goare Hundreds if you are interested in local history, this will be of interest. It was picked up as a note and query by the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London, the answer was fascinating. Sadly, that episode of the show is no longer up.

In the middle of the magic money tree madness that was 'Eat Out to Help Out', I detailed my scepticism of the wisdom of the scheme  Rishi Sunaks meal deal bung - A magic money tree bung with no logic at all . Sadly not only was I right, but the effects of this moment of madness are with us as we languish in Tier 4. If the government had not encouraged us to go so bonkers, maybe we'd not be in the mess we are now. I just wish we could sue the Chancellor for gross negligence with our cash. Sadly such things are not possible.


My favourite blog from September was How the 70's was the decade where the British discovered food This was a fun blog that described how we moved from being a nation that was scared of funny tastes to one which is now the food capital of the world. I got a couple of very interesting emails telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about. It is funny what people get upset about!

Another great blog was a joint blog with local conservationist and bird watcher Samuel Levy. Totteridge Valley Specials - 1. Interesting Insects prompted by a tweet Samuel posted of a wasp spider. This is a fascinating blog that is well worth a look if you are interested in local flora and fauna. 


In October, I did the Funky Friday slot on the Robert Elms show. I went for a Ska theme. It got an amazing response  Funky Friday - Top Ska and Reggae tunes to get you dancing - My Playlist from the Robert Elms show
If you fancy a boogie, click the playlist.

We also had a massive campaign, instigated by our friend Samuel Levy, to oppose a huge development of battery storage facility in the Totteridge Valley. Two days to save the Totteridge Valley - Please watch this video and make an objection
 Samuel made an impassioned and well argued video, that we were only too pleased to promote. This went viral and nearly 700 objections were received.


My favourite blog from November was The Saturday List #287 - Ten reasons why I love the Pogues which may well be the start of a series within a series. The Pogues are an excellent band, who produce brilliant music. They are known for one song, but there is so much more to them. This list is well worth a look. 

All of the noncense being spouted by anti vaxxers inspired me to outline my opposition to them  Why taking a vaccine is a sociable and sensible thing to do. Sadly it seems to me that there is no point trying to apply logical responses to their questions as they simply don't believe anything which diverges from their world view. I genuinely believe such people to be ignorant as selfish, as they will rely on the rest of us getting inoculated to save themselves through our herd immunity. The way the government has handled the crisis is deplorable, but that is a very different thing to suggesting that all of the doctors, scientists and researchers who work on vaccines are part of some dodgy conspiracy. As I've said before, I'll trust the science. 


On the 14th December, I wrote a blog about how the fear of entering tier 3 suddenly was causing sleepless nights and how  Running a business in Covid times is impossible due to drastic policy lurches. Well careful what you wish for. A week later we were bounced into tier 4 and Xmas was cancelled. Boris and his merry men ended the year with one final kick in the goolies to us all. You might think I'd be in despair? Well I've managed to maintain my faith in humanity. In fact December saw a kind gesture that made me realise that even in the eye of a storm there is always a place for kindness. The source? Well I would never have dreamed that it would be Watford FC Captain Troy Deeney, but it was. Find out why  My faith in humanity is somewhat restored this morning by a true act of human kindness

So there you go. That was 2020. There's only tree days left, what could possibly go wrong now...... 

Sunday 27 December 2020

The Tweets of the year in the London Borough of Barnet for 2020

Every week, the Barnet Eye lists the ten best tweets of the week. This has become one of our most popular features. For me personally, it has had the unexpected bonus of introducing me to several new friends and guest contributors to the blog. We always produce a summary of the best, picking one from each month. This year, this was a rather strange experience. Unless you are living on Mars, you will be well aware of how the year radically changed tack in March. It has been quite an interesting year for tweeting in the Borough, despite all of the turmoil and chaos in the world. 

Reviewing the tweets chronologically really brought home to me what a roller coaster. How nomal the first three months of the year were until mid March, how much we pulled together during the early lockdown, how optimistic it all seemed in the summer, how normality was resuming and how suddenly we hit the buffers a week ago.  There are many amazing tweets that I didn't pick, as the more I went through, the more I realised that our tweeters told the story in a very human and local way. It is well worth having a look through. Click here for the weekly issues.  If you have a look at last years picks, it is clear that there has been a very different feel to this year's tweets. 

