Monday 31 October 2022

London Symphonies - Dublin's finest Castle in Camden Town

 Time for another installment of London Symphonies. Today we are in Camden Town. When I was formulating this series, I started to think about what parts of London changed me and why. My Damascene moment occurred when I became a punk rocker in Camden Town on the 6th June 1977. My sister took me to see the Ramones, Talking Heads and The Saints at The Roundhouse. I was fourteen years old, not into music or going out. Seeing the Ramones changed me and have never been the same since . I've documented this and the Roundhouse used the experience as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations. They even kindly put my name up on the wall by the bar.

I fell in love with Camden Town, which in many ways was the spiritual home of punk rock, the sloop between Chalk Farm and Mornington Crescent stations, a mile or so that was the heart of the UK music tribes in the 1970's and 80's, when we defined ourselves by our music, Hippy, Punk, Rude Boy, Skinhead, Mod or Ted.  Camden Town tube station is often the first and last thing you see on a visit. It is a sight to behold as tourists descended the elevator to see what was probably the most confusing train indicator in the world. Coming up the elevator, is always something that excites me. You never know what the evening will hold. Having a chip shop next to the station, it has it's own aroma as well.

As to Camden, looking back to the punk era, I have to mention a couple of venues in particular. At the top end by Chalk Farm,  there was the Roundhouse, with it's regular Sunday night punk slot. I saw some amazing gigs, including a brilliant night with The Vibrators, 999 and The Radiators from Space, another  was the Xmas 77 bill with Eddie and The Hot Rods, the Only Ones and The Stukas. At Mornington Crescent, there was the Music Machine. You could get vouchers to get in cheaply for midweek gigs and the beer was most reasonably priced. We had certain bands we'd see all the time, The Yatchs spring to mind. 

In May 1978, I well remember bunking off school with Pete Conway to hang out in Camden. We were going to see The Vibrators at The Music Machine. We made our way to the Wimpy opposite, drinking tea for hours. We spent a good couple of hours trying to chat up a young lady who'd come over from East Germany to check out the punk scene. As she was about 23 and we were 15, she wasn't particularly interested. She told us that punk had started to emerge in East Germany and was hated by the repressive authorities. She'd been rather disappointed by Camden on wet Thursday afternoon in May and the fact that the only punks she'd met were two adolescents who were bunking off school. Later we met our mate Paul Fox, AKA Foxy of The Ruts, who was working at the gig as a roadie and was getting us in for free. She lightened up considerably when Foxy got her in as well and introduced her to the bands. 

The support band were the Depressions from Brighton. They had a superfan called Pete, who had a Mohican hair cut. We'd never seen a Mohican hairdo before. His hairdo caught the imagination that night and wthin a couple of months, it seemed that every punk in London had a Mohican. If you check out the 1976/77 punk gig footage, the style was unknown. That was how fashion worked in punk circles. You'd get seen in Camden or on the Kings Road, with a new style and within a week everyone had nicked your trademark.  Foxy introduced us to 'Pete the mohican', who was almost a celebrity in Brighton. A year or so later I was chatting to Foxy and he commented that Pete the Mohican was mightily annoyed that he never got credit for inventing the style. I don't know if it's true but I was told he'd even had punch ups with other pretenders to the crown of inventor of the Mohican over who had worn the style first. 

At the Music Machine, there were a plethora of bars on different levels, if you didn't like the band on that night, you'd nip up and play pool in one of the more remote bars.  There were little gangs from area's of London that claimed certain bars for their own. It was all pretty friendly usually, but you'd stick with your own crew. I always imagined that the 999 hit "Feeling alright with the crew" was about the bars at the Music Machine. I recall seeing one band and finding out that one of my mates had been there all night in a different bar. It was the sort of place you could get lost or lose yourself if you want. 

During the late 1970's and early 1980's, the live music scene was driven by flyers and by the live pages of the NME. You'd check the London venues you liked and select the gigs you wanted to see. Entering and leaving gigs, you'd be bombarded with flyers. Of all these, the Music Machine were the best, because they gave you massive savings on the entrance price. The only trouble with the music machine was that it was open late and it was easy to miss the last tube home.

On Parkway, we had The Dublin Castle, much frequented by Madness at the time, a pub with great gigs in the evening and a wonderful jukebox. Madness were very much the Kings of the castle. Chas Smash was an ex FCHS pupil and was mates with a couple of my friends older brothers. Everyone who knew him at FCHS claims he owes them a fiver from poker games in the 6th form common room. Was he really that bad at Poker? Quite a few of my mates bands would play at The Dubin Castle in this period. It seemed to me that at the gigs there, the audience had more musicians than punters watching the bands. As I have always enjoyed a bit of Ska, I spent quite a lot of time in what was the spiritual home of the London Ska scene. 

Another location we spent a lot of time at was  the Odeon Cinema. The cinema would show films that we never saw at  more suburban venues such as The Hendon Odeon, such as stoner films by Cheech and Chong and The Woodstock film. We'd go to all night screenings, and watch as the cinema became filled with the pungent aroma of illegal smoking materials, and all manner of strange and wonderful clientelle. I remember one time going to a Exorcist all nighter with my Ex. She was absolutely terrified by the film and couldn't sleep. The next night, as she was dozing off, I put on my best possessed Devil voice and said "Lorna, This is the Devil, I've come for your soul". She screamed and when she got her composure back, informed me that if I ever did it again, we'd be finished. I loved those all night screenings. 

Another venue of note was rather wonderful The Electric Ballroom. My best memory of that was when my friends The Polecats played at a Buddy Holly convention, as they were starting to break into the charts. The audience was largely made up of aged Teds. The event was billed as a Roller Disco. Watching fat old drunken Teds trying to roller jive whilst rollerskating with beers was the funniest thing I've ever seen. The next day I went to The Dublin Castle and ended up getting drunk with a couple of Teds who'd come up from Cornwall for the previous nights entertainment. One scrawled "Cornish Teds Rule" on the wall of the toilets, which amused us no end. 

I formed the False Dots with a fellow punk school mate, Pete Conway. Pete once got drunkat a gig at the Electric Ballroom and fell asleep in the gents toilets. He awoke at four AM locked in and totally disorientated. He eventually found a fire door to escape via. As he left, all of the burglar alarms went off. As he walked up Camden High St, the Police arrived en mass to catch the burglars, little knowing the true story. He wrote a song called Reality Ballroom about his experience. 

By the lock we had Dingwalls and opposite it the Carnarvon Castle. 

