Tuesday 31 May 2022

Dyslexia blog - Dyselexia is not a special power


The art of being invisible and dyslexia

So earlier today I spoke to Eddie Nestor on BBC Radio London. I had called hoping to discuss the forthcoming Mill Hill Music Festival and give it a plug. I failed miserably. Eddie got me onto the subject of dyslexia and I went into one. What really got my goat was that Eddie stated that we should consider dyslexia as a special power. This is one of the things which annoys me more than anything. The only gift dyslexia gave me was the realisation that I had to work three times as hard as everyone else just to keep up. People say "hard work never did anyone any harm" but when you are constantly struggling to do things that everyone else find easy it is just totally demoralising. I still have nightmares about being in school. As an August baby, I was the smallest in the class. Being the 'thickest' as well was no fun at all. Teachers did not give special dispensation for dyslexics in the 60's and 70's. No extra time to do exams. No extra help. Just work your guts out, do your best and celebrate if you managed to scrape a "C" grade. Reading? Couldn't do it properly until I was 12. Writing? Probably was 13/14 before I really got the hang of it. Long division? I'd probably still not be able to do it today if my sister Valerie had not spent a whole day going through it. Eventually it twigged and I became quite good at maths, but it was struggle and I realised that my teachers simply had no idea how to expain anything.

You may think it's odd that someone who claims they have all these problems has written a blog with over 8 million published words? What happened? As I told Eddie, I had a couple of moments of revealation. The first was my old physics teacher at FCHS, John Shuttler. He sat down with me and explained that the only person I was going through an eductaion for was me. It had never occurred to me. We then discussed English. I had no interest.  I saw Shakespeare as gobbldygook and blokes in silly costumes. He said "You like Joni Mitchell? Don't you listen to the lyrics?".  He then explained that Joni Mitchell would never have been a singer/ songwriter without a good command of English. I went home and read some of the lyrics on an album I had. I realised I wanted to write lyrics like that. All of a sudden, having a proper vocabulary, using English properly and appreciating the beauty of our language was important. The next moment was not from a teacher. It was sitting in a cafe in Camden Town. In walked Mr Ian Dury. A spikey and mardy individual, walked in for a cup of tea. I was with a mate. We aspired to be in a band. We tried to strike up a conversation with Mr Dury. He simply said "Go and get yourself some guitars and start a band, don't sit around here thinking about it". 

It really was that simple. That was exactly what we did. I was lucky. My then songwriting partner had a brilliant command of English. I was simply full of anger and angst. Between us we crafted a set of very powerful and complex songs. I've always said that Punk Rock saved me. It gave us ugly, spotty, unsporty, thickoes permission to be ourselves. We  could form bands and make music. Prior to the punk explosion, it all seemed to be about being a virtuoso player. Punk said that great songs are three minute bursts of enegry and it didn't matter if you didn't play it perfectly. It gave us permission to try.

The truth is that the permission to try is the greatest gift of all. Whereas the school careers master had suggested mowing the lawn for the council, we not only started dreaming of stardom with the band. We not only started a band. We needed to rehearse somewhere, so we started a studio. We needed to play gigs, so we started promoting our own gigs. We were sixteen years old. I found myself suddenly in the middle of the local music scene, someone who made things happen. I'd grown in confidence and my educational performance had improved. The only problem was that, for me, it wasn't fit for purpose. 

No one taught me how to run a business. No lessons explained the intricacies of the music industry. Nothing could prepare me for the shark infested waters we inhabited. I was lucky in as much as my Dad was a hardnut who prepared me for lifes murkier waters, but when you have to deal with complicated legal contracts, that sometimes have words you don't understand, this could be difficult. My Dad did give me one piece of advice that was incredibly useful. He said that if a legal contract has a word you don't understand in it, that is probably the most important word. They make it difficult to understand to keep lawyers in a job. He said "Always look them up and make sure you don't get shafted because you were too lazy to check". At school, I never thought words are important. Many a musician has been well and truly shafted as they didn't read contracts or understand what a word meant.  That is why words are important and not understanding them is not a superpower, it is a massive hindrance.

I've felt my whole life has been like the mythical greek character Sisiphus. The Gods gave him the task of having to push a boulder up to the top of a hill. Whenever he reaches the top, it rolls down the other side and he has to start again. Dyslexia is a bit like that. Sometimes, you smugly think you've finally managed to cope, then you realise that you've filled in a from wrong or an application. I've done this too many times. When I flirted with the idea of going to University, I applied for Bedford College, a female only University. I can't count the number of times I've ticked the vegan meal box on travel arrangements in error, bought useless crap on Ebay as I misread the description. 

