Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Ten things we've learned as a result of the Corona virus epidemic

I've been writing this blog for twelve years now. As I lay in bed, slurping tea and reading the papers (I get the Guardian and Daily Express for some sort of dystopian balance), I idly tried to visualise how we might look back on these times in twelve years time. It is interesting to note that in 2008, when I started, the credit crunch hit. That seemed at the time like the big thing that would happen in my middle aged years. Little did I know that it would be as nothing, compared to what we are seeing now. We are learning some harsh lessons. I do hope that if this blog is still going in twelve years, I remember to revisit this and see how things work out. Will Boris call off the lockdown and we'll all simply pick up where we were on the 18th of March (remember those heady days when we could go for a curry, watch a band and go for a pint?). Will we forget the lessons? I sat down and thought what are the lessons?

1. The homelessness crisis in London is fixable.
2. The knife crime epidemic is fixable
3. The climate crisis and greenhouse effect is fixable
4. There is a magic money tree when we need one
5. Countries with a plan do better than ones that don't in times of crisis
6. When you say people are expendable, that person may just be you
7. The NHS is worth its weight in gold
8. Key workers are people who do jobs that matter
9. People die when politicians dither in the face of a crisis
10. We need our friends and family

We don't want to live under lockdown for a moment longer than necessary, but this has shown that we can cope without the daily hustle and bustle. It seems to me likely that the earthquake that will hit the economy when the tab needs to be picked up will change the shape of the next decade in a far more significant way than the credit crunch changed the teenies. Then, the bankers who caused the crisis were bailed out. The rest of us had a decade of stagnant pay and rising prices. This crisis, we've in effect bailed ourselves out. We have mortgaged the present to pay for the future. Boris has learned a harsh truth that having an NHS is the best way to mitigate such a crisis. If we had a private health system in the UK, I doubt we'd have the organisational capacity, the goodwill and the ex-staff prepared to step straight up. People will do it in a socialised system of medicine, but would they do it, if it meant corporations were making a killing? I suspect that the NHS will be the one institution that comes out of this whole sorry mess in better shape.

As for the falling rates of violent crime. Will this persist when we are allowed back on the streets? Or will the robbers, muggers and gangs feel they have lost time to make up? I hope that the break has given a few young people in despair a time for reflection. I hope the Mayor of London is trying t figure out a way to flatten that curve as well.

The big plans for Boris were for better infrastructure. The two big projects were HS2 and Heathrow expansion. I suspect that these two schemes will have vastly different trajectories. I suspect that Boris will see HS2 as a way to provide employment for tradesmen as the country seeks to get back to work. I suspect that many building schemes will simply not happen, as the finance needed won't be there. HS2 will provide something to keep people in work. Heathrow is a very different matter. The airlines have been dealt a massive blow. Without huge a huge financial injection, many will struggle to survive. There will be less ready cash for holidays, so I can foresee a situation where it might take decades to just get back to where we were.

And then there are changes to society. Many people are working from home. Firms will recognise that this is cheaper and more efficient for many. Why pay for expensive offices, when people do more at home? I can see a sea change in the UK's working culture. I can see a situation where many offices are re-purposed as flats for workers. Many firms (mine is just one) will be in survival mode for the next few months or even years. We are running up debts with no income at all. The leisure sector  is always the first to be hit in a recession. I have no idea what will happen when we reopen our doors. Will people come flocking back or will they have got used to staying in, eating takeaways and drinking beer? Of course I am hoping that they will be sick to death of confinement and will be keen to get playing music again. But the big tours and the other projects we make the real money on? This will be a different matter. The lesson I need to learn will not be clear until the doors reopen.

There is one other lesson, an eleventh, that for me is perhaps the most upsetting. That is that without football, Saturday is just another day. Of all the things I miss, the fact that the week has ceased to exist is perhaps the most disorientating. My weekend has for many years been dominitated by live music and football. Thursday night - Five a side at Powerleague, Friday live music and/or drinks out, Saturday is football, Sunday is hangover day. That has all gone out of the window. Even the radio presenters have forgotten what day it is.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Memories of the M1 coming to Mill Hill - A Guest blog by Chris The Millhillian

Bunns Lane station car park site 1968
I was informed that you had recently posted pictures of Mill Hill and made reference to the days when the motorway came to town, I remember it well. It certainly changed our small town for ever and that peace that went with it at the time when the six lanes suddenly started appearing aloft on huge concrete pillars and beams constructed at the end of the Broadway. This certainly marked a noticeable change in the character of the town.

The old Midland Railway Cottages. Hunt’s boilers Merchants, the florist shop and several small shops in station Road were demolished very quickly as well as the railway bridge to make way for a huge hole which was dug in the ground. The best thing about it was that there was no more flooding under the old circular arch Victorian railway bridge and double decker buses could then travel on to Edgware, rather than turning around at Mill Hill.

I played on the motorway site with the other local boys who lived up a few doors from you in Millway. We accessed the site from the end of their garden and watched as the old allotments disappeared. I remember when the lanes were just laid with a gravel surface waiting for the concrete road surface to be poured. There was a huge pile of sand by Lilley Lane Foot Bridge and I was told that some kids jumped off the bridge onto it and sustained injury for their efforts.

My brother and I used to look at the futuristic picture placed under the emerging motorway bridge showing the modernistic bus station and supermarket soon coming to town in what is now the M&S supermarket car park. Your Dad’s MacMetals yard was also affected by the new motorway as it ran alongside and the old coal depot was used to house motorway construction workers in big grey sheds.

