Monday 29 November 2021

Dyslexia Blog - I spent 33 years wondering what was wrong with me then….

Somtimes nothing makes sense. I spent the first 33 years of my life thinking that there was someting wrong with me. I felt that I had been transported from a parallel universe, to one where nothing was quite right. School was a nightmare, I felt the constant urge to want to escape. I'd often deliberately be naughty so I'd get slung out of classes. I can remember when I was at St Vincents, in what we then called Junior 2 (I'd have been 8 or 9 years old). I got slung out of class regularly, our classes were old portacabins on the edge of a big lawn. I started bringing in pieces of bread to feed the sparrows, who'd congregatclose by. Eventually one of the nuns, who ran the school, spotted me feeding the sparrows and all hell broke loose. I was made to feel like I was the personification of evil.  I couldn't see why it was wrong, as I'd been raised to be nice to animals , yet feeding the sparrows after you'd been slung out of class, was like committing a mortal sin in the eyes of the school.   At the time, I just accepted I was a bad person, but in truth our teachers took zero interest in  me and my work. When my mum died in 2008, I found a stack of my old Primary School exercise books. This picture is a graphic illustration of this. All I got was  tick. 

Click on image to enlarge

Would you give this work a tick? Or would you suspect that maybe the child had a learning difficulty and needed extra help? I could forgive it if they'd missed the odd complicated misspelling, but look at it? The person who marked this work went to teacher training college, qualified and was paid to educate me. They weren't volunteers standing in front of a class out of the goodness of their heart. I look at this and I feel quite angry. Would it have been better for me if they'd identified an issue? Maybe, maybe not, but hopefully they wouldn't have subjected me to the cruel jibes that I had to put up with for most of my schooling.

I can't lie. I improved, especially after I was fourteen years old. The neurones in my brain somehow managed to join up, to work a little bit better. I still make silly mistakes, I still don't really understand the rules of grammar or punctuation properly. My wife and daughter have both offered to proof read blogs for me. I choose not to let them, most of the time, as I feel that leaving the mistakes in is provocative and that is a good thing if you want to make a point. My point is that a dyslexic is quite capable of writing an interesting blog. 

But I jump ahead of myself. As I said, I felt that I was very disconnected for the first 33 years of my life. I'd suffered with issues of anxiety and anger. When I found out I was going to be a parent, I realised that I needed to address the issues with anger. I booked in for some anger management counselling. After five minutes, I was asked if I'd ever been assessed for dyslxia. The answer was "No". I didn't evern know what it meant. Sure I'd heard the term and I 'knew' dyslexics can't spell and are  'a bit thick' (ie I knew the rather poor sterotypical view), but my spelling wasn't the worse and I'd long since stopped considering myself thick. However as it was part of the process, I got myself assessed and to my horror, sure enough I was dyslexic. The graphic above from the Utah Dyslexia Centre demonstrates many of the misconceptions about dyslexia. 

What I find shocking is that many of the symptoms listed describe me, but I never even realised were a feature of my make up. Take anxiety. I'd have never put this down as something I've suffered with. A couple of years ago I was discussing my teenage years with a friend who is a doctor. I mentioned that I'd been proscribed Valium for depression when I was a teenager. I'd had issues and my parents had taken me to a paediatrician. My parents had always told me I was depressed. My friend informed me that valium wasn't given for depression, it was a treatment for anxiety. This was a real shock. When I look at the course of my life, when I was fourteen I started self medicating myself, with things both legal and illegal. I found this helped greatly. I spent the next four years constantly using whatever I could that made me feel OK. I didn't want to lie around staring at the ceiling feeling stoned or drunk, I just wanted to be able to function. When I was eighteen, I moved to Stockholm for six months. I left my mental baggage behind. I found, much to my surprise, that without all of my friends and family, who 'knew what I was like' around me, I didn't need anything to function. I spent a lot of time practicing guitar, writing songs, reading and talking to people. As no one knew I was thick, I could get away with pretending to be intelligent. I got very good at fooling people in this matter. 

As all of my new friends were into music, we'd sit around listening to music, discussing the finer points. Coming from London, with a good knowledge of the up and coming bands, I was seen as a pretty knowledgable sort of chap. I quite enjoyed being treated like a human being. After six months, I returned. I've no idea if my friends noticed a difference, but I| felt I was a very different person. If nothing else, I knew I could be self sufficient and didn't need to rely on anyone. I think that is perhaps the biggest lesson anyone can learn. 

Our prisons are full of people with dyslexia and other learning issues. I've often wondered what role the anger pent up over years of humiliation has to play in all of this? I wonder what role self medication plays in all of this? I know plenty of dyslexics who are very intelligent, but don't have the pieces of paper needed to get the best life chances. Some adapt and find a lucrative niche, some don't. 

So lets look at the Utah Dyselxia Centre's list above. How does it apply to me?

1. Letter Reversals. I used to do this quite a lot. These days, I always use a computer so I can't really tell, although I think I'd just about got over this by the time I was 11-12 years old

2. Slow Reader. This is me. As an experiment a few years ago, I sat next to my wife and read the book she was reading on a plane. I found that she'd turn the page when I was only 60% down it. 