I've misread people's CV's and totally baffled them by asking questions that bear no relation to what they've actually written. Any success I've had is down to bloody mindedness and a refusal to quit, even if it means working three times harder than everyone else. Is that a bad thing? It is from my perspective. I know too many people who are successful and have not really had to try too hard at all.  Of course, they have their own challenges that they keep quiet about. When I was building our studios, I largely financed it by working as a freelance IT consultant. I kept very quiet about beung dyslexic. I made a career of doing the jobs other people didn't want, the boring stuff on old, legacy systems that everyone else saw as being old hat. It was in part because it had been hard enough learning it in the first place, I couldn't stand the challenge of newer technology. It was a, for a long time, a successful strategy. When firms can't get the staff, then you earn good money. In many ways, that is the path to go. Do the stuff other people don't want to do, work your nuts off and don't let anyone else knock you back. 

I'm now a father of three children, none of whom are dyslexic. I have five siblings, none of whom are dyslexic. It makes me wonder and question myself. Was I dropped on my head as a  baby? Did I suffer brain damage at birth? Am I the milkmans? I was talking with my sister about DNA tests. I am genuinely terrified that I will learn I'm not who I thought I was. Am I alone? As a child, I always felt oiut of place. I think I walk into a classroom and tell the teacher who was dyslexic, purely by where they chose to sit. For me, it was always as near to the door as possible as this made me feel secure, but not in the first two rows of desks as you'd get asked questions there. The more in the peripheral vision of teachers you are, the less stress you got. I've spoken to many dyslexics who all tell me the same thing.

 So there you go. That is why I get cross when people say dyslexia is a special power. I hope, having read this, you know why any dyslexic my age thinks this is a ridiculous suggestion. I just hope any kids at school suffering dyslexia feel a bit different to me. 


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.

Monday 30 May 2022

Your chance to see a genuine 1980's Funk Supergroup live in Mill Hill


 Friday 17th June - from 7pm
This all-star Brit-Funk supergroup features members of Beggar & Co, Hi-Tension, Central Line and ex-members of Light of the World and Incognito. They play a wide selection from each of the bands’ back catalogues, such as “Time”, “Somebody (Help Me Out)”, “Walking Into Sunshine”, “British Hustle”, “There’s a Reason”, “I’m So Happy”, “London Town”, “Nature Boy”, and “Everyday”. Some of the other bands that influenced them are Mass Production, Kool & the Gang, Roy Ayers, and Ubiquity. The Brit-Funk genre started in the late 1970s, it is a distinctive mix of jazz-fusion-funk-disco music. Our evening begins with Recollection, the always popular 5-piece cover-band playing all your favourites from the 60s to the present day.
More Info 
Tickets: £17 (£20 on the door). Over 18s only. Food available. BBQ weather permitting. Cash bar.
Quick Buy:


 Find out more about the amazing Mill Hill Music Festival Programme here

Sunday 29 May 2022

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 29th May 2022

 So how's your week been? Perhaps the highlight for me was taking a trip down to Paddington via Thameslink and Crossrail on Friday night. I do like Paddington basin and you can get there in half an hour from Mill Hill, if you time it right. It seems odd that you can get to Paddington more quickly by public transport from Mill Hill than you can get to Finchley or Barnet in rush hour.  I felt like a tourist snapping away. I like it, it is very impressive.

Anyway, that's enough of me. Let see what the tweeters of Barnet have been up to. Some great events coming up! 

1. Lets start with a date for your diary. This looks wonderful

2. This is a nice walk. I've done it, but not in one hit. Maybe one to do with the doggies!

3. We love a good community garden!

4. Seems like I'm not the only local resident to find an excuse to use the Lizzy Line. Great pics as ever from our local wildlife correspondent!

5. A nice reminder about one of our more interesting local cemeteries

6. Fun in Cricklewood

7. Not only is this a great festival, it's a great little clip of High Barnet

8. Don't miss this!

9. Another date for the Diary. This will be amazing! Wear your dancing shoes

10. And another!

That's all folks!

Saturday 28 May 2022

The Saturday list #349 - My top ten ever guitarists

 I was listening to The Light pours out of me in the week and I came to the conclusion that John McGeough is probably my favourite ever guitarist. Not only that, I think he is possibly the most influential. This may sound like a bit of an exaggerated claim, but before him good guitar was mostly considered to be long twiddly solos. His work is far more textured and interesting. I'm shocked that I've never done this particular list before, as playing the guitar has been the colour of my life. 

So here are my top ten

1. John McGeoch, notably of Magazine, PIL and Siousxie and the Banshees. I love his understated textured sound. Most modern bands guitar sounds give a nod to McGeough, many without realising! Checkout his doscography. When I looked there were some gems there that I hadn't even realised were his work, such as Fade to Grey by Visage. 