My brother took quite a few cine pictures of Bunns Lane and the Broadway and filmed a journey he made with in a truck travelling along the new motor ay,  passing behind your house whilst riding on the gravel surface,  proceeding to tip hard core for free as all local builders were invited to do that.

I attach a picture taken around 1968 of Fanning builders yard with its Thames Trader lorry parked outside. I hope that the Hendon Times will  at some point upload the picture of your family in January 1963 building an igloo in the back garden.
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Guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. Chris the Millhillian was born and raised in Mill Hill.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 29/03/2020

Last week, Twitter was alive with pictures of empty shelves. Now we afe in lockdown, so the opportunities for interesting Tweets in our Borough are pretty limited. But there are still some of us doing our bit! Here is my selection and without wishing to sound immodest, I think it is a rather good one


1. We'll start with a regular, who has been out in his garden. A bit of a change of subject from his normal material, but I found it interesting.





2. Another regular with a great picture of Apex Corner Roundabout/subway being constructed



3. This is a nice touch. I really couldn't leave this one out, could I. Heroes all!





4. I post this as it's snowing. Funny to think that Totteridge looked like it was in Florida on Friday!





5. This is worrying. Booba's are a truly wonderful establishment. Hope all are OK and that the damage isn't too severe



6. I love this tweet, I hope you do as well. The architecture of the Underground is amazing



7. The Phoenix cinema is shut at the moment. When it reopens, lets hope that more special memories will be made.



8. Please drop in some donations. I spoke to them and they especially want UHT milk and jams etc



9. This is regrettable and sad. I look forward to when the Hadley family and the wider football family can get back together. Saturdays do not feel right, in any way shape or form



10. Music is one of the few things we can still enjoy during the lockdown. Why not check out some of the Mill Hill Music Complex playlists, compiled of music with strong Mill Hill connections. You might be surprised at just how many great songs have local connections




That's all folks

Saturday, 28 March 2020

The Saturday List #257 - The Top Ten things I will do when the lockdown is lifted

So what are you going to do when the lockdown is lifted? What are you really looking forward to?

1. Have a pint at The Mill Hill Services club.
My only concern here is that it may take a while for them to get fresh suppliers of their rather excellent Hophead bitter, which is on tap. Many of the members are elderly,  I am hoping and praying that they will all come through it.  For many, the club is what keeps them going, snooker, beer and friends. I fear that the isolation aspect will be the real killer for many.

2. A curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori with mates.
My group of mates have a regular monthly (ish) curry. One is a policeman who has gone down with the symptoms of the virus. Another is a nurse and he's going to be away from his family for six weeks as he's volunteered for shifts at the new hospital at The Excel centre. He doesn't want to expose his family to risk. These guys are heroes. They will deserve a curry. I had a takeway  last night, please support our local restaurants who are doing takeaways. It was great to see BAW in the Broadway on the news, delivering free dinners to NHS workers.

3. Do my favourite walk from Westminster Cathedral to Borough Market, via Lambeth Bridge and The Southbank.
By definition, if I get through the current situation unscathed, I will go to Westminster Cathedral, light a candle and give thanks. We all have our own beliefs, I've always found that by respecting God and nature and thanking them for any small blessings they bestow upon us, I stay lucky. Call it superstitious if you like, but it works for me. When I've done that, I will go for the long leisurely walk to Borough Market, maybe pick up some food then go for a pint in The Globe. I will schedule this for when the River Thames is at low tide, so I can walk the bank and do some beachcombing. I may even pop in the Tate Modern on the way. I usually do this alone, but I may ask Clare to join me.

4. Have Sunday Lunch at Ronnie Scotts.
In truth, Jazz is not my no 1 genre, but I love Sunday Lunches at Ronnies, if there is a decent band on. I have a few artists that I love watching live in the genre, including Ben Sidran, The Jive Aces, Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe to name a few. Ideal Sunday lunch music. We have a ritual, a coffee or beer and a custard tart at Bar Italia, lunch at Ronnies, then a post gig drink Kettners around the corner. It is a great way to spend a day.

5. A Pub crawl and curry in the West End with my mate Keith.
My friend Keith is one of my best friends. He comes from Prestatyn, is a Wrexham fan and loves real ale and curry. We meet monthly and do a real ale trail, then have a curry. We were meant to meet on the Wednesday after lockdown, so it will be long overdue.

6. Watch some Punk Rock at The 100 club.
The 100 club was recently saved by Westminster Council. It will need saving again. I vow to go to the first decent punk gig that they stage, the last one was The Boys in January.

7. Take my missus to the Bleeding Heart restauarant for a belated 25th anniversary meal.
We will have been married for 25 years in April. We will doubtless be staying in, I will make up for it. The Bleeding Heart is the best place in London for a romantic meal. They will get a phonecall on day one of the raising of the curfew.

8.  Rehearse with The False Dots.
The False Dots are my band. All rehearsals and gigs have been cancelled indefinitely. That is a very weird situation for me. I love my band, our music and playing live. We will need to get out and play ASAP. As soon as it is safe, we will be organising a benefit gig for Colindale Foodbank.

9. Visit my Aunty Audrey in Whitstable.
Audrey is 90 in June. She was planning a party but it has been cancelled. I will bring her the biggest bunch of flowers I can afford. She is the last of my mums generation. She is a real sweetheart.

10. Get a haircut.
My Barnet is driving me nuts. I hate having long hair. It is starting to go all Worzel Gummage. I am seriously thinking of deploying my old Wahl clippers. Clare is not happy at this idea and say I look like a potato when I have very short hair.

