Sunday 30 May 2021

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 30 May 2021

 It's Sunday so it's that time when we look back on the week through the eyes of the finest tweeters in the Borough of Barnet. Here is our pick of the best.

1. Great to see one of our local clubs finish the season with some silverware!

2. If you heard 'John from Edgware" on LBC you will know why I picked this. John is of course our very own John Sullivan

3. The bread they make is absolutely amazing (says he chomping on a slice of their olive bread). Available at Finchley Nurseries.

4. The famous mystery lake of Mill Hill Park reappeared again this week

5. So proud that our community is at the heart of the scientific response to the pandemic

6. Whilst we are talking science etc in Colindale.... A nice tweet from Time_Nw

7. If you read this feature regularly, you'll know what marvellous nature tweets Samuel Levy posts. You now have the opportunity to have a guided tour of the wildlife on Hampstead Heath with him this Wednesday. A true treat!

8. Please give your support

9. Half term arts? Check this out

10. Great to see these legends in Mill Hill

That's all folks!

Saturday 29 May 2021

The Saturday List #308 - The ten pearls of wisdom from my Dad that will live with me forever

I've been thinking a lot about my Dad this week, for no particulr reason. He passed away in 1987, but I still feel his presence around me and his hand on my shoulder when I need reassurance. He was a larger than life figure, an ex RAF Pilot and Officer, who'd flown Wellington bombers, been shot down in Rumania, held prisoner of war, escaped, made it back to the UK, married my mum, had six kids (of which I was the last). He seemed indestructable, so his death at age 69 was a massive shock. It had never really occurred to me that he wasn't immortal. He'd sailed through life, always lucky, always prepared to take chances. But he had a wisdom that I only really fully understand now, after I've had children of my own. I used to clash terribly with him. He had a fierce temper, which I now recognise was probably due to PTSD from his wartime experiences. We are both strong personalities and neither of us back down easily, so once I became a teenager, our relationship was extremely tempestuous.

 But both of us would woak through the very gates of Hell for each other. I just regret that we didn't really have long enough together as adults to properly appreciate each other. The year before he died, he came to see my Band play at The Grahame Park festival. As he watched us play and saw the crowds dancing, he told me he'd had a revealation and realised that music was something I took seriously and was good at. He apologised for not taking me seriously. I'd just assumed that as he was from a very different generation, he hadn't really got it. He told me that he'd realised I was following my star and that I that was the best thing anyone could do. He said that the world is full of people who say 'I could have been...". He told me that it was the same thing with him and the RAF. He wanted to fly. It was an opportunity and though it was a deadly game, it was where his star was. I was thinking about this and I started thinking about the advice he gave me. I thought I'd collate it here

1. Never show your cards. He told me that in life, in business, in anything, always keep your cards close to your chest and only play them when you need to. He said that shouting about how clever you are only makes people think you are an idiot. 

2. He told me that England was a civilised country so you should never carry a weapon, as it makes you more at risk. He said that if you are going to carry a weapon, then you should only do so because you absolutely need to and you are 100% prepared to use it and that situation should  never occur in London. He also said that if you use a weapon, the consequences for you are likely to be worse than if you'd not had one in the first place. 

3. When I was fourteen, I lacked a lot of self confidence. He took me to one side and said that if I wanted a girlfriend, I'd do better to get a job as girls want  you to treat them. I got three jobs. He said that any woman worth dating would never want a tightwad.

4. He told me that if I was taking a girl out on a date, never order spaghetti as it makes a terrible mess and you slurp when you eat it, which would put off any decent girl.

5. He told me that when you are serious about a girl, look at her mother as if you marry her, that is who you'll be married to in 30 years time.

6.  He told me to always stay on the right side of God, as when you really need God, you don't want to be atoning for your sins. He told me that when his bomber was being shot down and about to crash, he was never scared as he knew he was right with God. He told me this was why he was always lucky. At the time, I dismissed this as mumbo jumbo, but I've come to realise he was 100% right. That is why I've inherited his luck.

7. Never trust a man who doesn't buy his round in the pub. My Dad absolutely despised tightwads and round dodgers. He was generally kind, but he'd make an exception for those that didn't stand their round,

8.  Don't be surprised when a scorpion stings you. My Dad believed that people have a character that is them. If they are malicious, they will always be malicious. They may be nice to you at times, but that is only so they can sting you harder.

9.  Build a team you can trust. My Dad had been through the war with the crew of his Wellington. About half way through the tour, he found that one member of the crew was not trusted by the rest of them. He took the difficult decision to replace him. He told me that this was the best decision he'd made. He said that if you can't trust people your life depends on, then you are unlikely to come through. Having learned the lesson, he took it with him throughout his subsequent career.

10. Let the past go. The past is done. The lessons are there to learn, but you can't change what has happened. Move on. 

Friday 28 May 2021

National Skankin' bank holiday Friday Joke and the Friday Playlist

The weekend is fast approaching. I've got a few beers and a curry with friends I've not seen for over a year planned. What have you got lined up?

We have unilaterally declared this bank holiday Friday as Skankin Friday, as the weather will be hot and the beer cool!

As is the tradition in these parts, we love a good joke on Friday and we are endebted to the rather marvellous Robert Wilkinson for this one! I suspect my children may well tell this one!

My parents constantly played Madness and The Specials really loud when I was growing up. I'm Ska'd for life.

Which brings us rather nicely to one of my favourite playlists!

Thursday 27 May 2021

How Barnet Eye guest blogger John Sullivan moved LBC's James O'Brien to tears

 Regular readers will know that I listen to Robert Elms on BBC Radio London of a morning. I was doing this, as I do every morning, when my phone buzzed. It was a message from a mate who simply said "Listen to LBC now!".  As my friend is a man of good judgement, I did just that. To my amazement, Barnet Eye guest blogger John Sullivan was talking to presenter James O'Brien. The subject? Dominic Cummings revealations about the chaotic government response to the covid pandemic. 

