Wednesday 30 September 2020

Barnets upgrade to street lighting

 Barnet Council is currently upgrading its street lighting to use LED lights. This will result in a massive saving in both energy, maintenance and costs to the taxpayer. 

The council are stating that it will save £750,000 per annum. The new LED lighting will provide a better and brighter source of white light for pedestrians and motorists. Colours will appear more distinguishable so that objects look sharper and clearer at night, making the night time environment more attractive, and making it easier to drive safely. The new LED lighting will be more directional, concentrating light into the road and footway so that less light pollution reaches residents’ homes and gardens. They will also make it easier for CCTV cameras to pick up clear images of people’s faces after dark, improving the security of the borough. The council will cut over 3,500 kilowatts per hour from its energy consumption after the new street lighting has been installed – a significant reduction to its carbon footprint. In addition, the new LED lanterns will have smart controls with functions that include an alert system to provide advanced notification when a streetlight is not functioning properly. The major phase of the conversion programme will begin in mid-November, though a small number of LED lanterns have already been installed in the High Barnet area. The remainder will be installed on a ward-by-ward basis across the borough’s 26,000 streetlights, with work expected to be finished by the end of October 2020.

We've seen some ill informed comments about "Barnet Council wasting money". Although we are often critical of Barnet, we are fully supportive of this initiative. 

There are some issues that have been identified. One  elderly Mill Hill resident contacted the Barnet Eye and explained that the new lights were disturbing her sleep. I am pleased to report that after a couple of emails to Barnet Council, curtains have been fitted and the output lowered, so she can now get a good nights sleep (many thanks to Paul in the street light department).

If you have any queries or problems, please email Barnet at  streetlighting.CCU@Barnet.gov.uk

External link Feel free to email us and let us know if you have any problems.

The Wednesday Poem - The end of September



The end of September

Tomorrow will be a new month,
Goodbye to the worst month of the worst year.
The month with no name, 
The month with nothing to endear.
The nights get darker,
The mornings get miserable,
Is there anything good?
It's all so risible
September is ending
Thank God

This is a subject I've covered before. I hate September. It was the month that school restarted, which I always hated. The days get colder, damper and darker. This year it is even worse as Toots passed away. The sound of the summer. The barbecue gets put away, the winter coat comes out. It's all down hill from here for the rest of the year

Sunday 27 September 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 27/09/2020

 Is it me, or is the world becoming more bizarre every day. I think this is reflected on a rather strange set of tweets that we showcase this week. There are many things I never thought I'd see. Maybe the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are sending us all mildly bonkers, there's a good conspiracy theory for you! Anyway, without further ado, here is our selection

1. We start with a question I never thought I'd see get asked, the answer is quite interesting!


2. I suspect the question may work better in Colindale. Who would have thought this 30 years ago?


3.Or even 80 years ago! Colindale was very different in 1940, the whole world was


4. For me at least, this was the funniest tweet of the week


5. I think we all share the sentiments of Hendon RFC


6. A bit harsh, Scott is actually only 46, a wee slip of a lad. Hope for us all!


7. Amongst all the madness, a a little bit of sanity and order in Childs Hill. Great work as well


8. Just in case you ever wondered what the new track layout for the BrentCross West station would look like


9. The last of the Mill Hill corn crop looking rather forlorn


10. Great to see that Ballet lessons have resumed in Mill Hill



That's all folks!!

Saturday 26 September 2020

The Saturday List #281 - Ten Drinks that were so 1970's

 The 1970's were a very pivotal decade in many ways. We started the decade with Harold Wilson in charge of the country and ended it with Margaret Thatcher. We started as World Cup holders and ended it with a team that couldn't even qualify for the tournament, the UK's interest in the tournament was with Scotland with Ally's Army. The Barnet Eye has been looking at how our tastes changed in this unique decade. We started with a blog detailing how the British discovered food in the 1970's, last week we listed the foods that seemed exotic in the 1970's. This week, it's the turn of drinks. Of all the lists I've put together, this was one of the ones I've enjoyed most. I was 8 in 1970 and 18 at the end of 1979. It was the decade where I discovered the joys of drinking and the hell of the hangover. For the record, the first time I went in the pub on my own was in 1975. I went to Upton Park to watch Manchester City play West Ham. I hooked up with a bunch of tough Mancunian dockers, who took me under their wing and bought me four pints of bitter in the pub before and after. I was thirteen and it was the best day of my life, although City lost, it was a truly great experience being "one of the lads". I realised that I wanted to spend a lot of my time in pubs. They were very different then. They were owned by breweries and existed to sell the brewery's beer. They were smoky and full of men. At the pub we went into, West Ham and City fans mingled and shared tales of mutual dislike of various football neighbours. The beer pub sold was bitter. The term lager was prefixed with the word "fancy" by my new found City friends. When I got home, I was, shall we say, mildly inebriated. My Dad thought it was hilarious, my mother less so. She immediately banned me from going to football, a ban that lasted until City played in London again. Beer was central to British working culture, but what were the drinks we drank in the 1970's.

Here is my journey through the 1970's in drink

1. Cresta. 


Cresta was a sort of pink gloop that allegedly tasted of strawberry. It was fizzy and I'd probably throw up if I drank some now. But we thought it was cool. It was promoted by the Cresta bear, who was cool and wore sunglasses. My memories of it were of attending Alter Servers meetings at the Sacred Heart and then adjourning to the news agents where Yogopink now stands and buying Cresta and sweet cigarrettes (remember them?) with my mates, John McGeough and Pete Conway. We thought we were acting very grown up and cool. (Pic Nostalgia Central)

2. Top Deck Limeade and Lager. 


We then found that we could actually buy real alcohol as kids. We moved on up to Top deck Limeade and Lager. From memory it contained less than .5% alcohol, so you'd have to drink a hell of a lot to even feel mildly inebriated, but it seemed dangerous and edgy at the time. There was nothing for kids to do in Mill Hill, so sitting on  a bench in the Broadway drinking Top Deck Limeade and Lager seemed to be pretty cool. We'd recite T-Rex songs and discuss football. We all bough Parka coats and called ourselves the Parka brigade. Smiths cheese and onion crisps were the snack of choice, although when they did tomato sauce flavoured crisps, we preferred that for a while. One of our mates had a Raleigh Chopper, which seemed the height of cool and was the aspiration of the Parka Brigade. I never got one, my Dad bough me a racing bike, which in hindsight was a much better choice. My mod phase soon passed.  (Pic Cheerful Nomad)

3. Warnincks Advocaat Snowball.


The first thing of real alcoholic content I ever enjoyed in the 1970's was a Snowball. A mixture of Advocaat and lemonade. My sister Catherine had tried it and Xmas 1972 was all about Snowballs. It seemed to be the most amazing drink in the world, given the way it explosively fizzed up. It was advertsised on telly and seemed glamorous and exotic. The fact it tasted a bit like sick really didn't bother anyone back in the day.  