Dingwalls was much loved as it had a deal where drinks were half price before 8.30pm. Lemmy would be prop up the bars most nights, buying him a drink was one of the great pleasures in life. When he spied my Ramones T-Shirt he bestowed his approval, which to me was the equivalent of a knighthood. At Dingwalls in the summer of 1981, I had another life changing moment. I can't remember the band, but I met a girl visiting from Stockholm and immediately decided to relocate their to be with her. She'd made the pilgrimmage from Scandinavia to Camden Town and I was lucky enough to be in Dingwalls when she arrived. I hadn't really thought it through. I'd just left school, had no job, no skills and no money, but that wasn't going to stop me. I was there for nearly six months and got my band a tour of Scandinavia. All thanks to the heady Camden air. My first date with my wife Clare was at Dingwalls. I took her to see Desmond Dekker with a group of mates for the New Years eve party. It was amazing. When we finally left, there were no buses. A group of about 8 of us stood there debating what to do, when an Australian in a Camper van tootled past. We flagged him down and he gave us a lift home, in exchange for the promise of a party when we arrived. In Mill Hill, it would probably be reported to the police as a hijacking, but in Camden on New Years eve it was sheer fun. 

The Carnarvon Castle was probably the most raucous of all pubs in Camden, with loud, noisy rythme and blues bands. I was in there once, when two herberts started fighting. I grabbed them and pulled them apart, telling them to behave. The next thing I saw a giant bouncer heading my way with a baseball bat in hand. I thought I was doomed, but he said "Don't worry mate, your alright, I saw what happened" and threw the other two out. After that I'd always chat to him and we became mates. 

Compared to sleepy Mill Hill, Camden seemed to be the centre of the Universe. Although there were decent venues in other parts of London, such as The Marquee in Wardour Street, in Camden there were many in one small area and it was a magnet for the weird and wonderful. It seemed that every pub and club had it's own subculture, all on top of each other. In my teenage years,  this was what Camden meant to me. A great night out, gigs, films and nefarious deals. 

When I returned from Stockholm, I was absolutely skint and in debt. I had to get work and I was lucky to get a job in Delancy Passage for a firm called Physiological Instrumentation. They needed someone who could solder. I'd knocked up a few guitar effects units at home and knew my way around a soldering iron, so applied and ended up working their for six months, making devices to detect bats for Queen Mary College (I still have one of the stickers on my guitar case). The company got into financial trouble and I ended up working for a book publisher called Acedemic press on Oval Road. At Acedemic Press, I got very friendly with the elder brother of a Mill Hill mate, who coincidentally worked there, Dave London a pro boxer. Dave was a hellishly good looking and charismatic character. Women would literally swoon as he walked past, perfect six pack and huge arms. He'd bring in boxing gloves and we'd spar with him at lunchtime in the warehouse when he had a fight to prepare for. I got a real love of boxing there. I realised how hard he had to work just to get by in the ring.  Dave was a larger than life character, who was ultra competetive. If he beat me at pool, I'd never hear the end of it. If I beat him, I'd see no sight of him for the rest of the day. 

During this period, I got to learn about the area far better. When you work in an area, you see a different side of it, turning up at 830am for work. I'd got to know many of the residents of Arlington House, a hostel for men down on their luck.  A few would drink in the Bucks Head, as they were less choosey about their clientelle. I enjoyed visiting the cafe's, meeting the characters, seeing the streets being cleaned and becoming part of the furniture.  You'd see various rock and rollers such as Knox from The Vibrators strolling around.  

The pub of choice for a post match beer with work colleagues was The Oxford Arms, we'd play pool in there after work and have a couple of beers, before the merrymakers started to arrive for the night time scene. Sometimes we'd nip up the canal to the Engineer, when we wanted a quieter location. Often I'd have a couple of beers in the Oxford with workmates, then nip down to the Dublin Castle to meet muso friends.

In the spring of 1983, I got the sack. Academic Press counted the number of books you put in boxes and I was too busy chatting and not doing any work. I was really disappointed to stop working in Camden, but in truth it did me a favour as it was the ultimate dead end job with no prospects. At the time, Camden was just starting to become what it is today. The signs were there, the market was starting to be a key feature of the area, subtly changing from being a typical North London street market to the hive of counter culture that it is today. As often happens, when an area becomes fashionable, the first thing to happen is that the property prices start to rise, the pubs get gentrified and the area starts to become a bit more sterile. By this time the Roundhouse had closed as a music venue and The Music Machine had become the Camden Palace. I'd been to the opening night of The Camden palace. My Swedish girlfriend was obsessed with the place. She was into New Romantic music and liked shiny, new things, hating the dull dingy venues I loved. I, though, was horrified to see how it had changed, no pool tables and no soul. 

In February 1984, I achieved a long held ambition and played Dingwalls with The False Dots. The band was at it's height and we smashed it. We felt that the world was at our feet. Sadly that was a peak that the band never hit again. As a result of the gig, we acquired 'Dennis', a manager, a man with a plan. Sadly, he never got us a gig and very successfully split up the unit, undermining key members and starting arguments, but that's another story. That night was special. Playing on the stage of a venue you love and seeing the whole place go mad was a  moment I'll aways remember. 

The Dingwall venue was comprehensively revamped when Vince Power took over around 2000. The new venue is nice enough but it doesn't feel the same. The old Acedemic Press warehouse has now been redeveloped and is flats. The Camden Palace became Koko and then burned down. Happily it is rising from the dead like a Phoenix, but not as the rather grotty but wonderful Music Machine. In truth, Camden was a bit like an old high school girlfriend, you look back on it with nostalgic glee, but you've both moved on from it. I go there for gigs regularly, but I don't work or hang about the pubs and cafes anymore.

Fast forward nearly 40 years to 2022.  I regularly go to gigs at The Dublin Castle to this day. In recent years, our regular Xmas dose of The Pogues with my friend Paul Evans Pogues tribute band, The Pogue Traders, has been a fixture of Xmas. Lee Thompson of Madness has appeared quite regularly with his other bands, The Ska Orchestra and The Silencerz and a host of other bands from my studios regularly play there, with The Shoals and Dubvocalisa recently performing. 

A friend of mine got in touch in September and said that the Dublin Castle needed a band to fill in at short notice as they'd been let down, asking if the False Dots would be interested. As we had a rehearsal booked on that date, it seemed like a good idea, we were all available.  We put a few things out on social media, hoping to see a face or two and expected to play to an almost empty hall. We were pleasantly surprised to find it busy. We've been working on a new set with a view to releasing an album in the Spring, with a small tour. The gig, which we originally just viewed as a 'live rehearsal' gave us a big lift and validated what we are doing. It was great to be back in Camden. Our last Camden gig had been at the sadly closed Purple Turtle back in 2010, supporting punk icon Jock McDonald and the Bollock Brothers

As we had to arrive at 5.30 for a sound check, I got to spend longer in Camden than I had for ages. It got me thinking about how the area has changed.  As we waited, I filmed some clips of the venue. Just looking at the posters on the wall and the jukebox inspired me to write a new song. We'd already decided that we'd put 12 songs on our forthcoming album, all new. I'd been stuck on eleven, running out of inspiration for a 12th song. Performing at the gig, I was inspired to write a song about the Dublin Castle and Camden Town, which I entitled "Dublin's finest castle".  The songs sums up much of what I have to say here. Once I knew what I wanted in the video, I went down and spent a day filming footage of the area and drinking in some of my old haunts, which helped me form my thoughts and complete the song. It was quite strange to see how much even the less well known parts have changed. 