John and Susan in happier times

John sounded quite emotional, but he made his points well. By the time he finished, James O'Brien was in tears. After the call, I rang John. I just wanted him to know how well he'd made his case. John's daughter Susan died last year as a result of covid. John feels that Boris Johnson and Matthew Hancock failed his daughter in their duty of care to her (along with the 150,000 other 'excess deaths' that have occurred due to covid). He listened to what Dominic Cummings had to say yesterday and feels that he now has an explanation for how Susan was failed by those who's job it is to run our nation and keep people in Susan's position safe. Knowing that there was chaos at the heart of our government is no comfort. John feels that we need the public inquiry to take place now. We should not wait for the end of the pandemic, if there are lessons that could save lives now. The only reason to wait is to spare the blushes of Boris Johnson. 

I would strongly suggest that you click the link in this tweet and listen to John. 

This is what James O'Brien had to say after he spoke to John on Twitter

I will refrain from adding any further comments, as I think John says it all very eloquently. I will simply say that John says what he has to say very eloquently and I find it hard to disagree with anything he said.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Dominic Cummings revealations: Today is the day Boris should sack Michael Gove

 If I may be so bold as to make four observations which are undoubtedly true.

1. Dominic Cummings, for all his faults, is not stupid.

2. Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove are long time political allies.

3. Michael Gove has always had his eye on being Prime Minister.

4. Unless he is doing someone else's dirty work, Dominic Cummings has made himself completely unemployable by publicly coming out in the way he has. No one would give such a figure a job.

I trust that the readers of this blog will come to the same inescapeable conclusion that I have, in light of these facts.

If I was Boris, I'd sack Gove from the cabinet today. Boris should cut Gove off at the legs and make it absolutely clear than anyone who tries to undermine him will go the same way. Gove persuaded Boris to take Cummings on. Gove has said nothing about the whole sorry business. He is quite happy for Cummings to do his dirty work. Unlike the rest of the country Gove still rates Cummings. Gove knows that now is the time to get rid of Boris, if he wants to build some sort of legacy of his own. I personally think Gove lacks any of the qualities that make people vote for Boris, but I don't really understand Tory voters, so I may be wrong. I do know that after his repeated outbursts, Dominic Cummings is unemployable, unless he's part of a bigger plan, in which case he'll be due a plum job when the dirty deed is done. I doubt Boris will ever shut him up, but whilst Gove harbours ambitions of high office and the ability to pay back his henchmen, Cummings has the motive to keep shouting as loudly as he can. Sacking Gove wouldn't necessarily kill his ambitions, but it would mean that he doesn't have the trappings of office to entice in any would be accomplices. I'm sure that if Boris was to go public and say what I suspect he really feels about Gove and Cummings, not too many Tories would want to see the crown handed to Gove. 

They say that Boris lost his mojo and has become risk averse since Covid nearly killed him. If he doesn't get it back, take the risk and despatch Gove, this cautiousness will kill his political career for sure. Gove knows he will never get a better opportunity to step in and create a legacy, with a large majority. He can blame the worst of covid and Brexit on the mismanagement of Boris and take the credit for the post covid boom, as the economy benefits from not being shut. Of course he can't say any of this, so he's got his buddy to do it for him. Boris has the opportunity to bring this plan to a shuddering halt and change the narrative. The only question is whether he has the cojones to do it. 

Tuesday 25 May 2021

George Floyd one year on

 A year ago we started to hear reports from the USA concerning a man dying during an incident with the Police. It wasn't the first time we'd heard of such tragic incidents, but as the story emerged, this time there was solid video evidence and it was pretty clear that there was no way it could be swept under the carpet. 

I don't really want to rake the coals of those awful events of 2020, but I think it is well worth looking at what has happened since then. Have we genuinely seen real change? The answer is clearly yes. The Police Officer who murdered George Floyd is now a convicted murderer, something that had never previously happened when a serving police officer killed a black man in the USA. The football season has seen players 'taking the knee' before games. Statues were pulled down and some street names are being changed.

Whilst all of these thing show that there is progress and people are thinking about the issues around racism, it feels to me that this is only a very small first step on the journey. In the UK we really only ever concern ourselves with such stories in the UK and the USA. That is around 350 million out of 7.9 billion people. If you think about it logically, probably about 1.5 billion people have a relatively decent standard of living. The other 6.4 billion are living in poverty. The vast majority of those on the breadline are not white. Whilst rich western nations bin around 25% of the food they buy, uneaten and unused, because it has 'passed its sell by date', billions do not even have regular or nutritious meals. They are just about getting by. The UK has recently cut its Foreign Aid budget. We heard all manner of stories of the UK funding aid programmes in China and India as a justification for cutting the budgets, as opposed to looking at all of those dying unneccesarily from starvation, lack of medicines, lack of clean water supplies. 

It seems to me that we wouldn't tolerate such privations of white people. For some reason, here in the UK, we see the sufferings of impoverished people who have darker skins to be somehow less important. When we see videos of disasters, famines, war, drought, disease, if it's people who we don't know who happen to live in what we like to call 'The West' we have a completely different reaction to a similar disaster in Africa or Asia. There is no recognition in the UK that we ran many African and Asian countries for long periods and our exploitation of the resources of these lands contributed to the wealth which has immunised us from these stresses. We handed back the keys to the native populations and are happy to say 'not my problem guv'nor'. 

Of course we shouldn't tolerate institutional racism in the Police, as witnessed by George Floyd, but we will never fix this whilst we tolerate the attitude that the problems of human beings living in poverty in Africa and Asia are not our problems. I have no idea whether it is true or not, but I was told that the budget for players wages for the top five football leagues in Europe would be enough to create a clean drinking water supply for every person on earth who currently does not have clean water. It demonstrates just how skewed our priorities really are. I personally don't have a problem with the ridiculously high salaries top footballers get paid. It is a global sport and I think that we need such releases. Watching football on TV has kept many of us going over the last year, when times seemed grim. In African countries, their players are heroes and give poor children living in slums hope. 