It seemed that if something was on telly it must be wonderful. (Pic London Unattached)

4. Long Life Beer.


My mum's beer of choice was Guinness, but as a kid I couldn't stand the stuff. Perrys wine merchants in the Broadway would deliver three crates a week to our house. After my mother nearly died of cancer in 1970, she was told, on doctors orders, to drink as much Guinness as she could and would polish off up to eight pints a night. It worked, she lived until 2008, no one survived the operation she had longer. She was her surgeons celebrity patient. In 1985, he got her in for a whole series of tests to find out how she survived. It seemed that she'd more or less completely recovered from having her stomach removed and grown a new one, much to his surprise. When he asked about how she got through, she revealed her alcohol consumption. He was shocked and suggested that a limit of three pints a day now may be prudent. As I didn't like the stuff, her supply was safe, but my Dad quite liked lighter beers. Back in the day, the only tins on sale seemed to be Ind Coope Long Life ale. He'd always have a few tins in the fridge, When I was about 12 I started to help myself to the odd one. I'd sit in the shed, with my mates and drink it. We'd discuss football and girls we knew. It was that awkward age, where if you revealed a crush on anyone, you ran the risk of your mates going "Yuk" and teasing you. I kept quiet as most of the girls I fancied were my mates sisters. There was one girl, who was the sister of a mate from St Vincents we all agreed was very fanciable. She later became my optician. I joked to her that she'd caused many of the problems with my eyesight ( I used to sit next to her at St Vinnies), and she sternly informed me that that theory was a myth. Whenever I see her, I always think of those naΓ―ve conversations over tins of Long Life in the shed. I am not sure if you can still get Long Life beer, I've not drunk it since about 1978. (Pic Untapped)

5. Watneys Red Barrel.


Watneys Red Barrel seemed to be the beer of the future in the mid 1970's. It was promoted heavily on TV and there was all sorts of merchandise, everyone seemed to have Watneys Red Barrel key rings. I probably drank Red Barrel on my first trip to the pub watching West Ham, although I'm not sure. I definitely know when I drank my last pint. When I was in Stockholm in 1981, my girlfriend took me, as a treat, to the British Pub, that served real British beer. To my horror, it served Watneys Red Barrel. Not only that, but it served it chilled. The rumour was this pub had bought up the entire world stock of Red Barrel and had enough for the next 100 years. One of the advantages of red barrel was that it didn't go off, although  in truth, it tasted so awful, you couldn't really tell. It was the beer that inspired the Campaign for Real Ale. Watneys Brewery was seen as the devil by real ale fans. To be honest I loved the branding. If they'd come up with a decent beer, Mr Watney would have conquered the world. (Pic Flashback.com)

6. Watneys Party seven.


Watneys Party Seven was the other prong of Watneys plan to conquer the world. It was a seven pint can, Watneys had cunningly calculated that this was just the right amount to get a young man bladdered. It tasted disgusting, but in the mid 1970's was the beer you took to a party. I recall turning up to a party in the late 1970's with a tin in each hand. It was at the house of one of my sister Carolines mates. As I walked up the stairs, a drunken Scotsman saw me and smacked me in the face as hard as he could. As I didn't want to drop the tins, I had a dilemma. Luckily, when he saw that I was unhurt by his best effort, he ran away. I was bemused. It turned out, he was one of the flatmates and had thought I was nicking his Party 7 stash. I instantly developed an aversion to Party 7, deciding that it must cloud the judgement. Sadly I never got to punch his lights out, as he ran away and hid for the rest of the evening. I had a rather magnificent black eye. 

The joys of teenage parties in the 1970's. There's a nice write up on the beer at Retrowow (thanks for the pic). In todays money a Party 7 cost £9, so it really wasn't that cheap for a big tin of disgusting beer.


7. Bulls Blood.


Sometime around 1978, I discovered the joys of 1970's wines. The first of these was a delectable little number from Hungary called Bulls Blood. It had two rather endearing properties. It got you hammered and gave you a proper hangover. My sister Caroline was going out with a local biker and he had a taste for Bulls Blood. He introduced me to, prior to that I'd always thought wine was for the upper classes. Mum and Dad would serve it with dinner if they were trying to impress someone. Bulls Blood seemed like a 'wine for the people', so I felt it was far more acceptable. I soon realised it was not a great drink if you wanted to be a functional human being. 

The poster from the Advertising Archives gives some clue as to the target demographic. In 1982 I worked for a Hungarian decorator called Mickey Domegal, who started telling me about how marvellous Hungarian wines were. I mentioned Bulls Blood and he nearly sacked me on the spot, ranting that I was a moron for the best part of an hour. As a punishment, I was sent to dispose of a wasps nest in the loft of the house we were renovating. 

8. Black Tower.


Of all the drinks mentioned, this is perhaps the one which I have fondest memories of. Sometime around 1978, a girl I had a passing interest in bumped into me in Edgware and  asked me she could borrow a couple of my favourite punk albums. This seemed like a rather nice way to spend an afternoon, as she was very good company so I told her I'd nip back to my house, get them and nip over. To me great surprise, when I turned up, she told me her parents were away for the weekend. Not only that, but she produced a bottle of Black Tower from the fridge. There is something about listening to punk rock, drinking black tower on a Saturday afternoon, with a woman of exceptional beauty that simply cannot be bettered. Sadly, I have never found a bottle of black tower that tasted as good since, I long since stopped searching. 