 It confirmed what I'd felt for a long time. What was starting in 1983 has more or less completed now. There are no old school cafe's with formica tables and builders tea, such as the Delancy Cafe, where I'd have  a cuppa and a bacon sandwich and chat to the local dustmen on their tea break. The Pool tables are gone. There are a few decent music pubs still putting on bands, with the Dublin Castle, Fiddlers Elbow and the Monarch springing to mind, but it is rare to see a bunch of teenagers in a band playing their own numbers. Whereas in the 1970's, as a teenager I'd nip down to Camden and pay to watch a band I'd never seen, on the offchance they may be good, with a buzz being generated by flyers and word of mouth, now it's all done on social media. It was nice that when we played at the Dublin Castle, a few tourists nipped in to watch us and stayed to the end. 

As to the Jazz Cafe, they have some great artists, especially from the Reggae scene. This year I've seen a couple of Reggae legends - Eek a mouse and Yellowman.  Before I visit the Jazz Cafe I usually have a beer before at the Spreadeagle, which has my favourite chair of any pub in London, where you can sit and watch the world go by on Parkway. 

It's not all gloom and doom though, back in the 70's it seemed as if the Odeon cinema was on it's last legs. It was run down and there were constant rumours that it was going to be redeveloped. Somehow it survived and seems to be going stronger than ever. The regeneration of The Roundhouse has been a joy to behold. I've seen some absolutely amazing gigs there, Smokey Robinson, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Nile Rodgers are a few that spring to mind as especially good. The space is a wonderful place for live music and they've done a fine job restoring and repurposing a wonderful Victorian space.

The canal and the lock have always had a special fascination for me. I love taking the train from Mill Hill to St Pancras and walking up the canal to Camden. You really see how London has changed. That may well be a London symphony of  it's own. I find I don't recognise much of what has been built by the side of the canal. The canal seems cleaner and the people who live on barges now are not the characters of old. 

Camden has always been a great place for people watching. I miss many aspects of the old Camden Town and in many ways, the new Camden Town is spiritual home to a completely different generation. They will be writing their own London Symphonies and telling the stories for years to come. They won't tell tales of working packing books in warehouses and drinking builders tea, but the stories will be there. 

My story and my love affair with Camden has not died. Whist the Dublin Castle still puts on bands and serves Guinness, a part of me will always feel very at home in Camden Town. Next door to The Dublin Castle is the Rock and Roll rescue shop, a charity run by Knox, the singer of the Vibrators. I nipped in for a chinwag with Knox on my travels. He sums up the changing face of Camden. The Vibrators at The Roundhouse was the first gig I went to with my mates and without older siblings etc. The band were then an up and coming band, with Knox at the helm and Eddie on an illuminated perspex kit. Now he's the senior statesman of Camdens Rock dignitaries. 

 I am delighted that The Dublin Castle have asked The False Dots back on the 23rd November. I'm even more delighted that The Shoals are the support, a new band featuring the son of Madness legend Lee Thompson and also legendary ska sax player Spencer Wade (Bad Manners, Madness). 

When we recorded the track Dublins finest castle, we wanted the song to capture the feeling of Camden and the Dublin Castle. The musical genius that is Fil Ross, my co-producer did an amazing job (a hint to all aspiring muso's, always have a musical genius in the band). Fil played a banjo solo at the end, to give an  authentic Irish feel. He also replicated my guitar riff from the intro, whistling it on the bridge between the chorus and second verse, as I'd said I wanted the song to sound like you were walking down Parkway to the Dublin Castle whistling the riff. I am really pleased with this video, it really captures the vibe of Camden and the Dublin Castle. 

As the chorus of the song says

C#m / / /                  Bm / / /                          A / / /                                 Bm / / /

The Dublin Castle, it just hasn’t changed, nothing else round there is quite the same

C#m / / /               Bm / / /                        A / / /                              Bm / / /

Madness to Amy, they’ve all been here, for just a few quid and a pint of beer

A / / /                             Bm / / /            C#m / / /                        Bm / / /                         

Dublins finest castle in Camden Town If you love your music come on down

A / / /                                  Bm / / /            C#m / / /            Bm / /

The Guinness is good the bands are great getdown early it starts at 8!

Saturday 29 October 2022

The Saturday List 384 - My top ten ‘I told you so’s’

 Everyone hates a smart arse. Everyone loves being a smart arse. Having written a blog for 14 years, I’ve had the pleasure of saying ‘I told you so’ a fair few times. Generally being proven right has come with a cost and the only real satisfaction has been to be proven right. Here’s my top ten.

1. Having spent nearly 14 years opposing the a One Barnet programme, the council are now getting rid of Capita. If only they’d listened.

2. When BBC Radio London revamped their schedule and put Jo Good on the graveyard slot and took Robert Elms off the weekday mid morning slot, I said it would be a disaster, it was. The station has lost nearly a third of its listeners.

3. In January, I predicted that Liz Truss would become Tory polo leader and it would all go horribly wrong. It did.

4. When Barnet Council closed Friern Barnet Library, I said it was a monumental error. It was and they reopened it.

5. When the Barnet Tories chose Dan Thomas as leader in 2018, after Richard Cornelius lead them to a stunning victory I said they were mad. In 2022 they were thrashed by Labour.

6. In 1983 Nat West Bank refused to give me a business loan to buy equipment to help build up my Mill Hill Music Complex studio. They said I couldn’t demonstrate a demand for the services. The studio is still in Mill Hill, Nat West aren’t.

7. In 2004, I told a friend who ran a major label to check out Amy Winehouse, he said she was not a mainstream artist.

8. In 1997 I bumped into Michael Portillo on a train to Edinburgh. He was at school with my accountant Mike Diner. He told me that rail privatisation would destroy the stranglehold the unions had on the industry. I told him he was deluded and the unions would adapt.

9. During the Brexit campaign, our local MP refuted a claim I made that Brexit would make it uneconomical for mid tier U.K. bands to tour Europe. He said ‘sensible arrangements could easily be put into place’. they’ve not been.

10.  When The Barnet Times dispensed with my services as a local blogger, following pressure from local Tory Councillors Brian Coleman and Robert Rams in 2008, they celebrated ‘the end of Roger Tichborne’s blogging career’ by 2014 the blog had had a million views and Coleman and Rams lost their seats on Barnet Council

Thursday 27 October 2022

BBC Radio London sees a 31% drop in listeners after unpopular schedule changes

 BBC Radio London has seen a massive 31% drop in listeners, according to the latest RAJAR official figures released yesterday  Radio today reports 

BBC Radio London sees a 31% drop in listeners year on year, down from almost a million listeners in Q3 2021 to 671,000 this quarter.

This is no surprise to us.  Back in August we noted that "Project Destroy Radio London" was nearly complete. In October whenthe changes had been running for a month we noted that the changes were ruining the station. Over 7,000 people signed a petition to oppose the changes to times for Robert Elms and Jo Good, pretty unprecedented for a small local station.

