Saturday, 31 July 2021

The Saturday List #316 - The top ten toys I wanted as a kid, but never got

 I loved my Mum to death, but she was what you might call a bit of a skinflint when it came to Birthday and Xmas presents. Whatever you asked for, she'd either go to Woolworths or Burnt Oak market and by a crappy, shoddy alternative. My Dad was the opposite, but as he worked every hour God sent, he'd rarely buy anything. A few notable exceptions were when he bought me the Corgi Rockets set with a super turbo charger. That was the best present ever. Mind you, he played with it almost as much as I did, as it was brilliant. 

But this blog is not about that. It is about the ones that got away. The pattern was pretty similar. We'd see a commercial on TV, the item would look brilliant. I'd nag my parents for six months to buy it and hey presto. Christmas would come and I'd get something with a slightly vague similarity to it. 

1. The Triang Midland Blue Pullman set. This was something I always wanted as a kid. This train would go from St Pancras to Manchester and pass by our house. All of the other trains were either green or maroon and looked a bit crap, but this was blue and looked super modern and fast. I wasn't really interested in steam engines. I preferred modern looking things (I still do). One year, after much nagging when I was about six, my mum started dropping hints that I'd be very happy on Xmas day. I awoke early and very excited. She'd bought a second hand train set at a jumble sale. It had a steam engine. She'd missed the point and not listened at all. I think that was the moment it finally dawned on me that life would never work out quite how I wanted.

2. The Johnny Seven gun. Every boy I knew wanted one of these. Most of my friends got one. But my mum categorically laid down the law that she would not tolerate guns as guns kill people. She beleived that I'd turn into a psychopath if I played with toy guns. What especially irritated me was that my brothers had air rifles. She informed me that they'd bought them with their own money, but if she had her way, they would be in the bin. 

3. The Parachuting Action Man. Action man was perhaps the most popular toy for my generation and the Holy Grail was the parachuting action man. All I got was the cheap knock off version from Woolworths, and without a parachute. I saved up my pocket money for months and we finally went down to Hamleys to buy it. Guess what? They were out of stock. I bought an Arctic Action man instead, mostly because I liked his dog. It wasn't the same. By the time we had some decent ice to test the sledge, I'd lost interest in it.

4. The Royal Mail Train Set. This was one of those toys that you saw on telly and just wanted. The train would go around in circles, but it would collect mail bags as it went past. It looked really exciting. Sadly around the time this was my dream present, my Mum was sick with cancer and the family was a bit skint and in disarray. I think we got a tangerine and a bar of chocolate for Xmas. My cousins got this. I went around to their house to play with them on Boxing day, whilst my Dad got pickled with my Uncle Jim on his home brew. It was actually a bit crap, nowhere near as exciting as on Telly, so I wasn't quite as gutted as I had been.

5. Shado UFO and Interceptor. UFO was my favourite TV series. For my Birthday, I was desperate for the UFO and Interceptor. For once my Mum listened. I got the Interceptor, but for some reason the one she bought was green. It was a proper Corgi Interceptor and fired the bomb, but it was Green! The interceptors were grey and it didn't come with a UFO. I've never figured out why the Corgi Interceptors were the wrong colour? I'd love to know.

6. E Type Jaguar Scalextrix Set.  The E Type Jag was always my favourite car. I saw an E Type Jag Scalextrix set in Hamleys and wanted one. What I got was Burnt Oak Market knock off that didn't work and didn't have E Type Jags.  I sometimes wondered what my Mum thought I'd think of such rubbish. 

7. Tonka Digger. I remember vividly the first Tonka advert on TV. The next day the playground at St Vincents was full of it. These toys were like Captain Scarlett. They were indestructable. We were fascinated. Needless to say the knock of my Mum got down in Burnt Oak Market was anything but indestructable. My humiliation was complete when everyone else in the street got real ones for Xmas. 

8. The Chemistry Set. There was a period when these were all the rage. All manner of exciting things could be done. Explosions, smells, bangs. I desperately wanted one. I persuaded my mum that it would help my studies. She of course bought the cheapest one she could. It had three chemicals that did the square root of nothing. All I can remember was that there was Copper Sulphate that was meant to do something interesting. It put me off chemistry for life. As I recall, my mate Luke from next door got a decent one and actually managed to make some smells and bangs. 