(Pic Brutalhammer.com)

9. Blue Nun.


No tour of the 1970's beverage industry would be complete without the famous Blue Nun wine. There was a period in the  mid 1970's where this was the accompaniment of choice for my mothers culinary experiments with fish dishes. As I didn't really like her fish dishes or Blue Nun, I didn't have fond memories of it. One thing that I did recall was when my parents returned from a trip to Australia in 1977, having been there for six months. My Dad had told me that he'd been to a restaurant and ordered some Blue Nun, as it was his favourite with his meal. It was very expensive being an import. The restaurateur asked him if he'd ever tried Aussie wines. My Dad, who was and Aussie who left in 1942 to fly for the RAF and was on his first trip back said "No", thinking Aussie wine was muck. The bloke persuaded him to try some and to his delight, it was far superior to the Blue Nun. We never had it in the house again. 

(Pic Brutalhammer.com

10. Cinzano Bianco.

There really was only one place I could end this. Perhaps the best TV ad ever. Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. It seemed that every house in the country had a bottle of Cinzano in the 1970's. I suspect that every house had bought one as a result of this ad, had one sip and left it on the shelf. Even when teenagers had parties when parents were out, the Cinzano would not be touched. Did anyone actually like it? What was interesting about the 1970's is just how few of the drinks were actually nice. It was all style over substance.  That was the beauty of the 1970's, everything was rubbish, but it all seemed great at the time! Cinzano was the perfect example


Have a great weekend. 

Friday 25 September 2020

The Friday Joke - This one isn’t funny

 Yesterday, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced his ‘Job Protection Scheme’ mk 2. He has stated that it is only there to support ‘viable jobs’. Sadly his definition of a viable job, bears no relationship to a job that needs supporting to be preserved. There are at least a couple of million jobs which are not currently viable, due to the policies of his government. 

When the Covid crisis abates, there will be a call for such workers, but firms will have closed and the opportunity will have gone. The jobs he will support, probably don’t require support, because, as he says, they are viable. As someone who works in the creative sector, many people I know have been directly affected. Heres a few industries that were viable last year and are currently effectively shut down. Theatres, Live music venues, indoor 5-a-side football pitches, event and conference centres, live sports venues, clubs, city of London restaurants, to name a few. last year, these were doing fine, next year, if we get a vaccine and covid abates, they'll be viable. But right now, the staff have been thrown to the wolves.


It is a complete joke, but it isn’t funny

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Totteridge Valley Specials - 1. Interesting Insects

 I am indebted to a good friend of this blog, Samuel Levy for the amazing pictures here. Regular readers of our Tweets of the week will know Samuel regularly features. He is best known for his pictures and blogs featuring local (and not so local) birds. Samuel recently tweeted a picture of a Wasp spider that caught my imagination. I asked Samuel if he'd be so kind as to send me a few pictures of other interesting insects that you may happen upon in the Valley. I was not disappointed I hope that you enjoy these and if you have your own, please share them with us. 

Lets start with the Spider that started the whole thing off. This is Samuels pic of a Wasp Spider in the Totteridge Valley

The Wasp Spider

Putting the scary appearance aside, this is a magnificent spider.   The Wildlife Trusts website says - 
"The wasp spider is a very large, colourful spider that is a recent arrival in the UK from the continent and has slowly spread over the south of England. It builds large orb webs in grassland and heathland, and attaches its silk egg-sacs to the grasses. The web has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle, known as a 'stabilimentum', the function of which is unclear. Mating is a dangerous game for males; they wait at the edge of the web until the female has moulted into a mature form, then take advantage of her jaws being soft and rush in to mate. However, many males still get eaten during this time."

European Hornet. 


Whenever we hear the word "Hornet" we always imagine a terrifying large insect. However the Sussex wildlife trust are keen to correct this misconception. They say "There's little doubt that the European hornet, Vespa crabro, is a rather fearsome looking insect. But this ferocious exterior betrays a species that is in fact rarely aggressive. Unlike their infamous relatives, hornets are unlikely to disrupt your picnic. Their sheer size - between 2-3 cm's for workers and males, 3-4 cm's for queens - and riotous buzz can however make them an intimidating proposition. They're our largest and most impressive eusocial wasp species, displaying the very highest level of organisation of animal sociality and frequently more than doubling the size of our more familiar common wasp, Vespular vulgaris. Both belong to the order Hymenoptera, comprising bees, wasps, ants and sawflies. " They continue 
"Hornets can of course potentially pack a punch. They harness a sting typical of their family group, though it's non-barbed and won't be pulled from the hornets body, unlike that of a honey bee. It's used predominantly in defence of the hive. The sting doesn't contain high levels of toxic species-specific compounds that tend to be wielded by invasive Asian hornets, and it's toxicity is on average lower than that of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. It is of course worth noting that stings can still trigger allergic reactions, and those susceptible to wasp venom will likely suffer the same from hornets. But the simple fact is that the European hornet is a docile creature, avoiding conflict and rarely displaying any form of aggression unless the nest is approached or the colony is threatened. It suffers from an undeserved reputation."

Rose Chafer.

The UK Safari website says of the Rose Chafer 

"Rose Chafers are one of our larger and more attractive beetles. The upper surfaces are an iridescent emerald green and bronze colour. The underside is a bronze colour. There are ragged white marks running widthways across the wing casings which look like fine cracks. Rose Chafers are surprisingly furry. Even the wing casings which look very smooth and shiny are covered in tiny hairs. Rose Chafers are usually seen in on warm sunny days feeding on pollen and nectar. 

Their favoured plant, as their name suggests, is the rose. "

Meadow Grasshopper. 

We often hear these but don't get to appreciate their beauty. The Wildlife Trust has this to say about them 

"The Meadow grasshopper is a resident of mainly damp, unimproved pastures and meadows. Grasshoppers go through a series of moults, from wingless nymphs to winged adults, shedding their exoskeletons as they grow. Nymphs are present from April onwards, turning into adults in June who feed on plants and grass. Males can be seen displaying to females by rubbing their legs against their wings to create a 'song' - in the case of the Meadow grasshopper, this is a regular 'rrrr' sound. After mating, the eggs are laid in the soil in a pod, ready to hatch the following spring."

Willow Emerald Damselfly


A non native species, seen recently around Darlands Lake, The British Dragonfly Society says of the Willow Emerald Damselfly

 "Usually near ponds, canals or other still water with overhanging trees. Willow Emerald Damselfly has a characteristic habit of spending much time up in the trees. The eggs are laid into the bark of willow or alder." 