Where I would look to find the cash would be with the internet giants. These are global monstrosities. As such they should show some global responsibility. As human beings, there is no excuse for such companies not to show social responsibility and put something back, helping the poorest people to live safer lives. A sane and rational economist knows that lifting people out of poverty creates new markets, so there should be a degree of self interest. The challenge of politicians is to make such growth sustainable,  we can't deny billions of people a basic, decent lifestyle. 

So a year on from George Floyd, we need to move the argument on. All decent people should be striving for universal justice, fairness, access to clean water, food and medicines. My father once told me that "if you say nothing about injustice, you are complicit in it and must share the blame". I personally don't want that on my conscience. That's why I write a blog, Do you.

Here is a song I wrote last year, inspired by the murder of George Floyd. I think the video is excellent, in that it marks a moment in time.

How many Guitars do you need?

 A question was posed as to how many guitars one should own.

1. A first acoustic guitar that is rubbish but you keep so your kids learn
2. Your first electric guitar that is also rubbish, but you can't get rid of (Mine was a Hofner Galaxy, which I lent to me nephew and is yet to be returned!)
3. Your first proper Electric ( for me a Peavey T60)
4. Your dream guitar (My beautiful blond Strat)
5. Your back up/dodgy gig where it might get nicked smashed guitar (Mine's an Ibanez Roadster)
6. Your steel strung Acoustic guitar (Mine's a Washburn)
7. Your 12 string (Mines a Vintage)
8. Your Semi for when you decide to learn a few Jazz chords (Mine's a 1968 Fender Coronado II)
9. Your cheaper Backup Semi so that when your mates come round you don't have to give them an expensive guitar (Mine's a Vintage 335 copy)
10. Your spangly guitar you buy just in case you get a gig in a Glam Rock band (Mine's a DeArmond M-75T silver spangle that I bought on an impulse on Ebay after a night talking Bolan with Boz Boorer)
11. A Nylon strung acoustic for recordings ( I bought a cheap one from Luke Albanese in 1982 and still play it occasionally)
So if you don't have at least 11 you are not doing it properly (Pic me putting the Strat to good use)

Monday 24 May 2021

Why Eurovision tells us everything we need to know about the UK in 2021

 Did you watch the Eurovision song contest at the weekend. I have to confess that I didn't. I decided that an evening at Mill Hill Services club discussing football would be more fun. But I've not been able to escape it since. There has been nothing else talked about on the Radio. So I had a listen to a few of the songs and a few clips.  The UK got 'null points'. There has been a flurry of comments blaming this on everything from Geopolitical posturing to the fallout from Brexit. There have even been calls for us to leave the whole Eurovision family in high dudgeon. However the reason is far more mundane. It is this :-

The sad truth is that the reason that James Newman got 'null points' is exactly the same as why I would get 'null points' if I'd performed it. It wasn't a great song, James can't sing in tune live, he is not an oil painting and there was no joy in his delivery. I listened to the recorded version. As someone who runs a professional recording studio, I always hear when a voice has been heavily autotuned. It might work for a recording, where it can be patched up, but when you get up on stage there is no place to hide. I cannot think of an earthly reason why anyone would give a single vote for that performance. If I'd been asked, I'd have rated Mr Newmans chances of winning on a par with him scoring the winning goal for England at the next world cup.

So was there a big regional block voting conspiracy against us? Absolutely not. We simply put our hat in the ring with the wrong artist and the wrong song. There are stll plenty of countries in Europe who would vote for a UK song if it was any good. I doubt we'll ever win it again, even if we reformed the Beatles from the dead and put Amy Winehouse as the lead singer, but we'd get votes from all of the genuine music lovers who cared. 

Right now there are a lot of European peoples that are none to well disposed against us. Those in the Russian sphere of influence see us the enemy and those who are pro EU see us as a malign force. But there are plenty of independent minded nations who would be perfectly well disposed towards us, if we didn't insult them with such an awful offering. 

I have many European friends who have asked why we don't unleash the likes of Blur, Oasis, Celeste or Paul Weller on the contest. I've often wondered what the competition would make of a top notch performer with a killer pop song. I hear howls of  'That's not what Eurovision is all about!" but it's not about people who can't sing and are not exactly exciting to watch like James Newman. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against James. He is apparently a brilliant songwriter, so should be earning a shedload of money. He should have stuck to the day job.

So that is my view of the contest. But the reaction tells us everything about the UK today. Our collective heads are so up our collective backsides that we seem unable to see the wood from the trees. Rather than simply accept that we had an appalling entry, all of the whingeing about "Europeans don't like us" and "we should pull out" are quite sickening. Since when did the UK become bad losers who throw our toys out of the pram when we underperform and get what we deserve? When Finland knock us out of the World Cup or Ireland beat us in the Cricket World Cup will we throw our toys out of the pram and refuse to play anymore? I'm starting to think that we've collectively gone bonkers as a nation. We have had the highest death rate from Covid in Europe, but we are lecturing everyone else on how to manage pandemics. Sure our vaccine programme (run by the NHS which Boris would love to abolish) has been a success, but the companies that are making the vaccines are all multinationals. We were just a bit quicker on our feet buying up supplies. 

The sad truth is that Eurovision has demostrated that whilst the rest of Europe knows how to enjoy themselves and not take it all too seriously, we are becoming a bunch of self intitled curmudgeons, who refuse to accept basic truths. 