I'll leave you with this. A little snippet of The False Dots rehearsing. Proper music, made by friends for the love of it! I never really intended to publish this far and wide, but hey ho, we have time on our hands

Friday, 27 March 2020

Rog T Cancer Blog - A dangerous dilemma for all Prostate Cancer sufferers on active survelliance

I have a dilemma, a difficult dilemma, maybe a dangerous dilemma. I am pretty sure I am not alone in the dilemma. I am sure it is one every man who has been diagnosed with Prostate cancer and is on active surveillance has right now. For those who might be reading this blog and are not familiar with the term, those of us who have a cancer diagnosis, where the cancer is not aggressive, large or spreading, given the potentially life changing effects of a radical prostatectamy, we opt for active surveillance. This is regular PSA tests to monitor the levels, along with biopsies and MRI scans. I had treatment in 2015, but the regime is biannual PSA tests, annual MRI scans and consultations. Although technically this is follow up, for an experimental treatment, the regime is the same as active surveillance. So the thoughts, worries etc I have are the same.

I am due to book a PSA test, having had one in October and with a forthcoming MRI and check up. The only thing is that to have a blood test, I'd have to go to the doctor, get a form, make my way to Finchley Memorial, sit  in a busy room awaiting a blood test, then make my way to UCH for a scan and again for a consult. The thing is, as everything has been behaving itself, with the Covid-19 worries, do I really want to go to a busy hospital, which is likely to be a place where I am likely to come into contact with people infected with covid-19? Do I want to get the tube in to Euston? My hope is that UCH will reschedule the MRI and the consult. Like many things, it is a balancing act, but even if the cancer had started to become aggressive again, can treatment wait until after the crisis has passed? I think the likely hood that there is a problem is low and that the contact with covid-19 would be more risky. Does the MRI machine get completely cleaned after every scan, what if the bloke before was infected?

The NHS is under great strain, so I am very much hoping that the whole thing is deemed not important. Of course in six months, this may bite me on the bum, if the cancer has started to misbehave. I trust my consultant Mr Emberton and UCH to make the right call. I will do what they say, but I cannot say I am not very worried about the whole thing. At the bottom of this blog, I have a little video that sort of sums up my dilemma, and I hope you enjoy it.

I will say this. God bless the NHS. As I've stated many times, the cost of my treatment and my insurance status in the USA would have impoverished me and made me fearful of the future. Perhaps the greatest thing the crisis has done is remind us what a magnificent institution the NHS really is and why we should not be running it on a shoestring.

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For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, here's what this is all about. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 54years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October  which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive. My last PSA in October was 4.6, so stable and good news.

  I've no symptoms apart from needing to wee quite regularly and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture? 


Thursday, 26 March 2020

Time to stick to the facts you know and be understanding before judging peoples behaviour

There have been many mesages saying we have to pull together, that we have to be considerate and be good neighbours. Many people are feeling unsettled and unsure. We see many people doing things that may arouse suspicion. Some of us are being vocal in calling people out for what we perceive as anti social behaviour. But please, think before you jump to conclusions. Just because you think someone is behaving in what you perceive as an anti social manner, do you really know. Let me give you an example. On Sunday night, I took part in the Mill Hill Churches night shelter project. Part of this exercise involves public spirited citizens cooking meals for the 16 people attending. These volunteers had to source enough food for these meals. This meant buying an amount of  specific foods that may have seemed to others in the shop to be excessive. It is just one example of a situation where jumping to conclusions, that seemed quite reasonable, were wrong.

I saw another Facebook post, criticising a local business in Mill Hill for being open. The person posting did not realise that the business has a crucial role in providing hygenic transport for London and has contracts with other firms, where there are contractual stipulations that vehicles are cleaned. The accusations of not being public spirited were actually well wide of the mark, as the business was carrying on, when it may have been more economic to shut.

Some of us have been asked to run errands for elderly neighbours who are avoiding shops etc. We picked up a supply of eggs for a friend who recently had an operation for cancer of the bowel. Eggs are one of a few foods on a restricted list. But those who may have felt I was buying 'too many' would not have known this. I can live with sideways looks whilst running such errands. If anyone asked, I'd be more than happy to put them to rights. But the bottom line is that when you see someone doing something you perceive to be anti social, just think. You do not know.

That person speeding up your street at 80mph may just be a boy racer taking advantage of the quiet roads to drive too fast. But they may, just may, be driving a relative who cannot breath to A&E. You don't know. The person with the overloaded shopping trolley may be a greedy hoarder, but just be doing a weekly shop for themselves, their parents, their aunty and their uncle, and a couple of neighbours who are self isolating. You just don't know.

When you see someone walking past your house three times a day down to the shops, they might be a selfish soul, who cares nothing for anyone. But they may have had a panic call from an elderly neighbour, who has run out of an essential. You just don't know.

So unless you are psychic, unless you know for sure, unless you peek through their windows, to see the dinner party after the guests arrive, take a kindly view. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Facebook is full of judgements right now. Pages are springing up all over the place, shaming 'Dodgy retailers', but do you actually know whether the retailer hasn't driven to Leicester to get extra supplies and is simply recovering their petrol costs. I've shut my business, so I am not saying this for any other reason, than because a trader explained why they had doubled the cost of a product I was buying. They said that their time and the £60 petrol bill meant the items cost more. They couldn't be sourced from local cash and carrys. It is a reasonable response, one I was happy to accept, but then I asked, so I knew the reason. Do you?