3. Struggle with Directions. This isn't a problem for me. I'm pretty good at finding my way around.

4. Delayed langauge development. The family always remind me that I didn't talk until I was four and my first words were "I wanna piece of cake" at the dinner table. I recalll going to the medical centre in Hartley Avenue, next to the Library for hearing tests as they tried to work out what was wrong. The lady told me that the machine could tell if I was lying. I was very disappointed to learn, in later life, she was lying when she said that.

5. Struggle with copying written text. TBH I've no idea, I don't recall ever having done this,but it wouldn't surprise me, especially under pressure or in exam conditions.

6. Forgetful. This is a difficult one. Some things I have 100% photographic memory and clarity on, whereas other things I forget instantly. I am terrible with people's names., but when it comes to technical issues and problem solving, I have no trouble at all recalling the most complex matters.

7. Poor Self Esteem. Again, this is a difficult one. I most certainly did have when I was a teenager. I think I've got over it, but occasionally it resurfaces in the most bizarre of circumstances. When I am meeting people and I feel I have to make a good impression on them, I can struggle and get extremely nervous. More than a few times, I've declined to meet music heroes of mine, when the offer has been there through work, as I get paranoid that I'll make a fool of myself. There is this nagging "why would they want to talk to me?". Usually when I get to know such people, I'm embarrassed that I thought such a thing.

8. Low Mood. Again, this was a massive problem as a teenager, but one I've largely put to bed. I get the odd day when I struggle, but this is very much the exception and usually caused by stress, which I'd guess most people feel.

9. Anxiety. I go through phases. I've been feeling anxiety a lot more over they last 18 month than I have at any time since my teens. I put this down to the pandemic, I would be surprised if anyone anywhere was unscathed. When I was 12/13, I used to get so stressed I'd make myself physicially sick. I still recall events where I was completely overhwhelmed by it. I am very pleased to say that I've not felt that for a very long time, but it still lurks there someowhere, like a crocodile in a watering hole. There is a part of me that always thinks doom is around the corner. I must say that I also have a strong desire to be the last man standing and not give way to it. I recognise anxiety in other people and find the need to be calm when I see that, which often overrides my own fears.

10 Unmotivated to learn. This was me when I was a child. I hated learning anything. I'd just give up and think "what the hell". As an adult it is not an issue at all. I feel like I've been catching up ever since.

11. Poor concentration. This is another difficult one. I cannot concentrate on tasks  which don't interest me. If something is of interest, I can focus on it 100% for hours or sometimes days. There are a lot of jobs I'd be useless at for that reason. I'm lucky in my chosen business that my wife handles the side of it that doesn't interest me.

12. Headaches. I can't really say that this is a problem for me.

13. Stomach Aches. I think that when I internalise problems, I do so in my stomach. I've had issues with my stomach since my early teens.

14. Feeling Dizzy. I often 'feel weird' I wouldn't describe it as dizzy, more displaced. Often the longer I am completely sober the more displaced I feel. When the Talking Heads released 'Once in a lifetime' I thought they'd almost stolen my thought patterns. I can remember putting it on the Jukebox at the Three Hammers about ten times in a row, as I wanted to hear exactly what he was singing about. 

15. Observant. I am acutely observant. So much so that sometimes, I shut up as people say "Why did you notice that". As a blogger, it is quite a useful tool to have in the box. I can always tell when people are lying. That is why I find meetings of Barnet Council so irritating. Mike Freer, the ex council leader and now MP for Finchley would always shake his foot uncontrollably when he was telling porkies. Sadly such insight has proven to be of no practical use whatsoever.

16. Poor Co-ordination. Anyone who has played football with me will testify to this, usually as they lauy crumpled on the floor after a badly timed tackle. Actually, it is strange, as I sometimes have moments of total clarity and co-ordination, usually when I am not thinking about it. As soon as the conscious mind gets involved it all goes to pot. 
17. Strong sense of justice. I guess the 8.5 million words in this blog are testament to that.

18.  Mispronouncing words. This is the bane of my wife's life. She thinks I do it for effect, but there are many words that I genuinely get very confused when pronouncing. This was a real cause of hilarity at school. I'm especially bad at non English words, especially names, which irritates me intensely, as I know it can appear disrespectful. 

I found going through this to be a useful exercise, as it has clarified how my dyslexia coping mechanism has been functioning and also areas that I need to work on. 


About my dyslexia blog

For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 33 I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and toget people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

Discover Barnet and choose to shop local this Small Business Saturday

This has been posted on Barnet Council's website. We support Small Business Saturday


This year’s Small Business Saturday will take place on 4 December. For the ninth year the campaign is supporting and celebrating independent businesses across the UK. It has been another challenging year for small businesses, with many of them struggling as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.