I would love to see a breakdown of where the listeners have gone from. It is 100% clear that the changes haven't worked. Of course some listeners will have deserted due to Vanessa Feltz taking the Kings Shilling and going to Talk Radio, but more or less everyone I know who used to listen to Robert Elms and Jo Good have changed channels. I don't mind Eddie Nestor, so I've persisted but I switch off after his show and the playlist has tested my patence to breaking point.

There are still a couple of shows I enjoy, such as the Garry Crowley show and David and Carrie Grant and I try and listen to Robert at the weekend, but it really doesn't fit my schedule and I don't think the show works as well with everything crammed in. I can never remember the times and key slots are on sporadically. The best bits ofter where when the show meandered and that just doesn't happen anymore.

The BBC bosses need to take a long, hard look at what they've done. If they want a younger audience, why do they have such an atrocious playlist. My kids would acknowledge Robert played a decent, eclectic selection of music when allowed, but they hate the playlist and would never listen to the station. I think Jim Davis has done a good job as stand in for Vanessa, so of course he didn't get the gig. 

My biggest beef was that Robert Elms had his ear on the cultural pulse of London and if you listened, you got to find out about new music, shows and other information. Great musicians would do live sessions in the studio and listeners felt energised. The brief for Eddie's show has almost zero cultural content. It is like a BBC version of LBC, which is not what public broadcasting should be. 

Of course, the bosses at the BBC don't care and don't listen. Anyway, as Robert is a Burnt Oak Lad, here's a tune for him.


Wednesday 26 October 2022

Suella Braverman - Rishi Sunak's lightening rod

 Like everyone else, my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard that Rishi Sunak had been appointed. How could he appoint someone who had just 'resigned' for breaching the ministerial code.

When I thought about it, I realised that he is a smart cookie. Every shrewd Prime Minister employs a lightening rod (google it if you don't know what it means). Blair had John Prescott, Heath had Enoch Powell, Wilson had Barbara Castle and Tony Benn. All people admired on the edgess of their own party and loathed by the opposition. As in the case of Powell and Benn, sometimes it can bite you on the backside, but having a team member who is absolutely hated by the other side, means that they take all of the focus. I've no idea what Sunak thinks of Braverman, but he clearly knows the value of having someone to take the bile. 

So what can we conclude. Sadly it isn't good. It's not Braverman's obnoxious views that really bother me, although I find them repugnant. What bothered me is that she resigned last week for a serious breach of the rules. Sunak is a Tory and I fully expect him to appoint people who's views I disagree with. I did, however, think that in appointing someone who doesn't beleive the rules apply to them, he has shown that he's not interested taking a new broom to concepts such as standards in public life and following the rules. 

He may find it useful having someone to deflect the lightening, but the person he's chosen is a lightening rod for all the wrong reasons. A Tory Prime Minister choosing hard line Tory is not a problem. A Tory Prime Minister choosing someone who has shown they think the rules don't apply to them is a huge error. The mere fact she has taken the job shows that she thinks she did nothing wrong. That is the problem

Tuesday 25 October 2022

A Playlist to welcome Rishi Sunak

 I am sure that there will be a million comments and opinions on the new PM, Rishi Sunak. I have to say that it's perhaps the strangest feeling I've had about a new Tory PM taking over. The good things? Well it shows that the Tory party is less racist than I thought, which has to be a good thing. Whether Sunak will do for equality what Margaret Thatcher did for feminism has yet to be seem (just in case you didn't guess this is called irony). He is also not Liz Truss. He did not tank the economy as chancellor, something Liz Truss managed more or less as soon as she got her feet under the desk. 

The bad things? He's yet another unelected PM, he's a Brexiteer, he happliy supped with Boris Johnson.I am all out of comments though, so I thought I'd put together a playlist to say what I thought of it all. Draw your own conclusions.

Monday 24 October 2022

Time for the Barnet Tories to get a new leader as well!

 Back in 2011, I made a video of outsourcing expert Professor Dexter Whitfield addressing a meeting of the Barnet Alliance for Public Services. He explained how the One Barnet Outsourcing strategy was a high risk strategy and how private companies did not understand the concept of public services. John Dix (aka Mr Reasonable), in his most recent blog HIGHLIGHTED JUST HOW TRUE THIS STATEMENT WAS

Given the complete cock up that was One Barnet under the Barnet Tories, you may have thought a period of silence from the former leader of the Council Daniel Thomas would be sensible. Sadly Mr Thomas has been spouting off to the local paper, making the simply outrageous statement 

“During this cost-of-living crisis, the people of Barnet should have an administration committed to protecting their money.
Barnet Council has nearly been destroyed by the Barnet Tories. This didn't just happen overnight. They systematically did it from 2006, when Mike Freer, now MP for Finchley deposed former Tory Leader Brian Salinger shortly after Salinger won the Council elections.Freer tore up Salingers manifesto and brought in a massive lurch to the right. Unlike Liz Truss, this bonkers right wing ideology took sixteen years to push the cart over the cliff. It took the best part of eight years for the Tories actually get the One Barnet project up and rolling. It took another eight years for it to unravel. 

Myself and other local bloggers such as Mr Reasonable chronicled the whole sorry debacle. Try as he may, Councillor Daniel Thomas cannot hide from the truth. He failed his party in allowing this to continue under his term. He failed the taxpayers of Barnet. Worst of all he has completely refused to face up to the cock up he presided over.

Nationally, the Tories have elected a new leader to take them forward from the chaos of Boris and Truss. It is high time that the Barnet Tories brought out a new broom and moved away from their own version of Trussenomics and the failed leaders who inflicted it on Barnet.  The only words I want to hear from Thomas is an apology for the fiasco he presided over.

Here's a short video of Dr Whitfield predicting the mess that Thomas and his crew would inflict.



Sunday 23 October 2022

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 23 October 2022

 What a week it's been. I nearly skipped this as I've been at a 60th Birthday celebration lunch in Malden. As I was the driver I didn't drink. As this feature is light hearted and there are lots of people tweeting about the Prime Minister job application (most of whom have absolutely nothing intelligent, funny or interesting to say and are saying it at great length) I almost didn't bother, but I had a peek and there are actually some wonderful tweets this week, in amongst all of that dull chaff!

As to my week. Had a very pleasant curry at The Great Nepalese on Monday with my old boss from my days at Streamline. On Wednesday, did some recording with the False Dots of a rather good new number (even if I say so myself). On Thursday, I hobbled around the Mill Hill Powerleague pitch on a swollen ankle, which I thoroughly enjoyed. On Friday, we had a curry at the Mill Hill Tandoori and got soaked as we left and yesterday went up to Borehamwood FC to watch them play my favourite National League team Wrexham. I am very impressed with the setup at Borehamwood. Both teams played some nice football. I've seen this fixture a few times and you can see the influence Pep Guardiola has had on football at every level. That was my week. What were our tweeters up to. 

1. I have to start here. A new book was released this week by Amberley Books, written by our great friend Mr Mark Amies AKA @Time_nw

2. Did you know that heavy bombers for the RAF were built in Cricklewood in WWII? Ron Eisele did and if you read Mark Amies book you can find out the full story!