It's a shame because we have far and away the best music industry in the world. I know this for a fact because every day I see at least 20 people come through the studio who would have given a better performance. It seems that having a self entitled Prime Minister who is clearly not up to the job, but lives his life on a wave of bombastic bluster and failure has infected the rest of us. As I said, Eurovision is not my thing, but if we are going to enter, why don't we at least enter something that is either absolutely bloody amazing, ultra high camp or damn good fun and if we come last, have a damn good laugh about it. 


Sunday 23 May 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 23rd May 2021

 Well what a week it's been since we last looked at this. The pubs have reopened for indoor service. Live music has restarted. How has your week been? Here's what our esteemed Tweeters have been up to.

1. When the Vicar nips out for a half of Shandy, you know things are getting better!

2. This is yet another heartbreaking episode in the story of what was Church Farmhouse Museum

3. Why am I not surprised that Grahame Park Estate was designed by Barnet Council and an architect from the MOD

4. Good to see local grassroots sports getting back up to speed.

5. Well, how many times then?

6. This is one place we really must check out!

7. A little bit of Cricklewood history

8. Every so often you see a tweet that tickles you

9. Nice shot of old Edgware

10. We are so proud to see that yet another Brit award winner has Mill Hill Connections!

That's all folks!

Saturday 22 May 2021

The Saturday List #307 - My top ten London Landmarks

 I'm quite amazed that it has taken me until list #307 to get to this one. If you are hoping for Tower Bridge and St Pauls, I'm afraid you will be disappointed. Not because they are not amazing, but for most of us these are not Landmarks at all, they are destinations. Lets start with a short discussion of what a Landmark means. My Dad was a pilot. He once explained to me that the term Landmark is misused by the general population. It's correct meaning is a mark that you use to navigate, to tell you where you are. It is that moment where you know you are nearly home, where you know you are about to arrive, where your mate Reg tells you that when you see it,  to turn left and it's 100 yards down on the right. For me, these are the joyous sights that alert you to the fact that you are on the right track, going to get somewhere. They are not destinations in themselves.


1. The end of the Northern Line tunnel at Golders Green.  I don't know how many times I've used the Northern Line, it must be thousands and thousands of times. I've used it to commute to work, to get home from nights out, to come back from hospital. There hasn't been a single time when I haven't felt a sense of joyous relief as the train emerges from the tunnel. 

It's probably still fifteen minutes to Burnt Oak, then you get the bus to Mill Hill, so it's the best part of half an hour, but it is the landmark that to me designates arrival in the suburbs and home. 


2. The RAF Museum in Hendon. Just as the end of the Tunnel on the Northern Line is a proper landmark, so is seeing the RAF Museum as you pass on a Thameslink Train. Anyone who has regularly commuted knows that when the train passes the Museum it starts to decelerate to stop at Mill Hill. Very occasionally, I'm sure all regular commuters will have got on the wrong train, which is first stop at St Albans. As you pass the museum, the train starts to speed up, you know that you are in trouble.


3. The CO-OP in Burnt Oak. Just about everyone who is younger than me won't know what I am talking about. It is now Peacocks, but to me will always be The CO-OP. It was the big department store in Burnt Oak. When I was younger I regularly took long journeys on the bus. Buses were cheap and we had time. The 52 went from Mill Hill to Victoria, Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove.

 I'd make many journeys on it, but when you came home and passed the CO-OP you knew you were nearly home.



4. Copthall Stadium (Now StoneX Stadium). Between 1974 and 1978, I had the misfortune of attending FCHS school, before departing for Orange Hill. I hated it. I'd take the 221 bus from Mill Hill to Lullington Garth. FCHS was a boys only school. The Journey home was always the best part of the day. When the bus passed Copthall Stadium on Page St, it was the sign that we were nearly home. An added bonus was that the next stop was where the girls from Copthall Girls School who alighted in Edgware lived. I was mostly too shy to chat to them at the time, but I always looked forward to seeing them.

5.  Selfridges on Oxford St. I had many a night as a callow youth in the West End. We'd take the 113 bus from Mill Hill. The journey would seem like it took forever, but as you passed Selfridges on Oxford St, you knew you were nearly there. For me, whenever I see the building, I think of The Marquee on Wardour St, The 100 club, The Sound and Vision and The Nelly Dean.

6. St Josephs College in Mill Hill. Just as Selfridges marked the point at which you arrived for a night out, the Statue of St Joseph on the former Roman Catholic seminary was the point you knew you were home on the 113. Seeing St Joe reflected in moonlight was a welcome sight. The late night journey home on the 113 was an almost transcendental journey. From Oxford St to the Blue Star Garage where the bus turned off the Finchley Road was a nightmare. Traffic light after traffic light, stop after stop. Then you turn left and the old routemaster bus would become the Starship enterprise travelling at warp speed. It seemed that until Blue Star Garage it would take three hours, then the section to Mill Hill would take five minutes. I would have included the Blue Star Garage in the list, but it's been demolished and will soon be flats. 

corner of Leman St and Tottenham Court Road. It was a grand old pub, full of orignal features. Whilst I was working there, it was rebranded as Presleys, a tribute to Elvis. They destroyed much of the original pub and turned it into a lousy bar serving overpriced lager. I hated it. It was converted back to The Rising Sun after a couple of years. The management would tell visitors to get off the Tube at Tottenham Court Road and turn left at The Rising Sun. We used to drink at The White Hart, which was just down the road and not so full of tourists. 

8. Battersea Power Station. When I was a kid, my Dad would take me on Pilgrimmage with him to Lourdes every year. He was a devout Roman Catholic. This meant mass twice a day and lots of processions. With anyone else apart from my Dad, this would have been hell, but these were simply intermissions between a week of drinking in bars, eating ice cream, peaches and waffles with maple syrup. Lourdes was full of people from all across the world. Dad being a former pilot, spoke many languages (mostly quite badly) and loved just chatting. It was wonderful. The one which sticks out most were the Dutch miners pilgrimmage. They'd where their safety gear and seemed awesome. When they learned Dad was a former bomber pilot and he'd bombed Germans, they'd buy us drinks all night. We'd always fly from Gatwick. That meant a train from Victoria. On the way back, we'd pass Battersea Power Station and Dad would always point it out and say "we are really home now".