Barnet has more high streets and town centres than any other London borough, with more than 23,000 businesses, the majority being micro-businesses operating with a few employees. Purchasing locally really can make a difference to small business owners. By helping them you are not only saving local jobs but also supporting your community.  Our high streets can only thrive if we continue to support their diversity and help businesses grow. Barnet has a lot to offer, from fantastic gift shops, handmade goods, family-run cafes, bakeries, and restaurants to independent retailers. Choose to shop local this winter and find unique gifts right on your doorstep.

Barnet’s small business champion, Councillor Alex Prager, said: “This Small Business Saturday, I encourage Barnet’s residents to discover the great variety of independent shops that the borough has to offer. It is very important to support local businesses not only during the festive season but all year round. Small business owners are a vital part of our communities - they are our neighbours and our friends. The council recognises this and is committed to work with small businesses to create thriving town centres. We have approved £23.5m to invest in our high streets to support their recovery and become vibrant, healthier, sustainable and entrepreneurial places where communities live, work and enjoy.”

Supporting small businesses does not need to stop with making a local purchase. For many of them, word-of-mouth is the main way they get new customers. If you have time, give your favourites a like, share a photo, comment on their social media or leave them a positive review.

To celebrate Small Business Saturday, we encourage businesses to use #DiscoverBarnet and #SmallBizSatUK when promoting retail offers, opening hours, and other planned activities on social media. We will be using our social media platforms to celebrate Barnet businesses and where possible we will be resharing their posts.

There will be free parking at all council-run car parks and pay-to-park bays on Small Business Saturday, and on every weekend in December.

Find out more about Small Business Saturday and register your business for free at: smallbusinesssaturdayuk.comExternal link.

Visit the council’s shop local campaign - Discover BarnetExternal link to meet some of the friendly faces behind  Barnet’s independent businesses:


The Barnet Eye is always pleased to post useful local information and guest blogs concerning our locality. Please email us by clicking here

Sunday 28 November 2021

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 28/11/2021

 Another busy week. I was up in York taking a break for a couple of days, went to see the rather fantabulous Stone Foundation on Friday night, watched the mighty Hadley FC win 4-0 and had a rather good Lamb Vindaloo from the Mill Hill Tandoori last night. How was your week? This is my pick of what the local tweeters have been up to.

1. My friends at Liberty UK released this video featuring yours truly this week. I am rather proud to have been asked to contribute. I don't normally choose tweets featuring myself, but this is rather important, so please have a look and if you agree with me, retweet this and tell your MP.

2. Dramatic pictures from Colindale. One has to wonder why people don't drive in a careful manner

3. A rather good piece from ur friend Mark Amies on the murals of Cricklewood station

4. Lorraine was feeling nostalgic when she saw this piccie. So am I now!

5. Did any of you see this rather magnificent machine passing through Cricklewood, Hendon or Mill Hill yesterday morning. It woke me up, but sadly the curtains were drawn!

6. To my mind, this is what a bookshop should look like. I must take a trip up to check it out

7. Unlike some local cemetaries, Golders Green is always impeccable and if you want to keep it like that, here's your chance!

8. Perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on what happens when refugees are demonised

9. I saw a rather good performance from our local team, Hadley FC yesterday. This was my pick of the goals.

10. Did you see Zoe Rahman at Frith Manor School last Sunday? If you didn't you missed a treat

That's all folks

Saturday 27 November 2021

The Saturday list - #329 Ten tips for parents with no parenting skills at all

 OK, I'll come clean here. I have no skills at all as a parent. In some way, I'm amazed that my children have turned out as wonderful as they have. I never helped them with their homework, stating they'd learn nothing unless they did it themselves. When my daughter was a youth swimming champion, my missus did all of the early morning runs, trips to gala's around the country and beyond, as I was too lazy to get up. My excuse that I was working and had to be fresh and focussed was in truth a very poor one. I've no idea how a hoover works or how to load the dishwasher and woe betide anyone who suggests turning over the football for Strictly or the Simpsons in our house. But strangely enough the kids have turned out well. Here are my top ten tips for those with no parenting skills to get a successful outcome. Before you start saying this is sexist, at least four of these tips were given to me by a female friend, who confided in me that she thought she was a lousy mother. 

1. Find a partner who has marvellous parenting skills, enough to make up, in abundance for your lack of them.

2. Get a dog. It's a great way to escape when things are kicking off  - "I just need to walk the dog". Take the dog to the pub, have a couple of beers and then return. Usually things will have quietened down. As you've walked the dog, you can claim you've done something useful.  Your kids also think you are the best Dad in the world for five minutes, when the puppy arrives. Which means that for five minutes in your life, you know how decent parents feel.

3. Always forget your kids birthdays. That way they'll never be disappointed. Sounds crazy? Well because you have a wonderful partner they will soon realise and make sure that the presents are bought. If you try, sooner or later, you'll fail and the kids will get nothing and hate you forever.

4. Learn to cook amazing Sunday dinners. You will be amazed what you get forgiven for when a delicious Sunday roast appears on the table.

5. Always let your partner attend the School parents evenings on their own. As you are a rubbish parent you have nothing to contribute and when you announce "I didn't know XXXX was doing geography, how are they getting on" it reflects badly one everyone. You haven't got any sensible feed back to give anyway.