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The Wednesday Poem - A night in

A night in

We could go to the pub, 
we could go see a movie,
go see some jazz, 
That would be groovy

We could go to a dance
we could go get some food
we could play in the woods
and be very rude!

Lets do something different
A tonic with gin
lets sit on the terrace
and have a night in

Copyright 2020 Roger Tichborne

It's only a hardship if you are forced to do something you don't want to do. There is a great episode of Porridge, where the young Godber is struggling with confinement. Old lag Fletcher, who has seen it all before, explains that you just have to change the way you think. He goes through all the things they could do, then after going through all manner of glamourous and exciting options, says, he just fancies a quiet night in. All of those things can be done sometime, but just not tonight.

We have been blessed with the weather. Those of us lucky enough to have gardens should enjoy them. As a dog owner, it has been glorious. I took the dogs over Darlands nature reserve and the Totteridge valley. I chose this route as I knew it would be quiet. It was and it was glorious.



The government is allowing us out for one period of exercise, so long as we stay away from other people. Make the most of it.

If you have nothing to do, check out this brilliant episode of Porridge.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Why lockdown is the opportunity of a lifetime

The things that will see you through
There are two schools of thought, one is that everything is, in reality, random chaos and there is no purpose to anything. Then there is the school of thought that everything happens for a reason. For many years I struggled to know which of these philosophies I believed in. At this stage in my life, I am fairly settled in the latter camp. I get the rational objections to this, however I've found that belief that everything happens for a purpose and we just have to open our eyes to see it has served me well. Often it has taken me years, sometimes decades to understand, some issues are still unresolved, but the positivity you take from the philosophy that 'this has happened for a reason, therefore I am going to go with the flow and use it as an opportunity' is a very poweful way of dealing with knock backs and difficult times. I would be lying if I said I had all of the answers, some things are seemingly too terrible to draw any solace from, but does that mean we cannot try?

The current lockdown period has come at the most inopportune moment possible for me in many ways. Our business had a very good year last year, on the back of eight years solid growth. We started making plans to expand and spent a large sum on putting the final touches to a new studio block building. After several false starts on the financing front, a major investor contacted me in late January. We had preliminary meetings and I felt very positive. Two weeks ago, I was told that due to the current circumstances, all new projects were off. To be honest, I would have probably have pulled the plug myself, if they hadn't. Over the last three weeks we saw a massive tail off in bookings. Customers long term projects and tours have been cancelled, as individuals and countries have locked down. Deposits have been refunded, this week has seen negative cash flow, all our staff laid off and no clue as to when we can re-open. Thanks to the governments scheme for benching staff, we can keep them on the cards, but it will be difficult and the detail of the scheme has not been released. I had two weeks of sleepless nights worrying about them. Several had already taken the decision to self isolate for health reasons(we've had a policy of taking staff with medical issues, so long as they can do the job). I have assurred all of them that we will move heaven and earth to make sure that they have jobs whenever we can reopen. It is not clear to me how the governments scheme will enable this to happen. I envisage a big dip into our reserves. It could be that by the end of the lockdown, we are back where we were eight years ago, mortgaged to the hilt and facing a massive job of re-establishing our business. Even if every music venue on the planet was allowed to open tomorrow, it would take months to get all of the schedules back on track. If I was given to despair, this would be the time.

Then there are my kids. One is about to finish a degree, the Uni has not told her how this can be achieved, she is in limbo having worked her socks off.  Another is applying to start a Uni course in September, again all up in the air. The third was planning an around the world trip. That too has gone up in smoke.

In April, I celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. My brothers and sisters and friends are on lockdown, no party, which is a crying shame. I had planned to get my wife a nice bit of jewellery from Rockman Jewellers in the Broadway, but lockdown has scuppered that as well for the time being.

On Sunday night, I was at the Mill Hill Churches night shelter. To see the fear on the eyes of my fellow human beings, as they contemplate the coming weeks was heartbreaking. I have a home, they have nothing, except what they can carry. For them, sleeping by the radiator, on the floor of a drafty church is luxury. Far better than a doorway, where drunken yobs may urinate on you, set you on fire or assualt you.  Everything happens for a reason. That was probably the wake up call I need.

So lets work back through the problems. Sure I may not be able to buy a nice bangle. But I have a partner who has been by my side in good times and bad. Through loss of parents, friends, through illness, through arguments. We'll survive.

Then the kids. They've been spoiled rotten for all of their lives. This is new. They are uncertain, but they have a home. The fridge is full, the heating works. They have two large, friendly dogs to play with. Life will return to normal. They may even have a better perspective on life.

And the business? We will survive.  I have time to sort many things out that we've not had time for previously. Running a business like ours is very much like playing 'Whack a mole'. We focus on the big issue of the day, with little time for long term strategy.  We have made plans, but not in the way we should. Most of our most successful initiatives have been by accident. There are many things we could do better, but have simply not had the incentive to resolve. If we don't come out of this period with a robust plan to drive the business on and make it a better run organisation, serving its staff and customers better, whilst making a larger profit, then we would have failed and we should flog it!

I've always believed a profitable business is one that serves its customers well. The better you do it the more money you make. Historically, we've always had a mission to provide the best facilities for everyone, from the international touring bands, to the kids who can just about manage three chords, have no money and are at the start of their journey. It is pretty clear to me that we could be far, far better at the top end of the market and far, far more helpful for the kids at the bottom. The mission has always been to get the kids who are just starting, to learn that being a performer is fun and that it will enrich their lives. It builds independence and self esteem. We've historically done this by providing cheap studio space.  What we find is that bands who could pay far more hog this, block book it, locking out those who are less savvy. That is no criticism of musicians who are smart enough to make our booking policy work for them, but it is a big criticism of how we help new musicians. Over the last few years, we've also developed a strong customer base of older customers (most of who are now in lock down). This has been by accident and it occurs to me that we need to serve their needs better as well. This is an ideal time to sit back and get a proper strategy to address all of these issues.