3. If you are in the Cricklewood Area, this is worth a check out

4. We always love to promote events for young people interested in music

5. The Finchley Childrens Music Group is amazing. A big shout out to them!

6. And another date for your musical diary!

7. I was otherwise engaged yesterday, but I loved this Tweet about our oldest local football club and their opposition. This is the real spirit of grassroots football.

8. Please chip in a couple of quid. A great cause

9. Nice pics of Mill Hill

10. Nice to see live music back at the Adam and Eve

Thats all folks.

Saturday 22 October 2022

The Saturday List #383 - My five favourite False Dots Videos (and a quiz for your entertainment)

 I've been a member of The False Dots for over 43 years now. If it wasn't for the band, I don't know what I'd be. I have it to thank for my business (we set it up to have a rehearsal space for the band), my wife (I met her at a gig we were playing at The Three Hammers) and my sanity. If I didn't have the band, I genuinely don't know if I'd be here today. One of the things I love about the current era is that bands like us can make videos cheaply and hopefully entertain our fans and friends without huge expense. I've toyed with the concept of buying myself a super duper camera and making high quality videos, but in truth I prefer making them organically on my mobile phone, some of these just started as ideas, clips I took wondering around.  The Burnt Oak Boogie started when I took a bus through Burnt Oak and filmed it and thought "This would make a great music video". I then wrote the song. I thought I'd pick my five favourite videos for your entertainment and explain a bit of the back story.. The band have also put together a "True or False" quiz, so we can share a few of the stories of the band with you. CLICK HERE TO DO THE QUIZ. By the way, The False Dots are playing at the Dublin Castle on Weds 23rd November. If you like what you hear (especially the first 2 which are songs we currently play) then please come down. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

1. The Burnt Oak Boogie. 

Our latest and most popular video. This has attracted over 2,300 views in less than a month. We did it as a bit of fun, which is what the band is all about. Check it out, it has some great local footage from around Burnt Oak, with some lovely old pictures of the neighbourhood to boot, along with a cracking tune. As I said, this started with a trip on the 302 bus up the Watling. I thought "Why not write a song and make this into a video". When Allen Ashley was in the band, our subject matter was quite serious. I wanted to take the band in a more jovial direction and write about the things in our community that are funny a little bit more. I liked the material we did with Allen, but I feel we've really found a niche for the band with the new material. I have always loved Ian Dury and his songs, which were almost like graphic novels. When he passed away I felt there was a job vacancy. I'm not saying the False Dots are the new Blockheads, but I hope that in some way we are keeping the spirit of Ian Dury alive. 

I can remember my Mum and Dad watching Ian Dury on Top of The Pops and to my amazement saying "He's great, you should write songs like that".  They recognised the music hall tradition that Dury evoked. I think they realised I wasn't a great singer, but there were musical traditions that my voice would work well in.

2. Sunday in the 70's (2021)

This features footage from Mill Hill in the 1970's along with some of me in a Heinz Baked Beans Commercial in the 1960's. I really love this particular video. This song was inspired by our drummer Graham Ramsey talking about how his mum would always do a big seafood spread on a Sunday afternoon, with crab and a whelks and his mates would all come around for a scoff. It took on a life of its own from there. I had some old Cine 8 footage of the old Sacred Heart Church which was demolished. Ironically all of the footage was from the 60's but hey, ho, I don't have a Tardis!

3. Put me in the Spotlight. 

This features the amazing Sudanese singer Connie Abbe on lead vocals. Charles Honderick made this video for us in 2011. The song was used by the Manchester City website for their goal of the month show in 2011. We wrote the song with deliberate dynamic breaks to try and get it picked up for use in a TV sports show. I wrote the chorus as I felt Connie should be in the Spotlight. She wrote the verses 

4. Get your knee off my brothers neck (2020). 

In the middle of lockdown, the George Floyd story broke. When I watched the news coverage I was horrified. The key message of the song is that you only get change by organising yourself and taking action. Due to the constraints of lockdown, I simply walked up and down Mill HilL Broadway and filmed things that seemed relevant to the song. I then got a stack of newspapers and photo'd the news of the day. Once I'd stuck it all together, I was amazed that it all worked so well. Fil Ross programmed up the drums and I played all of the instruments. I wasn't happyw ith my vocals, so I asked Charles Honderick of The Hamptons to do them. As he's American, it seemed more appropriate. Although the Met aren't angels and there is plenty wrong with them, they are nothing like as bad as the US cops who murdered George Floyd. I simply don't think you can let them get away with this sort of thing.

5. They've cleared out your desk (2016). 

My favourite song with Allen Ashley singing. We made this to launch the #KickOutCapita campaign in Barnet. It was the first video we properly story boarded. It tells the story of a man who's life is destroyed when 'cost cutting and outsourcing' destroys his job. Allen Ashley wrote the lyrics and the band wrote the music. I wanted a SKA feel to it. I'm not entirely sure Allen was happy with that, but it was the direction I wanted to go with the band. 

Friday 21 October 2022

The Friday Joke - And don't we need a good one

 At times like this we need our Friday joke more than ever. I really can't believe that there is anyone who is happy with the current situation (apart from the odd conspiracy theory nutter who's brains are in overload). As a blogger who takes his role seriously, I thought I'd push the boat out and give you something of the very highest quality! Here we have Ronnie Barker & co at their very best in Porridge. 


In my humble opinion, Porridge was the finest ever UK TV comedy. 

 Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday 20 October 2022

What can we say about the third Prime Minister since the start of September?

 At the start of September, it was no secret who would be the next leader of the Tory party. What I don't think anyone expected was that by the start of November we'd have a completely different Prime Minister. When you consider that the first couple of weeks of Liz Truss's reign as PM were taken up with Her Majesty, The Queen's funeral, what has happened is almost unbelieveable.

Truss made some absolutely basic schoolboy errors on taking charge. When you take over mid term, you have no mandate for new policies. When you have come through a bruising, over long contest, you need to heal the wounds in your party. When you don't have the majority of MP's on your side, you need to make allies fast. Truss ignored these rules. She also alienated the civil service by sacking some high level, long term staff. She made a whole stack of enemies that she didn't need to alienate. When she took power, I wrote my misgivings and the mistakes I thought she made. She fell into all the traps that I suggested she should avoid and more. I made the following prediction

"I predicted in January that Truss would become PM in the summer. I predict that she won't be in two years."
I didn't realise that it would be less than two months.

So what can we deduce about the next PM. The Tories have announced that they will be in place within a week. I see it as a straight face off between Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak. My money would be on Mordaunt, but the Tory MP's are a funny lot and so I'd not be overly surprised whoever they pick. The current odds are most interesting.

I'd not argue with the bookies.