9. At some point in the early 1970's we started to see radio controlled toy cars. Of course I wanted the Ferrari. What did I get? I got a crap Ford Escort from Burnt Oak Market, which was controlled by a long wire. It was crapness incarnate.

10. Addidas World Cup football boots. I've always loved football boots. Addidas boots had three stripes and the TV Commercial implied that if you wore them, you'd be transformed into a footballer with the skills of George Best. Of course my mum bought me Winfield boots, with two stripes, that transformed me into Tony Adams less skillfull brother. If only she'd bought me those Addidas boots, maybe I'd have scored the Equaliser when Maradona scored his Hand of God goal and England would have gone on to win the World Cup. 

What is the toy you most wanted but never got?


Monday, 26 July 2021

The Amy Winehouse I knew at Mill Hill Music Complex Studios

Let me start by giving some perspective on this. I have always felt slightly uncomfortable talking about Amy Winehouse. She was a studio customer from the days before she was famous until the day she died. Shortly before she passed, she'd called about doing some recordings. She wanted to do something stripped back, without the big production, but primarily where she was in control and calling the shots. We were sworn to secrecy about the project (no big deal, many artists do this). The sessions were booked provisionally for September 2011. When Amy passed, I was in France. When I came back, the saddest moment of my professional life was getting the Tippex and erasing the sessions from our diary.

I have never been so genuinely excited as when we took the booking. It's not often we get a Grammy winning artist wanting to record an album worth of material in our little North West London studio. They normally prefer Abbey Road. Although this was likely to be pre prod demo's, Amy would most likely have ended up recording the final versions at Abbey Road, she said that she needed a less formal enviroment to create and said that if it came out well enough she'd do it all with us.  It was still hugely exciting. She said she wanted to lock herself in the studio with a couple of musicians and simply create. 

It is a well known fact that Amy had her troubles. When we last spoke, it was not to a troubled soul. It was to someone who wanted to open a new chapter. She told me she'd been listening to lots of music and was feeling really inspired. This was not inspired in a whacky or drug addled sense. It was in a serious, professional and purposeful manner. She wanted a stripped back, unplugged vibe, more jazz based. She wanted to put out an album that people didn't expect. Something with a raw depth that maybe she felt the super polished previous albums and the pop tunes hadn't addressed. I was given the impression that almost no one knew about it. She most certainly didn't want her label involved until she had what she wanted in the can. She didn't want someone saying "This is a single, we need XXXXX to produce it now". 

I've waited ten years to really talk about this. Why? I was sworn to secrecy and that was important, but now, ten years later, I think the time has come to say this. There were two things that spurred this on. The first was that I watched 'reclaiming Amy' on Saturdya night. My thoughts? I was really disappointed. I get that her parents needed to set the record straight and that her friends wanted to put some perspective on her life and death. But what disappointed me was that we are yet to see something that tells the story of Amy, the musician. What made her tick, what made her so influential. What did the people who played with her, produced her, toured with her think. I am not interested in the stories of alcohol and drugs and breakdown. I am interested in how this little sparrow of a girl from North London became the most infuential singer of the last 20 years. When Amy first came down, she was a sassy, funny teenager. She would wear her white leopard skin print trousers and was shy and respectful. As she got used to us, the shyness gave way to cheeky banter. Occasionally she'd bring a guitar and ask us what we thought of  a song. Her Dad Mitch would hang around on occasion, chatting, drinking a coffee and telling us Amy was going to be massive. Mitch is a typical London cabbie and it was clear he adored his daughter. As she progressed, Amy started playing with better musicians. She got a management deal and when she was booked to play her first TV performance, she bounded into our shop, looked up at the wall and said "what is the blue Fender guitar like?". Our senior tech Fil Ross, replied "It plays well and has a good tone". She added "Sort out a gig bag and I'll pay when I've been to the loo". Fil set it all up so she could try it out. When she emerged, Fil said "Here, try it out". Amy replied "I trust you, I'm using it for filming a TV show tomorrow". That was Amy. Maybe she was too trusting. What you saw in that appearance was how I remember Amy best.

