The first August bank holiday blog I wrote for the Barnet Eye was 47 lessons for life. I wrote it when I was 47 years old. For every year I posted a lesson I'd learned and a commentary. I think most of us have learned more this year. It seems to me that maybe the list needed updating. So the first 47 entries are the original (with one or two minor edits) and the rest are the lessons I've learned since.
1962 - Jehovahs Witnesses is not the religion for me. This was the first lesson I learned on the day I was born. I was dragged kicking and screaming into this world nearly 7 weeks early, as a result of something called "blue baby" syndrome (caused by the Rhesus factor). These days it's cured by a simple injection but in 1962, I needed 4 blood transfusions to keep me alive. As such I can't join the JW's - they won't have me, even though I had no say in the matter. Tainted blood !
1963 - Pissing on the bluebells is the secret to success in life. I may not have spoken till I was 4, but I was potty trained by 1 years old. I saw my brother pissing on the bluebells at the bottom of the garden and though "I can do that"
1964 - When in doubt, say nothing. As I said, I was a very late talker. I spent 1964 just watching.
1965 - Spiders scare girls ! We used to have a decrepid old shed. In the shed, there lived a monstrous spider we used to call the crab. My sisters were mightily scared of the crab. Me, I was fascinated.
1966 - It's great to win the world cup. Not many people had a telly at that time. We did so we had loads of people round to watch the final. Not yet being 4 years old, I have memories of a great party because England won the world cup. I didn't really watch the football though, but I remember the fun we had. I thought to myself - football is fun, we'll do this every year.
1967 - If you want your cake, you have to demand it. Not having spoken at all, having been taken to clinics to test for deafness (& just been diagnosed as very stupid) I finally decided to talk. My first words were at the dinner table - "I wanna piece of cake" -as ever no manners and no please or thank you.
1968 - If you have to eat cold baked beans, eat cold baked beans. I was a child model/actor. My biggest success was a Heinz baked beans advert. "We can't go on holiday without the beans mum". I got the part because at the screen test, all the other kids refused to eat the plate of cold baked beans they were presented with. I heard them scream and wail and knew what had to be done. The director asked me "Do you like cold baked beans?" I replied "No, I'm acting"
1969 - Adverts are all lies. I did an advert for Lucozade. For those of you who only know modern styles of Lucozade, the original stuff was sold as a drink for people who were dying. Their slogan was "Lucozade AIDS recovery". They abandoned that when HIV appeared. Whilst I could stomach cold beans, Lucozade was a bridge too far. Never mind though, they just gave me a glass of Tizer instead.
1970 - England don't always win the world cup. Much to my surprise and horror, the Germans beat us in the quarter finals. The Germans ! How could this be? We'd beaten them in two world wars and a world cup final. We were clearly nobbled. Then I found out about Gordon Banks being ill. My fears were confirmed.
1971 - Never trust technology - I'd been fascinated by the space race, NASA and other such things. I can remember reading with excitement that NASA was sending a probe - Mariner 8 to Mars. It blew up on the Launch pad.
1972 - You won't rule - 1972 was the year I got music. Children of the Revolution by T Rex. The message (to me at least) was one of nihilism. As I was bottom of the class at everything I got it big time.
1973 - No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. I'd hated Primary School. I begged for release. I went to secondary school. Things got worse.
1974 - Hard work doesn't always get you anything at all. I'd decided that I'd try at school. We had a biology project. I worked really hard, went to the library, did my research. I still got a "D".
1975 - Beer is great. I went on my own to my first football match. West Ham Vs Manchester City. I hooked up with a group of City fans who took me to the pub and got me completely pissed. It was great.
1976 - Girls can make you behave completely out of character. This was the year in which I found that in the right circumstances, you could become extremely attracted to girls you didn't really fancy at all. This resulted in some extremely bizarre behaviour.
1977 - Punk Rock Rules - June 6th 1977 - I went to see the Ramones, The Talking Heads and the Saints at the Roundhouse. It changed my life. After that moment, nothing was ever quite the same again.
1978 - Take nothing for granted. I had a masterplan. I had been accepted for a Gas engineering scholarship. This meant that I'd go to college in Salford to do A-Levels then to University to do gas engineering. I'd be out of home, out of school, have money and a fresh start.I'd get paid a salary as well. I needed to pass 4 O-Levels including Maths. I'd got 96% in the maths mock. I did no more work and failed it. I got rejected.