9. The Regents Canal in Camden Town. I've had many a night in Camden Town. Dingwalls was one of my favourite venues to see bands before it was redeveloped (I find it a bit soulless now, even though I'm glad it's still a venue). We'd take the Northern Line from Burnt Oak to Camden Town, walk up the road and turn left by the canal into Dingwalls. I then discovered that it took roughly the same amount of time to get Thameslink to St Pancras and walk along the Regents Canal. It was a far more pleasant trip on a nice day. Apart from the River Thames, that stretch of water is my favourite in London.

10. The Shard. I had to mention the Shard. Of all the buildings put up in London over the last 50 years, as a Landmark, only The Shard is worth discussing. It is one of the few buildings that genuinely excites me when I see it. You can even see it from The Totteridge Valley on a good day. But as a Landmark, it is actually rubbish. Because it is so humungous, you can see it from all sorts of places. Quite often, you go around a corner and there it is, when you are least expecting it. It is in the South East of London, but seems to move around as you view it. If you are going to put up towers of glass, the Shard is a pretty good model. I watched it being constructed from my office window. It seemed to rise and rise and rise. If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have taken a picture of it every day as it rose, but hey ho, another one for the box marked 'regrets'.

Friday 21 May 2021

The Friday Joke - 21 May 2021

 It's Friday, if you've had a week like me you'll probably need a joke to cheer you up. 

Which one is the odd one out - Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bill Gates?

Answer: Bill Gates he's the only one who isn't busily acquiring every bit of information he possibly can about you. 

Yeah, I know it isn't funny but there are plenty of people who believe he is and if that isn't hilarious I don't know what is, given that he's loaded and clearly couldn't give a monkeys whethe Bridget buys her beans in Waitrose or Tescos.

As we approach the end of the Football season, all of our best footballers are figuring out how best to shaft those people (The Fans) who pay their wages and engineer a move to a team their wagepayers can't stand, I've put together a playlist of the best betrayal songs.

Secondhand Harry Kane shirt anyone?

Thursday 20 May 2021

Managing a music business in a pandemic

I am an up beat, can do person. I always have been and I always will be. That's why I run my own business, write my own blog and walk around with a smile on my face most of the time. But the last year has been a challenge. I run a music business and our sector, worth £5.4 billion to the UK in 2019 has taken a kicking beyond belief in the last 14 months. I've been involved with music for 44 years, a long journey, but this is unprecedented.  

Back in 1977, I had a vision. I believed that music could change people's lives. I was only 14 at the time, but I went to The Roundhouse, saw the Ramones and realised that music can set your soul free. I knew instantly that I wanted to be involved in the music industry. Prior to the advent of punk in 1976, music was a cartel that was controlled by the big boys, but Punk rock changed all that. The Buzzcocks set up their own record label, New Hormones to put out their first EP. Mark Perry created the 'Punk Fanzine' creating Sniffin Glue with a photocopier and a bit of imagination. His call to arms was to print three chords on the front cover with an invocation "Now go form a band".

That was exactly what I did. It took a year to get  a guitar, learn three chords and find a few people to play in the band. There were false starts. There were tears. Our first drummer was ambushed whilst waiting for the 221 bus with his girlfriend on Mill Hill Broadway, thrown through the window of WH Smiths, severing a tendon in his arm and ending his drumming career and aborting our debut gig, a support slot with the UK Subs in Derby. Did we give up? No of course we didn't. The main problem we initially had was finding a rehersal space. I was lucky, my Dad was in the motor trade and where his yard was there was a derelict caretakers cottage, that we agreed to rent for £5 a week. I put together a musicians collective, pooling gear and sharing costs. What is now Mill Hill Music Complex was born. 

Between the start in 1979 and 2008, every year we saw our turnover grow. In 2008, we undertook a massive rebuilding project. That meant we lost two studios, our shop and our toilets, that were replaced with portaloos. Between 2008 and 2012 we lost 40% of our business and the project ended up costing twice what we budgeted. Having said that, we got something that was twice as good as we thought we would. It took us three years to get back to where we were in 2008. The portaloo's had scared off a lot of customers and the business had changed since we devised the project. But having adapted and learned, we saw amazing growth between 2015 and 2019, so much so that in 2019, we reached the point where we started a new project to develop more purpose built modern studios, in conjunction with some amazing partners. A financing blip put this on hold in December 2019. This seemed like a disaster at the time, but was a Godsend in reality. It meant that when the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were not in the middle of a building project and we had cash reserves earmarked for the build that we could divert to keeping the business running. 

In March 2020, I did not anticipate that we'd still be in lockdown a year later. Here we are in May. Many of our customers have their first bookings for over a year. I am pleased to report that they are getting work. This month Leee John and Kenny Thomas are playing the Boisdale, Zeeteah Massiah is playing the Crazy Coqs, punk legends Menace have a gig in Gateshead and Hollie Jervais has a gig at a Norfolk holiday camp to name a few. In terms of bookings, we are at about a third of what we were in May 2019. 

You may think that this is a recipe for despair and throwing in the towel? When I look at the industry, there are far more questions than answers. From what I can work out, around 30% of the studios in London and the South East have closed. Whereas around 15% of our business in 2019 was pro musicians, I'd estimate that we are seeing the equivalent of a doubling of this. We are inundated with pro musicians who's regular studios have closed. Many tell us that they'd have used us years ago if they'd known about us. We are only just starting to see the return of the social bands. It is far too early to tell how many will return. What I have noticed is the sheer re-energisation of the musicans turning up. I have an unshakeable view that whatever the post covid world looks like, music will play a massive part of it. Venues will want to attract people back and punters want to enjoy themselves. People who have been in work have had nothing to spend money on. They can't go abroad, so will want to have fun closer to home. It is hard to plan as we labour under the shadow of new variants, but as the UK death rate has plummeted, people do want to come out to play.

