Wednesday 30 November 2022

The Wednesday Poem - Please Myself & The Barnet Cultural Round Up

Wednesday is the day when we focus on the cultural life of the Borough of Barnet. We give you our pick of forthcoming events etc. But before that we love to publish a poem on a Wednesday. I've just acquired a new CD player, my old one broke down before lock down. I've been playing some old CDs and cathcing up with some old songs by my band. I'd forgotten just how good some sounded. The numbers we are doing now are all new. One that stands out is 'Please Myself', an Allen Ashley composition. It is a great song and possibly the favourite lyrics Allen wrote for the band. 

We posted a live video of this when we played at The Midland Hotel. The sound quality left a bit to be desired, but this was Allen performing with the False Dots at our raucous best!


Please myself

All you trolls and haters, with your messages and spam

You won’t say things to our faces, coz your only half a man

All you commentators, trying to set the news

Have you heard the latest, no one’s listening to you



We don’t need your adulation, we are just our own creation

You won’t find us in the mainstream we’ve been hived off to the slipstream

We’ve been struck off all your playlists whilst running from the bailiffs

I may be hard of hearing but I’ve never heard you cheering

But I did the whole thing just to please myself

Please myself!


All you spinning doctors, with your data and your claims

Spinning words to fit your meaning making language just a game

All you corporations turning workers into clones

Writing algorithmic profiles set to fill the sky with drones



Smily Dick and Jesus Rabbit you’ve got one chance you’d better grab it

Or you’ll never kick the habit of trashing things you couldn’t dream of achieving

I’ve stopped watching programs, I won’t vote by phone

Catch us in the margins making shows up of our own

All you fashionistas on your Sponsored chatty shows

Brashly lacking substance just the emperors new clothes


And now onto our cultural roundup.

A great way to see in the new year

A wonderful pre Xmas gig in Barnet

Fancy an Xmas Panto? Check out The Grinche's Xmas Adventure at the Bull Theatre, Barnet

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Book review - West London Wildlife featuring Darlands Nature Reserve in Barnet

Are you looking for a wonderful Xmas present for a local from Barnet or North West London? If you are, then you may want to consider a new book called West London Wildlife published by Aurora Metro books. There is a whole chapter on the history and wildlife of the Darlands Nature Reserve in Barnet. I should know, I wrote it. Regular readers may have spotted that I wasn't as prolific this year as I've been in most other years and one of the reasons was because I was writing and reasearching for my contribution. I was thrilled to be cold called by Aurora Metro to contribute, as the protection of Darlands has been one of my missions. I was pleased to recommend one of this blogs great friends, Samuel Levy, AKA @FinchleyBirder, to supply the photographs for the contribution. Samuel also provided much of the background to the article, for which I am eternally grateful. We worked together to harness opposition to several planning threats to the reserve last year. 

I've been going to Darlands since I was a child at St Vincents School which is a 10 minute walk away. It was a magical place. The lake still had the old Victorian boating hut back then. We'd collect tadpoles and other flora and fauna and bring them back to the class to identify them. These days, I regularly walk my dogs around the site. It was neglected for decades by Barnet Council, but there is now a conservation trust, who's work I 100% support

Researching the book revealed a fascinating past, I'm not going to give any spoilers away, read the book, but it is an interesting story, well worth a read. 

There is far more to the book than just my small contribution. This book focuses on the green spaces of West London, stretching from Richmond Park to Ruislip Woods, and featuring Bushy Park, London Wetland Centre, Kew Gardens, Gunnersbury Triangle, Crane Park, Chiswick House, Darlands Nature Reserve, Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and the River Thames.

You can find out more at the official book lauch at Books on the Rise, in Richmond on Sat 10th November at 14.30. There is a talk on London's green spaces and the chance to buy the book at a discounted rate.  There is an amazing panel including some of Londons top experts on the subject. It will be well worth a listen


Ian Alexander has been in love with nature all his life, having at various times been fascinated by lichens, birdwatching, fossils, and dragonflies. He enjoys practical conservation work, gardening, and photographing nature. He lives in Chiswick, blogs about nature, and volunteers at his local nature reserve, Gunnersbury Triangle.

Gary Backler became a member of Friends of the River Crane Environment in 2004, a year after the charity was founded. He has been a Trustee since 2011 and became Chair in 2021. He continues to retain a focus on planning and development issues in the lower Crane valley. In 2012 he set up a programme of regular usage counts of open spaces and paths in the lower Crane, which continues to generate hard data to inform planning and investment decisions.