6. Never make your children promises. You are a rubbish parent. You will forget. They will resent you. Give them surprises instead, they will then think you are amazing.

7. Never be the first to get up. If you are, you have to deal with everything, which you are ill equipped for and will only screw it up. Get up when the morning is in a good swing. You may think you are being helpful getting up, you are not, you will just get in the way. 

8. If you have something you share an interest in with any of your children, make the most of it. If you like football and only one out of three does, don't feel guilty. That's just life. It's not fair and they need to get used to it. I've learned that if you feign an interest in things you find mind numbingly boring you will end up looking like an idiot and embarrassing your kids. Your kids know your an embarrassment, so don't subject them to any unnecessary ordeals.

9. Make damn sure that you keep enough money aside to have wonderful holidays. You may be a crap parent, but if you ensure that they have great memories, over time they will realise just how lucky they were.

10. Make sure you let your partner and your kids know you love them more than the world and would through yourself under a bus for them. Because when it comes down to it, that is really the only job you need to do and if you do that successfully, you really are not a bad parent at all!

Friday 26 November 2021

Barnet Council Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy consultation

Barnet Council are currently consulting on our new Domestic Abuse (DA) and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy 2021-2024. This is a highly important matter and I'd strongly advise anyone who cares about the matter to consider contributing. You can find out more about the consultation BY CLICKING HERE.

Reading the draft strategy, I was alarmed to read that abuse is on the increase and the detection rate is only 14.9%.  The report states

Barnet context

In recent years we have seen a step change in the number of these crimes recorded by the police and the number of referrals to our support services. 

For rolling 12 months to March 2018 and for rolling 12 months to March 2021, domestic abuse incidents reported to the police in Barnet increased from 4757 to 5023.  For the rolling 12 months to March 2018 the percentage of incidents that became offences increased in 12 months to March 2018 from 53% to 60.5% in the 12 months to March 2021. 

Barnet’s rate of domestic abuse incidents in Barnet is 7.6 per 1000 population (12 months to March 2021). This is the 2nd lowest rate of all 32 London boroughs.

 There were 782 domestic abuse violence with injury offences recorded by the police in Barnet in 2020/21 (a decrease of 3.2% compared to the previous year). In 2020, for violence with Injury domestic abuse offences, 118 suspects were identified and proceeded against by police. This equates to a Sanction Detection Rate of 14.9%, up from 13.3% the previous year.

I'd like to see Barnet Council doing far more than they've outlined in the documents. As someone who campaigns for music venues, through the Save London Music Campaign, I was hoping that there would be something in the document about making women feel safe in public spaces and also addressing ways in which men could be encouraged to consider how their inadvertent behaviours can make females feel uncomfortable. 

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Please check out this tweet , watch the video and sign the petition

 All I can really say is  please check out this tweet , watch the video and sign the petition. I am honoured to have been asked bt Liberty to contribute

Tuesday 23 November 2021

I may have taken my best ever picture of Mill Hill today

 I love walking around Mill Hill and I love taking snaps on my iPhone. I think that today I cracked it. It is of course a personal opinion, but I love this picture. We were walking the dogs over Mill Hill Village Cricket Club fields, and I turned to see this image. I thought it was wonderful so took a snap. I make no claims to be a good photographer, I'm sure anyone who knows the technicalities will tell me why it's rubbish, but I just love it. Will I ever get a better one? I really don't know. One day I may buy a camera and take it all a bit more seriously.

Monday 22 November 2021

Environment Monday - A quick checklist for simple ways to by more eco conscious and save money

 So you want to do your bit for the environment, but are not sure where to start? Here's a few ideas that will make all the difference.

1. Buy loose vegetables and use paper bags to put them in. When we buy pre packed vegetables in plastic containers, we usually buy more than we need, we are adding to the huge amounts of plastic in the environment and most of the time it costs more money.

2. Only boil the water you need when making a tea or coffee. Measure the water into the kettle by the cup. Kettles are massive guzzlers of electricity and over the course of the year, most people would save £30-50 only boiling the water they need.

3. If you are working during the day, put your heating on a timer. There is no point heating the house when you are not in it. If you time it to turn on 30 mins before you arrive, the house will be warm and you will save a packet.

4. Unplug your telly at night, rather than leaving it on standby. According to the average UK household wastes £30 a year on TV's on standby.

5. Recycle your pets poo rather than using eco unfriendly poo bags. This artcile explains all.

6. Shop locally. When people compare the prices of your local shop, with a supermarket that you drive to, people rarely factor in the costs of their car journey or their time.

7. Grow your own fruit and vegetables. If you've got a garden, why not plant a couple of fruit trees? If you've only got a balcony or a window ledge, then you can still grow herbs and spices. Herbs such as chives make a cheese toasty simply scrummy and are easy to grow. Mint is another great herb and makes wonderful tea. 

8. Buy locally produced produce that is in season. If you've got a local farmers market, this is easy and cheap. The less we transport food, the less CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere.

