Sunday 31 December 2023

Goodbye to 2023 - A year of amazing high's and deep deep lows

 It's nearly done and a new year is nearly upon us. Personally I've never had a year like it. In some ways, for me, 2023 has been an amazing year. As a musician, it has been brilliant for me, both as a musician and a fan. As a musician, my band, The False Dots have been in top notch form. We've done a series of brilliant gigs at the Dublin Castle, the last of which was on the 23rd December and was sold out. We got an ecstatic reaction. We've added Tom Hammond on trumpet, the first new member of the band since 2009! Tom has brought a completely new dimension to the band and everyone who's seen him agrees that he's brilliant. We will be releasing a new single featuring him, to celebrate the bands 45th anniversary in February. Fittingly, the song is called "We all love a party!". The band also finished our new album, which also will be released in the Spring, date and tracks to be confirmed. We went out to Boz Boorer's studio in Portugal to finish it off. The sessions and results exceeded my own expectations, which were high to start with. A couple of people asked why I go to Boz's studio, when we have our own. The reason is simple, when I am in our studio, it is also my place of work and it is hard for me to give the music our full attention. When we are at Boz's, there are no distractions. On top of that, the man is a genius at producing music. Not only does he put the icing on the cake, but a cherry on top as well. 

As for the gigs I've been to, I did a blog detailing these a couple of days ago. Some of the gigs I've seen have been absolutely amazing. The stand out shows were Blur at Wembley, Madness in Brighton, The Pogue Traders at Dingwalls and The Mill Hill Music Festival. The new Madness album is pretty damn good. As for new artists, perhaps the outstanding one I came across was Sunny War who we saw at The Slaughtered Lamb. 

As for football, that has been unbeleivable. As a Manchester City fan, I saw my team win five trophys. Given that City won nothing between 1976 and 2011 (apart from a few promotions) and were rubbish for much of that period, it vindicated my keeping of the faith. Even better though, they play a brand of football that is unsurpassed. I don't really know how anyone can doubt that Pep Guardiola is the greatest ever coach. He has totally changed the way teams play. I am also a fan of Hadley FC. They were promoted to the Isthmian League in 2022 and finished the2022-23 season in a very respectable 9th place, consolidating their position. I also purchased a small stake in the club, of which I am very proud. 

I am also pleased to say that my business, Mill Hill Music Complex has returned to profit for the first time since the pandemic. Not a big profit, it will probably take five years to recoup the losses we incurred, but we are in a better position than I could have hoped for a couple of years ago

The final highlight for me, was Xmas. I had my family around me, and two of my sisters came with their familys. I cooked a lunch for 22 people. The oldest was my niece Ivy, who was born in August and the oldest was my brother in law Tim who is in his 70's. It was a lovely day and a fitting end. I am writing this blog lying in a four poster bed in a stately home near Buxton. We are away for new year with our friends something we do every year. It is the time of year that I drink too much and catch up. I then  abstain from alcohol for the first two weeks of the year.

I don't want to dwell too long on the lows. Regular readers will know of my struggles with cancer this year. I feel hopeful that after 12 years, I can put this all behind me and move on (although as they say, men make plans and God laughs). Suffice to say that it has been for me, the most difficult year of my life from a health perspective. Another real low has been the state of my ankle, that has forced me to stop playing football. This has been a massive blow and I really miss it. 

As for this blog. It has been a frustrating year. The Railway Edgware has seen no improvements, despite promises from Barnet Council and local Labour politicians. I had high hopes when the administration changed, but I have now lost all faith in them. What I find irritating in the extreme is how many of them would chat to me and feed me information when the Tories were in charge, but now can't even be bothered to reply to emails. When Labour was elected, I was asked to play a key role in drawing up the borough's cultural strategy. I put a huge amount of work into this, but they then completely excluded me from the process and have done all of the things that I warned them not to, as all they would do is waste money and achieve nothing. I have no God given right to be included, but to the rudeness of certain people in Barnet Council has been staggering. I sent them a draft strategy document, which I was asked to produce. They didn't read it and didn't circulate it. When I did succeed in getting a senior officer to read it, he rather embarrassedly told me he agreed with much of what I'd said, but they'd decided to take a different direction. He'd never been shown it previously. It is a shame because it is a wasted opportunity. 