Wednesday 19 October 2022

Hendon Library saved - Barnet Council listens to residents (at last)

Local residents love libraries
I happen to believe that the biggest lie in politics is the statement that "all the parties are the same and it's not worth voting". If you think of it logically, the policies of the Conservatives rarely benefit more than a small minority of vested interests, so it is very much in their interest to propogate this myth amongst the majority of voters, who don't benefit from their policies. I have to say this because I've spent the last fourteen years campaigning against the policies of Barnet Council and the former Barnet Conservative administration. The new Labour administration is far from perfect, but I can, in all good faith, say that their policies and strategy are taking the Borough in a completely different direction from that set by the Tories and I have yet to come across a major policy that is bad enough to inspire me to write a blog. I am sure this will change, but if you are wondering where the blogs ranting about the council have gone, there hasn't really been anything to rant about. 

In fact the new Labour administration has been so sensible that even my old nemisis Brian Coleman is tweeting about how marvellous they are.

Much as I may disike Brian Coleman personally (he was convicted for the assault of Helen Michael, a good friend of mine), I've never doubted for a second that he understands where the g-spot of local Tories is. He has been against the Hendon Hub project from the outset and especially the plan to destroy the Hendon library. Brian has correctly recognised that what his former colleagues in charge were doing was profoundly stupid. Local people of all hues had long ago twigged that the former Tory adminstration was in the pocket of big developers and addicted to bonkers grand schemes. Coleman had ranted against all of them, Brent Cross, North Finchley and Hendon to name a few. These schemes have been labelled 'regeneration' schemes but in truth much of what they are doing is simply destroying perfectly good areas of Barnet for the gain of developers. Of course there are some good parts, the disused railway yards at Cricklewood had potential for homes, but knocking down perfectly good houses for soulless, rabbit hutch tower blocks has always struck me as folly and Brian Coleman has always agreed with me. 

The Hendon Hub scheme was perhaps the most bizarre. It was mainly based in solid a Tory ward and it upset the parties local supporters. I fully understand the concept that Middlesex University needs to grow and there are benefits of consolidating on one site, but if this is at huge cost to local residents then it cannot possibly be deemed a good scheme. Of all the bits of the scheme that were dodgy, the plans for the library were the worst. I find it ironic that it was a Labour Council that saved the local Tories from the stupidity of their own Tory councillors, one of whom was formerly the leader.

The full details of the councils decision regarding the Library are contained in this press release

Barnet Council has decided that the historic Hendon Library will remain in its original location and be refurbished, preserving the library’s heritage and traditional features.

The council listened to hundreds of residents who expressed how important the building is to the local community and the history of the area.

Chair of the Community Leadership & Libraries Committee, Cllr Sara Conway said:

"Hendon Library is a public space cherished by so many people and is an important part of our shared heritage as a Borough. We have listened to hundreds of residents who urged the council not to go ahead with plans to move it from its historic home and are delighted to announce that we will now be retaining Hendon library within the listed building.”

Chair of the Housing & Growth Committee, Cllr Ross Houston said:

“Our plans will mean a newly refurbished and revitalised Library, with access to the archives through a Local Studies Service which will open-up a new window into Barnet’s history and heritage for Library users and visitors.

“Local residents have made it clear that they want us to work with them on the development of the Hendon Hub. I know from the North Finchley regeneration in my own ward just how important it is to engage local people in the regeneration of an area, and the partnership board model is the right way to do this.

“We have listened and will be establishing a Partnership Board to ensure local people are engaged with us on this project and can input and help steer its direction so that we work towards an acceptable regeneration in Hendon.”

The refurbished library will continue to hold its Local Studies Service, a unique collection of local historical documents, photographs and rate books dating from 1600 to the present day.

The refurbishment includes preserving the library’s heritage features such as the iconic central staircase and the glazed ceilings of the upper reading rooms. 

Built in 1929, Hendon Library occupies an important place in the history of the development of public libraries, with pioneering librarian Eileen Colwell establishing a blueprint for children’s librarianship that is still relevant today.

The council is establishing a Hendon Partnership Board. The forum will provide an opportunity for members of the local community to meet with representatives of the council and work collaboratively to address local issues relating to the development of the Hendon Hub and make a difference on the ground.

The Partnership Board will bring together local people who are passionate about Hendon, would like to represent the views of the wider community and advise on how to best support Hendon’s growth.

It's quite dull writing blogs saying how you agree with stuff the Council are doing (especially if you are a member of a different party to the administration) but what else is there to say. In truth, the Barnet Tory administration was massively past it's sell by date. It would have been ousted in Barnet in 2018 if Jeremy Corbyn had not been Labour leader.

We are seeing the same stagnation in the country, I am not even sure who the Prime Minister or Chancellor will be when you read this. It seems to me that after an administration has been in for around 8 years, they start going bonkers. Sadly it often takes a term or two more of stupidty for the voters to realise. We had 20 years of the Barnet Tories, when they  started going completely bonkers after 8 years. That craziness gave us Capita, the closure of Church Farmhouse museum, the CPZ charges fiasco, the Metpro scandal, the freedom pass scandal, the Mapledown school respite care fiasco and the Catalyst cock up. These added together cost hundreds of millions of pounds to the people of Barnet for nothing but aggro in return. 

I think what happens is that for the first term, the council are edgy and eager to please. For the second term, they are competent and happy to build on the successes of the first term. When they win a third term, they forget why they were put there and start thinking they are better than the rest of us. If you've ever wondered why the USA only allow a President to have two terms, this is why. If you look at Putim, it becomes clear what the alternative is. 

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Guest Blog -Mill Hill memories - St Vincent’s Orphanage on the Ridgeway Mill Hill by Chris Fanning

By Chris Fanning,

In 1885 a French Order of Catholic Nuns known as the “Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul”, purchased land and a large residential house up on the Ridgeway called “Littleberries” in order to found a convent, junior school and orphanage. The junior school built in 1896 was located just off the Ridgway as the primary school for local Catholic Children. Further down the steep cobbled lane running alongside the school and nestling at the bottom of the Totteridge Valley were built a larger imposing complex of Victorian buildings already operating from 1887 as an orphanage.

 This large white brick building complex with redbrick arches is set around a central tower surmounted by an iron Cross over low sloping roofs with deep overhanging eaves; designed by F.W. Tasker of Hampstead; who also designed the copper domed Church of St Joseph’s on Highgate Hill as well as many other notable Catholic churches and buildings for the Catholic community. The Orphanage was a residence for homeless and orphaned children for nearly a century. However, before the centenary of the orphanage was reached; it was closed by the late nineteen seventies due to a large reduction of needy infant babies and Local Authorities choosing to care for children in smaller communities. For a while these buildings were converted to a retreat centre until ultimately sold for redevelopment as private housing. I visited the premises during that time and took several pictures of it being partially dismantled and converted since I had many memories of that place.

The Orphanage block

 Many unfortunate children spent their childhood there and moved on in life but will never forget being raised for a while in this residential home and some former residents have written on line about their experiences of their time living there. I was able to have an insight into what life at St Vincent’s was like as my Brother George and I spent the cold and snowy winter of 1962 – 63 there from October to April during a period when our Mum was unwell and pregnant; so being from a large family we were sent there to reduce the numbers to care for at home.