9.  Support your local microbrewery. A subject close to my heart. Local microbreweries use local hops, there are no HGV journeys to get the beer to pubs/supermarkets and it is a far better tasting product. 

10. Don't use online delivery services. There has been a huge increase in traffic and pollution in London as we go shopping crazy online. See what local shops you've got and use them. I live in Mill Hill. We bought our telly from Kilworth Electrical, I bought tonights meat from Boucherie Gerard on Daws Lane, the bottle of wine I had last night from Mill Hill Wines and I'll get my wife's Xmas present from Rockman Jewellers who are amazing. You could always buy a guitar from our shop in Bunns Lane Works, if you want a truly amazing present.  

Sunday 21 November 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 21/11/2021

 How's your week been? Mine has been pretty spiffing! Last night I saw one of the best gigs I've seen in a very long time. The legendary Average White Band at The Royal Festival Hall, who definitely still have it and can get even the most sedate of venues audiences on their feet.


On Friday I saw Joe Stilgoe at Pizza Express at Soho and tonight it's my old mate Zoe Rahman at Frith Manner school. All of these are part of the rather amazing London Jazz Festival. That's enough of me, what have the Tweeters of the London Borough of Barnet been up to?

1. I have a rule that I don't use this feature for making political points and I don't feature tweets from outside of the Borough of Barnet, but I will break it today. I saw this tweet and I was genuinely thrilled to see that Burnt Oak Market was returning. I then noticed that it wasn't the Burnt Oak market we all know and love. It was being staged by Harrow on their side of Burnt Oak High Street and rather oddly, they don't appear to be working with Barnet Council, who run the other side of the road. Really? Why can't these two organisations get together and make a proper event and when will we see a return of the real Burnt Oak market, that was the centre of the Burnt Oak community for decades. I'd love to see Barnet Council using it to encourage young entrepreneurs to start small businesses. Many of our best loved retailers started out as market stalls. Rant over

2. I think this is a wonderful picture of the former BR station at Edgware in 1956. This is now the Broadwalk shopping centre. It was a real act of vandalism to remove the link between Edgware and Mill Hill East and not encorporate it into the Northern Line. If it was open today, there would be a station at the StoneX stadium, negateing the need for a fleet of diesel powered buses to get the fans to the stadium, it would provide a useful interchange with Thameslink at Mill Hill and make travel across the Borough of Barnet far more straightforward.

3. IS this the worst and most dangerous bit of driving we have recorded on our local twitter feeds?

4. Did you know that bombers were made in Cricklewood in 1942? You do now!

5. Whilst we are in that neck of the woods, A major campaign to move freight from road to rail was recently launched in Cricklewood

6. Always enjoy contributions from Reel Streets

7. I'm gutted I missed this, it looked wonderful!

8. MR Amies has us very worried there for a minute. Not in Barnet, but a favourite post match dinner venue for many Barnet FC fans. I've been going since 1982. The slow cooked lamb shank is to die for, you have to order it 24 hours before.

9. We love the Welsh Harpies, you get to meet some really fun guys if you join them! (groan)

10. Nice!

That's all folks

Saturday 20 November 2021

The Saturday List #328 - My top ten favourite Jazz artists

This list is a bit overdue and this is an ideal time to do it. The first post lockdown gig I went to see was Ray Gelato at Ronnie Scotts , which was amazing and I will be seeing Ray again soon. As it's the London Jazz festival and I'm going to see the Average White Band tonight at the Festival Hall tonight and Zoe Rahman at Frith Manor school as part of the festival, I thought it only right and proper that I do a Jazz Artists top 10. 

1.  Duke Ellington. My parents had very few albums in their collection. In truth, they weren't big music lovers. I paid no attention to their tastes at all. When Dad died, I inherited his collection. In amongst the Rugger Ditties, Stereo Effects and Lourdes hymns albums, there was a Duke Ellington album. I vaguely recall Dad telling me he'd seen Duke Ellington in New York, I assume when he was in transit to the UK from Australia to fly for bomber command. I bitterly regret not being more inquisitive. The album was a live album. I'd not heard it before, but as I was feeling nostalgic and wanted a connection with Dad, I gave it  a spin and it was absolutely brilliant. Sadly, a light fingered flatmate, who fancied himself as a jazzer nicked it in 1989. I've bought a few since. 

2. Louis Armstrong. He was probably the one artist I recall my Dad raving about. If he was on TV when we were small, he'd always watch. My father only liked positive, uplifting music and stated many times that "What a wonderful world" was his favourite song. He'd sing it in the bath. As my tastes mellowed from hardcore punk, reggae and ska, I realised what a genius Louis Armstrong was. I think All the time in the world is an absolute classic.

3. Ben Sidran. I first became aware of Ben Sidran as a sideman in the Steve Miller Band. A brilliant pianist. As with many artists, I'd saw an album in a rack in the second hand stall. Assuming it would be Milleresque West Coast rock, which I have a soft spot for, I bought it. I got it back and was a bit surprised to find it was existential jazz with  big dollop of humour. being quirky and funny, I rather liked it. I've seen Ben a few times, most recently at Ronnie Scotts. It is always a great night. Last time was during the reign of King Donald of Trump. Ben said that he was on a mission to remind the world that not everything in the USA was tasteless and he hoped he'd convince us. 