Another low has been the closure of the Midland Hotel in Hendon. At least the ACV has been renewed on it, affording a degree of protection, and there is talk of proper pub owners buying the property and reopening it.

The loss of Shane MacGowan and Benjamin Zephania hit me hard, in different ways. I must say that when Benjamin died, I felt particularly bereft. Shane was sort of expected, but Benjamin took me by surprise. The news broke on the Eddie Nestor show and it was one of the most difficult but best bits of radio this year. Eddie knew Benjamin and having to announce to the world that a friend died, live on air, must be horrible. He did a fine job. 

So that is more or less that. Having spent much of 2023 feeling rather down and verging on being depressed, to a certain extent, As December wore on, the cloud has lifted and left me feeling more positive than ever for 2024. In some ways I'm more fragile than I've been since I was a 13 year old, with anxiety issues and on valium, but I really am starting to get my mojo back and pray that there will not be any more blows in the short term. I went into 2023 in a really positive frame of mind and I am delighted and some what amazed to say that I'll be departing it in the same frame of mind.

I'll leave you with The False Dots latest single, Sci Fi Girls, a piece of music I am very proud of and which I think is a lot of fun. If you've not seen the band since Tom joined, and you like a bit of Ska, please come down to The Dublin Castle on the 3rd Feb tickets  here - Have a very happy New Year!

Thursday 28 December 2023

My year in blogs 2023

As we wind down towards new year and 2024, I am sticking with the old Barneteye tradition and having a look at the year in blogs. One from each month as the year progressed, trying to paint a picture of what 2023 was like. Yesterday I  looked at my musical year. This is always less fun (for me at least) but possibly more enlightening.


Don't give in to the tyranny of decluttering!

This was a blog I'd been thinking about writing for the best part of a decade. It has come back to bite me as my son has been frantically decluttering ever since. I have realised that people who declutter are not artistic. Artists love mess.


Environment Monday - In Mill Hill, we already live in a fifteen minute city and it is great

A few thoughts on the 15 minute city concept and how living in Mill Hill is a realisation of that dream. This is why I have no desire to "move out" to the country and have a large house in a boring rural setting.


Rog T's Cancer Blog - Here we go ..... The news ain't great

Regular readers will know that a long shadow was cast over this year. It was a "C" shaped shadow and this was where it all started to go pear shaped.  I wish I could pick another blog for March, but sadly this, for me was pretty much the story of 2023.


London Symphonies - A postcard from the edge (of London)

One of my fave blogs of the year, from my London Symphonies series.  I was given a box of old tat by my mate Richard Wilkinson, and I thought it would make a great episode of my London Symphonies series to enlarge on the story behind the pictures. 


"Your biopsy results show....." Rog T's Cancer Blog

The moment when I realised that the situation regarding my cancer was far worse than I had hoped and an operation or radiotherapy were order of the day. It is a difficult blog for me to read back.


The Mill Hill Music Festival Diary - Day six

The big thing for me in June was the Mill Hill Music Festival, which was a brilliant success. A week of amazing music and I was pleased that I had no time to contemplate the other things in my life.


Were the disabled deliberately culled in the first wave of Covid? A father speaks out

The most important blog of the year. My old mate John Sullivan had something very important to say about the death of his daughter. I wish I didn't feel obligated to write these sort of blogs, but what would be the point of it if I didn't. Six months on, John has had no answers and no justice. I guess the Covid enquiry has shown we were governed by narcissistic chancers, but we knew that already.


London Symphonies - Solace in Southwark Cathedral and bopping with the Bard!