But none of this is really what I wanted to discuss. It's just that as you, the reader and me, the author have time on our hands, I can discuss these things fully and in context.

So here I am, a fifty seven year old man, with three grown up children, cancer, a wife, two dogs, two sheds and two ponds, living next to the M1 motorway and the Thameslink railway in Mill Hill, being forced to stay in my house for up to three months, with nothing to amuse me but the said items above. I can't even take up trainspotting, as the trees I planted 20 years ago now obscure my view of the line, which is not altogether the worst thing in the world.

I've worked all of my life, for much of the time at two jobs, running the studios and doing jobs such as IT consultancy. For much of my working life, it has been 60-70 hour weeks. I had a period of about 12 years when I supported a major banking IT system, processing debit cards, that meant I was on call 24 x 7 x 365, meaning the mobile phone came on holiday. Meals with friends were disrupted, sleep patterns wrecked, plans laid to waste. Five years ago, the studio reached a point where I could step away from this life, and two and a half years ago I bit the bullet. It was all going so well...... We had plans to go to Vegas in September and for a cruise from LA to San Francisco. That was the ship that Donald Trump wouldn't let dock recently, as Covid-19 had struck it. And there I was, looking forward to some sunbathing, with my dreams in tatters!

The Universe had other plans.  Oddly,  the sunbathing came early, I caught a few hours today, as a cloudless sky allowed warming rays of sunshine to beam down. There I was in the back garden, listening to the trains and cars. Lying their with my eyes open, I realised that there are two things, above all else I need to do.  My mind was drawn back to a short Youtube video posted by our local Rabbi. Now, most of you will know, I am not Jewish, but all of the Rabbi's I've known have been very insightful characters and well worth a listen. I recalled his words.


We all matter
As I soaked up the rays, I spent some time contemplating the message. He was talking about people losing faith in times of adversity and why you should persevere. He talked about why having faith in God and faith in mankind were not mutually exclusive.  How lucky I was, thoroughly enjoying soaking up the sun on a lounger. My daughter had brought me a cup of tea, the larger of our two dogs sat beside me so I could pet him. It was blissful and had the lockdown not occurred, would be the last thing I'd be doing at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon. But as I did this, Rabbi's, vicars, imams, priests, etc across the planet are consoling families who have lost loved ones through the corona virus. People who will be sad. angry, devastated. The sunshine has gone out for them.  I can only pray that these comforters, as well as those of no faith, find the words to give the familie solace. These times are hard, but faith is hard, but like all difficult things, we emerge stronger. Then there are the scientists, doctors, health experts, disaster planners, all working to mitigate the effects, find cures, fix the problem. They are the best of humanity. I am just a bloke who runs a music studio, their efforts will save lives, change outcomes. A strange thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone, somewhere, who is working on a vaccine or a medicine, that will save the life of maybe one person, maybe one hundred, maybe one thousand, maybe a million people, who will at some point in the next few years, when they are recovered, sit down with friends, family, loved ones, or even on their own and put on some music recorded in my studio and feel better. That is my role in this family.

The sun comes out in the harshest times
I titled this blog 'why lockdown is the opportunity of a lifetime'. You probably thought it was going to be all about the great opportunities for you to make money, or improve yourself. The opportunity is actually something far better. It is the opportunity for humanity to come together, to be better, to work across borders and boundaries. I don't care if the scientist who develops a viable vaccine is English, Irish, Chinese, American, Israeli, Iranian or even if they live on the moon. I don't care whether they are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoriastrian, Jew or a follower of the Flying Spaghetti monster, I don't even care if they support Manchester City, United or Arsenal. I just want them to be successful, and as soon as possible. And I hope that once they are, we distribute it universally, to those in most need first. I want to be able to look in the mirror in a year or two from now and be proud to be a human and say a prayer of thanks that we did these things. I believe that you can believe in God, mankind and science but so long as you believe that we can be better, we can make a difference, then you will probably get along with me. In short, whatever you believe in, keep the faith in times like these, and lets hope we learn the lessons for a better world.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Corona Virus - The winners and the losers

How did you sleep last night?


What I saw was profoundly upsetting and disturbing. This was the front line of the corona virus war. For those who don't know what the term front line really means, it dates from the first world war. The front line is where you are most likely to die.

 The closure of cafe's have given the homeless nowhere to warm up during the day. The 15 who stayed with us last night were lucky, as temperatures froze in Mill Hill (Thick frost on the car this morning), those sleeping rough get no respite. One poor soul had an asthma attack, as he'd lost an inhaler. The ambulance took 4 hours to arrive, by which time thankfully the attack had passed and he was soundly asleep. The ambulance crew told us the service had 9,000 calls when they normally have 6,000. The homeless cannot realistically socially isolate, they need the mutual support. Many have health issues. They are being thrown to the wolves. I realised that the homeless are one of the biggest group of losers from this crisis. In any such situations, there are always losers. As I tried to doze off, I started to become quite angry about it all. I am not angry with Boris, or Rishi Sunak for their response. Of course they've made some mistakes, but they are only human, and it is a massive situation to deal with. I genuinely don't believe there is a massive conspiracy. It is ironic that we are now living under the most socialist regime of our lives. Massive emergency investment in the NHS, massive social help for firms to keep people in work. The situation has exposed the myth, dating from the time of Thatcher, that there is no such thing as society. Their clearly is and Boris has made it clear that we need to be responsible members of it. That was why I volunteered for the night shelter. I realised that I probably raised my own risk levels by attending. I was sensible, kept a distance, sanitised and hand washed. I am glad I did. There was a realistic possibility that the poor chap with asthma may not have got through in sub zero temperatures with an asthma attack and no hot food. My personal health is currently good. My immune system is in order. I believe that I am unlikely to have a bad reaction should I get covid19. I am lucky, in that my family are around me and safe, and none are in high risk groups. A night sleeping in a church, brought me closer to God and gave me a pause to consider the situation in its full context.