Wanda Bodnar is a marine geospatial data scientist. She currently works at the Thames Estuary Partnership where she applies spatial data in the context of aquatic habitat conservation, restoration and climate resilience within the Greater Thames Estuary. She also leads stand up paddleboarding (SUP) sessions at a Kew based paddleboarding club called Active360 on the upper Thames Estuary.

Philip Briggs has lived in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames all his life and developed a love of wildlife from an early age. He has volunteered at the WWT London Wetland Centre since 1998, leading wildlife walks and assisting with wildlife monitoring, particularly bats. Since 2003 he has worked for the Bat Conservation Trust where he manages the National Bat Monitoring Programme, a long-running citizen science project.

Susanne Masters
is a botanist specializing in edible plants and their trade around the world. She works with distilleries on ingredient selection and sourcing. Susanne has run workshops and spoken about plants in beverages for organisations including the Boutique Bar Show, Royal Horticultural Society, and Chelsea Physic Garden, Author of Wild Waters and contributor to Kew's Teas, Tonics, and Tipples', she has written features for publications including the New York Times, Guardian. Her academic research on wild species in trade is listed on

If you want to order the book online - -

If you are local to Mill Hill and  want a copy of the book, I can get copies for collection at Mill Hill Music Complex for £14.99, a £5 discount. Please email me at to place your order.

Monday 28 November 2022

I'm a Celebrity? I'm a cynic, get me out of here!

 I've watched I'm a Celebrity since it started. Back in the days of the early series, my kids were small and my wife rehearses with the BBC Elstree Concert Band on a Monday at BBC Maida Vale studios. so I had time on my hands to watch telly. If there was footie on, I'd watch that then turn over. The first time, I watched it, Clare returned and said "how can you watch that rubbish?", watched the last half hour and then was hooked. 

I was listening to Tony Blackburn, the first King of The Jungle and what he said pretty much what I think. I don't enjoy watching Bush Tucker Trials where disgusting things are eaten, I find it repulsive. I do enjoy some of the Dingo Dollar challenges, where celebrities have to perform tasks. I mostly enjoy the conversations. 

This year I felt a bit different about it. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was one of the contestants. I have no problem with sitting MP's taking part, it is actually a good thing to see that they are human beings. I do however have an issue with Mr Hancock. Regular readers will know that my aunt passed away in March 2020 of covid. We couldn't attend her funeral. That hurt. Whilst we grieved, Mr Hancock was banging his secretary in the cupboard, in breach of the rules. Now I don't really blame him, he's human. We work with people and this sort of thing happens. But then I found out he was being paid £400,000 to appear. That is an obscene amount of money for a man who has behaved in a highly dubious manner. Hancock claimed he was seeking forgiveness and to raise awareness of dyslexia. If he'd donated the cash to Dyslexia awareness, I might buy it, but not a dickybird. Mr Hancock has made a huge sum of money on the back of his notoriety. Which brings us to ITV.

They told us that over 12 million people have voted. That means an income of £6 million, as it's 50p a vote. I didn't get involved, but dozens of my friends have been outraged and voted for the first time last night to prevent Hancock from winning. It seems to me that Hancock generated huge profits for ITV, which was what the game was all about. Being a cynic, I can't help but wonder if ITV have been 'managing Hancock's vote'', knowing his continued presence would generate cash? 

The question that troubles me around Matt Hancock is how personally responsible he was for the thousands of excess, avoidable deaths that occurred in the pandemic. He was health minister and so presumably had a major say in the decisions. Did he overrule scientific advice or was the whole setup unfit for purpose. If he overruled scientists, then he should be charged with corporate manslaughter. If the whole system was not fit for purpose, then the disaster was an accident waiting to happen and dozens are culpable over many years. If I'd been in the jungle, that was the question I'd have asked Hancock. What we need is a proper independent inquiry to answer this question. The cynicism of ITV in recruiting Hancock is the most distasteful thing for me. Personally I'd have preferred it if people had boycotted the voting. That would have sent a strong message. As it is the executives who recruited Hancock are rubbing their hands at a job well done for the ITV shareholders.

Sunday 27 November 2022

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 27th November 2022

How has your week been, I had a wonderful week, my Band the False Dots had an amazing time at The Dublin Castle on Wednesday. As a rule I don't post Barneteye tweets here, but I saw this from Mark Amies and as the band had been gigging this week, I thought I'd share an amuzing anecdote with you, I can't believe this happened nearly 30 years ago.

We won't mention the footie though. I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath to find out what our local tweeters have been up to, so without further ado, here is our round up.

1. There is only one place to start. The sad event of the passing of the legend that was Wilko Johnson, reminded many of us of his amazing appearances at The Torrington, also sadly gone, in Finchley. RIP Wilko, you will be much missed. The last time I saw Wilko was at the Premiere of the Feelgoods film, Oil City Confidential. He did a Feelgoods set, with Alison Moyet on vocals and it was awesome.