4. Dr John. My sister Caroline won a copy of Night Tripper for being a panellist on Jukebox Jury (where famously she voted Tiger Feet by Mud a miss). I'd never heard anything like it before. If I'm being honest, I hated it at first, as it wasn't Rock and Roll as I knew and loved it. In the early 1980's I was looking for musical inspiration and played Gris Gris. It was a revelation. Dr John was playing at Dingwalls. I suggested to my sister we check him out. As she loved Dr John, she was more than happy. A few mates tagged along. One said to me after, that he thought I was only going to be pretentious, but he'd had one of the best musical nights of his life. After that, I tried to see him every time he played in London. We even did a cover of Mama Roux with the False Dots for a while.

5. Ian Shaw. I've seen Ian everywhere from the Chandos Arms in Colindale to Ronnie Scotts. Like me, he has a love of Joni Mitchell and David Bowie. A wonderful Pianist and songwriter and a tireless worker for refugees, a marvellous human being.

6. Zoe Rahman. Zoe lives in Mill Hill and is a friend. She's also a damn fine pianist. She's playing at Frith Manor School tomorrow evening for the London Jazz Festival, I'd suggest you check it out

7.  Joe Stilgoe. We went to see Joe last night at Pizza Express. He's the son of TV Pianist Richard Stilgoe, who Joe reminded us was still alive. He's funny, a great improviser and had a wonderful band last night. He's always good value.

8. Stacey Kent. Over the years, we've had all manner of wonderful artists at the Mill Hill Music Festival, including John Dankworth, Acker Bilk, Gwyneth Herbert to name a few. Of all, my favourite was Stacey Kent. Not only is she a wonderful singer, but she's also lovely to work with. 

9. Scott Hamilton. In 2019, I lost a great friend, Brian Peerless. Brian organised the Jazz element of the Mill Hill Music festival and was also the manager of legendary sax player Scott Hamilton. On many occasions Brian got us complimentary tickets for Scott's shows. The last time I saw Scott was at the 2018 London Jazz festival, sharing a glass with Brian and a good chat with Scott. If you like Jazz Sax, then you really should check out Scott.

10. Stewart Curtis. Stewart is another great friend of mine. I saw him last week at the Mill Hill Jazz club. He works with all sorts of great musicians, a couple of weeks before, I'd seen him at Pizza Express with Zeeteah Massiah, I'd not even known he was playing, so it was a rare treat. His own band K-Groove is a mash up of Jazz, Latin rhythms and Klezmer. Well worth a trip out if you see him playing. 

If you are curious, here's a little playlist (including all of the artists mentioned). If you like what you hear, do check these artists out further. 

Friday 19 November 2021

The Friday joke 19th November 2021 - And it's rather cheesy

It's the and of the working week, it's Friday and as is traditional, we have a Friday Joke.

When I told my good lady what I wanted after pudding last night, she called me an alcoholic. All I said was I fancy Morbier, I obviously underestimated her knowledge of cheeses!

Have a great weekend. As we are on a foodie theme today, here's my weekend playlist. All of these songs mention food.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Great Britain in 2021 - A crapocracy with Benny Hill at the helm

 I had  a very odd dream last night. I had a dream that I was watching the news and our esteemed Prime Minister was opening a new crocodile enclosure at London Zoo. Unfortunately, he decided to step in and the next thing, a bevvy of crocodiles started to chase him. I suddenly realised that there was the Benny Hill music being played and I was actually watching Have I got news for you. Then I woke up. 

Before you ask, I had a sober evening, a rather good band rehearsal. But the odd dream got me thinking about Boris Johnson. I was reminded of this gif

As the old saying goes, it would almost be funny if it wasn't true. Barnet Council have rather helpfully installed the perfect metaphor for his administration in Mill Hill Park.

The last few weeks, we've really started to become aware of the crapocracy that we are living in. The whole business of the sleazy way MP's are conducting their business and the Prime Minister prioritising getting them off the hook rather than ending the sleaze was something that I don't think any of us were not left speechless by.

As to the state of the nation. Today is the day when we visit the cash and carry in Watford to collect drinks and snacks for our vending machines at the studio. We've been doing this for at least 25 years. We have a printed sheet, with all of the items we've sold for years. Every so often, we swap things around, last year we replaced nik nak's with Levy Roots Reggae Reggae crisps. My studio manager would nip up, fill up the car and come back. Britain under Boris Johnson isn't like that. Whereas the list was set in stone and we'd have management meetings to discuss changes to products stocked, now it is turn up at the cash and carry and see what you can get. We've been unable to get the Levi Roots crisps for a month. Last week, there was a shortage of the standard walkers crisps. We were told that there's a potato shortage. It seems that we are so short of crop pickers, thanks to Brexit, that they are being put on the higher value crops at the moment. I am not sure whether Spuds can be left in the ground a bit longer, but an Xmas dinner without roast potatoes may become a very worrying prospect if this gets worse. I believe many supermarkets have long term contracts with farms to supply spuds, so hopefully their stocks will remain unaffected, but if we've not got people to pick crops, they will not turn up on your dinner table. 