The old St Vincents School and playgroung

We attended the Primary school as usual, but instead of going home after school, we walked down the lane to the Care Home. When the schoolkids were unable to access the school because of the deep snows of January 1963 prevented access to the day School, we had to join classes at the orphanage instead and also because the term times were slightly different. We felt very confined and trapped in this Victorian place especially when our parents were also unable to visit us when inaccessible. Life was pretty gloomy during those months of severe cold, with short dark days and very icy conditions. I recall gazing out of the front upper window at the life size statue of St Vincent which stood in front of the entrance with a thick snowy coat covering his frame for months on end and also recall seeing the icicles hanging down from the gutters until they extended right down to ground level.

 Dad collected us for home visits on both Christmas day and Boxing Day to celebrate the festivities at home. He decided to rush us back at around 4pm on Boxing day as the snow was falling hard. My cousins called in and we watched as they started to roll a huge snowball as the snow gathered quickly in the back garden. Dad, noticed how quickly it was laying with the ground surfaces being covered over with a deepening white blanket of snow. He said we must get you two back now or the car won’t get up Hammers Hill in this weather, so he hurriedly drove us up to the Ridgway in his Ford Consul car getting increasingly concerned as he was driving that he would not make it because a blizzard was now raging. He dropped us off in the late afternoon at the top of the cobbled lane then turned to get home without taking a chance driving down the steep lane and so we felt like artic explorers as we headed down to the front door in a blizzard as we reached the front door we were smothered in snow. We were unable to get a home visit after that for several weeks as the snow and ice made access impossible. So we had to make the most of our time there. We had days out trudging along the Ridgeway during drier periods walking on deep crispy and freezing icy snow covered pavements when the snowfall let up, but it always came back and topped up overlaying what was already frozen on the ground. Hands and feet went numb with the cold.


The Old St Vincents School hall

We mixed and befriended the other kids, but knew little of their backgrounds and discovered that they were there for different reasons and were not all orphans. There were some high points like being asked to learn and sing the words of the song “gilly gilly” by Max Bygraves who possibly used the chorus we sung in his song at the time. He made a visit to meet the children and presents were offered to the sisters to distribute. There were several outings for Christmas and I recall seeing Peter Pan on ice at Wembley, Bertram Mills Circus and a shows about Noddy in Toyland and Humpty Dumpty. Most of the kids seemed happy enough and some; like me, had siblings with them for company, but for us; we just wanted to get back home and when we finally did the memories of our stay, both good and not so good remained with us for a long time. I can’t help wondering how those others fared as they grew up. What was strange is that the kids from the orphanage and Primary school never mixed so we had a foot in both camps but they were quite different and mostly isolated worlds. Student Priests from Mill Hill college would visit and took charge of the scout group and entertained the children.

 Occasionally we visited the nursery where the tiny Babies were separately cared for by nuns and lay staff who wore white nursing tunics, the sound of babies crying could sometimes be heard across the building divide to the junior’s block. The nearby laundry was a hot steaming place dripping in condensation, it was run by a strong sturdy Irish Sister dressed in a full white habit with her Cornet clipped back on her head, labouring strenuously in that hot humid environment with a big red face and dripping in sweat; in the summer it must have been awful for her. There was also the infirmary building managed by a very kind and friendly Sister who was most dedicated, it was like a small hospital ward. All these separate buildings are now demolished.

Demolition works at the Orphanage

 Life has moved on but most of the buildings; whilst altered and adapted still stand. The screams and cries of children playing outside which could be heard across the site in the primary school are no longer heard any more neither at the primary school or the residential home.  The original primary school was closed when the new school was built in the cows’ field opposite. The larger classroom block is now converted as a dwelling place but several of the independent buildings were demolished. When the school relocated over the road, the stone statue of St Vincent, which stood outside the residential home, was relocated in the new school grounds. I witnessed the demolition of the orphanage and approached the Sisters at that time to inform them that a parish were building a new Church to St Vincent in Osterley and would like to place the Cross from the orphanage tower on top of the new Church tower; the request was graciously granted and the cross handed over. This restored iron cross now stands resplendent and gilded on the top of that new church tower. A stone statue of Our lady with the infant Child was taken from the front of the former infant care building, from above the place where babies were rested on the open veranda in the summer. The statue is now sitting above the front entrance doors of the Catholic Church in Whetstone.

 In one part of the Orphanage there was a long communicating corridor and as you entered from the outside you could look up and see a small statue of Our Lady of Lourdes resting in a brick niche. I asked what had become of it; as I recalled looking up at it when residing there and of course the same can be said of the many children who entered that building throughout the decades. The Nuns had placed it in storage area inside the convent chapel. I asked if I could take it home and place it in my garden as a memento of my time spent there; the Sisters kindly agreed. It now has pride of place in brick niche built to enclose it as you can see in the attached picture. Also attached are pictures of the school and old orphanage buildings before all was changed. 

 The Orphanage was once a renowned part of Mill Hill and like Inglis Barracks and the medical Institute further along, it is no longer there. I am able to share a few memories of the few months spent there in the coldest winter in my memory - now a full sixty years ago.  Many former residents will have now passed away so I take this opportunity to record what I remember, but I am sure that there are many with quite different memories as I was the lucky one who was able to return to my home and re-join my family after our short time residing there. 


Chris Fanning has a long standing family association with Mill Hill.  Theresa Musgrove has also written about the orphanage on her blog. 

Guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. 

Monday 17 October 2022

Five things Jeremy Hunt should do to save the UK's finances

 So today Jeremy Hunt manfully tried to undo the wanton damage that Kwasi Kwarteng had unleashed on the economy and British fiscal credibility. I snuck a quick look at the £ to $ exchange rate before starting this blog and was not surprised to see that having a grown up in charge of the economy, who talks to the economists employed by the government has lead to an improvement in the situation. Jeremy Hunt has done the most sensible thing possible, reversed more or less the whole lot and tried to sound like a sensible politician. If you'd have asked me three years ago, I'd have not been a fan of Mr Hunt at all, but TBH what has followed since has made him seem almost acceptible. His big problem is that he has a massive great hole in his finances. It is one thing to undo the reckless damage of Kwarteng, but fixing the hole is another matter completely. He needs to raise far more money than can be done by tweaking this, that and the other allowance.

If I was in his shoes, there are a few things, none of which will be popular with his core base, but which will raise cash and will not damage the economy.

1. Increase the number of council tax bands. In Barnet, someone living in a £100 million mansion only pays twice aas much Council tax as somoene living in a property assessed as £88,000. I don't think anyone can argue that someone in a mansion can't afford a lot more. 

These are the bands in Barnet

I'd add another band at £500,000 - £4,500 PA,  £1 million - £9,000 p/a , £5 million - £18,000 P/A, £10 Million - £36,000 and £20 - £72,000 million. If this was ring fenced for local aithority services, it would make a huge difference to local authority finances. I think it is impossible to argue that somneome in a £20 million flat can't afford a bit more.

2. Introduce an excessive energy usage tax. One of the things that has put pressure on the UK's finances is the energy crisis. It makes sense to try and encourage both private households and businesses to use less. A tax on excessive usage would be a very effective way, with all income raised being channelled into energy efficiency schemes. I would set a benchmark average for a household. and any business using 50% more than the average for their demographic would pay a 100% surcharge on their energy costs. This would lower demand and lower pressure on the government budgets. It would encourage firms to put lights off at night and use low energy bulbs. 