1979 - Get a band. On moving to Orange Hill School, a plan came together. I'd wanted to form a band since seeing the Ramones. I didn't know how and couldn't play guitar. Pete Conway and I bought guitars in 1978. on 14th Feb 1979, we had the first rehearsal of the False Dots. It was truly shambolic. It was awesome. (Footnote: My folks had put all of the money I'd earned doing commercials and adverts into a bank account. I was allowed access at age 16. I'd immediately gone and bought a guitar and an amp. They were none too pleased.)
1980 - Don't trust your friends. We did our first gig this year. My very best friend, songwriting partner and co-founder of the False Dots, Pete Conway bottled out and didn't turn up for the gig. We got through it. We never looked back.
1981 - Follow that Girl to the ends of the Earth. The very best thing I ever did was to go with my mates Brian, Steve and Paul to Dingwalls in the summer of 1981. I saw a couple of Swedish girls there. One was my idea of the perfect woman. We ended up all going back to their hotel and drinking all night. I invited myself over to Stockholm to see her. I spent the last 3 months of 1981 over there and it was awesome.
1982 - Touring with your band is the best fun known to man. Whilst in Stockholm, I booked a tour for the False Dots, with a local band "The Gagget band". It was the best fun I've ever had.
1983 - Never owe a bad man a penny. Following our Swedish romp, I ended up with huge debts. We'd drunk the profits (and the money I'd borrowed to finance the tour). My Dad bailed me out. He made a simpel deal "You're my bitch until you've paid back every penny". I had to wash cars in the freezing cold and every week I had to pay him. He told me he was teaching me a harsh lesson. Still it was better than broken legs, which was the other alternative. In October 1983, I got a job in IT following a TOPS course, as I had to be free of debt. I gave the old man every penny of my first months salary in cash. He gave it back to me and said "I didn't want the money, I wanted you to learn". I didn't get it for a few years but I do now.
1984 - All your dreams can turn to dust. I started 1984 as positive as I could be. We had a fantastic singer - Venessa Sagoe. I had money, I had a stable relationship with someone I loved dearly. I ended the year single, with no band and in hospital having nearly died of a stomach bleed. I felt let down by everyone. I'd sold my soul for the band and they'd just walked when we were on the verge of great things. I found a few things out later which changed my view of the break up, but at the time I was bitter as hell. I still think they should have stuck it out though. As to the break up of my relationship. That was totally my fault. As to the failure of my health. That was down to my doctor prescribing a dodgy drug for an ear infection, which burned a hole in my stomach. Later, when I applied for health insurance and was denied, I got a copy of the report. It said it was down to excessive drinking. I've never trusted a Doctor since.
1985 - Never give up. Following the end of the Venessa Sagoe line up of the Dots, I was distraught. I spent a good six months just sitting at home practising the guitar. To be honest, that was when I really learned to play properly (one of the bugbears of my old bandmates). I got a new band together with Allen Lucas (now known as Allen Ashley a successful author) and bonkers drummer Graham Ramsey. In some ways this was the best line up of all, as we were truly unique.
1986 - Don't sell out. Following the departure of Allen Lucas who wanted to persue his teaching career and couldn't commit to a life of Rock and Roll debauchery, a rather unpleasant character known as Mark the Fascist turned up. He was a great singer, but a truly repugnant person. He was a devious scheming conniving toad. He engineered the sacking of my great friend, bonkers drummer Graham Ramsey, changed the name of the band to "Urban Dance" and we expanded to being a 9 piece, with a brass section. I despised the whole thing and never recorded the gigs in my scrapbook. I just kept going because I felt I had to. I should have never agreed to his joining in the first place. I believe he added nothing at all. Sadly I found myself lumbered in a business partnership with him, through the studios till 1994. I fell out permenantly with my best friend as a result of his connivings. When Graham Ramsey got diagnosed as bonkers, he asked me where Mark lived as he wanted to murder him. He said "I'm certified now so it doesn't matter." I never condone violence, but for a moment I seriously thought of telling Graham.
1987 - Cherish the people you love. My dad died in January 1987. I thought he was indestructable. He had a heart attack and was gone. We had massive rows, but there was huge love between us. I just wish I'd spent a bit more time with him. In 1986 he had his gall bladder removed and when I saw him he looked like death. I prayed "please lord, let him get better so can take him out for a curry, just once". He made a great recovery, I took him for the curry, then he flew out to Florida. That was the last time I saw him.
1988 - Keep having parties - My mum was devastated by my Dad dying. I didn't know how to cheer her up, so I had a barbeque for the family. She smiled for the first time in a year when everyone turned up. We got horribly drunk and the world was sort of OK for a short while. After that I always tried to have another party to look forward to.