For me, the various Whatsapp groups etc that I have for social groups are all pinging with invites to gigs, drinks, etc. I strongly believe that our studios have gained market share by investing in ventilation last year and being able to remain open for professional musicians. As musicians are, by nature, networkers, we have broken into networks that we'd not have got a sniff of before. We all got out fingers burned last year, but I think that the world will once again see a 'roaring twenties' as we emerge from the dark days and start enjoying ourselves. Of course, we could be back to square one by this time next month, but if we are not. I strongly believe that the industry will come strongly out of the crisis. 

This last year has stretched us as a business almost to breaking point. As a sane, rational businessman, I put a plan together to wind up the business. I set up a spreadsheet of income vs expenses, which would tell me when the cash was going to run out and we'd have to wind it up. This week, we will break even for the first time since March 2020 on our day to day income/expenses. This means that doomsday will move a week into the future. Our working assumption previously that we needed six weeks money in the bank to tide us through a crisis. The fact we've survived 14 months is a miracle. I am not entirely sure how we willmanage our finances going forward, but we will most surely be a lot more conservative with respect to our reserves than we've been previously. 

Many people have left the industry. All of the freelance technicians have been thrown to the wolves by the failure to address a fair furlough scheme. As many have mortgages to pay, I am not sure that they'll leap back. But those who do will be in demand and able to command premium rates. It will be a difficult decision for many, but I am sure that once it is clear that touring etc is resuming, the lure of decent wages will win out over minimum wage stability. 

I am struck by the new found optimism in the industry this week. People are genuinely excited to be gigging again. Today I've taken bookings for major bands into October. People are talking about Xmas gigs. Normally that would be normal, but it seems to be like the promised land. The problems of normality are starting to return. Reception usually has one person answering the phone and one assisting the bands. I've been doing both on my own. It is starting to get too busy. The question is now timing, when do we bring people back from Furlough. The answer has to be when the business can afford it. I hope that day is coming very soon. We should have some idea by the end of June. 

As a musician, I found lockdown to be a sterile time. However, I've started writing some new material and have a new project on the go. For the first time in a long time I am genuinely excited about it. So what advice could I give other businesses? I am not sure I can. We were lucky with our finances having a war chest ready for a new building. I just think that someone up there is watching my back. I've always been of the opinion that those who are successful in business are those that are born lucky and prepared to work hard. I've worked 60 hour weeks since we reopened last May. I haven't earned a penny in that time, save for enough to pay my self assessment (somehow tax doesn't go away). The studio bills have had to be paid. But if you are going to be skint, the best time is when the pubs are shut and you can't go on holiday. 

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Teddygate - Mill Hill's very own Watergate scandal?

If like me, you are old enough to remember the 'Watergate Scandal' in the USA that brought down President Richard Nixon, you will know that it wasn't the burglary on the Democrat campaign office by some Dodgy Republicans that brought Nixon down, but the cover up that Nixon unwisely authorised.

It seems we might have our very own Watergate scandal, or Teddygate as we shall henceforth know it in this blog!

Let me tell the sorry tale.  Yesterday, our friends at the 'A Better Mill Hill' Twitter feed posted that the much loved Teddy Walk between Lawrence Street and Birkbeck Road, which has been decorated by local children with Teddies and has become a local talking point, was being cleared by workers from Barnet Council. 

The Barnet Eye knows this walk well. We regularly walk our dogs along the route and it is always a joy to see parents and grandparents with toddlers enjoying 'seeing the teddies'. Sadly we also know that not everyone is a fan. I was recently approached by a local, who describes themselves as 'a bit of a curmudgeon' who told me that they were aware of a small number complaints to Barnet Council about the teddies which were 'an eyesore and a covid risk' which had been ignored and asking me what I could do to get them removed. I replied that I did not have a problem with the Teddies, but if they genuinely felt it was a problem, they should report the problem  on the Barnet Council website and send their local councillors an email. I was informed that this was exactly what they would do. 

When I saw the post, I naturally assumed that our friendly local curmudgeon had done just that and the council had taken action. Generally Councillors will get on to the street scene department if residents report issues of fly tipping etc, which aren't being dealt with. In my experience, councillors of all parties are usually quite good at this. As none of our local Conservative Councillors actually live in the ward, it struck me as likely that they were not aware of how popular the walk has become with local families. I wouldn't have been surprised if they had simply acted without fully understanding the background, but I am sure the way our curmudgeon described it would have had teams down in hazard suits. 

Later yesterday, the Mill Hill Councillors responded on Twitter and denied all knowledge of the now infamous 'Mill Hill Teddy Massacre'. This was followed by a rather more terse 'we will reply when we have the full facts'.

It won't surprise regular readers to know that having supported many Unison initiatives over the years, I have some excellent moles in the Council. Just as the Watergate scandal had a whistleblower called Deep Throat, we have our very own Deep Throat in the Council. It has been suggested to me that whichever one of the Mill Hill Councillors posted the first response had not properly discussed the matter with their colleagues and jumped the gun posting the denial. My contact in street scene told me that Barnet Council do not do major operations such as the Teddy clean up, which may have a negative PR element, without speaking to the local councillors. 

Of course, given the nature of this whistleblowing, I cannot really say whether this is correct and whether Barnet Council has a rogue team of Street Scene operatives intent on massacring the local Teddies, but I do know that they seldom spend money on such operations without good reason. 