Here are the picks.


I doubt this would have been selected last year, but this tweet from the turn of the year sums up all the reasons I feel so desperately sorry for our young people. Scouting, going to the swimming pool, meeting friends. All the normal things we all just took for granted 


In February, the Mill Hill Litter pickers were out and about doing their thing for the community. As someone who walks through the park on a daily basis, their efforts are sorely needed, but with tier 4 sadly this cannot be a communal exercise


Now in a normal year, I'd only pick one tweet from a month, but I felt that March was a month of two halves. There is this tweet from the 15th, pre lockdown

And this from the end of the month a 


This was a month of full lockdown. Our community rallied and we pulled together to help those who most needed it. I was proud of the efforts.


In May, we started to see treatments being developed for people with serioud cases of covid. It was great to see individuals such as Hal Cruttenden putting something back. It had't occurred to me before I started putting this together, but as the lockdown was national, I think we did all feel as if we were in this together for a period. Although I get the reasons, it seems that the Tier system is somewhat more divisive.


In June, as lockdown started to ease, we saw another of the key moments of 2020. In Friary Park there was a Black Lives Matter vigil. I think it is quite likely that this will be a more enduring legacy of 2020 than Covid. I think there is a general consensus in the UK that racism is not acceptable in this day and age.


By July, it seemed as though we'd got on top of this whole nasty covid business. Things started to open up. Sadly, not always in the way we might have hoped. This tweet sums up the two sides of the slow return to normality beautifully


August saw the return of grassroots football. We basked in the summer sun and it felt like we were in the homeward straights with this whole covid nonsense. A local derby between two iconic local teams saw HadleyFC beat Edgware Town 5-0. Even the Edgware fans were happy though, to have a pint and enjoy some real sport


In those heady days of September, we even saw live music return, how sweet a memory that was.


In October, we had perhaps the Twitter moment of 2020. A good friend of this blog and a regular contributor to this feature, Samuel Levy put out an impassioned plea for support for his campaign to oppose a major development on the green belt in Totteridge Valley. I am proud that the Barnet Eye is associated with Samuel and helped him, he smashed his target of 500 objections with ease. Perhaps this is the only 'normal' tweet of the year in this selection, well done Samuel.


Another positive to come out of 2020 has been the high profile intervention of Marcus Rashford to make free school meals for deprived children a national issue. I never thought that, as a Manchester City fan, I'd be praising a United player in my round up of the years tweets, but only someone with a stone heart could ignore his contribution.


And we end the year in tier 4. I was at Hadley FC when it was announced. This tweet sums up where we are. It was only when I went through the whol lot chronologically that it struck me how different the phases of the year have been. How we came together in Lockdown, how we were optimistic as it was lifted, how things seemed to be returning to normal and how quickly the train hit the buffers at the end of the year.

That's all folks

Friday 25 December 2020

Happy Christmas from the Barnet Eye

 Sadly this year, many of us can't be together. Many of the things we normally take for granted just can't happen. I was approached by Fr Eugene at the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill who asked if there was something we could do to raise the spirits of people for Xmas, as there would be none of the singing of carols which normally make masses so special.  

I worked with the amazing choir and its choir leader Clare Shah, to put together this socially distanced version of Silent night. This has been shown at all Xmas masses. I just hope that it raised a few spirits. 

If you know the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill, I hope you will enjoy the views of the church, if you just like listening to carols, this is a lovely version.


You can watch masses live streamed from the Sacred Heart at their Youtube Channel. One of the good things about having a music studio is that, even in these difficult times, we can put a smile on people's faces. 