2. Chuck Berry. The man who invented Rock and Roll guitar in my humble opinion. Before Chuck Berry, guitarists were just a part of the band. I genuinely don't thinl Berry gets the recognition he deserves as a guitarist. I don't think there's a guitarist on the planet who hasn't tried to learn the intro to Johnny B. Goode

3. Johnny Thunders. Lead Guitarist of The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. I guess you had to see Johnny live when he was on form, which certainly wasn't all the time, to really get how good he was. There's not a day goes by when I don't hear one of his riffs casually nicked and used far less tastefully in another bands guitar solo. What made Johhny so good in my humble opinion was that his guitar work was always sympathetic to the song. There are plenty of solo's that are technically brilliant, but are just excuses to show off. the pick of his work for me is "It's not enough" from LAMF. It is simply beautiful

4. Carlos Santana. Santana were one of the highlights of Woodstock. I love the way Carlos Santana plays the guitar and the way he uses a very rock sound but makes it something far more groovy. Soul Sacrifice is a wonderful example. I prefer his earlier work, but he has successfully reinvented himself.

5. Ed Kuepper. Former Saints and Laughing Clowns guitarist. In my humble opinion, Ed can do no wrong. Today Wonder is one of the best albums ever made. If you want to know how to make a dark, bitter unplugged album that is at times very funny, check Ed out. I'm Stranded by The Saints is one of the finest singles ever.

6. Steve Miller. I think Steve Miller is amazing. His second album Sailor is in my top one favourite albums. Before Punk, I loved the breezy West Coast rock sound. To me the Steve Miller Band were the finest proponents. I hate 'showy' guitarists. Steve comes from a solid blues background. The guitar is always tasteful. It does what it is supposed to do and hits the spot. I love the slide guitar on The Joker. It shows Steve at his best, tasteful and funny at the same time

7. Nile Rodgers. I simply love the way Nile Rodgers plays guitar. I don't think he ever plays a solo, but when you hear a Nile Rodgers song you know it. They groove. His body of work is awesome. Given that most of his early work was disco, it took a very long time for his true genius to be recognised. I love songs like We are Family. 

8. Mick Jones. I recall once being in a pub with some heavy metal guitarists I know. One of them happened to make the comment that "Mick Jones of The Clash is the worst guitarist on the planet".  I had to disagree, not least because I am! But if you can't appreciate the work of Mick Jones, quite frankly you are a clueless dolt. Mick may not be a technically great guitarist, but he has an amazing feel. I can remember the first time I heard Train in Vain, it imspired me to spend an hour learning to play it. It is a beautiful song. As great intro's go, you cannot beat Should I stay or Should I go for a great rock and roll moment, and listening to Big Audio Dynamite play E=MC2 as the sun went down on the Rock Against Racism gig on Clapham Common in 1987, with Mick's rif cutting through was a special moment for me.

9. John Cipollina. The amazing guitarist from Quicksilver Messenger Service. Happy Trails is definitely in my top five albums. Side one, the Who do you love suite is perhaps the finest example of Rock Blues guitar ever recorded. It was a truly wonderful record and shows Cipollina at his best. Most people I know have never heard of Cipollina. they should.  I was lucky enough to see him live at Dingwalls in 1985 and he was great. Check out who do you love. It is great. When my kids were little. every Monday, I'd make them a 'Midnight Feast', where we'd eat all our favourite foods (as Clare was out at band rehearsals), whilst sitting on the floor, with lighted candles and listening to side 1 of Happy Trails. When it finished, they'd trot blissfully off to bed and I'd listen to side 2. 

10. Randy California. The lead guitrist of Spirit, who tragically died in a swmming accident in 1989. I love Spirit. The album Spirit of 76 is one of my favourites. I love his version of Like a Rolling Stone. I spent an age learning it. I also think the title Track of Father Along is a classic that simply was ignored. I get sad these days listening to Spirit.

Have a listen, tell me what you think (BTW please don't suggest Eric Clapton. For me he will always be the bloke who's racist comments launched Rock Against Racism)

Friday 27 May 2022

Was the former Chief Constable of Barnet shafted by Boris?

 I was horrified to read a story in this mornings Guardian, stating that there have been allegations that Boris Johnson has intervened to prevent former Barnet Chief Constable Neil Basu from being selected as the head of the new National Crime Agency.  The reason, according to the report, is that Mr Basu was previously critical about the comments of Boris Johnson on race, such as his 'Piccanini Smiles'  and 'Looking like letterboxes' statements.

By all accounts, Mr Basu is the most qualified man for the job and it looked highly likely that he'd get the job, which spurred the action. It is not the first time that Mr Basu has fallen foul of Conservatives. Back in 2010, the then Tory Barnet Borough Safety Officer, disgraded Ex Mayor and convicted woman beater Brian Coleman had a pop at Basu, trying to get him into trouble with his boss at the Met. Apparently, he was "spreading doom and gloom" about the effects of Police budget cuts. Mr Basu was right and Coleman was wrong. The current epidemic of teenage stabbings is one symptom of what has happened, as Police were cut and outreach was wound down. 