1989 - Sometimes it's the mad people who are right. We were having a rehearsal. By this time, I had no energy for the band. I was exhausted and could see no point to any of it. We were just doing it out of habit. Graham Ramsey, our drummer had a mate called Buddah. Buddah used to come down, watch us play, and get really stoned. He never said anything. Rehearsals were often just long, free form jam sessions. At one rehearsal, Buddah brought down his pet tarantuala. He sat in the corner smoking joint after joint, with a tarantual on top of his head. At this point I was at a real low. Afterwards, Graham said to me that it was our best reheasal ever. His words "What could be better than better than rehearsing with a bloke in the corner with a poisonous spider on his head"
1990 - Sometimes, enough is enough. In 1990 I put the guitar down for ever. I'd had enough. I wanted to concentrate on the studio and having a life. We'd found a great singer called Tony, who I really liked, but we just couldn't make it work. I realised that if that wouldn't work, nothing would. Time for a change.
1991 - Follow the cash. I formulated my masterplan. The studio had been tottering along, going nowhere for too long. We had a great a facility but as we had a gang of four running it, we could decide nothing. On top of that , one of the four was a very destructive influence, who added nothing, yet sought a veto on everything. I'd been working at a large company in IT for a while and they offered me redundancy and a payoff. I took it, then got a juicy contract. I worked out a plan to buy my partners out. I figured that if I did 2 years of contracting, I'd be in a position to sort it out. That gave me the opportunity to get experience of running a company properly.
1992 - If you see an opportunity, grab it. In 1991 a band called "The Sway" started to rehearse at the studio. I thought they were great and as I had plenty of cash & contacts at the time, thought it was a great opportunity to get into management. I managed them for 2 1/2 years. I spent over £100,000 on promoting them. I didn't get a penny back. They had 2 national tours, were BBC WM band of the week. They did 2 singles, which got substantial airplay. Do I regret it? Not at all. You have to pay for your education and I think the lessons I learned there were quite cheap. The main one? If you have a good accountant, a loss isn't what you thought it was.
1993 - Right time, right place isn't always enough. The main reason I'd got involved with The Sway was because I felt the time was right for a guitar based indie band. I was right. The trouble was, that band was Oasis.
1994. Bad people have no place in your life. This was the year I bought my ex partners out of the studio and I was finally rid of Mark the Fascist. Ernie Ferebee came in as my new partner in the studio. I put to him my business plan. Within 5 years, we'd take the studios from 2 rooms to 5 rooms and a shop. We spent the next 3 years rummaging through skips, working till 3 in the morning (often whilst doing a 9-5 IT contract) but we hit our target 2 years early. Buying out my partners and getting in Ernie was the 2nd best decision of my life.
1995 - Treat those you love properly. I've had a few great relationships in my life. They've all ended badly because I can be a complete dickhead. All apart from one and even that had a serious gap between 1992 and 1994 (down to me being a bad person). In Feb 1994, my good lady showed me a little piece of plastic and said "is that line blue". We married a couple of months later. My daughter Madeleine was born in October. Of all the decisions I've made, being with Clare is the best (hope she feels the same).
1996 - You've got to work on your dreams. Small baby, struggling business. What do you do? You work your nuts off. This was the make or break year for the studio. We went from 2 to 4 studios. Studio 3 was a massive project and 90% of the materials we used were recovered from skips. Only nails, plaster cement and sand was bought in. I learned to lay bricks & decorate at school. Ernie was a plasterer. I had no social life at all in 1996. I was laying bricks on Xmas day.
1997 - You have to take a chance to get anywhere. We decided to open the shop. As neither of us had any retail background, we didn't know where to start. Many mistakes were made. As we fitted out the shop ourself, we fitted it out and stocked it on a budget of £8,000. Half of the stock was my own guitars and amps, just put in to make it look like we had some stock. It worked.
1998 - Give people a chance. This was the year we launched our recording studio. Caroline Stratten had just finished at Leeds Uni and wanted to get into music. I offered her bad wages, lots of hassle and mad customers. I just asked for a commitment to stay a year and said I'd pay for her to do a course. She did a fine job, stayed 18 months and got us off the ground. She's now a VT editor and does live football for Sky.
1999 - Never say never. In 1990, I'd hung up the guitar for good. I'd said "That's it". In 1999, a couple of the guys who worked for me at the studios, Tony and Fil persuaded me to have a jam. I really enjoyed it. I decided that as we had a studi, I'd get Paul our old bassplayer and record some of our old songs. That was it, The False Dots were alive again.