Thursday 24 December 2020

The Barnet Eye Xmas message 2020

 This is the twelfth year of this message. I have to admit, I was floundering for inspiration. I thought I'd look at last years message. You remember Xmas Eve 2019? We were in the heady days of the Boris Johnson election honeymoon. I wrote these words

I fell asleep yesterday evening and had a bizarre dream that I'd awoken in hospital in a coma after 40 years. The nurse told me that Margaret Thatcher was no longer Prime Minister, I asked how she'd got on. At that moment the dog woke me up. I was a tad disturbed and thought "How could I possibly have forgotten John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson?". As I thought about this, I realised that if I possibly could erase all memory of the lot of them, I'd be very tempted. Between the lot of them, so little of real value added to the UK. I thought I'd see if I could find one positive thing to say about any of them. John Major? Decent enough bloke and wasn't Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair Ended the civil war in Northern Ireland. Gordon Brown? Saved the UK's banking industry. David Cameron? Ended discrimination in marriage. Theresa May? Erm..... Any help here team? Boris Johnson? Isn't Theresa May and ended the interminable conversations about #Brexit. 

I feel really bad as I genuinely couldn't think of anything at all positive to say about Theresa May's term. It will perhaps be interesting to see what I write in ten years when I revisit this blog (assuming I'm still around and blogging). I hope I can be a bit nicer about her.
It seems almost ironic that a year to the day after that, today is the day we learn what the #Brexit deal is. I've been reliably informed that the EU crossed none of their red lines. I can only leave you to guess what that means for the UK. I was told that this had been all but signed two weeks ago, but Boris wanted to announce it on Xmas eve as Parliament wouldn't be sitting and everyone would be looking the other way. I was wrong about Boris. He hasn't ended the discussions about the EU, he has got us the worst of all worlds. He hasn't satisfied the 48% that wanted to stay in the EU. As to the 52% I can't speak for them, but when they wake up to the fact that we are a vassal state and the EU has got everything they could possibly have wished for, then I am sure we will hear a little more from them. 

The main thing the EU wanted, the thing that was more important than anything else, was they wanted to show what happens if you leave. Of all the nations in the EU, the UK is the one best able to leave. If all we can do is become a vassal state, with no say in the dealings of the EU, why on earth would anyone else want to follow the same path? The #Brexiteers claim that in the long term it will be better for the UK. I will wager a bet that in twelve years time, if I am still writing this Xmas message, I won't be posting a blog about what a marvellous success #Brexit turned out to be. Someone asked me if I thought the EU would have the UK back. The answer is no. They hate our guts now. The costs of rejoining would be so high that even the most ardent remainer would not pay them. It's done and we have to make the best of it. 

So what is the future? Well we will have six more months of Covid at least, assuming the vaccine works and people take it. Then we have to repair the carnage that is UK PLC. I suspect that 2021 will make 2020 look like a cakewalk. The first three months are going to be grim beyond belief. I am hopeful that by March, we may see some easing, but I think it will be July before any semblance of what we call normal life returns.

I think that by the Autumn, things will seem more positive. I predict Boris will be long gone by then. The Tories want Brexit done and Covid to be under control before the knives appear. By then Joe Biden will be in the White House and the world will be moving towards normality. Rishi Sunak is the favourite to replace Boris. My view is that he has no chance. Firstly, Tories generally hate choosing the favourite. They broke this rule with Boris and look what happened. My money would be on Jeremy Hunt. He's not sullied with the chaos of this Government. I suspect he'd be a little bit better at dealing with Kier Starmer than Boris, who is the square root of useless. 

Traditionally, my Xmas message had a spiritual element. It has been a very difficult year for people of faith. Those that see faith as a badge to trumpet what a marvellous person they are, those loud bigots that see the rules but not the reason, have been in ascendency. But for those who see faith as a driving reason to help their fellow citizen, without expecting anything in return, have had a hard year. We see those around us in trouble and we can't put an arm around them. Many of us are worrying about our own household budgets, so we worry about charity, at the time it is most needed. As regular readers will know, I am the deputy leader of group that takes people with needs away in the summer. We didn't go this year as many in the group are vulnerable. In November, we organised a Zoom call top get together. I realised just how much this was needed. So on Sunday, we had another one. We had a Zoom carol sing song. It was chaotic, bizarre and thoroughly magnificent. If you can do nothing else, stay in contact with the people you know who are isolated. I will leave you with this thought. The true spirit of Xmas was summed up in the most extraordinary way, from the most unexpected source. I regularly speak to Eddie Nestor on BBC Radio London. I did yesterday, but the person he spoke to before me was a guy from the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Gravesend. They had been contacted by the Police to see if they could do anything to feed the hungry truck drivers stuck on the M20. The story of how they rose to the task was so uplifting. That is true faith. Just getting on with it. Have a wonderful Christmas. 