I met Mr Basu a few times, he was always polite and impressive and had a good command of what he was doing. He was approachable and I interviewed him on occasion for this blog. What impressed me most was that Mr Basu was not afriad to tell me "No you are wrong". Whilst many people say this, he then explained why I didn't understand the role of the police, what you could and couldn't do and why what seems simple is often highly complicated. He didn't talk down to me, just sought to make sure I properly understood the challenge, so I could write better blogs on the subject. I got the reeling that Mr Basu would behave the same with a blogger, a schoolchild or the Prime Minister. The people who are best at their jobs don't talk down to people, are on top of their brief and are happy to share and inform. 

Although I'm not qualified to say this about Policing, from my meetings with Neil Basu, he'd be a great leader of any organisation and given that the selection panel seem to agree, it strikes me as verging on criminal negligence to block him because he tells politicians things they don't want to hear. If, like me you want the Metropolitan Police to be well run and to do it's job properly, you should want the best man for the job. It appears Boris Johnson has stopped this, simply because he doesn't like someone telling him a few home truths.

Thursday 26 May 2022

What does Labour declaring a climate emergency actually mean

The first act of the incoming Labour adminstration on Tuesday night was to declare a climate emergency. I have had some correspondence and conversations about this. It was quite interesting. There have been three strands. The Tories have all said that it is 'meaningless tokenism', Labour have said it shows a deep commitment to addressing an existential threat and the Greens are saying that it doesn't go far enough. 

A couple of correspondents have asked me what I think. My answer has always been to such questions "think global, act local". In a global population of around 6 billion, what difference can the 350,000 odd residents of Barnet make? The answer is none on our own, but if every similar community across the planet followed the example of Barnet, we'd have a chance. We cannot wait for governments, the UN, trading blocks to fall in line. We cannot wait for the 'worst offenders' to change their ways. We have to act. That is my 'grand take' on the declaration.

Now however comes the difficult bit. What practical measures will Barnet Council take?  This blog, through our environment Monday series of blogs has been campaigning for this for years. The aspiration should be to make Barnet Council carbon neutral. Let me outline a few things that will make a practical difference and get their house in order.

1. Council buildings and premises

These should all have solar panels, battery backups, wind turbines, ground and air sourced heat pumps, proper insulation, where these are appropriate. We've been campaigning for local libraries to have solar panels more or less since the inception of this blog.

2. Make Council vehicles clean

Barnet Council has a fleet of hundreds of vehicles. All of these should be transitioned to non polluting fuels. Council car parking spaces should only be available to non polluting vehicles. The Mayoral Limo should be a non polluting vehicle.

3. Plant more trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubs convert carbon dioxide to oxygen and use the carbon to grow. The more trees and shrubs we have, the more carbon is sucked out of the atmosphere. Furthermore, many shrubs with sticky leaves can be planted on roadsides and these remove particulates that are emitted by traffic. Barnet needs a strategy to plant these at pollution hotspots and on main roads. 

4. Protect trees, green space and biodiverse habitats

There has been much talk of building on green belt and other metropolitan open land. Whilst there is a housing crisis that needs to be addressed, it this is done at the expense of green space, the 'Climate emergency' declaration will mean nothing.

5. Build green public transport networks

Barnet and Croydon are similar size boroughs, both geographically and in terms of population. Both are on the edge of London. Croydon has tramlink, Barnet has gridlock. We need to have a proper transport plan that ends the gridlock. The Conservative administration has been committed to the West London Orbital railway. Labour needs to make a similar commitment. Furthermore, we need to develop a tram network. I would like to see this based on hydrogen cell technology, which would have far lower build costs.  We need a proper transport strategy, that includes safe cycleways, improved walking routes and step free access to public transport. Proper cycle hire schemes would be another great initiative, especially at transport hubs.

6. Planning conditions

No new building in Barnet should be built if it is not carbon neutral. If solar panels etc are impractical, developers should pay to have them installed in other locations, such as for low income families who can't afford them. This would lower their energy bills.

7. Solar panels for social housing

I'd set a target for every council house in Barnet that can have solar panels to have them, to have solar panels installed by 2028. I'd give residents long term loans to repay this, which would have a cost of 50% of the saving, so that there was no net cost to the resident and they'd have lower energy bills.

8. Insulation

Every home in Barnet should be properly insulated. All social housing should be brought up to standard  as a matter of urgency. This will help alleviate the energy costs crisis for residents. Help should also be improved for less well off households in Barnet, who do not live in properly insulated properties.

9. Energy effiency in social housing

Barnet Council should ensure that energy efficient bulbs, appliances, heating etc are used in social housing. Where possible air or ground sourced heat pumps should be used. This needs to be done in conjunction with insulation in many cases.