Today, we saw one of the most blatant pieces of spinning bad decisions in the history of government in the UK. The transport secretary announced that the Eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds is being scrapped. Mr Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, made a series of announcements to try and pretend that they've found a better way to deliver a modern transport system, fit for the UK, for less money. They will restart the electrification of the Midland Mainline Railway. This was a project that they 'paused' a few years ago, to save money. As they'd already started, a short spur from Bedford to Corby was already nearly done, so that was completed and some almost 20 years old, clapped out trains borrowed from Eastern region to provide an 'upgraded service'.  It seems that they will still build a spur of HS2 to East Midlands parkway, but the super duper new trains will run along the old Midland Railway to destinations further north. There is some talk of a new spur from Sheffield to Leeds, so that the trains can continue and cut a few minutes off the time allotted, but rather than freeing up space for freight and commuter traffic, they will simply be shoehorning more trains into a railway that is already congested. This is how we do things. We all know that sooner or later, they will have to build the Eastern leg of HS2 properly, but it will be more expensive and decades late. Billions of tons of freight that could have been put on rails, won't because of lack of capacity and millions of car journeys made, because the rail network isn't up to scratch. 

Why is this important? Well if we want to cut carbon emissions and to get people out of their cars then we need a decent railway service. The anti HS2 brigade, who claim that building it will generate huge carbon costs, ignore the fact that the cars, new roads and airplanes etc that it will replace produce far more. I totally get that campaigners have huge, real concerns about the environmental impact of HS2. What they have failed to do is present a workable vision of Great Britain's transport infrastructure without it, one that delivers our climate goals. It may well be that other routes would be better, other methods of traction (hydrogen cell?), may be greener or that the pandemic will mean there is no market for it, but if we wait and see, then that will mean years or even decades that we don't have will be wasted. I'd like to see all major rail trunk routes either electrified or running on clean energy such as hydrogen cell. It is totally ridiculous that the Chiltern mainline railway, that links London with Oxford and Birmingham runs on diesel in the year 2021, with no plans at all to electrify it. 

It wouldn't be so bad, but they've already spent billions on HS2, all that money on the Eastern leg is simply being flushed down the drain. 

Sadiq Khan  was on BBC Radio London earlier, saying that TFL's deal with the government expires in 23 days. After this, buses and tubes may have to be cut. This is insanity. London is the only major city in Europe that runs a transport system without public subsidy. The reason for this standoff is purely political, a Labour mayor and a Tory government. A partial TFL shutdown would be a nightmare for London and bad news for the UK. 

I could go on. It seems that every day, we get another example of how the mob in charge couldn't organise a booze up in a brewery. 

I love this country and it breaks my heart. 

In short, we are a crapocracy with a Benny Hill figure at the helm. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Comment - How about saying sorry? Barnet Council to start to #Kickoutcapita

 Success has many parents, failure is an orphan. Today Barnet Council have announced the start of the process to 'insource' services from Capita. The One Barnet project has been a stunning failure, provided awful service and has cost hundreds of millions more than anticipated. As someone who campaigned, made films, helped organise meetings, marches, etc, it gives me little pleasure to be proven right after the services have been decimated. But hey ho, here we are. 

The statement is on Barnet Council's website. Here it is in full

Five outsourced council services expected to return in-house following Capita contracts expiry


Five council services currently delivered by Capita for Barnet Council will return in-house once their contracts expire in 2023, if proposals for a change in service provision are approved by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee next month (December).

Barnet news

Barnet news

Recommendations for the future delivery of some services currently outsourced by Barnet Council to Capita are expected to be confirmed by the council’s Financial Performance and Contracts Committee, which will meet on 23 November. These proposals will then be decided by the Policy and Resources (P&R) Committee on 9 December.

Five services have been earmarked for return in-house to Barnet Council. The first would be the council’s back office Recruitment service, which would return in February 2022. Procurement, Regulatory Services, Regeneration, and Highways would then transfer during 2023, once their contracts expire.

The report to the Financial Performance and Contracts Committee also confirms that proposals for extending the contracts have been received from Capita and are currently being evaluated by council officers. These proposals cover four services which are still under review, where it is expected that there will be short contract extensions of one or two years. These are Accounts Payable/Integra, Payroll, Estates, and Cemetery and Crematoria.

Five more services – IT, Revenues and Benefits, Planning and Development Control, Building Control, and Land Charges – are being considered for longer extensions of two to three years.

A joint spokesperson for Barnet Council and Capita said: “Barnet Council and Capita have carried out a formal review of the services Capita delivers in the borough. This is standard practice for any long-term contract.

“Many of the services were contracted 10 years ago and have been reviewed to ensure that they continue to deliver the best possible service for people in Barnet. Innovation is at the heart of service improvements, and the review looked at how best to achieve this. The Financial Performance and Contracts Committee has previously agreed a direction of travel for each service, including the expectation that some services will return in-house, and that some others are likely to remain with Capita.