Tuesday 22 December 2020

The playlist to raise your spirits!

Yesterday, like many people, I was feeling down. I was listening to Robert Elms on BBC radio London and he said the same thing. Tier 4 was a nasty shock and having Xmas snatched from us was cruel, if necessary. I just emailed him on the spur of the moment and asked him to play me a Toots and The Maytels track to cheer me up. Not only did he play the track, but he concurred that you can't listen to Toots without a smile on your face. 

When I got home, I thought 'spread the love'. I put together a playlist of songs that always put a smile on my face. It starts  with The Dickies and their punked up version of the Banana Splits song. Only the Dickies could do this. It isn't ironic. Leonard said "It's a great song, we wanted to do it justice".

Next up is Bowie's Rebel Rebel, a great song, one that is full of joy. If you've not kissed your beau to this song, you've never lived. Then it's the Skinhead Moonstomp, by Symaripm, a great slice of Ska fun. This takes me back to the Sak cruises put on by The London International Ska Festival, pure fun. We then cross the Irish sea for some streams of whiskey by the Pogues. A true party song. The Pogues are a big part of my life, a band that brought Irish music back into focus. This is them at their raucous best. No list of fun songs would be complete without Ian Dury's Hit me with your rhythm stick. You may not know the next one, Hot Chili by the Steve Miller Band, sung by drummer Tim Davis. A joyous slice of Tex Mex fun, this is sort of how I'd imagine a holiday in Mexico should sound. We then go to Frisco in 69, for It's a beautiful day today by Moby Grape. Beautiful and uplifting. If you don't know Moby Grape, check them out. We continue with Steve Harley, Come up and make me smile. It always does. Then we have Mick Jones of the Clash asking "Should I stay or should I go". We all know the answer he wants! This is another Jukebox classic. The list had to have Toots, so I chose 54-46, which is as much fun as you can have with your cloths on. Then we have the Saints 'Save Me',  a great take on an Aretha Franklin number.  

Next up, we have Ali Baba by John Holt. I love this song. I think any good Ska playlist would make me smile and this would be on any good Ska playlist. It has a rather strange and wonderful melody, it transports me to somewhere warmer and more exotic. Then we have Joan Jett with I love rock and roll. This takes me back to the pub and the jukebox. There's nothing I like better than having a pint and spinning a few numbers and this is one of my go to songs. I think that if you don't like this, you probably don't like Rock and Roll. The Ramones had to make an appearance and their cover of California Sun from Leave Home is a pure slice of fun. Punked up bubblegum rock. This is one of my favourite Ramones tracks, it is so uplifting and is as clsoe as you can get to the perfect pop song. Next up we had Elvis and A little less conversation. We all need some Elvis in our life. I agonised for hours over which number to include. I went for this because it is just such a marvellous song and it is pure fun. This is the song that made me want to be Elvis! I couldn't beleive it is only 1.39! The remix is six minutes long!

We finish with Bill Withers and Lovely Day. I don't think Bill Withers made a bad track, there are some I prefer, but in terms of raising my spirits and putting a smile on my face, this is the one. 

 I challenge you to listen to any of these and not smile. Many of these artists have passed away, but their legacy lives on. It is the best medicine. Use it 


Monday 21 December 2020

The ineptitude of Boris is destroying businesses everywhere

 There comes a point when you simply can't beat about the bush. The ineptitude of the government of Boris Johnson is destroying businesses all around the country. He needs to be sacked and replaced by someone who is competent. I really don't care right now what party they belong to. The Conservatives won a huge majority last year, so we cannot ignore their democratic mandate, but they have comprehensively failed at every level in every way. There must be someone within there ranks who can at least try and sort this mess out. 