Just a decade ago, the Willow Emerald Damselfly had only been reliably recorded in the UK on 2 occasions, in 1979 and 1992. A single individual was then recorded in south east Suffolk during 2007, followed in 2009 by a sudden boom of 400 records of the species from this same general area (SE Suffolk/NE Essex). Since this time, the Willow Emerald has spread rapidly across the south-east of England, gaining footholds in new counties on a yearly basis. The natural colonisation and spread of this damselfly in the UK is incredible. It is important we track the species in order to understand how it is spreading so rapidly and what might limit the species in the future. For this reason, the BDS have developed the ‘Willow Emerald Watch’ project."

The Barnet Eye finds the wildlife of the Totteridge Valley and the wider London Borough of Barnet fascinating. It is very much our intention, with a little help from our friends, to bring this to life in the coming weeks and months. Finally a very big thanks once again to Samuel for his amazing pictures. I learned something, which can only be good. I thoroughly recommend following him on twitter  at https://twitter.com/FinchleyBirder and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/samuelnature85/







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Tuesday 22 September 2020

Government covid dithering is destroying businesses and the economy

We've now been living in the covid world for six months. I'll let you in on a little secret. In the last week of February, my studio business was 7% up on the same week in 2019. Things were looking very positive for us. We were planning a major building project having been doing the rounds on the funds raising circuit. We'd formed a partnership with another company and had exciting plans for expanding our music services offering in Mill Hill. A month later we were closed. In some ways the timing of Covid for us was fortuitous. As we'd been planning to demolish two of our studios and new that we'd be working on restricted income for a period, we'd not been doing our normal capital reinvestments. This meant we had a small pot of money saved which meant we were not faced with oblivion as a business. Government measures also helped. When we reopened in June, we had a clear roadmap abck to normal operation by October. We were aware that this would not be our normal turnover, but our assumption was that we'd have a clear idea of what the financial terrain was like. 

So where are we now as a business. We await an annoucement from Boris at 8pm, which may or may not have catastrophic consequences for our business. We are well run and we put strategies in for managing business risks, but no business can deal with the chaotic changes in policies. Last month we were being given a bung to "Eat out to help out". This month the very same sector is expecting harsh restrictions on operating hours, that will destroy all of the gains of August.

Toi give some idea of where we are,  less than two weeks from October. Last week, our turnover was around 68% of what it was in the same week in 2019. This week, it is currently around 40%. Since the press conference by the studios top scientists, we've taken no bookings. We would normally take 10-20 a day.

 The constant talk of lockdowns and other measures has spooked everyone. No one wants to book studio time, only to find that they are not allowed out of the house. We've brought five of our 13 staff back from furlough. At the end of October, we have a difficult choice. The scheme ends, but the situation hasn't really for businesses. We need some idea of where things are going. We spent a lot of money on making rooms covid safe. We've been marketing to bring customers back, but now we are faced with a situation where no one knows if we'll be let out of our homes in two weeks time. 

 Our customers are not booking rehearsals as they have no gigs. Venues are not booking bands or reopening because they are not sure of the situation. They can't afford to order food and drinks and open the doors, if it will all have to be thrown away. Their staff are now facing a full layoff as the furlough comes to an end. Everyone I know in the leisure and hospitality industry is terrified for the future. I know dozens of musicians who have had to take alternative jobs. Of course no one has a God given right to expect to do the same thing for ever, but one of the jobs of the government is to give us a bit of security. That is why we pay our taxes. If the furlough scheme ends in October, with the situation in a state of flux, most of the money will have been wasted. The jobs won't have been saved. Of course, the Furlough shouldn't be a blank cheque, but as I mentioned earlier, the crisis has been running for six months and we are still having random lock downs, policy being made on the hoof and a chaotic situation for business. I am a member of an association of independent music studios, approx 1/3rd have gone for good in the last six months, others are facing insurmountable challenges. One studio owner posted that they'd turned over a daily profit on seven days of the last six months. We managed five days, encouragingly, three of them were last week, but the second wave uncertainty has meant this week we are back to where we were in mid July, the gains have been lost and we've had six cancellations in the last two days. Commercial landlords are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they force businesses to go under, they may be left with zero income for a lengthy time with big rates bills, if they persist with the tenants, they will end up with huge debt on their books. For them, they have nothing to base a decision on. Many have their own mortgages to pay and their own issues. We are a society built on endemic debt and when there is no cash being generated to service this, we can very quickly find ourselves at the edge of the precipice. In March the government took many measures to easy the blow, but most businesses I speak to are reaching the point where this assistance has been exhausted.

The government has stated all along that it is 'being lead by science'.  If this was the case, they should be able to present a framework for us all detailing what points various measures are enacted, along with an evolving view of what is risky behaviour. I do wonder how much analysis has been done on transmission routes. It seems to me that if the government had seriously invested in understanding thetransmission chain and what really works with regards to breaking it, we'd be in a rather different position now. I had deep reservations regarding the 'Eat out to help out' scheme. The sector desperately needed support, but cramming out restaurants in the middle of a pandemic always struck me as a rather risky strategy. Did Chris Whittey and Sir Patrick Vallence not advise that it may cause a spike? Surely a more cautious approach with targetted support would have been far more prudent? When we reopened our studios, we did a comprehensive risk assessment. Has the government done the same with things such as Eat out to Help out? Will they be publishing these risk assessments? I suspect that if they published coherent risk assessments, there would be far less resistance to the measures. The great thing about science is it gives us the tools to measure and to demonstrate that things work. It should be possible, in this day and age, to identify what is working and what isn't. 

I had an interesting conversation with someone who knows about such things over the weekend. I asked how they thought we'd have done if Jeremy Corbyn had won. They said that was an impossible question to answer, but if we'd dealt with the crisis as well as we could have reasonably expected, then we'd probably have had 15,000 deaths (which is the equivalent of a bad flu outbreak) and if we'd really screwed it up we'd probably have 60-70,000 by now. In his opinion, stringent measures at airports (something we still don't do), earlier lockdown, earlier cancellation of sports events, better management of infection protocols in care homes and a consistent message would have given us a death rate at the low end. His view is that we'd have been out of lockdown if we'd gone in earlier and had stringent enforcement. One thing he did say is that had Corbyn won and we'd had a death rate of 20,000, half the current rate, the press would have been in no way as forgiving and claimed it was criminal mismanagement. I don't disagree. We seem to have a government that can totally mismanage a crisis and get almost no criticism. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is deemed to have had a good covid crisis. I personally disagree. His measures have helped many businesses that don't need it and ignored manybusinesses, freelance workers and small businesses, that don't fit any of his models for help.