2. Next up is  this wonderful thread, about Samuelson's film services in Cricklewood and Hendon. If you are interested in local history, this is a must read

3. Proper blokes have mental health challenges. And proper blokes help each other through them

4. Ever thought of vounteering? Well if you have, this may be of interest

5. Footballing legend David Johnson passed away this week. I was thrilled to see this picture of him at Spurs old training groung on Page St. RIP to a legend

6. A great picture from a good mate of this blog

7. Fancy some great theatre on your doorstep

8. Have to give a shout out to these lovely lads, who played with us at The Dublin Castle in Camden on Wednesday. If you get a chance, go and see them play. They are at The Spice of Life in Soho on Weds 30th November. One of the great things about being a musician is that when you gig, you meet lovely people.

9. Nice pic of Mill Hill Broadway in the rain

10. And a top tip for all you aspiring musicians

That's all folks!

Saturday 26 November 2022

The Saturday List #387 - 10 interesting architectural features you've never noticed on Mill Hill Broadway

 Sometimes you walk past things a thousand times, but never look at them. I've lived in Mill Hill all my life, I walk down Mill Hill Broadway every day, but rarely do I raise my eyes above street level. Recently I've become interested in the architectural details on the buildings on the Broadway. The Broadway was largely built between 1908 and 1935 and at the time architects and builders would make an effort to make their buildings attractive and unique. It almost seems strange to think that they'd spend so much time, money and effort on these details that only the pigeons appreciate. I was tempted to include some old pictures, but didn't as I want people to appreciate the craftmanship and not look for passing rellies or old cars in the pictures. Maybe in 50 years, people may do that to these though.

Here is my little gallery of what I think are the best of them. I hope you enjoy this.

1. Lets start with the top of the Broadway on the south side. I love this date marker, giving the year of 1910. I suspect that at the time this building, just down the road from the station was state of the art. Now it is rather quaint


2. Next up is Costa Coffee. I wonder how many of the patrons ever look up at the rather wonderful Brickwork at the top of the building, around the roofing and the porthole window. These features require skilled bricklayers.

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3. NExt up we have Boots. This has perhaps my favourite features. If you look above the ugly signage it is rather wonderful with the lead doming and features, rather a shame that it could do with some TLC, but next time you pass, have a look

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4. Above Petmania, there is some fancy brickwork and a stone marker with CLM 1934, I'd love to know what that stood for

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5. Tesco's Express at street level looks like thousands of other similar branches. I wonder how many have such fancy brickwork above the windows of the upper floor. I love these little details, understated and tasteful

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6. Pan Asian restaurant BAW is another one with some rather pleasing fancy brickwork above it, blended with the Mock Tudor style popular in the late 1920's. Again a lot of effort for something most people won't even see

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7. HC Med Spa has some nice details in the Brickwork above the upper storey windows. I did a Bricklaying course as a teenager so I appreciate these details.

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8. Domino's Pizza used to be a Branch of Lloyds bank and was built in 1925. There is still this artefact

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9. One of the most attractive smaller units is Gails bakery. There are several pleasing features to inspect

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10. And finally, above Cosways, is Clarence Court. It's worth taking a 113 bus past it just to get a better view of the wonderful edifice. It would be wonderful to see this properly cleaned up.

Mill Hill Scenes

Friday 25 November 2022

The Friday Joke - 25th November 2022

It's been a funny old week, hasn't it? I'm sure we all need a drink!

Here is an offer that no one can refuse!

Thursday 24 November 2022

#SaveLondonMusic - A brilliant night at The Dublin Castle

Sometimes you wake up from your slumbers and the skies are grey, your head is hurting and the alarm clock is not welcome. Then you think back to the previous night and the world seems wonderful. For me, there is nothing better than a night of live music. I love watching great bands and I love performing with my band. We were booked to play the Dublin Castle, with The Shoals, Divided Compass and The Blood Tub Chairman. The Dublin Castle is probably my favourite pub venue in London. It is one of the few pub venues which is still authentically an old school music pub. Bugbear Promotions who manage the bands put together very interesting bills. Last night we started with the Blood Tub Chairman, who specialises in keeping the legacy of Music Hall alive

I love artists that go a bit against the grain and plough a different furrow. The Blood Tub Chairman certainly did and I'll deffo be keeping an eye open for them

Next up were Divided Compass, a wonderful young band. I was impressed by both the excellent musicianship and some excellent ideas. They were kind enough to tweet a little clip of The False Dots playing, which was lovely to watch.