All we are asking for is transparency. We don't want names named, if it was simply over zealous street scene cleaning. We'd just like to see some evidence with names redacted. If however, a councillor did get the Teddies massacred, they should come clean and say so and apolgise to local kids. If they had to go, they should have had a proper send off and a chance to be rehomed. For such a well loved site, the Council should have given some notice and given people the chance to give their feedback. 

If you want my view, I think the Teddy walk brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I think that what we should do is have an annual 'teddy walk weekend', where the route can be adorned with Teddies and at the end of the weekend, the teddies can be rehomed with children who might appreciate them.  Maybe we could have a few set in a case permanently. There will come a point where they will start looking worse for wear, so an annual Teddy walk would seem to me a great way to keep the children happy and do some good. What do you think?

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Senior Barnet Tory launches sexist attack on Labours new assembly member

It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that former senior Barnet Conservative politician Brian Coleman, once convicted for assaulting Cafe Owner Helen Michael on Finchley High Road, is up to his old tricks of misogynistic abuse on Twitter.  

Mr Coleman has tweeted today describing the new Labour London Assembly member, Anne Clarke,  as "A housewife from Cricklewood as she is known in Barnet". What might surprise readers of the Barnet Eye is that Mr Coleman was the Conservative Candidates Roberto Weeden-Sanz  guest of honour at the GLA count and by all accounts acted as a mentor and main campaign adviser for him. A little bit of searching on Twitter revealed that this patronising insult was not the first time that Coleman had used this term, regularly launching this insult at Anne Clarke during the campaign. 

I find it rather odd that a Conservative should find the idea that the term 'housewife' is an acceptable putdown in this day and age. The sheer snobbery in his tweet where he asks "A Cricklewood housewife or the former President of the Oxford Union" about the choice between Clarke and Weeden-Sanz is there for all to see. Rather interestingly, the People of Barnet and Camden decided that they much preferred Anne Clarke and were clearly not as impressed as Mr Coleman at Mr Weeden-Sanz former acedemic exploits.

As regular readers will know, I've spent many hours at the Town Hall, observing our local politicians. I have to confess I was surprised when the Tories picked Mr Weeden-Sanz as their GLA candidate. The reason? He'd made absolutely no impression on me at all. 

There are several Tory Councillors who I have observed, who have shown that they would make good and engaging candidates. I'd list Laith Jajeh, Alex Prager, Helene Richman and Saira Don are ones that spring to mind as having shown that they have something about them. When I look through the list of Councillors in Barnet, there are always a few that I see and think "Oh, I'd forgotten about him/her" Councillor Weeden-Sanz was pretty near the top of this list. I can only assume that someone with an excellent sense of humour or a malicious grudge against Roberto, thought it would be a wheeze to let Brian Coleman mentor him. 

It seems strange that the Councillor Weeden-Sanz turned to a man who'd transformed a 20,000 vote majority in Barnet and Camden in 2008 into a 20,000 loss in 2012 GLA elections, in a year when Boris won a strong triumph in London, to be his mentor. Given the fact that Labour do not have a single MP in Barnet, one can only wonder at how bad the campaign Mr Weeden-Sanz ran could possibly be.

I know Anne Clarke well, although we are members of different parties, I consider her a friend and have a lot of admiration for the work she has done with the Cricklewood Town Team and as a Councillor in Childs Hill ward. I find it insulting and patronising that a former Mayor of Barnet and GLA Assembly member can refer to his successor in such a manner. 

One has to ask Roberto Weedon-Sanz whether he thinks his 'mentor' and friend's lack of manners and respect is something he thinks is clever and funny. Just in case you were not aware of what sort of a chap Mr Coleman is, here is a video of his assault on Helen Michael, that resulted in his conviction. This made the ITN News. I wonder if this really is the sort of thing that the Conservative supporting females really want associated with the party. I'd remind Mr Weeden-Sanz that we judge people by the company they keep. 

Monday 17 May 2021

Yesterdays anti semitic incident in North West London

 I'd be pretty surprised if anyone who follows my blog is unaware of the anti semitic incident in our neighbourhood of London yesterday. If you didn't there is a report on the Barnet Times here.

We cannot have people driving around our community, intimidating, insulting people and inciting violence. There is no place for 'whataboutery' in relation to this incident. It was plain, blatent anti semitism, with a large dollop of sexist misogyny thrown in. There is nothing that could excuse it and no decent person should bother trying. 

We do not want this in our community. The police and the authorities need to ensure take appropriate action. 

I have always supported the right of people to protest peacefully, even for causes I find disagreeable. This was no such thing. It was a clear attempt to insult and intimidate one section of our local community.  I spoke to several people this morning who feel threatened by what happened. I find it hard to understand how the Police allowed the situation to develop. It's not as if the perpetrators were acting in a stealthy manner. 

The idiots who did this have caused massive damage to their own cause and the more moderate and sensible elements in their movement.  I never thought I'd see peace in Northern Ireland in my lifetime, when bombs were going off. Things can change, but it requires people to be civil and respectful and for there to be dialog. People who act like this make such things all the harder. They are not on the side of anything good. 

Sunday 16 May 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 16th May 2021

 So here we are again, at the end of the week. Today is the first Sunday off that I've had since the start of the year, so it is noce to be able to chill out and enjoy the rain! It is nice to have a cup of tea and enjoy putting this together in a leisurely fashion for a change, whilst watching the recording of Match of the day!

Anyway, here's our selection of the very best tweets from the nicest tweeters in our neighbourhood,

1. Lets start with a nice drone shot of the new Brent Cross West Station (and a little advanced warning that we'll be covering this in more detail later in the week)

2. A big shout out to these wonderful people. Don't let anyone tell you we don't have a fantastic community here

3. I love this tweet. I can recall the picture being taken, it caused quite a stir. The Kwan Yin made a big play of being the first Chinese restaurant outside of the West End. (note the actress is Imogen Hassell).