In short, the government needs to give business as clear a road map as possible and not keep lurching from policy to policy. So many of their schemes appear to have been designed on the back of a packet of cigarette packets. I speak to the public every day and people are baffled and have lost confidence in our leadership. I think people would be supportive, if they thought the measures would work, but the shambolic nature of the way they are being enacted gives no confidence at all. Whatever you may think of people who run businesses, whether you think they are deserving of help and support, the harsh fact is that without people running businesses, the economy will collapse and there will be no tax income to fund anything.

Sunday 20 September 2020

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet -20/09/2020

 So what have our local tweeters been up to this week? What has been happening in our corner of paradise?

1. I always find this sort of local story fascinating


2. Nice to see there is some culture locally!


3. The highlight of Clarence Mitchell's career IMHO was when he wrote the local music column in the Barnet Times! Here is a slightly less well known story he coverd ;) He's a good guy, always very supportive of local bands


4. This is a story we've been following in this feature for far too long. It seems like there is some news

 

5. Seems like some repairs are urgently needed to Edgwares roads

 

6. How are your fruit and veg doing? Donalds are looking in fine fettle!

 

7. This is a very sad reminder of the loss of agenius

 

8. Need a test, you can get one today at Brent Cross if you hurry

 

9.We agree

 

10. Support your local artists. Why not commission a work? Our local music studios have

 

 

That's all folks!

 

Saturday 19 September 2020

The Saturday List #280 - Ten foods that seemed really exotic in the 1970's

On Wednesday I published a blog which received the best reaction of any blog for many a moon. It was entitled "How the 70's was the decade where the British discovered food". I detailed how the culinary habits of the British underwent a step change in flavours and experimentation in the decade and things such as garlic suddenly became part of the British array of cooking ingredients (previously it was salt, pepper, brown sauce and mustard). 

Some of the comments left on Facebook mentioned exotic dishes that we embraced in the 1970's. I thought I'd list my ten favourites. When I say my ten favourites, this is favourites as in, ones it seems amazing that they seemed exotic now!

1. Spaghetti Bolognese.

It seems bizarre now that a Spag Bol was ever seen as 'exotic', but I well remember the first time my mum cooked it. My Dad's RAF squadron had been stationed in Foggia in Italy in 1944, and he'd developed a love of Italian food and drink (far better than the flat rations the RAF had in North Africa). He told me a story of how when the RAF took over an Italian air base in North Africa, they kept all the Italian cooks etc on the staff and were the best fed airmen in the RAF for a couple of months. He taught us how to wrap the Spaghetti around the fork and advised me never to eat Spaghetti on the first date. I was about ten at the time. It was a bit of a revelation.

2. McDonalds.

This is another one that probably seems insane to anyone born after 1985 that anyone could see a Big Mac as exotic, but that is exactly what it was. When McDonalds opened its  restaurant in Golders Green there were mile long queues to by Big Mac and chips. It was seen as proper American burgers. We sort of felt that we'd become Starsky and Hutch if we ate McDonalds. I always thought the Golders Green branch was the first in the UK, but it was actually in Woolwich

3. Rum and Raisin Ice Cream.

For those of us born and raised around Mill Hill, Edgware and Burnt Oak, Ice Cream was a 99 whip from Tonibell. I loved the Raspberry sauce version with a flake. But over the road from us, lived a Jewish family, the Lewis's who were great friends. Their Dad, an accountant and man of great tastes, acquired a new Citroen and was incredibly proud of his motor, so he decided to take his two boys Johnny and Frank and me, for a special treat. We drove down to Camden Town to Marine Ices for a special Ice cream. Mr Lewis said "You'll never have tasted anything this good in your life". He recommended that we got a couple of different tastes. I think I got Strawberry and Rum and Raisin. The Rum and Raisin was out of this world. Mr Lewis also took us up for the opening of Dayvilles 32 flavours in Edgware as I recall. He pronounced that it wasn't as good as Marine Ices, and I trusted his judgement. What was even better was when we arrived back from Marine Ices and I told my family about it, my Dad bundled us all in the car and I got a second helping. I can remember telling my sister that it was the best day of my life.  I always had a soft spot for Citroen cars after that day! (Pic Courtesy of Marine Ices).

4. Vesta Packet Chow Mein.

As we discovered exotic foods, the supermarkets jumped on the bandwagon. The leaders in the field of making food seem exotic were packet food specialists Vesta. The idea was that you got a pound of mince, chucked in some Vesta sauce and hey presto, you got a plate of food that tasted as good as the local Chinese takeaway. I guess there was  two year period in the early to mid seventies, when we actually fell for it and didn't realise that it simply made the mince taste a bit less bland. I sort of liked the Vesta sauces. My mum and Dad would always have a bottle of wine over dinner with them, to feel as if they were on holiday. Often we'd have them on the day the Whickers World Travel show was on. It sort of made us feel like we'd been on holiday somewhere.


5. Arctic roll.

Anyone who is my age will have fond memories of Arctic Roll. The highlight of the Primary School day was pudding. If it was Tapioca, the day was a disaster. Then some time around 1970, one day we were given Arctic Roll. It was unlike anything we'd had before. It was ice cream and cake all in one. It seemed impossible to make something so good and have it served at school. I imagined that it was what polar bears ate for breakfast (not realising they'd rather eat me!). 

6. Chicken in a basket.

Around 1973, there was a craze for 'chicken in a basket' in pubs. I've no idea where it came from or why it was served in a basket, but it seemed rather exotic. A plain old bit of grilled chicken down the cafe seemed rather dull. The chips had to be the thin, crispy type rather than the chip shop fatties. 

7. Mushroom Vol-au-Vents. 

Sometime around 1971, my parents attended a party where Vol-au-Vents were served. These were fluffy pastry with a mushroom gloop in the middle. They were delicious. My mother immediately decided that we needed a party. She spent the week practising, which meant we got a welcomed change from the usual boiled potatoes and tripe and onions, that she'd inflict on us when she was too bored to cook anything tasty. For some reason, in around 1990, Vol-Au-Vents became inedible gunge. I cannot fathom quite what happened. 