The guitar was a Mexican Strat. It did the job. I'm sure that when we watched that Jools Holland appearance, none of us really expected any of the things that happened as the story unfolded.  We knew she was a great singer, to be honest, we'd heard her sing better in the studio (she loved studio 9). I recall one moment, she was doing an important showcase, I can't recall if it was for a label, a management deal or whatever, but when she mentioned it, I suggested that we give her a free upgrade to Studio 7, our biggest and best room. We often do this for struggling artists on limited budgets, if the room isn't booked and they have important guests. This is as much so that the VIPs see the best of us as they see the best of the artist. Amy replied "Thanks, but Studio 9 works for us, I don't want to risk loosing the vibe". The show went well and she told me later "I really appreciated that offer, but music is all about vibe and we know that we always get it in studio 9". 

Several years later, at the height of her problems, I was in a pub in Camden with a couple of non music industry mates. Amy and her entourage were at another table, clearly not in the best shape. I didn't want to intrude on their space. As I went up to the bar, she approached me and said "Hi, how's it going in Mill Hill". I said things were great. She then said "Sorry we've not been down for a while, but Studio 9 is a bit too small for the setup I'm playing with at the moment". We had a little chat about this and that. The mates I was with said "Do you know Amy?" I replied "yeah, she's been a customer of the studio for years". One said "I've heard she's a bit of a nightmare". I replied "She isn't with us. She just came up and asked me to say hi to all the guys at the studio". 

As to the issues of addiction. It is clear that Amy had major problems with substances. I never really saw this side of her. Part of this was because we saw most of her before it became an issue. When I saw her in Camden, she was a bit worse for wear but was charm personified. I know a few people with serious abuse issues. From what I've seen, for them, their addiction was their promary reason for existing. Everything else, music, relationships, work, everything was simply a conduit to feed their addiction. I felt with Amy, this was never the case. I honestly don't believe she was aware of how badly alcohol was damaging her. I don't think you can really blame anyone, even Amy. I have long believed that we should educate children about addiction. We hear that alcohol can kill you, but we see friends getting bladdered night after night and they don't die. Maybe what we need to do is to learn the warning signs that it is starting to kill you. My view is that Amy had sorted out the Class A problem and was unaware that the booze was as dangerous. She wasn't someone planning to die, so I have to assume she didn't understand the damage it was causing. 

I said there were two reasons I felt that now is the time to write this. The first was the Reclaiming Amy film. The second was a conversation I had in The Bridge Tavern with our chief engineer Fil Ross last night. Fil had spent two days at the Finchley Community Carnival, doing the sound for a whole host of local artists. This was the first PA system we've done for a festival for nearly two years. After we put the gear back in our store, we retired to The Bridge Tavern for a debrief. Fil knew Amy best of anyone at the studios. He commented that all of the aspiring young female artists are really heavily influenced by Amy. We laughed as we recalled seeing her at The Torrington, long before she made it, never thinking that in 20 years time a whole bevvy of young artists would be onstage in a car park down the road from the site of the long gone and much missed venue, trying to be the next Amy. 

There are many singers who can put a really good Amy style performance on. What I think many miss though is that Amy wasn't just a singer who played to backing tracks. She cut her teeth with a band. She wrote songs. She played guitar. She knew the music of the greats. If she heard a track she liked, she wanted to understand why it sounded so good. She wanted to know how a singer got a certain sound. She wanted to understand why some songs worked so well for some singers. She wanted to know how she could fill her songs with her personality. When she covered a song, such as Valerie by The Zutons, she wanted to own it, to make it better. That is why she won five grammys. I'd love to see a documentary that told that story, if I could, I'd make one. I'd speak to musicians she worked with, the producers, the engineers. It would probably screen at 3am on Sky Arts, if anyone ever saw it. But for me as a musician, it would tell the story I really wanted to know about Amy. Not the drugs, the tantrums and the boozing. It would tell the story of why she was such a genius and how she became one.