10. Traffic flow improvement

Cars sitting idle in traffic is a huge generator of pollution. The best way to reduce this is to remove as many car journeys as possbible from roads, by using walking, cycling and public transport. It should however be recognised that this isn't always possible. School admission policies should be amended to reduce the impact of the school run. Where possible, locality should be a key factor. I'd like to see parking exclusion zones around schools in drop off/pick up hours. If parents had to walk a minimum of  250 metres to schools, then this would mean a huge drop off in congestion. 

11. Waste reduction

Waste rubbish has a huge carbon footprint and is bad for the environment. The less we produce, the less energy the council has to spend processing it and the less is incinerated. We need an active programme to reduce packaging. 

12. The private sector

Incentives for firms to invest in carbon neutral technologies, get employees to cycle, walk and use public transport and be 'good citizens'. I'd like to see the rating system amended to make good companies pay less. I recognise that this is a national issue, but Barnet should start by making the case.

All of these things would not only reduce the carbon footprint of the people of Barnet, they would have a massive positive impact on the lives of local people.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Labour take full control of the Council at the Town hall AGM last night

 Last night was a momentous night in Barnet Politics. For the first time ever, the Labour Party took full control of the council. They had lead a coalition with the Lib Dems between 1994 and 2002, but in the recent election, they took full control. I've been attending these AGM's as a blogger since 2010. 

Last night brought back many memories, and before we get to last nights business, let me share a few, as this really was a historic night and this blog may well be the only lasting public record of this. 

Back then, we had six bloggers in Barnet and several showed up for the AGM as I recall. There were disaffected Tory bloggers Don't call me Dave (moved to Essex). The experience of the AGM prompted Dave to announce the first of his many farewell blogs (he posted around a 100 more). Dan Hope (Sadly passed away and hios blogs disappeared when the subscriptions ran out), there was the amazing queen of the Barnet Bloggers Vicki Morris, who has somehow been airbrushed from the story, but was there at the start (Vicki invented the Friday Joke tradition of Barnet bloggers). Vicki was leading a protest against the policies of Middlesex Uni on that night (some things seemingly never change!). Then we have Mr Reasonable, still reasonably active (forgive the pun). No blog from him that night. Mrs Angry, no blog from her either, she was the new kid on the Barnet bloggers block and I am not sure she'd discovered the joys of Council AGM's then. Mr Mustard started later in 2011, so he missed the fun. 

Back on that AGM night, Lynn Hillan was the leader of the triumphant Tories. 39 of them were elected, 21 Labour and three Lib Dems. I couldn't believe the inept Tories had been rewarded for such incompetence as they'd shown over the previous couple of years. It was a harsh lesson. I've come to realise that local politics play little role in how people vote, unless there is a massive local issue (such as Croydon Council going bust). If people hate the national government, such as Gordon Brown in 2010 and Boris in 2022, they give the local parties a good kicking. 

So that is where we were last night. The electorate had given the Tories a good kicking. They were down to 22 councillors, Labour had 41, a record in Barnet. I sat down in the front row of the public gallery. A council official asked me if I'd booked a seat. I said "I didn't know you had to". He said "I will have to ask you to leave if the person the seat is reserved for turns up". I responded "Great, that will write my blog for me". The penny dropped and that was the end of the conversation. For a moment, I was actually quite looking forward to getting booted out and going for a pint in the Greyhound. Sadly, I was repreived. 

The fun started. I can't stand the pomp and ceremony. I know a few people in the audience love it and the Ex Mayor, such as Brian Coleman etc, lined up as guests of honour revel in it. If it was down to me, I'd abolish the whole caboodle and run the meetings on a proper business footing. But I wasn't elected so I guess that is irrelevant. As proceedings progressed, myself and other locals tweeted. Here is how I saw the meeing

It started with the Barnet Alliance turning up to lobby Labour to #KickOutCapita. A couple of the crew, Mill Hill residents, told me they'd broken the habit of a lifetime and voted for me in the election. I said "Don't say it too loud or Labour will ban you" We all smiled conspiratorily.

The meeting started with the entrance of the outgoing Mayor and hubby consort. We then had a prayer from her chaplain. I love a good prayer, I go to Church every week, but I always feel uncomfortable mixing religion and politics. The Chaplain did a fine, but to me it seemed rather anachronistic TBh. 

Then we had the handover and the new Labour Mayor. A few thing of note. No hubby as consort. In fact both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Nagus, chose femaile consorts, so for the first time ever, the entire Mayoral team is female. Then the Mayor announced she would be dispensing with the services of the chaplain. Young people will be asked to speak as required. All of these things are symbolic and quite important. It says that Barnet has changed. Last week, we saw a young footballer come out. My one hope is that in ten years, neither of these things are deemed worth a mention. 

Then Barry Rawlin, the new leader was elected and made his pitch. There wasn't too much I disagree with, although I strongly disagree with the abolition of the Residents forums. When I started blogging, these attracted 50-60 residents. The Tories emasculted them and made it almost impossible to use, so the attendance had dropped. I thought Barry should have revitalised them. 