They are a great band and they really need to capture their live energy in some good quality videos if they do I'm sure they'll do very well. I especially liked the guitarist who had a little touch of the Jimi Hendrix's about him. Keep an eye out for them.

The next band were The Shoals, a north London band featuring Daley Thompson, son of Lee Thompson on drums. They are a five piece Ska outfit and are very good. The trumpet player Harry is a real talent. Here's a clip of them from their previous appearance with some meaty sax from the legendary Spenser Wade of Bad Manners fame

Last up was my band. We had an absolute blast. The venue was packed and everyone was boogieing as you can see from the Divided Compass clip. After the gig, we stayed for a couple of hours as the venue was buzzing. There were people from Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Russia all keen for a chat. Many had just nipped down to see what a grassroots London venue was like and were blown away by the friendly atmosphere and the great vibes. 

As a musician, your aim is to send people home with a smile on their faces. I think all of the bands did that admirably. Barring the unexpected, this was The False Dots last gig of 2022, a year that started in lockdown, has seen 3 Prime Ministers, a World Cup, a war in Europe and a cost of living crisis. I joked a couple of years ago that economic hardship breeds good music. Maybe I was on to something as last night was wonderful


Wednesday 23 November 2022

What is the point of BBC Radio London and other local stations?

 This morning Eddie Nestor MBE had the Acting Director of BBC England Jason Horton on to discuss the changes to BBC Local Radio. In future BBC Radio London will produce output from 6am to 6pm daily. After that it will become 'regional output', whatever that means. What it most definitely means is that dozens of presenters, producers, technicians, researchers etc will be given the boot. 

They are replacing them with a team of 170 journalists to produce content for BBC websites etc. When I heard this I was, for want of a better word, gobsmacked. It didn't seem to occur to Mr Horton that having a 24 x 7 operation at BBC Radio London was the best possible journalistic resource he could have. Eddie Nestor quoted the example of the Grenfell Tower, where the first station to break the news was BBC Radio London, as callers rang in to say what was going on, in the middle of the night. Under Mr Hortons brave new world, they will get the answerphone and told to ring back at 6am. Much of the content from those shows has been played numerous times on other outlets, used in extracts on BBC Websites and even used in legal papers. What about the Admiral Duncan pub bombing? This happened at 6.05pm. So presumably that too would see the answerphone in action for 11 hours and 55 minutes. Or the Kings Cross fire? That occurred at 19.30pm. 

Whilst the news content is important, as someone involved in arts and culture (my band is playing at the Dublin Castle in Camden Town tonight), I know just how important Radio London is to the cultural life of London, one of the things London leads the world in. This doesn't stop at 6pm, in fact for much of London's cultural life, that is when it starts. The night time and the daytime audience of BBC Radio London is very different. I listen during the day at work. Many can't but listen at night. Mr Horton spoke about 'giving value for every licence holder, but this is a ridiculous aspiration. I listen to BBC London, many listen to LBC, Heart, Jazz FM etc. What the BBC does is launch many careers of journalists, technicians, presenters. They play music other stations cannot, for commercial reasons (at least they used to), giving the likes of artists such as Amy Winehouse their very first plays. Under the new plan, the timings mean the end of Garry Crowley, the best music show on BBC radio. This has played all manner of artists before anyone else. It is devastating.

Under Mr Horton's plan, the question is "What is the point of BBC Local Radio and BBC Radio London?". Two years ago, the answer was easy. In the brave new world Mr Horton envisages, I am not sure there is an answer. He was very excited about his 'team of 170 on line journalists' writing web articles. I was wondering if he had a disctionary and knew what the word "Broadcasting" meant in the context of BBC. He talked about decling audiences. Has it occurred to him that maybe he should get some fresh ideas on content? What he is moving towards is a sub standard LBC style content. It is really quite sad.

As my band is playing at the Dublin Castle, here's what you will be missing if you don't join us. We are on at 10pm

Tuesday 22 November 2022

How a tragedy spawned a great album

 Tomorrow night, my band, The False Dots will be performing all of the songs on our new album A finger in the sun at the Dublin Castle in Camden Town. What most of our fans and friends will not realise is that the album is the product of a really desperate tragedy. In January 2021, our drummer Graham's son took his own life. This was in the height of lockdown and to make matters worse, Graham was isolating due to covid at the time. The band has been together in various forms since 1979 and since September 2012 had been together as a four piece, with Fil Ross on bass and author Allen Ashley on vocals. Covid had caused us to stop rehearsing and recording. When we learned of Graham's tragedy, myself and Fil decided to start rehearsing, to try and cheer him up. I had a couple of pieces of music I needed professionally for my other work, and it made sense to try a couple of ideas as we worked on these. Allen was not in a position to join us. 