“Barnet Council is committed, with the support of its service partners, to delivering top-quality services that make the borough a better place to live, work and study for all.”  

According to a financial assessment conducted by the council, the return of the first five services will be affordable and, overall, will not result in additional costs to the council in running these services.

Capita’s extension proposals are now being evaluated by council officers and a further report will go to the Financial Performance and Contracts Committee in February 2022.

Like his Boss, Boris Johnson, Conservative Council Leader Dan Thomas is not one for an apology. He's 'hidden in the fridge' for the statement, leaving it to an anonymous spokesperson. Whilst success has many parents, abject failure is an orphan. I just hope that the people of Barnet see sense next May. I daresay that the current administration are hoping everyones forgotten by then.  

Monday 15 November 2021

We will never be rid of the curse of covid whilst we have anti vax nutters on the rampage

 Today I attended a funeral. It was the first funeral of an elderly person I've been to for a very long time where there has been no mention of covid on the death certificate. Sadly none of the their friends felt able to attend. The very elderly still have a degree of vulnerability to covid, whilst the vaccine reduces the chances of death or hospitalisation, many people who are vulnerable are choosing simply not to meet people unless they absolutely have to. Back in October, I detailed how the UK is following what is a very different strategy to the rest of Europe in regards to covid. I was lucky enough to have an off the record private briefing from someone who knows. In short, the UK government has taken the decision to allow covid to rip through the population, as we have a reasonable degree of immunity right now. Their view is that this is the best way to finally put the virus to bed. Boris Johnson believes that the best thing is for as many people to get infected as possible whilst immunity levels are high. Whether this will work remains to be be seen. Thus far we've not hit the heights of previous waves and we are not seeing the same number of deaths, although more than a thousand people have died in the last week.

The one fly in the oinkment is that there are still a significant number of people who refuse to get vaccinated. As we live in a relatively free country, there is no talk of compelling them to get vaccinated. My view is that the government should treat us like grown ups and sadly if people want to do stupid and irrational things, then that is their choice (I believe that not taking advantage of a jab that will massively reduce the risk to you and others from a dangerous virus, which has been proven to be safe with billions of doses administered, then you are stupid. You are more than welcome to think it is me that is the idiot if that is the way you swing). 

I do however think that such people will be to blame for prolonging the pandemic and I think it is a real shame that in some cases, they will bear the tragic cost. I've seen all manner of stupid posts. Some claiming that footballers didn't have heart problems before vaccination was invented. Sadly I remember ex Manchester City player Marc Vivien Foe 's tragic death as well as the extraordinary lucky escape of Fabrice Muamba. Of course, they will find another straw man argument to move the ground when challenged. I'm not really a fan of the concept of vaccine passports, I do think testing is a more sensible approach. It is a scandal that billions were wasted on track and trace and the bloody thing has never worked. I wonder when the fraud squad will take a peek. As someone who worked in IT as a consultant for many years (I was involved in testing the first contactless Chip and Pin Card system in the UK), I knew that the astronomically expensive app wouldn't work properly and I'd love to see the people who persuaded the government it would brought to book. There is an old joke "What's the difference between a used car salesman and an IT salesman?" - "The used car salesman knows when he's telling porkies". The truth is that if you sell a health product and you have no idea if it will work, you should disclose that. You'd need standard systems across every phone and far more accurate calibration than we have to even start to think about it. That would take 2-3 years to roll out. The software in our current phones simply wasn't designed to work in this way and everyone who understood NFC (the technology that is used) knew. 

The sad truth is that we are lumbered with Covid for the foreseeable future. As far as I am concerned, it is the anti vax nutters who are putting us in this position. It's pointless arguing with them and I don't believe in authoritarian government, so I guess that in the long run, it will just have to be left to Darwinian evolution. All I can really say is that the government really should make better education of biology, Maths and Statistics mandatory. I have A levels in both if you are interested. I don't think that makes me cleverer, but when people who do know what they are talking about speak, I have some idea what they are on about.

Sunday 14 November 2021

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 14th November 2021

 It's remembrance Sunday. Today we remember.  I was at Hadley FC yesterday for their game against Harefield Utd. A damn fine game of football, poignantly marked by a lone piper playing the last post before kick off, followed by an impeccably observed minutes silence. I was proud of everyone

That was my moment of the week. What was yours? Here's my selection from our esteemed local tweeters

1. This is a nice tweet, a most appropriate way to start

2. And this

3. This is important. Please participate

4. This is a wonderful picture

5. This was a very good goal to seal a very good performance (love the celebratory camera wobble)

6. I think this tweet makes Burnt Oak Library look fantastic

7. Does anyone remember this. I'm intrigued?

8. A quick shout out for our local scout groups (and guidesl) who do brilliant work. I love this

9. Sad news in Mill Hill. Coban's father has passed away, so he's away for a couple of weeks. Our thoughts and prayers are with him

10. The Mill Hill Jazz club is back

That's all folks.