Two things Barry said that I strongly agreed with was the commitment to end mass outsourcing and build 1,000 new council homes. I will support both of these initiatives.

Then it was the turn of Tory Leader Dan Thomas. WIth every passing day, he reminds me more and more of a rancid sardine. Slippery as hell and past his sell by date. He berated Barry for not choosing one of his Tory chums as head of audit. He claimed that it had united him with 'hard left bloggers' in his opposition to the move, whilst glaring at me. The difference is, I said this when he was giving his tory chums the £15,000 allowance to do the job. I've not been a hypocrite and changed my mind. Dan is not too clever. What message is he sending his troops in acknowledging that the Barnet Eye was right all along and he was wrong. They say the Lord rejoices when a sinner repents. I suppose I should, but it simply made me feel sick.

Then we had Labours Ross Houston as Deputy responding. As people who know Ross will testify, he was sound and sensible. Even Brian Coleman likes Ross! He is a lovely bloke and an asset to Barnet Council. When people are sensible and reasonable, it makes blogging quite hard.

However when they are silly billies, it becomes fun. Cue Deputy Tory Leader David Longstaff. I used to quite like David. He is amenable and was very supportive of Helen Michael when Brian Coleman assualted her. At some point, he has either bashed his head or had a lobotomy.  He sarcastically claimed Labours win was a 'peice of cake'. Did he mean that the the Prime Minister, Leader of his party is  liability, or did he mean that the local Tories campaign was a complete a joke. Both are true, why he'd choose to say this at the AGM is beyond me.

David Longstaff is a failed actor. He once played one of the Sex Pistols in a TV skit. I'd assumed he'd understand how to work and audience and how to handle hecklers. He launched into a sarcastic lambastation of Barry Rawlings. Davis seems to think he's a Shakespearean performer. He's not, he's Catford Comedy club on a Monday night. He loftily said "Labour thinks everyone in Barnet should have a good job, who will be left to do a bad job?" He glowered at Labour, leaving a long pregnant pause. Or at least that was what he intended. I shot back straight away "YOU!". Everyone, Tory, Labour and non aligned roared with laughter for a good minute. David turned red and his voice went up to semitones, no more pauses, just a squeaky rant. No one was listening anymore. 

The council then got down to business. Various reports were passed, committee members allocated, etc.  One thing I was pleased about was that Labour have cut the allowances of councillors, saving £400K. Well done. The full set of reports that were approved are available here. 

After the meeting, I had a chat with Barry and Ross, amongst others. Ross told me that they've set challenging targets, he hopes to meet them. I said "If you only build 750 council homes instead of 1,000, that will be 750 more than the Tories would have built". They have four years to make their case. It is in all of our interests that they do.

When the meeting finished, I adjourned for a swift half to the Greyhound. To my absolute delight, I ran into the former curator of the Church Farmhouse museum, Gerrard Roots. Gerrard is a wonderful chap. We had a beer and I asked whether he thought there was any way we could revive the museum. He said "The collection is gone. A museum without stuff is not a museum, if it can be done in a book, do a book". It got me thinking. Barnet is a wonderful place. The history is worth celebrating. There is plenty of 'stuff' that needs a home, but we need a reason to have it. It has to tell a story fit for 2022. What is Barnet? Perhaps the two things in Barnet that most people would travel to visit are the RAF museum and the Yaohan Plaza food court. Where is the celebration of our South East Asian community that makes that so wonderful? My good mate, Mark Amies is a historian who celebrates the industrial heritage of North London. Where is the museum where we celebrate, the cars, the fridges, the motorbikes, the clocks that were made in Barnet? It' all there, staring us in the face. Maybe, just maybe, the new regime will make us appreciate our heritage and bring us together. 

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Why Thameslink is far better than Crossrail

 Today sees the opening of Crossrail, or the Elizabeth line as it's now known. As a Mill Hill resident, I have to say I'm totally underwhelmed by the whole Crosswail thing. The powers that be are making out it's a new concept and something wonderful.  It's not, Thameslink has been crossing London since 1988, with no fanfair. It has a proper name, more destinations, better trains. Whilst it will make getting to Heathrow and Docklands (and who want's to go there) by train a bit better. This got me thinking, if you were to have a face off between Crossrail and Thameslink, which line is more impressive?  

I'd go for Thameslink every time. Of course it's great that Thameslink is finally open, but here's a few facts that prove Thameslink is far better.