8. Coq au_vin.

Chicken in wine, to give it its Anglicised name. My Mum loved this, my Dad (I suspect he was being polite) also lived it. I hated it. I've never been a fan of meat in gungy sauces. But my mum was incredibly proud of her efforts. I've not really thought about this dish since the 1970's, but researching this I see that the recipes recommend using red wine. Mum always did it with white wine. It was one of the dishes that made me understand the British wariness of 'foreign muck'.

9. Lamb Kebabs. 

After the war, my Dad had spent four years working as a commercial pilot, based in Beirut. He loved kebabs. I can well recall a trip down the Edgware Road with him when I was about ten, for a kebab. We went to a Lebanese restaurant, my mum was away with  my sisters. He soon got into a discussion with the owner, who was amazed by his knowledge of Beirut and Lebanese politics. We got VIP treatment and more meat than I'd ever imagined. I believed that kebabs were the food of the Gods. The next Kebab I had was in Alki's in Colindale in around 1981. It wasn't quite the same, tasty though it was. 

10. Sweet and Sour Pork.

Our family treats in the 60's and 70's would usually be a trip to Burnt Oak, to the Chinese Restaurant on the High Street. We'd have pancake rolls, sweet and sour pork, beanshoots, crispy king prawns, special fried rice and finish off with lychees. The best bit was the sweet and sour pork. In our house, Pork would be a Sunday joint or a chop. To have it batter with a bright red sauce that burned your tongue with its acidity and sweetness was simply exotic beyond belief. The restaurant was painted blue, had Chinese murals and paper lanterns. It's what I imagine turn of the last century opium dens and brothels were like. It was full of cigarette smoke and working class families on a night out. I loved it. I love chinese food but the restaurants simply don't have that vibe. These days they have clean lines and no mystique. 

I almost feel sorry for the kids of today, who's idea of food is to order sushi on line. There really is no voyage of discovery for them!

Friday 18 September 2020

The Friday Joke - 18-09-2020

 Specially dedicated to my Darling wife Clare, the love of my life. Have a great weekend



Wednesday 16 September 2020

How the 70's was the decade where the British discovered food

The 1960's was the decade of the sexual revolution. Legal changes such as the decriminalising of homosexuality, legalisation of abortion and the advent of the pill lead to a complete change in the stuffy attitudes of young people in Great Britain to sex. But while all of this fun and frolicking was going on, a visitor from 2020 would be amazed at the bland cuisine that we all ate in the 1960's. The 1970's dawned with huge excitement. Sadly the decade was not a fun decade like the 60's, but it was the decade where the British discovered that food was to be enjoyed and experimented with. At the start of the decade, Pubs generally didn't serve food, garlic was frowned upon and onions were largely only served with liver. Anything vegetable that wasn't boiled to disintegration was deemed uncooked and any sauce on any meat or fish was deemed foreign muck. Puddings were apple pie and custard or spotted dick. The high streets proliferated with cafes serving bacon sarnies, industrial strength tea and if you asked for a coffee you got a spoonful of Nescafe. For many coffee was seen as the poor relation of tea, the only advantage being that it could be made instantly, without the need for a strainer for the leaves, a pot and without waiting for it to brew, just a teaspoon of powder and voila!

Of course we had places such as Bar Italia doing great things, but these were seen as strange places catering for people from other places. Takeaway food was pretty much Fish and Chips, if you were adventurous, you would have a pie. In Mill Hill, there was an exotic Chinese restaurant called the Kwan Yin (where the Good Earth now sits). It was incredibly exotic and expensive. There was also a Greek restaurant called La Katerina, although 99% of the dishes sold would be Steak and Chips, which was pretty much as exotic as it got. 

Both of these restaurants were strictly for special occasions. The most popular eating venue was Chowens, on the site of where the Abbey National now stands. It served cream cakes, tea, coffee and hot chocolate with cream. It was popular with kids and old ladies. There was Sid's Cafe, where the Mill Hill Tandoori now sits, which was primarily for builders and labourers to have breakfast and lunch. I used to love it. On a December morning, it would be packed, steaming, full of cigarette smoke and would provide not only hearty food, but warmth from the incessant rain and cold outside. As I recall, there was no such thing as a "Full English breakfast". It was just  bacon, sausage, egg and beans with toast. I've no idea when the "Full English" was added. Lunch was often dishes such as liver, onions and gravy or Pork chops, mash and peas. There would be a big plastic tomato in the middle of the table, full of ketchup and salt and pepper on the table in chipped glass dispensers. The tables were made of chipped veneer and the floors were lino. There would be a large tea urn and a massive tea pot. Often men would be reading papers, many such cafe's had calendars on the wall with girls in various stages of undress. On the rare occasion a woman would nip in, she would discretely find a table out of the eyeline of such things. 

Being taken to the cafe as a child in the 1960's by my Dad was perhaps the greatest thing I could imagine. It seemed to me that when you could go to the cafe on your own, you were a man. There were no airs and graces and the quality of the cafe was judged by the size of the portions. What intrigued me most was the shenanigans that were clearly occurring. Whenever my Dad would take me in, he'd always be approached by men speaking in riddles. Pound notes and packages would exchange hands, with an invocation not to mention this to my mother. I had no idea what was going on. It wasn't drugs, sometimes it would be cheap bottles of scotch, cut price steaks, or cheap cigarettes. I suspect that the only reason my Dad ever went to the cafe was to transact such business. It certainly wasn't to eat food of quality.  I suspect that rationing and the war had robbed the British of their interest in food as anything other than as sustenance. 

The sixties ended and the new decade started with increasing prosperity. Cheap charter holiday took us to places such as Spain, where the food was definitely not tasteless slop (although canny locals and expats soon cottoned on that this was a great way to make money) meant people started to take a bit more interest in food. When Idi Amin expelled the nations Asian population, many of these highly successful businessmen spotted an opportunity on the UK's high streets. Pubs shut at 11pm, but you could serve alcohol with food. They soon cottoned on that the British would buy a curry and a few beers at the end of a night out. The British found that lager and curry was the perfect mix. People who ten years earlier would have labelled such food 'foreign muck', suddenly found that a lamb madras, rice and naan was delicious, especially after a night in the pub. The supermarkets soon woke up to the fact that there was a market for this. 