When we started I was really worried for Graham. Losinga child is every parents worst nightmare. After the first rehearsal, Graham said that it was great to have to focus on his drumming.  Initially, we were simply playing a few old numbers that I could just about manage a vocal track on. There were also a couple of tracks that I'd presented to Allen, but he hadn't really liked. One of the songs we were doing was one I'd just written with Allen. My initial concept for the track was to try and get Lee Thompson of Madness to do a version. We re-arranged it slightly for my vocals and did a rough recording. To my surprise, it didn't sound too bad. I've always written songs for other singers, as I didn't feel I could do justice to the songs. When I played it to my son, he said "You should sing it, you do it quite well". It got me thinking. What if I took singing seriously and tried to impose my own style on the song?

One of the constraints of writing for other singers is that they have to like the material and get inside it. Writing for myself, there were no constraints. I could express myself and not be shy. I started to think long and hard about what I wanted to say in the songs. I got to thinking about the limits to my vocal talents, what I could make work and how I could entertain people. My thoughts went back to a chance meeting with Ian Dury back in 1978 in Camden Town. I was having a cup of tea in a cafe and he walked in. I was only 15 and very overawed. I was with a friend and we were planning to get a band together. So I plucked up the courage and sheepishly said "Mr Dury, we are getting a band together, do you have any advice?". I had hoped he'd say "I'll be your manager and get you a record deal?" or something like that. This was how the conversation actually went.

ID "Have you got any instruments?"

Me "No"

ID "Well get youself a guitar son. Have you got any gigs lined up?"

Me "No"

ID "Well when you get a guitar, go and do a few gigs"

Me "Any other advice"

ID "Yeah, look at me, I'd get nowhere without attitude, never forget that you are there to entertain people"

And with that he made it quite clear that our audience with the Pope was over.

I'd almost forgotten this, but now I was the frontman, I decided that I should try and channel a bit of Ian Dury. Where to start? I thought "You know what, I'll write a song about that. If he was good enough to give us the advice, we should at least acknowledge it".

So that was the blueprint. Anyone who has ever witnessed a False Dots rehearsal will know that the environment is pretty hilarious between songs. When we work out passages etc, we are dead serious, but in the gaps, it is pure comedy. Myself, Graham and Fil are all outgoing and opinionated. As Grahame was pretty down, we felt we had to lift him back up. Much of what Graham says in reheasals is reminscences of events over the years. I started collecting these and blending them with my own, to put together the new collection of songs. I played a couple of the numbers to Boz Boorer, Morriseys former musical director and star of The Polecats. Boz suggested we adjourn to his studio in Monchique in Portugal to record some of the numbers. We did this in October 2021 and the results were amazing, in my opinion. We recorded six songs in four days and Boz added all manner of great sounds, keyboards, brass, even horse sounds. 

The challenge was to get a full set of material strong enough to make a set and an album. By June this year, we'd reached that point and did a low key gig at the Mill Hill Music Festival as a warm up for Alan Warner of The Foundations. It was the first time I'd ever sung all of the songs and acted a frontman.  I was terrified. After the show, a friend came up and said "That song, The Burnt Oak Boogie is brilliant". I was shocked, but it got me thinking. What about a video? The song is a rather Duryesque take on Burnt Oak. 

In September, we were asked, at short notice, to do a fill in gig at The Dublin Castle. Someone had dropped out and they needed a band. We stepped in. To try and drum up some interest, we rush released the Burnt Oak Boogie video. To my amazement, it now has nearly 3,500 views. Furthermore, despite only four days notice, the gig was busy and we got asked back. I've done hundreds of gigs over the year and the band has had many line ups, but what we are doing now seems to be something different and in many ways (for me at least) more entertaining. As for Graham, he has played the best drums of his life on the recordings. 

 I thought I'd just do say a couple of words about the songs on the album, which you can listen to here.

 I thought I'd say a few words about the story of each of these, as every song has a back story.

1. Bubble Car. My brother had a Messerschmidt Bubble car in the 1960's. I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I found a picture of it, with his mates, pictured in Manchester. I joked that it would make a great album cover. He said that I should write a song, so I did. Now he wants a cut of the Royalties! It is also inspired by my former bandmate and co-founder of The Dots, Pete Conway, who'd use the chat up line "Why don't you join our band as singer" with just about every girl we met when we were putting the band together.

2. Intermission in the ship. This was a song that I wrote when Allen was singing. For whatever reason, he hated it, I loved it. It was inspired by the outrageous headlines that used to appear on Evening Standard sales boards. When KAL007 was shot down by the USSR, the headline said "WWIII has started today". I bought a copy as there were no mobile phones back then to browse. I went to the Ship in Wardour Street, to have a beer and wait for the nukes to land. I'm still waiting. I ended up having a great night talking to some of the characters that inhabited the pub at the time. What was a quick pint, became an all night session.