Major London Rail Terminus served

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

Kings Cross                                               Paddington

St Pancras                                                  Liverpool St


London Bridge

End of Line Destinations

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

Brighton                                                    Shenfield 

Cambridge                                                Abbey Wood

Bedford                                                     Reading






League Football Grounds Served

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

Brighton & Hove Albion                            Reading

Cambridge Utd                                           West Ham





Luton Town

Airports Served

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

Gatwick                                                      Heathrow


Train Capacity

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

  • 700/1: 666 seats                                  450 seated, 4 wheelchair, 1,500 people total
  • plus 1088 standees
  • 1754 TOTAL

Toilets on Trains

Thameslink                                               Crossrail

Yes                                                              No

And best of all, you get this view on Thameslink's heart in Blackfriars.

I rest my case!

Monday 23 May 2022

The shame of living in a nation that fails its children and young people

If you ask any decent person to give an illustration of a personification of evil, they are likely to say people who abuse children, such as child molestors, child killers and child abductors. People are rightly revolted by such behaviours. Whot shocks me is how often, the people who express such righteous outrage about these issues support and vote for parties that don't give a stuff about the wellbeing of our nations children and young people.

If you think about it, the most important investment our nation can make is in our children and young people. They are the future. They will be our carers, our wealth generators and they are our legacy. After 12 years of Conservative government we have 3.6 million children living in poverty. That is 27% or 8 children in every class of 30. Siren voices say "Nothing can be done, there will always be poverty". This is not true, Between 1998 and 2003 reducing child poverty was made a priority - with a comprehensive strategy and investment in children - and the number of children in poverty fell by 600,000. For a period our government recognised that this was an issue and did something about it. 

Great Britain is the sixth richest country by GDP in the world. If we are to have any hope of retaining our position, this can only happen if we ensure that our young people are happy, healthy, well educated and safe. The current cost of living crisis is likely to lead to a massive increase in child poverty. At the moment, with warm days and light evenings, families can turn off lights, don't need the central heating on to keep warm, but come the winter, we are likely to see many families being forced to choose between eating and heating. Doing homework in freezing cold rooms is never easy. Sadly many councils have shut libraries, removing warm safe spaces for those who may struggle to study at home.

As for our schools, I am the chair of an educational charity. School budgets are under pressure. Schools are having to make all manner of difficult choices, simply to deliver a balanced education to children. All of the really important things that actually make children enjoy school have long since gone by the wayside. We are obsesses with stressing out children by testing them and stressing out staff with OFSTED inspections, without actually asking whether these obsessions are delivering young adults who are happy, well adjusted and able to thrive.

I fear for the current crop of school children. Their education has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Now many face seeing their families plunged into poverty. What do we hear from the government? Boris Johnson does not want to damage oil company profits by instituting a windfall tax.

Education is the key to our nations success. The reason that well to do parents spend tens/hundreds of thousands of pounds on private education is because they recognise that a good education is a sound investment in the future of the family. Sadly, we are run by the products of the private education system and they don't seem to have twigged that the better educated the general populace is, the better our economic performance will be. The pandemic exposed the Tory myth that there is no magic money tree. We spent billions on all sorts, but we sleep walked into a crisis which is likely to cause huge damage to the nations young people.

I've long been a critics of the education polices of both the Tories and Labour party. I was stupid enough to join the Lib Dems in 2009, seduced by their plan to protect pupils from swinging tuition fees. To me this was a sound plan, one which they shamelessly dumped on gaining power. I suspect that had they had the balls to live by their principles, they would have not been wiped out in the 2015 election and we'd not be in this mess now. 

We have an education system that doesn't meet the needs of the economy and fails many of the pupils it produces. It leaves graduates lumbered with debt and many with little prospects of ever actually repaying loans. We have structural shortages of all manner of tradesmen in the economy, we see young people knowing that the only chance they will have of ever owning their own properties is to move away from their friends and families. Many well paid careers will be built working from home, often in a very isolated environment. Many people of my generation, coming up to retirement, tell me that all the fun of working in their industries has gone.

The advent of Brexit has removed opportunities to travel and study abroad. It has damaged the economy, the supply chains and the viability of businesses, meaning young people leaving school will have less opportunity than for a couple of generations. 

In short, we have a government that has no policy to keep children and young people safe and warm at home, has no policy to ensure they get a rewarding education that prepares them for adult life, has no policy to address the stress and isolation of the pandemic, has a policy that saddles them with debt in the form of student loans and has made the possibility of travel and working from home much harder. 

We are facing a mental health crisis, it seems everyone knows someone who has a friend or family affected by teenage suicide. I believe that we are only at the beginning and all we have is a Prime Minister who's sole concern is convincing us he was ambushed with a birthday cake. 

It really is quite shameful. Are we really prepared to ignore this and put up with it? Why are we OK with the fact that the government is causing real and measurable harm to young people? At what point does harming young people cease being abuse and start being acceptable government policy? 