The truth is that the situation has winners and losers. If you imagine the situation as a pie, some are getting a huge slice and some are getting very little. Some firms will go under, some will post record profits. Supermarkets, small food shops and food delivery services are big winners. Everyone seems to have a full larder. In a situation such as this, some are taking full advantage of the situation, whacking up prices, exploiting us. Sadly, the greedy souls in our society who care not for the rest of us are fuelling this.  Shops charge £20 for a tub of hand sanitiser because some people can afford to pay it and don't care. That excludes everyone who that is half of their weekly shopping budget. As regular readers will know, I buy my meat at Gerards Boucherie in Daws Lane. The food is quality and Gerard is always good value for chit chat. On Friday, he told me that he'd been cleaned out of eggs. Someone had posted on social media that he had eggs. Immediately a guy turned up, who he'd never seen before who bought four dozen. Gerard hadn't seen the post, so assumed the guy was having a party. The next customer bought three dozen, when he queried why, he was told that she'd seen a post on Facebook that he had eggs and needed to stock up. Of course she may use them all, be baking cakes for the community, but it would be criminal if any of those eggs sat in the larder and went off. Gerards prices have not gone up. He told me, with disdain, the prices other retailers were charging. He's been part of the Mill Hill community for decades. He knows that when the crisis is over people will remember. The retailers who don't see this are actually being very short sighted.

The winners in the crisis that supermarkets and delivery services are taking on staff, many of which work in sectors such as the music industry and bands. My worry is that when the panic buying subsides and people have full larders, these staff will be laid straight off. Chemists and suppliers of health products are also likely to do well.  People working for firms that produce hand sanitisers, soap, PPE equipment are also likely to be safe. I suspect that the emergency services will have a lot of (not necessarily wanted) overtime. Companies that provide on line services and entertainment will do well. I should imagine that software developers who provide on line systems for firms will also be working flat out.

And the losers, well that is just about everyone else. Every firm I know is battening down the hatches, working on resilience and survival. Pubs, cafe's, restaurants, gyms found out on Friday that they will have zero income. Whilst from a national survival perspective, this is not wrong, it will devastate those businesses. For most of these, the problems are financial. Sadly this is likely to have serious mental health issues for some. Firms on the brink simply will not get through. This is likely to have a huge impact on many areas of the economy. I expect a slump in commercial rents. There is likely to be a huge swathe of companies closing, which means empty shops, offices and kiosks. Even with rent free periods, rates holidays, the govt paying 80% of staff costs, if your company was just hanging on, this will be the final straw. The knock on of this will be for their accountants, lawyers, software providers etc.

Then there are the elderly and those with underlying health problems. They are faced with long periods of social isolation. Yesterday I was taking the sun in the garden, when I heard voices over the fence. I have neighbours in their seventies, their daughter was visiting for mothers day. They were meeting in the garden, keeping their distance. I've known the family for years, I didn't really know whether to laugh or cry. They are friends with my auntie who is 90 this year, so we had a little chat and I was able to say that if they needed anything, just ask. I am pleased they are taking it all seriously. I owe them one. In 1981, when I returned from Stockholm, I had no money at all. My parents were away, I happened to run into Joan, who asked me around for dinner. As she only had two daughters, she was amazed how much I ate. She lent me £2, which was saw me through. Now is the time to properly replay the debt (the £2 was paid the week after, when I got a job). This is what local community is. For those who don't know me, I bought my parents house in 1987, after my father died. Please look after elderly friends, neighbours and relatives as best you can.

If I'd written this blog yesterday, I suspect I may have left it there. But after what I saw last night, I realised that the biggest losers of all are the socially excluded. The homeless, the marginalised. With health issues, a reliance on the goodwill of others, a constant battle to stay warm, to get food, to get money. They can't pay £20 for hand sanitisers, or a fiver for an egg. They have no cooking facilities. If you see a homeless person on the street, get them a coffee or some hot food. There is talk that the government and Barnet Council will be putting them up in hotels, I hope this is the case, but if it doesn't happen, please consider volunteering at a scheme if you are young, fit and healthy. Many of the volunteers at our scheme are elderly, we need to cover them. If you don't they will not let the homeless go cold and hungry, but that really isn't how it should work, is it? Lets face it so many of us are happy to stand in crowded supermarkets, queue for tills etc. We will take the risk for a bog roll or an egg, so why not for people who are vulnerable.

Find out about Homeless Action Barnet here - https://www.habcentre.org/

Sunday, 22 March 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 22/03/2020

Our policy for this feature is no politics and no Covid-19 tweets, no empty supermarket shelves and no scare stories. We want this to be a little bit of light in a sad and lonely season. There have been easier weeks to put the feature together!

But we have managed to find a few gems, so here you go!