The rest is pretty unimportant to me. She is and will always be the most important UK artist of the first decade of the century. Remember her for that as that is what matters. 

Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 25 July 2021

 So how has your week been? We hope that after a long cold winter, the new found freedoms have brought you some fun. But the burning question I'm sure you've all been asking is "What have our Tweeters been up to?" Here is our selection of the best.

1. Lets start in Edgware. Mark Amies has been campaigning to Save the Railway Hotel in Edgware for many years. He's been keeping an eye on it and has kept it in the public eye. We've been supporting him all of the way

2. Natalie Miranda is one of our very best local singers. We suspect that if you didn't nip down to Lodge Lane at 1pm today to see her for free, you've missed out on a fantastic show.

3. Fancy sampling a little bit of Brazil? In Finchley?

4. A date for your diary

5. Donald's marrow's have brought him a bevvy of admirers. A way to go this year this year though

6. Totteridge Long ponds are one of our most loved local landmarks

7. Nice update on the work at the Stonex Stadium from Inside Mill Hill

8. This was one of my favourite special meal deals ever. We loved the Day of the Raj. We are lucky that we've still got the excellent Mill Hill Tandoori for our Friday night dinner!

9. Why not help your local group looking after our waterways!

10. And finally, we commemorated one of our own

That's all folks!

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Barnet Council claim their own planning requirements cause "environmental concerns"

If you have ever wondered how seriously Barnet Council take enforcement of planning conditions, this blog may be of interest.

The National Institutue for Medical Research site in Mill Hill is being redeveloped by Barratts PLC. 

The most recent planning permission is available here, it has rigorous conditions attached to ensure minimal impact on residents and the local environment

This states
9 The development shall be implemented in accordance with details approved within the Air Quality and Dust Management Plan approved under condition reference 17/8152/CON of the extant consent (Planning Ref 16/4545/FUL), unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority. Within any amendment to the approved details, reference shall be made to the Mayor of London's SPG, "The Control of Dust and Emissions during Construction and Demolition". The plan shall confirm: a. which air quality emission and dust control measures are to be implemented; b. which monitoring methods are to be implemented; and c. that construction machinery will meet NRMM standards Reason: To comply with the London Plan's SPG on Sustainable Design and Construction (2014) and Policy 7.14 of the London Plan (2016).

The guidance that covers dust suppression is as follows (links on GLA site at )

5.39 Vehicles – in particular wheels – should be washed or cleaned before leaving the site. At low risk sites, this might be by means of hosing, but at most sites wheel wash facilities should be installed, preferably with the application of rumble grids to dislodge accumulated dust and mud. Ideally the route from the wheel wash to the public road should be a paved. Where layout permits, the site access gates should
be located at least 10m from receptors

It could not be clearer. The site must have a proper system for washing and cleaning vehicles in place to proceed. So what is happening in reality? Well here are a few tweets posted over the last year, tell me if you think this condition is being adhered to?

And just to show that this has been going on for a couple of years

It is pretty clear that the requirements of the GLA regulations are not being adhered to. You may ask why this has not been reported to Barnet Council, who are legally obliged to enforce these rules. The answer is, they have. Myself and other residents and business owners have repeatedly, all to no avail. Today, after repeated emails etc, I finally received an email from the manager of Scientific Services for Barnet, who is allegedly dealing with the issues raised by the NIMR development. I won't name him, to spare his blushes, but he stated

Mr Tichborne,

Thank you for the photos.                   


Unfortunately wheel washes recycle water and so they never leave muddy wheels 100% clean, it is possible to jet wash wheels as they leave sites but this also creates debris in the run off on the road and this uses a lot of water – which is an environmental concern in itself.


The site uses road sweepers so the most recent photo and twitter photo 29th May ( I cant access twitter on this computer)show a thin fine layer of the dust in the tarmacadam but no significant debris. Road sweepers are reasonably efficient in removing larger debris and grit, but the brushes do get stained with fine mud so they never leave roads completely clean hence the pictures. This is similar to what we usually witness when we visit, no significant amounts of mud grit and debris but some fine staining of the tarmacadam.