3. Sunday in the 70's. A collage of mine and Graham's memories from growning up in the 1970's in North London. The Sunday Roast, rellies coming round, seafood from the whelk stall. I love this song "Your mate come's round coz he fancies your sister, tell him you'll chin him if you find out he's kissed her".

4. Channelling Ian Dury. Mentioned above, a homage to the great man. I hope that wherever he is he likes it.

5. The Greatest British Fail. A song about how British Rail was crap, but they've managed to make it even worse. It seems amazing now that Jimmy Savile was their front man and yet we somehow prefer it to what we've got now.

6. Don't be scared of a finger up your bum. I was so pleased to be able to sing this. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011 and it's my way of saying, come on guys, get yourself checked. If you catch this early, it is treatable.

7. The Burnt Oak Boogie. A personal song for me. My Grandma lived at 56 Milling Road after moving from Kentish Town in 1941. Fr Smythe married my mum at The Annunciation. My mum loved the market. I used to nip down the Betta Cafe when I was bunking off school for a cup of tea. The band had a residency at The Bald Faced Stag in 1983/84. What's not to love.

8. Buy me a bottle of Jack. Unlike the rest of the album, a rather dark song. Written in a down moment, as I contemplated my future with prostate cancer and my mortality. This was the first new song we started playing after Allen left. I love the bluesy vibe of it. It also convinced me that my vocals weren't as bad as I thought.

9. Long shot didn't die. The last 'new song' we performed with Allen. I'd sort of wrote it with Lee Thompson in mind. We both love ska music. Allen adapted the lyrics and made some great changes. I love singing it. It is a fun song, with a serious underlying message. I wrote it as a tale on the Pioneer's song "Long shot kick da bucket" with a North London spin.

10. Shake your bones. My brother built a stereo for my Dad in 1968. It was bigger than most Dread's sound systems and was awesome. It was where I got my love of music. He'd open the windows and drive the neighbours nuts with it, but if I did it I'd get into big trouble. I must have worn my sisters copy of Sticky Fingers out on that system. 

11. Whacky Races. When we were kids, we played in the streets, had go karts made from pram wheels, went down man holes on bikes. Doesn't happen anymore. I feel sorry for todays kids.

12 Dublins Finest Castle. I wrote this after our gig at the Dublin Castle in September. I used to work in Camden, so it is a bit of a love song and a celebration of London's grassroots music scene.  

I hope you enjoy our music. It was spawned by a tragedy, but I hope something positive has come out of it. Next year we will be doing a gig for a suitable charity involved in the area of young people committing suicide.

Monday 21 November 2022

The World Cup nobody wants

 So today is the day of the first England game. I recall world cups gone by. I remember approaching an Indian Restaurant in Aldgate and persuading them to put up a large screen TV to show Englands opening game, which happened to be on at lunchtime. I took bookings for the tables from my colleagues and we filled the restaurant. It was a memorable day and the boss gave me a free curry later, as it was his best ever days takings. We were so concerned that we'd not get a good place to watch the game that we put £2,000 down up front (which paid for the telly). Such was the excitment and the fear of missing out. The boss gave us a special menu and three beers and as I recall 50 of us paid £40 a head. It is fair to say not too much work was done. Most of us didn't return.

That was how the world cup should be. This time? I was at Hadley FC on Saturday with friends and I don't even recall discussing the tournament. England have amazing young players like Foden, Saka and Mount, they have established superstars like Harry Kane. But there is zero excitement and little interest. I will watch the game on line studio reception, but I'd much rather the England team had downed tools and come home when FIFA banned the rainbow armbands. I don't blame professional players for playing, it is the pinnacle of their career, but if the team had walked, I'd be proud to be an England fan. 

In short, this is the tournament nobody wants. Of course if England do well and get to the final, I'm sure I'll change my tune to some extent, but there is nothing about what has happened thus far that fills me with anything but apathy.

Sunday 20 November 2022

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 20th November 2022

 It's been a wonderful week for me. Enjoyed a good performance from Barnet's best and lodest football team yesterday. More of that later. I've been particularly enjoying the local parks in the autumnal sunshine

Without further ado, here is what the Tweeters of The Borough of Barnet have been up to. 

1. We start with these rather wonderful vintage buses in Mill Hill this morning, from our friends at @abettermillhill

2. Congratulations to our local bakers for winning this prestigious award

3. THis sounds like a wonderful idea

4. Donald has excellent taste in books. I read and reviewed this and it is wonderful

5. Happy Birthday to the biggest, best and most prestigious museum in the Borough. My Dad was at the opening, as as RAF veteran

6. \Fancy some Jazz in Finchley tonight?