Let me explain my day on Saturday. I spent the morning putting together a communiction to our customers clarifying how the tier three rules affect them and their booking. I spoke to several customers who were checking out purchases of musical instruments. at 1pm, I clocked off and went to watch Hadley FC play in the FA Vase. At that point, I'd not even heard of tier four. About half way through the first half, someone announced that "Boris had put us in tier 4". I had no clue what this meant for my business. Prior to that moment, I'd not hear the term being used, apart from speculatively by people on Twitter. By midway through the second half, I was inundated with calls from my staff at the studio. They were being bombarded by calls asking what this meant for their sessions, whether they could still collect ordered presents etc. Much as I love football, I had no choice but to miss the end of the game and return.

To make matters worse, there was no guidance as to how this affected us. Yesterday at ten past nine, our industry body gave some advice that allowed us to update our customers. It was far from clear advice, but our interpretation seems to be that it is in line with the rules for the last lockdown. I spent the day answering calls, issuing refunds etc. I had customers crying as their plans had been thrown on the fire.

Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that no government in my lifetime has has a crisis of this scale. In March, the only fair thing to do was to give them the benefit of the doubt. But the introduction of tier 4 is nine months later. I understand the need to make quick decisions, but there was no reason that they should not have outlined the implications of tier 4 weeks if not months ago. If we had the guidance, we could at least have plans. To have your business closed or severely curtailed in this way, with no notice and no guideance for customers is not government, it is chaos. 

As for the mutation of the virus. I fully understand that this is a new factor in the equation, but any virologist would know and expect that a virus would mutate over a period of months. Plans should have been put in place to manage this in a far less chaotic manner. I simply don't understand why we didn't shut borders when the virus was first identified, but now we have a new variant, we have effectively been put in quarantine by Europe. Whilst I think the action of Europe is eminently sensible, our leaders seem to be totally in denial about the fact that closing borders to disease transmission is a sensible precaution.  

This time last year, as a business owner, I feared that we'd be heading towards a Brexit where we didn't know what the rules were. We import musical instruments from European suppliers. We see adverts imploring us to prepare, but what for. In eleven days the 'transitional arrangements' will end. We still don't know what will replace it.

This country needs strong businesses to pay its way in the world. Whilst some sectors such as supermarkets and on line traders have thrived, the UK will fail if only these sectors survive. Without our creative and hospitality sectors, we will hold no attraction for tourists, no one comes here for the weather. What for Boris are 'non essential shops' are for the people who work in them and run them their lively hood. 

As a nation, we have tough times ahead. Whoever is Prime Minister will have tough decisions. Sadly, no one I know, not even staunch Tories now believe Boris is the man for the job. We need someone who can bring us together. Not someone who is an elitist, who applies one rule for his mates, like Dominic Cummings and another for the rest of us. There has never been a more inept Prime Minister. Whilst in good times, Boris might have gotten away with it, we are in crisis. 

The bottom line is that the ineptitude of Boris will destroy the prosperity of the UK. There can be no doubt about this. It is time for his MP's to ask him to step aside. It is beyond party politics, it is for the good of the nation.

Unlike some, I don't hate Boris. I'd be quite happy for him to reprise his bumbling persona for HIGNFY, resume his column on the Telegraph or Spectator. I don't think he's horrible or evil. I just think he's completely out of his depth and for the good of the UK, we need someone who can captain the ship in a competent manner. I suspect even Boris himself knows this deep down. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet -20/12/2020

 So this is our last Tweets of the week of the year. Next week will be the tweets of the year. Yet another strange week of the roller coaster that is 2020. Strangely it has been a good week for  the Tweeters of the Borough

1. Lets start with a shout out for the great work Age UK Barnet do

2. We love a secret tunnel, especially in Finchley.

3. Lets see if we can get Tali her scooter back

4. This is a nice touch, well done to GDK Garages

5. A nice tweet here from Cricklewood

6. Samuel Levy is one of our fave tweeters. Rarely a week goes by without a great tweet, this week is no exception

7. We were there and if you've never been, we advise you to join us when real football restarts. A great day at Hadley FC

8. There are many in Barnet who deserve an award. Please put a nomination in. Ours would go to all at Colindale Foodbank

9. It was the birthday of one of the great friends of this blog, Robin Morel, AKA @13milepost, of Network Rail. One of the good guys, part of the 'Orange Army' of key workers who keep our transport going. Happy Birthday Rob

10. A top guy from Mill Hill was properly recognised this week in Mill Hill

That's all folks.