I note in the U tube video one car was very dusty but not outside a house, it was probably  parked near the site entrances  probably on Burtonhole lane.

Judges have ruled that dust on cars is not a formal nuisance, it has to affect habitable parts of premises, so if there are photos of that amount of dust affecting the facades of residential houses please show this.

We are visiting this later this week to check around Wentworth Hall one of the nearest premises to the site entrances where works are happening, and we will look at the current state of the site.

So there you have it. According to the manager in charge of scientific services, washing wheels, a GLA requirement is an 'environmental concern'.  This response is, to be quite frank, completely ridiculous. It took me five minutes to google a suitable washing system. Given the GLA recommend that this should be located 10 metres from the highway, it is absolutely clear that if this was properly installed, the issues raised by the Barnet Manager would simply not exist.  

There are only two possible explanations for what has been written above. The first is that the planning department and the GLA are recommending mitigations that are not environmentally sound. If this is the case, it should be a matter of urgent public concern and should be resolved as quickly as possible. The other alternative is that the manager of Scientific Services think that the public should be treated with disdain and that it really is none of their business what the council are doing with regards to enforcement. 

I am very annoyed. This manager has repeatedly asked for photos I have stopped on several occasions to take them. I've sent them to the council, as have many other residents. I have now been told that all of this effort was pointless, because wheel washing would create environmental concerns. 

I am not going to leave this here. Firstly it is the GLA's guidance that states wheel washing must be done. I will be contacting our local GLA representative to clarify whether the GLA are recommending planning conditions that raise environmental concerns. I will also be escalating this to the CEO of Barnet Council, the Leader, and the chair of both planning and Environment committees, as well as opposition leaders. 

Barnet Council are not taking enforcement seriously. This results in shoddy practice. I want this to stop. I hope you do too.  Does this really look like a 'fine coat of dust' to you?

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

My frustration with Barnet Council AKA Capataville reaches boiling point

 I have largely refrained from writing blogs criticising the day to day issues of Barnet Council during the pandemic. I've taken a 'bigger picture' view that Councillors, Council Officers and Capita have enough on their plate without having to collate FoI reports, answer emails etc from irate bloggers, etc. However, as Boris has decided that the pandemic is over, I think I will have to reconsider my position. 

I have been in discussion with the council, local residents and local business owners about a complete lack of enforcement of planning conditions by the Council at a large building site in Mill Hill. Residents have provided the council with reams of photographic evidence of continual issues. Local business owners have requested Council enforcement officers visit their site to see for themselves what is going on. For reasons I cannot quite comprehend, the council seem unwilling to do this, despite repeated complaints over three years.

Today I was copied into several emails, sent to the council, with various pictures and requests to investigate. The issues are mainly concerning breaches of the agreements to control dust and noise. This has been an ongoing issue. I became highly irritated by the high handed and patronising tone of the council in their replies. So much so that I emaied the Local government secretary asking what remedy their was when a Council was not doing its job. I copied the Council into the correspondence for transparency. In response I received a highly sarcastic email, which contained various inflammatory statements, implying I was trying to stop all contentious development rather than simply getting the council to do its job and make sure contractors do the job safely and with consideration for residents. 

I am not anti development. I have made a fair bit of money out of property over the years. People need homes, businesses need premises and when buildings have reached the end of their life, it is only sensible to repurpose, refurbish and rebuild such buildings. All building projetcs cause disruption and are never fun for neighbours. My next door neighbour has just finished such a project. Fences were knocked down and they even damaged our satellite dish. I have friends who have far worse experiences. The council have a duty of care to ensure that if a development has conditions applied to it, to ensure residents are not disturbed, then the developer should be held to account if they break these. Of course there will be the odd problem. So long as the issues are rectified, then you have to be sensible. However, if the rules are flouted for years on end, then the council should come down hard on the developer.  This doesn't mean stopping all development for ever. It means making developers understand that if they sign up to conditions, they stick to them and if they don't there will be financial consequences.

It is clear to me that since Capita have got involved in the council, the concept that the Council works for the people of Barnet is a thing of the past. In one email today I was told there are 'countless worse building sites' which is not exactly reassuring from the bloke who is supposed to be making sure the developers follow the rules. 