7. No I didn't know, but I will have a shufti now I do know

8. Another interesting fact from an account new to me

9. A good crowd at Hadley for a decent performance yesterday.

10. A great gig at the Bull Theatre in Barnet last night. Great to see local gigs selling out

That's all folks!

Saturday 19 November 2022

The Saturday list #386 - Ten signs you are getting old

 I've had one of those weeks, you know, where you suddenly feel rather old. So I thought I'd celebrate this by making a list of ten surefire signs that you are not that young, virile, athletic person you used to be. I'm Ok with getting old. I get a bus pass, so it saves me a fortune and I've not entirely fallen to bits!

Anyway, I thought this warrented a list

1. When you are chatting to someone and you realise that the Policemen's grandparents look rather young

2. When you are looking up the first album you bought on Wikipedia and you learn it was released over 50 years ago

3. When you stumble across the Facebook profile of the first girl you ever kissed and see shes celebrating the 10th anniversary of retiring.

4. When you find your old football boots and realise that you last played 11 a side football in a different century.

5. When you try and explain what an 8 track car stereo was to a 20 year old.

6. When you are showing someone your beloved 1982 Stratocaster guitar that you bought from new and you get told that it must be great to be able to afford a vintage guitar.

7. When you go are invited out by the son of your former business partner for a a beer to "remember Dad on what would have been his 75th birthday" and realise he passed away over 20 years ago. 

8. When you are told that you are a great asset to the quiz team because you know all the music that pensioners like.

9. When you watch yourself playing five a side football on a video and realise that supertankers turn more quickly.

10. When you wake up all bright eye'd, bushy tailed, ready to take on the world, then move. 

The one upside is I have more time to write music now. Here's one of my recent compositions. You can see my band, The False Dots on Weds 23rd November at The Dublin Castle in Camden Town. This song has become a legend in the HA8 postcode! You can hear us play it live. What better way to spend a wet Wednesday in November!

Friday 18 November 2022

What Rachel Reeve should have said to Jeremy Hunt in response to the Budget

 I have to admit that I am very impressed by the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeve. She is most definitely a grown up politician, who knows her brief. Responding to a budget is a thankless task. You have little preparation for what is coming, the Chancellor does not share that in advance. You have to listen to someone speak for an hour or so, make notes, then stand up and give a coherant response. If you've done your homework, you probably can guess some of it, but there are always a few rabbits pulled out of the hat. 

I well recall Reeve's look of incredulity at the Kwarteng budget. She was clearly blindsided by a Tory throwing all of the rules of good governence out of the window. I suspect that even she hadn't realised what a car crash it was when she rose to her feet. I suspect that she was slightly less scathing than she should have been (and she was pretty scathing), as she hadn't realised the back of a fag packet nature of the whole mess. The idea that a Chancellor would make up a budget without actually working out the consequences is something no one could have anticipated. 

A couple of months later, she faced Jeremy Hunt. This time she knew she was facing a grown up a politician who understood the magnitude of what he was doing. Reeve was also aware that if Hunt 'did a Kwarteng' it would do untold and possibly irreversable damage to the economy. I doubt she expected a repeat car crash. Sooner or later, I am sure she is expecting to have to undo some of the damage herself, so she'd probably not want another complete balls up, just a politically bad one. 

As for Jeremy Hunt, he had what was in some ways a simple task. Everyone knows the news is bad on the economy. As someone who was not part of the Boris or Truss years, he was to some degree blameless for the mess. His main task was simply to present a budget that didn't spook the markets and cause a mortgae rate hike. So long as he did that, he could to some degree claim a victory. But his boss, Rish! Sunak also clearly imposed three other conditions on Hunt. The first was to not upset the pensioners. That is where the core of the Tory vote is and it would be political suicide to upset them. There was never any doubt in my mind that the 'Triple Lock' would be maintained. The second was to not upset the rich bankers, many of whom keep the Tory party afloat financially. By placing clear blue water between themselves and Labour, they have given the bankers good reason to dig deep into their pockets to bolster the Tory party funds. Make no mistake, this is a massive consideration for the party. The old adage when trying to unravel seemingly untenable behaviour is to "follow the money". If giving the Tory party a million quid saves you ten million in taxes, it is a very sound investment. The final brief Sunak gave Hunt was "Don't upset the missus". We all know of the Tax arrangements of the Prime Ministers wife. Her and her family are big beneficiaries of the non dom tax rules. Mrs Sunak would clearly not be too chuffed if she was shafted. Given her families wealth, she may well ask "What is the point of being married to a Prime Minister if he doesn't look after the family?".