1. I suspect that the last sane rational tweet that will appear on Twitter before the meteorite strikes and wipes us all out will be from @Time_NW, one of our favourite accounts




2. And a great historical tweet from the Mill HilL Historical society


3. Want to see the tube line from Finsbury Park to Edgware reopened? If you do, then sign this petition!


4. This looks like a fun account, good to follow at times like these


5. There are some new train sidings at Cricklewood, opening soon to allow completion of the New Brent Cross station


6. If like me, you enjoy a walk across The Totteridge Valley, you'll enjoy Samuel Levy's latest tweet! We did the walk yesterday and have never seen so many people out for a stroll, all impeccably behaved and self isolating sensibly


7. In need of some spiritual uplifting?


8. and some words of sense from our local Rabbi in Mill Hill


9. Peter Walker is a great friend of this blog, our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and his guinea pigs! Get well soon Peter


10. Here's a doggy to cheer you up!



That's all folks

Saturday, 21 March 2020

The Saturday List #256 - Ten things to do during the lock down period

Many of us are at a loss what to do, as the usual things in life are taken away from us. If, like me, you rarely stay in and watch telly, and find quiz shows and programs like 'Flog it' insufferable, then you may find yourself at a loss. At times like this, we need to keep ourselves stimulated. There are only so many hours you can spend reorganising your vinyl collection or sorting out your cupboards. Many of us are time rich, for the first time in our lives, or for those my age, since we were teenagers. 

Although social media is a two edged sword, for times like this, it provides a vital link with the world. I have given up looking at Twitter for the latest Covid-19 scare story, and pictures of empty shelves. I will be blocking all such posts in future. Share good things, if you find a great film, or discover a new and amazing artist, share this. 

I thought I'd share ten things with you, that might make your life a bit better. I may do a few of these lists over the next few weeks and share some of your tips. Humans are social animals, we are not meant to socially isolate, so lets not pretend this won't be difficult. But together we can make it just a bit better. 

1. Watch a film.

Back in 2012, I made a list of my top ten - https://barneteye.blogspot.com/2012/06/saturday-list-3-my-top-10-films-of-all.html
These are all worth a  watch. I would probably make a different list today.  There are two films that I would definitely add. One is the best sports film of all time - The Keeper, the story of Bert Trautmann, the German POW who became a legend after playing in a cup final for Manchester City in 1957 with a broken neck. Whilst I knew the story of the final, the story of his journey from a despised figure, who's signing provoked riots to a hero is an amazing tale.

But the film that would take pride of place is an independent Australian film, made in 2006, that I only came across a few years ago because one of my musical hero's Ed Kuepper did the soundtrack. It is perhaps the most thought provoking, life affirming film you will ever see. It is a great film for these times. You can find it on YouTube.





2. Make a playlist.

One of the things I love about Spotify is that you can make and share your own play lists. Think of a theme. Here's one I prepared earlier, just to kick you off. This one is my Inspiration play list, different songs mean different things to different people, but all of these songs are songs I play when I need inspiration



3
. Scan your old pictures and share them with friends.
About five years ago, I started a family photo archive on Facebook, as I found a few old pictures in a biscuit tin. I invited my brothers  and sisters to join. There are now 43 members, cousins, aunties etc. It has  now downside. This is the last picture I posted, taken in my garden in 1966 with my Dad and sisters.



4. Go for a walk.
So long as you avoid people, why not go for a walk. London has many fine walks, if I lived in central London, I would walk to the Thames and go for a long walk along the Southbank. As I live in Mill Hill, today it will be Totteridge Valley. Mark Warren won a prize for this picture of the Valley






5. Brush up your musical skills.
If like me, you play a musical instrument, the time is a blessing. If you are out of inspiration, check out some of the amazing tuition videos on Facebook. Here are some the great ones you can get for Guitar.


https://guitarspace.org/tips/best-six-youtube-channels-for-free-guitar-lessons/

6. Meditate

Reducing stress is vital if you want to keep the body healthy. BBC Radio London's Jo Good did an innovative broadcast yesterday, to get us all relaxing and breathing!





7. Catch up on your reading.

Today the sun is shining, take advantage of it, but when the clouds come out, why not get reading

Back on May 2014, I put together a list of books you should read before you die.
When I looked at this list, which I've not thought about since I put it together, I was quite amazed. It is not my ten favourite books. It is something quite different, it is ten books that will make you think about important things in your life, even if some of them are not things you are interested in. At time such as this, it is really important to see if you need to refocus. I would suggest that you substitute, as your situation and life may require some of these, it was a personal list for me, that I hoped would provoke a bit of thought. 
https://barneteye.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-bank-holiday-list-10-books-you.html -

One book I was very much looking forward to reading was Mark Amies book about London's industrial past. The publishers have put back the launch until May.


8. Grow some vegetables

I'd advise anyone with a patch of garden to plant a few vegetables. Potatoes and tomatoes are easy to grow. Runner beans, peas, strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries are easy to grow. Tomatoes and cress can even be grown in Window boxes, if you get the right varieties. It will save you money and given  the shortages, it might really help you out in a few months. 

9. Cleanse your social media.
If like me, you follow many people on Twitter and Facebook, some of whom post things that do not make you feel good, or upset you, why not take the opportunity to go through and get rid of the negativity in your life.


10. Keep in touch with your neighbours.
You may be OK, but are your neighbours. We wrote a blog detailing ways that this can be done earlier this week. Have a look and see what you can do. I am pleased that in Mill Hill, we are getting organised.

https://barneteye.blogspot.com/2020/03/time-to-organise-our-local-community-to.html

That's all folks, stay safe!