Companies such as Vesta sold packets of curry sauce, just add water and you can turn your pork chop into a delicious curry! The Chinese community also started to move out of the West End. Anglicised Chinese dishes such as Chow Mein, served in silver aluminium containers started to become popular. The mix of Garlic, spices and sweet sauces proved irresistible. We fell in love with Spring Rolls, Spare Ribs and Sweet and Sour Pork. For many of us, no night out was complete without a night in the 'Curry house' or a takeaway from the Chinese.

Pub owners, seeing that there was a money to be made in food also started to respond. Locally, the Railway in Edgware was perhaps the trail blazer. They set up a carvery, which had queue's around the block on Sunday. 

Pubs realised that they could make big profits from 'pub menus'.  Established working class pubs were transformed into food branded chains, often quite unsuccessfully, one such local establishment was The Royal Scot at Apex Corner. 



In the 70's this food would tend to be  Chicken in a basket with chips and 'ploughmans lunch'. When I did a course to become a certified licensee, I found that the Ploughmans lunch was invented purely to provide a food option that could be served with minimum effort. Scotch Eggs and pork pies were also popular early 1970's snacks. For a period, every pub had a big jar of pickled eggs. For many of us, it would be a pickled egg and a bag of ready salted crisps for lunch. As pubs got their act together, dishes such as ham, egg and chips took over. The holy grail was to have food that people who couldn't cook could prepare. Whilst the food generally was no better than cafe food in the early 70's, it established the concept that we would eat in food.

The 70's also saw the start of the rise of the cookery program. They had existed in the 60's, but hosts such as Fanny Craddock were unadventurous, and largely spent shows explaining how to boil eggs and make omlettes. The genre was redefined by The Galloping Gourmet, Grahame Kerr. He was the man who introduced the UK to sauces and flavours.



The genie was out of the bottle. My Mum subscribed to a magazine that was widely advertised on TV called Supercook. She'd try these recipes out on us, often scrimping and not adding all of the spices as "we wouldn't like them", but we had such treats as Duck A La Orange and Gazpacho. I vividly recall my Dad going nuts when he proudly go served Gazpacho and flounced of saying "I'm not eating cold soup". My mum was really upset as she'd put a lot of effort into it. After a weeks sulking from my mother, he realised that his role was to praise the dishes, no matter how much he disliked them. In truth, most were ok and some were excellent. I remember the first time she served Chicken Kiev, which now sounds quite naff, but then tasted like the food of the Gods.

Desserts also evolved beyond recognition. In 1969, you'd be offered Apple Pie, but during the 70's we saw all manner of innovation. The two big dishes that I recall are cheesecake and Black Forest Gateaux. My mother got a packet mix of Cheesecake. My Dad complained that he didn't want cheese for pudding, he wanted something sweet! He was quite bemused as to why it was called cheese when it didn't contain any. He loved Black Forest Gateaux straight away. Strangely, I've always been immune to the charms of these dishes. For me, I still prefer the stodgy British traditional dishes.

Snacks are another thing that massively changes. At the turn of the decade, there were three main snacks. Crisps, peanuts and Twiglets. The 70's saw all manner of newfangled snacks appear. Quavers and Wotsits are the ones that spring to mind. It seemed that all such snacks had to be bright orange and taste of chemicals. I suspect that the early versions had semi addictive E numbers, as the local kids would go mad for such things and even have punch ups over them. 

By the end of the decade, the traditional British Cafe was in decline. In the mid 70's MacDonalds arrived, the first one being in Golders Green. There were queues around the block. You could walk in and walk out a minute later with a burger, fries and a drink. There were a plethora of copyists, such as Burger King, Wimpey, Jennys.



All of these stole a big chunk of the working mens lunch market. By the end of the 70's, there were no traditional cafe's in Mill Hill Broadway, The Wimpy was the place to get a quick bite. The eating options included the Mill Hill Tandoori, that had two busy periods, sober diners at 7.30pm and drunks from 11pm. The Good Earth had replaced the Kwan Yin as our Chinese sit down and we also had The Moon House takeway on Station Road. La Katarina, was busier than ever. As mentioned, The Wimpy was the fast food restaurant of choice. Chowans was still selling teas and cakes, the coffee generation had yet to arrive.



As for cooking at home. In 1972, Budgens arrived. This big supermarket had a deli counter. The range of food on the Broadway improved beyond recognition. Whilst Walton, Hassle and Port had long provided a great deli service at a price, it seemed like you could get anything at Budgens. I can remember a big thing when they started stocking Kiwi Fruit. I proudly bought some home, which my Dad had a massive allergic reaction to, claiming I'd tried to kill him. Budgens spelled the end of the Greengrocers and smaller supermarkets in the Broadway. They had a wider range and were generally cheaper. The Fishmongers and the Butchers did better. We are lucky to still have  Gerard in the Daws Lane, with his amazing sausages and organic meat, but there were four when Budgens opened. With Budgens, it became easier to make more interesting food. They stocked Lentils, the Deli was Kosher, so there was good quality smoked salmon and there was a great selection of herbs and spices.

As I was writing this, I got to thinking. If you wanted to know the difference between 1969 and 1979, you might want to consider our eating habits on a Friday evening. In 1969, it was religiously Fish and Chips eaten from the newspaper. By 1979, it was more likely to be a Chinese take out, a curry or even a trip out to a pub for a 'slap up meal'. Whilst by 2020 standards, I'd say our tastes were still pretty conservative, we were up for trying things and experimenting by the end of the 1970's. It really was the decade when we started to take food seriously. 

Monday 14 September 2020

Environment Monday - Pollution and Covid 19 - The reason the death rate has plummeted?

 The big mystery in the UK is why we have seen soaring covid19 infection rates in the last few weeks, but this has not been reflected with a rise in hospital admissions. I've seen a stack of explanations, but one thing has not been mentioned. It is a well documented fact that pollution weakens our immune system and suppresses our response to infection. During lockdown, we saw unprecedently low pollution in our cities. In some streets, this was so low that the monitors reported faults. Now I am not a scientist, I have no statistics to back up my claims, but surely this relationship must be investigated. Many people who have had all manner of chronic respiratory disease reported significant improvement during lockdown when the air was at its cleanest. Has the break in the daily assault on our lungs given our bodies breathing space to recover. We really need to put pressure on the government to see if pollution was a factor in the death rate  and the massive reduction has contributed to us now seeing a far lower rate as infection rates rise. I am making no claims, just asking for some serious scientific research into what seems to me to be a very obvious link.