4. Interesting tweet on the abandoned Railway works to the north of Edgware Station

5. A little bit of old Colindale history

6. Wish I'd known these fine people were at the station when I visited yesterday. What a fine job they do

7. If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, it is vital that you do this as time is running out

8. A fascinating tweet from the Mill Hill Historic Society

9. A little bit of Hendon history

10. A Mill Hill Landmark disappeared this week. We do hope he comes back soon!

That's all folks. 

The end of an era - The last Inter City 125’s at Cricklewood

One of the things I most enjoy about writing this blog is the opportunity to document and record key moments in the life of our community and environment. I was quite honoured yesterday to get an invitation from Robin Morel of Network Rail to visit Cricklewood Railway depot to see the final visit of the iconic Inter City 125 trains working scheduled services to and from London. These iconic machines hold the world speed record for a diesel powered vehicle, having reached 148mph.

Cricklewood final day of Inter City 63
Robin was keen to see the moment recorded for posterity. East Midlands Railways, the operator, had given one of the engines a special lock of paint, with one engine being returned to its original BR livery and another having a brand new EMR design.

These units have thundered between St Pancras, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Manchester (for a short period) since 1982. As my house backs onto the line, I’ll miss the distinctive roar of the engines. Robin sent me this information about the trains.

Robin also kindly said a few words about them. I tweeted this out yesterday and got a huge response. It is great to see so many people appreciate this icon of British Engineering . Final inter city 125 at Cricklewood

Here are some videos, one of the final London bound service passing Cricklewood on its way to St Pancras

Last IC125 passing Cricklewood

Here is the last Inter City 125, with its special paint job, arriving at Cricklewood.

Final inter city 125 at Cricklewood

services arriving for their rest before the final journey back from St Pancras to Leeds. The unit with the retro paint job is off to the National Raiwlay Museum. It would be nice to see them back occasionally on charter services, which I am sure will happen.

Here is the full album of photos from the day. Once again many thanks to Robin Morel, Network Rail and EMR. I will be posting a blog later in the week, detailing some of the other things we saw on the visit, including the soon to be demolished waste terminal and the works for the new Brent Cross West station. 

The final Inter City 125 at Cricklewood

Friday 14 May 2021

The Friday Jokes 14 May 2021

As the studios have got busier and I'm working long solo shifts, I've had less time to blog recently. So this week I've decided to cheat a little bit and nick a jokeor two from  my favourite Tweeters who's content gives me a bit of a laugh. These stood out this week.

And Claire Cheesecake found this gem from Bob Golen

BTW Claire is raising cash for Alcohol change UK in memory of her brother, a worthy charity supporting those living with alcoholism. If you have a few spare pounds, please consider a donation.

Have a great weekend

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Why Manchester City winning the league should give fans everywhere hope

Man City - 7 times Champions 

Back in 2003, Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and boldly claimed he would make them the premiere team in the UK. As an oligarch with billions in the bank, the world of English football gasped. Many people claimed that it wasn't right that Chelsea should be allowed to buy the title. As my team, Manchester City were languishing mid table in the Premier League, having had two decades of being a badly run yo yo team, I was actually secretly pleased. To me it meant that maybe we'd be spared the crowing of Manchester United, who were the Kings supreme of the Premiership, richer, more powerful and more arrogant than the rest of the league put together. 

Lets have a look at who won the Premier League in the decade before Abramovich. Manchester United won the title seven times, Arsenal won it twice and Blackburn won it once. The Premier League was set up to make the rich clubs richer. United had a hegemony on the title and apart from the season where Blackburn, bankrolled by Jack Walkers largess, ruined the party, won every year apart from a couple of seasons, where Arsenal snuck in as United rebuilt ageing teams. 

In 2008, Abu Dhabi group bought Manchester City. Like Chelsea, huge investments were made. It took three years for City to win the Premiership, as a bunch of also rans were transformed into serious contenders. Whilst you wouldn't need to be a genius to expect City to do well, winning five of the ten titles in the ten year period, the league has become more competetive. Chelsea, perhaps usurprisingly won two titles, but we saw Liverpool and Leicester also win titles, without any of the largess of a huge benefactor. Even United managed a title in the period, for the swansong of Sir Alex Fergusson.

Back in 2003, before Abramovich, the fans of City, Chelsea and Leicester would have laughed the prospect of a decade where their teams outperformed the once mighty United. But football is about dreams. The club which seems to have suffered most has been Arsenal. They have slipped from being the team that were the natural challengers to Manchester United, to being a very mediocre mid table team. As Leicester a likely to qualify for the Champions league for the second time in five years, having won the title in 2016 and having reached the Champions League Semi Final in 2017, no fair analysis would conclude that the woes of Arsenal are anything but the result of mismanagement. 

This season, Manchester United are likely to have one of their best post Ferguson campaigns. The club are likely to finish as runners up and win the Europa League. They have a hugely expensive squad, despite the owners taking a billion pounds out of the club for dividends and racking up huge debts. Every reasonable person recognises that United have been asset stripped. Would all of the United fans who scream about how unfair it is that the owners of City and Chelsea have invested their billions really believe that a bunch of asset strippers with no care for the club, its fans or traditions, really want to see the approach of the Glazers succeed? 

I personally wouldn't mind seeing an end to the practice of billionaires buying clubs, but ending the ability of foreign owners to asset strip is surely far more important. The owners of Chelsea and City were never more than luke warm about the ESL. They don't need it and just wanted to be left behind. The owners that were up for it, were the debt ridden Spanish clubs and the toppled English clubs, who have failed to face up to their own failure. I'd be more than happy to see compulsory fan representation on the board, it would end the ESL type fiasco's. But it won't happen any time soon. United fans should recognise that if the Oligarchs and the Oil money went it wouldn't make the Glazers disappear, it would just make it easier for them to mine the pockets of the ordinary United fans. Is that really what they want? I don't think so.