Friday, 20 March 2020

The Friday Joke

Lets face it, things are grim. At times like this, we need cheering up. So here's a few to hopefully help put a smile back on your face.

Lets start with the Mill Hill Music Complex Friday Joke



As for the German Nation. They are stockpiling sausages, preparing for the Wurst!

Why did the Barnet Blogger buy a Hyena? So someone would laugh at their jokes

Have a great weekend!


.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Five actions that the government must take today to help household budgets

The government need to take action today to help people in dire financial distress. These times are unprecedented, so urgent action is needed. The public bailed out the banks in 2008, so it is now time for the banks to rescue the nation. There are five measures that the government should legislate on today.

1. Grant all personal bank customers an interest free overdraft of £1,000 for every month of the crisis.

2. Suspend all minimum payments and interest on credit cards for personal customers for the duration of the crisis.

3. Give rent guarantees to Landlords for private renters in distress

4. Suspend all domestic community charge payments for the duration of the crisis

5. Cancel all self assessment tax payments for everyone earning under £100,000 per annum

This will give certainty and comfort to everyone who is struggling. It is the absolute minimum we need to get through. We don't want the population to be saddled with debt, homeless or destitue.


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Time to organise our local community to address the corona virus

Covid-19
It is now clear that, as a community, we are going to change the way we live for the next few weeks/months.  We need various things organising, a local hardship fund, street level contacts for elderly and disabled neighbours, to ensure supplies. Protocols agreed for visiting/dropping deliveries for such people.

Many people want to do something, but are scratching their heads as to exactly what. I met with friends last night, and we discussed the matter. What we want to do is to take a few small, practical measures, that will hopefully make a big difference. It might even make us have a better community going forward.

Here is a list of practical suggestions.

1) Set up a street level WhatsApp group to stay in touch with neighbours - I live in Millway, so we talked last night about setting up a Millway group. Use this to make sure neighbours are looked after. Some elderly neighbours will not be internet savvy, so I suggest that we drop in a note giving your phone number and ask them to call you if they have any concerns. If each resident did this for one or two elderly/vulnerable neighbours, we could ensure that they are ok. We could also use it to swap cups of sugar, etc if any of us are short.

2) Pledge a small amount of money for a street level hardship fund. In my road, there are 120 homes. If each pledged a donation of £20 towards the fund, that would mean there was £2,400 available if anyone in the road was in urgent need. I hope this should never be needed, but it would give those who are terrified of not being able to feed themselves or afford soap/toilet rolls etc a degree of reassurance.

3) Why not offer to place orders on Deliveroo or other services for elderly neighbours, if they are having trouble cooking or getting supplies and do not know how to use such services.

4) Looking after pets. Many people who live alone have pets. Make sure that these are being looked after. This will most likely be a big worry for those self isolating.

5) Social media. Facebook and Twitter can be a massive help or the devil incarnate when it comes to crisis management. Posting alarmist messages etc does not help, please be mindful of what you post and what effect it had. There is no point posting "Be nice" if the next message you post is a diatribe against a friend or neighbour.

6) Respect rules introduced for greater social good. This morning, I was walking my dog past Iceland, during a period designated for exclusive shopping for elderly and infirm. I am sorry to report that it appeared that this was being completely ignored. Just imagine if it was your mother or grandmother being affected.

7) Loneliness is a major problem for those self isolating. Keep in touch with friends and neighbours. Have daily phone calls to check in. If you are aware of elderly neighbours birthdays, etc, make an effort to drop in a card (observing sensible protocols).


We also need to organise a co-ordinated effort to support our local businesses as best we can. For example, if you normally go for a curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori on a Friday night, but wish to avoid restaurants, order a takeaway. Many such restaurants only have licences for alcohol sales on site, but these should be relaxed to allow deliveries, so that they can deliver a bottle of Cobra or wine with the food, without risk of prosecution. 


The Barnet Eye has been talking to members of various political parties, including the Lib Dems, UKIP, Labour, The Greens and the Conservatives about how we respond as a community.



The consensus is that Barnet Council are now behind the curve and need to step up. The last message on their website (as of 8.35am on 18.3.2020) was posted on Friday.


I would suggest that Barnet Council licensing committee and the Police should issue such advice. I wrote to the leaders of Barnet Council this morning suggesting the following changes


I hope you are all keeping well. I was wondering if you could let me know the arrangements for businesses to take advantage of the governments rates relief proposal which was announced yesterday? I understand that the practical logistics will take a few days to sort out, but as a member of the Federation of Small Business, I would like to give an update to local members and other businesses of progress for hard pressed businesses, as to how and when this will be available.

If I may be so bold, there are two other measures I would like to suggest that may assist businesses (sadly not mine)

1. A temporary change to licensing laws, allowing restaurants that do not have off licences to supply alcohol with Deliveroo etc meals
2. A temporary relaxation of planning rules, allowing restaurants and pubs which do not have consent for delivery, to deliver food/drinks etc

These are unprecedented times and we need to be flexible to support businesses. It would be great if Barnet Council could lead the way. Now is the time to come together

There are other things that need to be done. I have volunteered for the Mill Hill Churches Homeless shelter this Sunday, doing an overnight shift at John Keeble Church, making sure the homeless have a place to sleep. Although there is a slight increase in my personal risk profile, if we do not support such schemes, we are throwing those at the bottom of the pile in our society under a bus. This morning I noted that the coffee bars in the Broadway were doing a brisk trade. If we can get a coffee, we can help the homeless.

I would welcome all other ideas as to our local, personal response. I will try and keep this blog updated as the ideas roll in.