3. Crack down on avoidance and evasion. A Guardian report in 2021 estimated that £35 billion was lost through non payment, fraud and avoidance. That would plug the hole in the budget. I see no reason why the little guys pay and the big boys always get away with it. 

4. Abolish the vehicle license and raise the money through fuel duty. Vehicle licensing is a hugely expensive tax to run. Large savings could be made if it was recovered through fuel duty. Vehicle duty means little old ladies who use the car a couple of times a week to go around the corner to the shops subsidise people who drive for hours every day. It would also serve as a disincentive to drive as the cost of taxation would be linked to usage. 

5. Decriminalise all drugs and sell them through licensed outlets, with HM Customs and Excise responsible for collection and policing. This would end the need for expensive police operations to police county line smuggling, would remove the incentive for criminal gangs to market drugs and would bring in huge revenues. Anyone who is interested in taking drugs can do it with impunity already in the UK, with criminal gangs making the profits. I'd personally rather see HM customs and excise benefittting. I'd like to see users issued with a smartcard, which would have a weekly allocation to allow enough for personal use without stigma. I'd also include safety information issued with purchases. In Colorado, legalisation of marijuana raise around $250 million a year in taxes. It is my view that such a move would end much of the anti social aspects of drug usage. I know this is controversial, but it seems to me to be an adult way to address the problem. I would not go for full legalisation, you would have to sign up for a license to buy drugs and clearly people in key professions  would be subject to testing to ensure they were not stoned at work or whilst driving. It is my personal view that breaking the dependence of habitual users on criminal gangs would be a highly desireable outcome. As a legal route would have better safety and be cheaper for end users, there would be no incentive to buy from criminals.

Saturday 15 October 2022

The Saturday List #382 - Ten Tips for prospective job hunters

A young man entered the studio reception this week, looking for a job. Sadly since the pandemic, we are struggling to keep the 7 staff we still have occupied, so I was unable to offer him anything. However I spent half an hour advising him on what he should do if he wants to work in the music industry. I hope that the advice was useful. I thought it might be useful to share the advice I gave. I applauded his efforts, if we had been looking, I probably would have seriously considered employing him. Here are some tips for interviews and job hunting. 

1. Do your homework. If you want to work for someone, you need to sell yourself. If employers have multiple candidates, they will pick the best one. If you want the job, the best one has to be you. So work out what the company requires from their staff and make sure that you tick all the boxes. My company is a music services company. Ideally we want people who are musicians and knowledgeable about the equipment and the industry. We also employ young people and students and train them up, so we look for people who show a degree of initiative. We would always choose a candidate who will be producive immediately and demonstrates potential to develop.

2. Be early for the interview. I would not suggest arriving an hour early., but I'd always ensure I arrive ten minutes early. That should allow you to observe the operation and prepare yourself for the interview. If you get held up by transport issues, ring and explain that you will be late and why. Just turning up late will almost certainly put off an employer.

3. Make sure you are well presented. We are not an environment where our staff are required to wear suits or business attire, but if candidates are well presented, it says to me that they are making an effort and that ticks a box. If it is a professional environment, dress accordingly. 

4. Check out the person who is interviewing you on Linkedin. Most professional people are on Linkedin. If you have a look at someones profile, you can get some idea of their skills and interests. This will give you some idea of how to build a rapport.

5. Never bad mouth your previous employers. Most employers ask why you are looking to move jobs or why you left your last job. If it was because it was an awful company, it does not reflect well on you to say "It was terrible and I hated my boss". It is far better to say "The opportunities to progress were a bit limited and I wanted a new challenge".

6. If you are asked about your previous role, give real life examples of where you made a positive difference. If you are looking to step up the ladder and are moving to a more senior position, give examples of where you covered for your boss or assisted them. If you are new to the world of employment, give examples of where you have demonstrated initiative, leadership or innovation. That could be in a sports team, club, scouts etc. 

7. Prepare your responses. Most employers ask the same questions. Why do you want to work here, what did you do previously, what are your interests, have you done similar roles. Work out how you will answer these to portray yourself in the best possible light.

8. Be honest with your employer. Never tell porkies to make yourself look better. You will get caught out and that will not work out well.

9. Be honest with yourself. No one is perfect. An employer will not expect perfection. If you get asked a difficult question that you weren't expecting and can't give a positive answer, such as if they say there is a required skill that you don't have, or if they say they are looking for someone with more experience, which wasn't mentioned in the resume, don't get flustered. Just state that you were unaware that these were requirements and that you would be more than happy to get training or to be mentored to improve.

10. Check your social media history. Most astute employers will have a look at your online profile for all but the most menial jobs. If you've spent your life ranting on Twitter, they will see this and it may put them off. I'd be very tempted to delete any posts that you think may put an employer off. Of course for some jobs a strong social media profile is a very postive thing, so going back to point 1. Do your homework!

Friday 14 October 2022

A right Royal Friday Joke from the artist formerly known as Prince (Charles)

 I just started to write the regular Friday Joke blog and the news broke that Prime Minister* (for now) Liz Truss has sacked her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. He now has the record as the shortest ever serving chancellor.  After 70 years of a Monarch who was probably the greatest poker player ever (she never gave a tell, no matter what the situation), we now have a King who likes to crack a joke (and stick the knife in). 

When he met the Prime Minister yesterday, his response to her greeting was "Back again, dear oh Dear".

You really couldn't make it up. Back in the days before #Brexit, when the UK used to be a serious country, I was a republican and believed that in a modern democracy, the Royal Family was an outdated anachronism. I took the view that out of respect to the Queen, we should wait until her passing before talking about a better way of doing things.  I'm sorry to say, I've completely changed my mind. An electorate that votes for the act of national self harm that is #Brexit and then elected Boris Johnson and a party that set up the total calamity that was the enthronement of Liz Truss simply can't be trusted to choose the head of state. Far better to have a King, who at least we can pretend wasn't our fault. 

The sad truth is that the UK has ceased to function as a serious country since Brexit and Boris stripped the Tories of all of their wise old grey heads. I'm not a Tory, but I always took solace in the fact that even though they were mean spirited and didn't care about the most vulnerable in our society, they were a safe pair of hands for the economy. I may not have agreed with their policies, but I never thought they'd destroy or fiscal credibility.  How wrong I was. 

Kwarteng broke the primary rule that Tory and Labour chancellors have worked under since the last Tory induced meltdown under Anthony Barber. That rule is that you don't pay for tax cuts out of public borrowing. Break that rule and the marlkets will destroy you. I've no idea what persuaded Liz Truss and Kwarteng to ignore this rule. Either they simply refused to listen or they have surrounded themselves with idiots. The best thing Liz Truss could possibly do is to step aside and let Rishi Sunak take over, fall on her sword and say "For the good of the Kingdom, I admit that I was the wrong person for the job". 

God Save The King