2000 - Life can bite your arse really hard. At the start of 2000, life was great. My mum had found happiness with a new partner and was going away on 4 cruises a year, the studio's and the shop were flourishing. My son was born to add to daughters Madeleine and Lizzie. We'd taken to going on holidays with my mum, sometimes taking Clare's folks. Ernie was doing a fantastic job at the studios. He'd married his partner Michelle and had three great kids. In August 2000, Ernie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with a prognosis of 3 months. He lasted till February 2001. To make matters worse, my mum had a stroke in December. She went from being a lively, attractive, articulate woman, enjoying he life, to an unhappy invalid. She lost the ability to speak and all self confidence. We'd had a big party to celebrate the millenium. There was no party at all for new year 2001.
2001 - Life is precious. In September 2000, I'd decided to go to Lourdes in France as a helper with a group of handicapped adults, the following year. There was no real reason for this, other than my continual need to challenge myself. I go to church, but I'm really not a deeply religious or spiritual person. As I went, I was rather angry with God. he'd stolen my best friend, he'd robbed my mum of her faculties. I found myself with a group of strangers, in a situation I wasn't even sure I wanted to be in. I will share a terrible secret. When I wentto Lourdes, I went wishing my mum had died when she had her stroke. I thought that her life had been degraded to a point where it was worthless. Spending a week with some terribly disabled people, changed my opinion. I cam back realising that I had a personal responsibility to help her enjoy her twighlight. Many people see care as a physical thing. I disagree, I see it as a spiritual thing. I promised that I would never leave her house without making her smile. Many people who are carers think "I've wiped their arse, that's enough". It isn't. You have to make the people you care for be glad to be alive. I love life, I've made terrible mistakes, but it's so precious.
2003 - Second time around can be better. We did a few gigs in 2003. We asked my old mate Boz Boorer who plays with Morrissey to join us for a couple. I actually realised that I was enjoying the band. Even more strangely, I realised that there was no pressure. We didn't want a record deal, so we could just enjoy the music and express ourselves. Friends who saw us first time round all said we're better now. I started recording that long awaited album. It's still in process and it's getting better all the time.
2004 - Enjoy your children when they are young. I took a decision to take my foot off the gas with work and spend a bit more time with the kids. For a year, I walked them up to school and walked them home. We collected conkers, we goofed in the park. Most guys never do it. If it was a nice day, I'd drop them at school at the Ridgeway, then go for a walk around the fields between Mill Hill and Totteridge. Most working men miss all of this. Fools.
2005 - Miracles can happen. What is a miracle? The type that impress me are the ones, not where someone is suddenly cured of cancer (well that would, but you know what I mean). They are things which you though wouldn't happen. In 2001 I went to Lourdes and prayed for my mum. I went wishing she'd died when she had her stroke. I came home, determined to make her twighlight years as happy as I could. In 2005, my mum accompanied me back to Lourdes. At an evening service, she stood up and lit a candle and said a prayer for my dad. If you had seen her on December 17th 2000 when she had the stroke, you'd realise how much of a miracle that was. That was the best she was following her stroke. For a short while, I thought she might get back completely. I was wrong but that was a pretty good time.
2006 - Age changes nothing. My Missus turned 40. She's just as great as she was when she was 19, when we first met. It's not age that changes you, it's illness and bad things. I see somne people I know having a mid life crisis. They buy the Porshe, they get the young girlfriend. Now that's their business, but if Mrs T kicked me out (which heaven knows she should have years ago), I'd want someone who had lived, someone with experience, someone who got what I was talking about. On the plane home from Florida, I read John Lydon's book No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. His partner (for the last 30 years) is 19 years older than him. I get that.
2007 - If you fall down, you've got to pick yourself up and keep going. Just as I thought my mum was getting over her stroke, she had a fall and broke her hip. She nearly died. She had to have an emegency op. She then was transferred to Finchley Memorial hospital for rehab. There she caught C-Diff. She nearly died again. She was so out of it at one stage that she thought my daughter Madeleine was her brother Jimmy (which rather upset Maddie). She had wierd and vivid hallucinations, which she told me about months after. She was never the same after that, but boy did she fight. I wish I had half the fight in me that my mum had. She didn't moan about it, she just got on with it.