Sunday 13 September 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 13-09-2020

 What's been going on in our neck of the woods? Here is our weekly summary, seen through the eyes of our local tweeters?

1. Lets start in Burnt Oak, where there is some news about one of the local landmarks.


2. Nice historical tweet reminding us of Cricklewood airport!


3. Having just got back from a walk over the Totteridge Valley with some friends, I must say I am quite pleased I didn't see these scary looking monsters, impressive though they are!


4. Congratulations to these guys. Well done


5. Nice Pic


6. The Borough has some amazing community gardeners!


7. We have some rather impressive clocks on the Northern Line. This is one of my favourites!


8. And if you are a Colindale Resident, check this out




9. Can't disagree with this statement!


10. Good to see our local music maestro's getting back to work!



That's all folks!

Boris Johnson and Brian Coleman


You may be surprised. Pinch yourself. I have come to praise Brian Coleman, not to bury him. Don't get me wrong, can't stand the man. I will not forgive or forget the fact that he assaulted my friend Helen Michael and lied through his teeth about it to the Police, the truth only emerging following the release of CCTV footage. But if you look at the bigger picture, he tried to do the nation a service last May, when it became clear that Boris Johnson was likely to win the leadership of the Conservative Party. Brian wrote a blog, from the perspective of someone who worked closely with Boris for a number of years. Brian made it crystal clear that Boris was not fit for the job of Prime Minister. 

His blog highlighted many of Boris's key character flaws. Firstly that he is an appalling judge of character. The appointment and retention of Dominc Cummings is perhaps the best example of this. Brian siad

Boris was a poor judge of character . I lost count of the many so called "Deputy Mayors" and Senior Aides who passed through City Hall in my four years :Nick Boles (Head of Transition)  lasted a month , Ray Taylor (totally bonkers) lasted three months ,Tim Parker (on another Planet )  and of course Ian Clement (fiddled his expenses ) spring to mind . Then there were people with no experience of Local Government Munira Mirza (did not like being called "Dear" ) Isabel Dedring, Transport (hated and ignored by TfL Officers) Kulveer Ranger (who once cried on my shoulder because he had lost his Secretary ), Matthew Pencharz ( a nice boy but well out of his depth) . Pam Chesters , a good choice as health advisor but totally undermined by Boris when he ordered her to reinstate Mars Bars in the City Hall canteen.

These inexperienced advisors are no doubt partly, along with Boris ego , the reason for so many failed and pointless Capital projects . Boris Island , the East London Cable Car , the Garden Bridge ..

Brian also warned us that Boris was likely to be a disaster at #PMQ's, something which has become a major problem for the PM since Sir Keir Starmer became leader of the opposition. Boris is getting absolutely murdered every single week and this is doing no good for the nerves and mood of the Conservative MP's. More of a problem is that the nation is starting to think our PM is simply not up to the job. Here's what Brian said, his words are rather prophetic.

His performance at the monthly Mayor's question time at City Hall was dreadful in the early days and to the frustration of Assembly colleagues ( including Kit Malthouse) did not really improve .

Another major problem is that Boris makes things up on the hoof. That is fine when you are campaigning, but when you are dealing with a global pandemic, it simply causes chaos that has resulted in major loss of life. The failure to read briefs and properly prepare for meetings and speeches is unforgiveable. Again Brian highlighted this

Boris just simply never read the briefs or prepared for his speeches . At one Lord Mayor of London's London Governance Dinner he could be seen scribbling notes on the napkin during the meat course.

A successful Prime Minister has to have a degree of empathy with the people they govern. If there is a major disaster, they have to be able to reach out the victims and make them feel that the government cares. Despite nearly dying of Covid, Boris appears to not have the slightest bit of empathy or compassion for the families that have lost loved ones as a result of his policy blunders. Again Brian flagged this up, detailing his complte lack of compassion for the victims of the 7/7 bombing.

At a briefing meeting held in Boris' Office in 2011 during the Inquests into the deaths of the victims of the 7/7 bombings I was telling Boris how the Fire Authority was having to spend a sizable sum on lawyers (as were the Met , TfL and everybody else involved ) not least because Mrs Justice Hallett was cutting up rough as Coroner when he suddenly said " I blame Tony Blair for all this , he started it with the Marchioness (Inquest) " Guto Harri, who was Boris' Head of Communications and at the time absolutely devoted to Boris , said " Oh Boris they are really for the families (of the victims) benefit " To which Boris replied "Fuck the families , Fuck the families !"  . I was having none of this and snapped at Boris  " You didn't have to write eight letters of condolence to families of your constituents or attend the funeral of 31 year old Lee Baisden ( a Fire Authority employee) who had been blown to pieces at Aldgate and comfort his poor widowed Mother " .

There is also Boris's relationship with the truth. Boris simply thinks he can get away with anything, the rules don't apply to him.  After the event described above, Brian notes the following

 After this meeting the ever loyal Guto Harri rang me up and said "it never happened Brian , it never happened" . Sorry Guto it did and I have witnesses .

Brian also gave us an insight into how Boris copes with difficult situations. This quote is quite illuminating


At the Annual Lord Mayor's Banquet one year he told me the " only way to get through events like this Brian is drink all the alcohol on offer !"

If we weren't in the middle of a global pandemic and if we weren't about to leave the EU perhaps none of this would matter quite so much. I suspect that if we lived in a perfect world, where we didn't face threats such as Putin poisoning our citizens with nerve agents, with IS terrorists wanting to murder us all, with China seeking to economically dominate the global economy, with rogue regimes such as North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons, it may be jolly good fun to have such a man leading the country to entertain us. The truth is that we are in a global crisis and when we need allies, we have a Prime Minister who is totally unfit to be in charge. A man who has shown he has no regard for international law. I am quite bemused for his contempt for the EU Withdrawall Treaty.  It was Boris's government that negotiated it and signed it, if it is a danger to the UK, then surely it is his fault for signing it. Any problems are entirely the fault of the Prime Minister.

You may not trust my opinion of Boris, given that I've never been a fan, but Brian Coleman worked with him for years and is a staunch Conservative.

 

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