It will be interesting to see whether Robert Jenrick, the Local Govt secretary bothers to take an interest. His predecessor, Eric Pickles was a big fan of the Barnet bloggers. Lets hope his successor takes this seriously. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

Freedom Day? - Freedom from what exactly?

So today is what Boris Johnson has called "Freedom day". The question I have is 'Freedom from what?". My wife said to me this morning "I will feel a lot less safe travelling into London if people are not wearing masks on public transport". She also has reservations about going to gigs,  cinema's and the theatre if there are no limits at all (I'm not so bothered in all honesty). We are both double jabbed and in reasonably good shape. Neither of us are on anything that suppresses our immune system. Her worry is not so much that she'll get ill, but she is concerned that if she catches covid, she may asymptomatically pass it on to someone else, who may suffer.

All of the people I've read comments from, who object to masks, talk about their own freedoms and how they believe a mask will not protect them. I don't know if it is simply because many have sociopathic tendencies or there is something else going on, but they never mention the fact that it may stop them spreading the disease and keep someone else safe. I recall that in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, some people stated that they wouldn't wear condoms as these would 'spoil their fun'. It is the same thing.

The anti mask/anti lockdown movement seem to have a blind spot when it comes to causing harm to other people. I've lost two family members to covid. When I mentioned this to an anti lockdown campaigner, their response was "what was wrong with them?". I asked if he felt an 89 year old woman who was living independently and had contracted the diseases shortly before being discharged from hospital for a minor had no right to life and if a 58 year old woman with Downs syndrome had no right to life? The response "why should the rest of us suffer for 'such' people?".

It seems to me that many of the anti lockdown/anti mask campaigners are really supporters of eugenics by stealth. The young, the fit and the healthy can party away and anyone, especially those who paid their taxes and are now enjoying their retirement can go to hell. They say "if 'such people' are worried they can lock themselves down". Where is the freedom in that? The thing about freedoms as we understand them in modern western democracies is that freedoms are universal. We all can vote, we all expect the law to be applied fairly. What we are seeing is a subtle change to this. This is where facism and totalitarianism start. Not with wearing masks, but with the fit and strong majority deciding that the needs of the more humble and weak are not important. It is worth remembering that the first act of genocide that the Nazi's undertook was against Germans with disabilities. 

I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can claim that wearing a mask on public transport is a restriction on freedom. I don't have a problem with pubs/clubs/venues opening. It is a conscious decision to go to such places. If they have done a risk assessment and they feel they can operate safely, then there is a good argument for opening up. People who have jobs and have to use public transport have no such choice. 

It has been interesting at the studios today. The vast majority of our customers are stll wearing masks. When people ask, we say "You are not legally obliged to wear a mask, but we would prefer it if you wore them in public areas". I'd rather all did, but without a legal requirement, it puts my staff in a difficult position when people do not want to mask up. That is the problem that Boris Johnson has created. Either masks, which are a minor imposition make a difference or they don't. If they do, it seems to me to be a silly move to abandon them right now. 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 18 July 2021

 The year of living uninterestingly progresses. Next week, Boris is allowing us to catch the virus in many more ways than we have been so far, so I expect a torrent of hugely exciting tweets as we all loose our collective marbles with the excitement. But this week.....

1. Our friend Samuel Levy AkA @FinchleyBirder has been quiet of late, however we thoroughly agree with his selection of amazing nature walks from earlier in the week

2. A great performance from our local team in an early pre season friendly

3. Sad news from Finchley and Wingate FC

4. Nice Post from the Mill Hill historical society

5. If you are an East Finchley lover, this is a tweet you may be interested in

6. Nice pic of world champion racing driver Graham Hill in Mill Hill. Looks like my Dad in the background having a crafty oily. I know the pair of them were friends

7. Lovely Tweets

8. Well done to Emily, always good to find a use for such things when no longer needed. Sorry or your loss, Rolo looked lovely

9. Fancy help cleaning up Dollis Brook?

10. A sad anniversary this week

That is all folks!