So that was the brief. Sod the rest of us. I will be fair to Mr Hunt. He has not really pandered to the real headbangers in his party. I was pleased that he stuck to his guns on important infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Northern Rail. His appointment of Patricia Hewett (formerly a senior Labour politician) to assist with reforms in the NHS is clearly sensible and politically astute. My biggest disappointment was that there was nothing in there for small business or the creative sector. When will Conservtaive politicians wake up to the importance to the economy of small businesses. When will they realise that the arts sector brings billions into the economy, delivers huge soft power and makes all of our lives better? They have presided over 12 years where school arts has been cut to the bone, where funding for world leading organisations such as the ENO has been clobbered and the BBC has been forced to cut platforms back for aspiring artists, such as BBC Introducing. What they totally miss is that this is the best investment they could make. One of the strange things that I've noticed in 43 years of running a studio is just how many people who have run bands and left the music industry go on to be very successful in business. What other passtime for 16-21 year olds skills you up in managing people, negotiating contracts, marketing and finacial management. Most make a hash of it, but learn the lessons and take these into life. It was no surprise to me that the most electorally successful PM of modern times, Tony Blair, had been in a band. But these skills are simply not on the radar for this government. 

When Rachel Reeve stood up, the eyes of the world were on her. I thought Hunt presented his budget extremely professionally. Whatever you may think of him or his politics, he's a smooth operator. In Reeve's position, you don't know the micro impacts of the decisions that have been annouinced. That comes out in th wash over a few days. All you can do is critique the general direction of travel that the budget has set. Reeve did a good job of pointing out that this budget was all about undoing the mess her party had imposed on us. But I couldnt help byt wonder if it would have been more effective if she'd stood up and simply said "Congratulations Jeremy. You've done what your boss wanted, you've kept the bankers happy so they will keep funding the Tories, you've kept Mrs Sunak and her family happy by keeping the Non Doms happy, you've unravelled the mess that your party inflicted on the country two months ago to some degree and you've shafted the rest of the country to appease the markets that your own party spooked only two months ago". 

That is the truth of the budget, summed up in less than a hundred words. Despite Hunt's promise that he had a plan to sort the nation out, he has nothing of the sort. All he's done is patched up the door after the horse bolted.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Local history - Flying up the Edgware Road by Mark Amies - Book Review

Regular readers of this blog will know of my various collaborations with Mark Amies, who runs some wonderful Twitter accounts, such as the @Time_NW account, which has become the go to account for anyone interested in local history. Back in 2020, Mark wrote his first book, a very good read entitled London's Industrial Past, of which I wrote THIS REVIEW.  Mark has just released another book, entitled Flying up the Edgware Road, detailing the development of the aviation industry on the corridor between Edgware and Cricklewood.

I've been looking forward to this book, since Mark first mentioned to me that he was writing it, possibly two years ago.  I'm happy to say that I'm not disappointed and can thoroughly recommend it. 

If you've heard Mark's regular feature on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London, you will know that the book is written in a snappy readable style and has wonderful illustrations and pictures. It is not a 20,000 page reference book for academics, it is a book for us non experts, who want to understand the history of where we live or have an interest in the subject just a little bit better.

For me, given my families links with the aviation industry (Dad was an RAF Officer and a commercial pilot), it was fascinating. My father learned to fly on a Tiger Moth in Australia. Reading how the plane was probably made a couple of miles from where he settled in London after the war was something that seemed rather poignant. Some of the names mentioned were also people my Father knew, such as Sir Geoffrey De Havilland, who's car he fixed on a couple of occasions. 

Another part of the book which I particularly enjoyed seeing the images of the area as it used to look. Mark put a huge effort into sourcing the images. The book is a clear labour of love and one aspect of Mark's writing I particularly like is how he's told the story of what happened to the buildings and sites mentioned. I was particularly interested in the section on De Havilland in Stag Lane as I worked in their old building on De Havilland Road between 1988 and 1991 when I worked for BACS Ltd. The building was adorned with many old pictures of the site when it was used for aviation. I wonder what happened to those when the company moved?

This is Mark Amies second book and he is really starting to find his feet as an author. Whilst the first book had a series of stand alone articles that were interesting and it was a good read, this has a lot more consistent feel. If you live in or around the area or have an interest in the aviation history of the North West London, it is well worth the cover price.

It is on sale at the RAF Museum in Hendon, as well as all good bookshops. If it's not in stock, it can be ordered. It is published by Amberley.

Back in January 2020, I made a short film with Mark when he was researching the book, where we looked at some of the artefacts from the Airco factory, the largest aircraft factory in the world in 1918.