2008 - You have to fight. This was the year that I realised that the people running the NHS, the Council & the Government are a bunch of self serving leeches. Not the people on the ground doing the work, but the people at the top. I had first started to realise this at easter 2007, when Barnet Council outsourced the Meals on Wheels contract, but hadn't realised just how bad it was. The full horror became apparent when I started writing a blog on the Hendon Times. Just because I had the temerity to criticise the Council, they pulled out every trick in the book to shut me down. Eventually they succeeded, but not before they'd totally convinced me that all of the shenanigans they get up to need to be exposed.
2009 - There is never enough time. Last year, in May my wifes Dad died. He was quite old and had become very infirm. He died at home, but for the last couple of year he was attended every day by carers. One of these was a Nigerian guy called Olu. Whatever people tell you about Nigerians, I'd say Olu is an outstanding human being. I feel honoured to call him a friend. In August 2008 my Mum died. I was in LA at the time. She'd lost her eyesight and was deeply unhappy. I didn't want her to die. I was really sad, but her time had come. In January this year, Clare's mum, who was a young 75 year old was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She lasted till March. Wheras her dad and my mum had reached their time, she hadn't. It seemed rather cruel. We're now both orphans. Cherish those you love. There's never enough time.
**** And the lessons learned since.
2010 - You may be working for the forces of evil and not even realise it!
A very difficult lesson. I spent the first four months of the year slogging my guts out, earning no money, campaigning for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill. Although we lost, the party immediately went in to coalition with David Cameron, a situation I'd never considered. The ultimate outcome of the coalition was that Cameron held the referendum, quit and ultimately we ended up with Boris running us during a pandemic. Labour lost by 103 votes in Hendon, ejecting Andrew Dismore and letting in Matthew Offord. If I knew what would happen, I think I'd have held my nose and campaigned for Labour.I'm sure the work I put in could have swung 103 votes in Mill Hill. Would it have stopped what has happened, most likely no, but I'd feel less Catholic guilt.
2011 - It's not just other people that get cancer.
This was the year I was diagnosed with Cancer. I have made some big lifestyle changes and I'm still here. It has been a learning process.
2012 - Dreams really can come true (very occasionally).
One word - Aguerooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!
If you don't get it, I can't explain it.
2013 - Footballing authorities really are useless.
I saw first hand the complete lack of interest that the footballing authorities have for youth and grassroots football. My son was playing for Watling Youth and I realised thatyouth football exists almost in spite of rather than because of the people who run it. The industry generates billions, but for people from homes where the parents are not interested and won't spend money on boots etc, expect no help from the rich people in lush offices who run the show.
2014 - The weakest in our society will always suffer the most when times are hard.
This was the year Barnets Tories tried to cut funding for Mapledown special school. It was a horrible poliy and thank the lord, two Tory backbench councillors blocked the horrible cut. It may not surprise you to learn neither are now Tory Councillors.
2015 - For some people intelligence is not a good thing
This was the year Richard Dawkins made his comments that it was immoral not to abort foeteses with Downs syndrome. As someone who has a cousin I love very much, who is my age and has Downs syndrome, this was hurtful and upsetting. I wonder how many parents and siblings his comments hurt. I concluded that Dawkins has a bit too much intelligence and a lot to little humanity.
Myself with my cousin in France
2016 - Trump vs Clinton. That was the choice for the USA, the most powerful nation on earth. There are 280 million people there. They collectively decided that was the best choice. I really can't say any more on that issue.
2017 - Music gets better with age.
I saw some absolutely cracking gigs in 2017. Some of the bands, I'd first seen in 1977 (the Vibrators and 999). There truly is hope for us all.
2018 - Mill Hill has a proper sense of community.
We saw a tragic murder in Mill Hill in January 2018. The community rallied around, there was a very moving multi faith service and a large sum of money raised for the family of the murdered shopkeeper. I was proud of opur community.
2019 - Fooling some of the people some of the time can be enough.
This was the year the Conservative Party chose Boris Johnson to lead them and we elected him with a massive majority. I knew no one who actually thought Boris was a principled person, hard working or had the skills required to be PM. We've seen the result, but in a funny way maybe it should give us all hope. Maybe I will still play centre half for England at Wembley one day!
2020 - In reality, we live our lives on the edge of a cliff.
At the start of the year, none of us had a clue what was just around the corner. Many of us were worrying about Brexit, not realising that by the time we left, the economy would already be devastated, many of us would have lost beloved friends and relatives. In reality we spend our lives walking the footpath by the edge of the cliff, in the dark.
What is the big lesson though? Don't be afraid to be who you really are