Sunday 22 May 2022

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 22nd June 2022

 The sun is shining. The football season is grinding to an end, we are in Summer festival season (which we will be featuring here quite a lot over the summer, please support your local festivals). I've had a busy week. I've been catching up at work, doing all of the things I'd been putting off due to the council elections, catching up with friends, walking our dogs. The highlight of my week was a trip to the British Library for a talk celebrating 50 years of the seminal Ziggy Stardust album, with the co producer Ken Scott. It was a wonderful evening

That was my week, enough of me, what have our tweeters been up to?

1. Lets start in Burnt Oak, with a bit of archetecture. I find this fascinating, Click here to see what it looks like now! Sadly like much of Barnet, developers want to knock it down

2. There were some interesting vintage buses on Saracens bus duties this weekend. I saw this beauty in Mill Hill. It was spotless. Being a Londoner, I do love to see a Routemaster

3. This is a truly bonkers tweet and video. Love it

4. Possibly a first. A Tweet in German! I almost never include corporate posts, but this picture is wonderful! Being raised in the motor trade, I can almost smell the oil. I love a good garage

5. I still miss Amy. She was always wonderful when she was at the studios. This made me smile

6. We mentioned the wonderful summer music festivals of the Borough. Lets have a look at a few, starting here


7. Festivals don't happen by themselves, they need people to help. Can you?

8. And Cricklewood!

9. And Mill Hill!

10. And finally, there's no music festivals without musicians and instruments. These guitars look pretty damn cool to me!

That's all folks!

Saturday 21 May 2022

The Saturday List #348 - My top ten fave guitar amplifiers

 Here's one for the guitar nerds amongst you! I play the electric guitar. I own a music studio. Over the years I've owned a few guitar amps. If I still had them all, I'd be a happy man but Mrs T would probably divorce me! Here is my list of them and the story of my relationship with them

1. The Selmer Zodiac Mk II

A brilliant amp. I bought this for £50 from Don Mackrill's music stop in Edgware in 1979. This is me playing it at the False Dots first gig at Harwood Hall Mill Hill in 1980. A classic amp. A former bandmate nicked it and sold it when we fell out. It would be worth a fortune now It's the amp on the right of the picture. It was probably the heaviest amp on the planet. It had a whole selection of effects, all of which sounded rubbish, but the tone was great.

2. The Peavey Bandit 85

I bought this amp in Denmark Street, mainly because I was too lazy to lug the heavy Selmer around. I came to the conclusion that most drunks we were playing to wouldn't notice. I was right. This amp served me well and was used at the studio for 40 years. It is bomb proof! This was me playing it in 1986 at the Grahame Park Festival. I'm a fan of 1980's Peavey amps, they do what it says on the tin. 

3.  The Peavey Valve King

These days I've been playing a Peavey valve king. A lovely amp, great tone, really reliable. Done a stack of gigs with it. This is just one of these appearances.

4. The Laney TF300 combo

I bought this amp when we reformed the False Dots in 1998, it was a decent enough amp and we did a few gigs in the early part of the century with it. I wanted a full valve sound, hence the swap to the Valve King

Here is a live track with the amazing Connie Abbe filmed in Camden, featuring this amp. This is a great song, must record it properly one day

5. Fender Deluxe Hot Rod 

This is my brand new toy. I've always wanted a Fender Twin Reverb, since I played one at Hank Marvin's studio in 1979. I was chatting to my good mate Alex Dutton, who runs Dutton Thermonic boutique amp studio and he mentioned this. Had to have it! I'll tell you what it's like after our rehearsal on Thursday! 

6. FAL C-40-T Combo

This was the first amp I ever bought, again from Edgware Music in 1978. It was a pretty awful amp, a transistor amp with a horrible flat tone. Its one redeeming feature was that it was very cheap, about £15 (probably £200 in todays money). If I hadn't bought this, I may not have ever started a band, so I have a soft spot for it, even though it's rubbish!

7. Fender Reverb Twin.

As I mentioned, I played one of these in Hank Marvin's studio in 1978. To this day, it is the best sounding amp I've ever played. It was specially built for Hank by Fender, which is probably why it sounded a million times better than any I've ever played since.

8. Trace Elliott GP12 Bass amp

I can remember the first time I saw one of these. It looked amazing. My mate Rick Collins had one when we toured Belgium with them in 1985, when he was in Soldier Bike. When we started taking the studio seriously in 1987, I got a bank loan and bought one.

 9. Vox AC 30

A totally classic amp. I bought one in 1990, around the time I was falling out of love with the guitar. It sounded great, but the band had folded and I was really not that bothered about music. I was at the studio and I didn't want to let our customers loose on a classic. I was fiddling around with it when an Aussie came in who loved it. He had just come back from touring Europe in a camper van. He swapped the van for the amp. I regretted it almost immediately, as it was a lovely amp. Mind you had a lot of fun with the van.

10. Fender Bullit 15 DSP

This is a tiny little amp. I use it for songwriting at home. It is a great amp for just noodling on at home. It is small and has a lovely tone. Every home should have one!