I had a radical prostatectomy in August. I wrote this blog on my back from the pre op assessment. In a funny way, it was one of the happiest moments of my year. I felt peaceful, I was resigned to what would happen and it was a beautiful day. Taking solace in such moments is what gets us through.


The Edgware Railway Hotel – Time for Action - A guest blog by Mark Amies

It seems only right to pay tribute to our guest bloggers by picking one for the round up. Sadly, the one I picked is Mark Amies. This whole thing has been going for far too long. As long as Mark sees fit to continue his campaign to save the hotel, we will support him.


Sadiq Khan or Susan Hall? God help us all!

Sadly, both the Tories and Labour seem intent on conspiring to force us to choose between two people I personally wouldn't trust running my whelk stall. I genuinely believe that if the Tories picked a credible candidate, they would win. Sadly Ms Hall is simply completely unelectable. Khan has been the worst Mayor by far. He never seems to speak for London, just his own narrow interests and agenda's. 


The death of the pub industry

A subject close to my heart. My views on why the licenced pub trade is dying on its feet. Sadly, I had a bitter reminder on Boxing day of why I wrote this. I went to a local pub and waited for 15 minutes whilst a rather surley member of staff stacked glasses before serving me. He was then extremely petulant towards another customer, who had been served cold food. I want our pubs to succeed, but what part of the word "Hospitality" do they not understand.


The Saturday List #426 - Five decades of the False Dots Xmas gigs!

I wanted to finish this with some sort of affirmation that I'm still alive and kicking. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog. The fact that the False Dots are still going and releasing new music after 44 years is a miracle, so should be celebrated as one!

Wednesday 27 December 2023

My year in music - 2023

 I'll not lie, 2023 has been a tough year for me on a personal level, but on a music level, it has been absolutely brilliant. Here are my highlights


The year started with a bang. The 100 club starts the year with the Resolution festival. The highlight for me was 999 with Menace. 999 have long been recognised as one of the very best live bands on the circuit. Menace are studio customers and also a brilliant live band.


I love a good lunchtime gig and one of my fave bands put a proper old show on for us at The Dublin Castle, they are back again this year in February and I'll be down for it. Those Naughty Liums were at The Dublin Castle which was a lot of fun. Sonna Rele at the Camden Club was also a good night out. 


A great gig thebut a sad night for me, as it was the farewell party for Emily and Are at The Chandos Arms in Colindale. They'd been at the pub for eight years and transformed it. The Silencerz were wonderful as always.  My band, The False Dots also did a pretty spiffing gig at The Dublin Castle with The Shoals. 


One of the highlight of the London music year is the London International Ska festival. This years was no exception.Glenroy Oakley was exceptional at the Islington O2. The Teskey Brothers at Hammersmith Odeon was another excellent night. 


May was a wonderful month for me. The band finished the second of our sessions recording our album in Portugal with Boz Boorer. It is sounding wicked and will come out in the new year.


June saw another massive highlight in my musical year, with the Mill Hill Music Festival. This year's was brilliant with all events sold out. It started in style with Whelligan at the Adam and Eve, featuring the False Dots trumpet player (here singing lead vocals!). Other great gigs included Madness in Sherwood Forest and Ben Sidran at Ronnie Scotts


In July, we went to see Blur, Paul Weller and The Selecter at Wembley. I am not a fan of stadium gigs, but they were absolutely brilliant. This is probably the only stadium gig I've actually enjoyed. Another massive highlight was the Northern Soul prom at The Albert Hall, which was simply buzzing. 

Another big highlight was the Jesterfest free festival on Fortune Green, organised by my good mate Lyn Boorer. A day of fun in the sun. 


In August two old school mates of mine, Sam Sproule from FCHS and Paula Marks from Orange Hill performed with the Midnite Crawlers at The Dublin Castle. A damn fine gig, a week before I had surgery for cancer. A great way to prepare!


I was not properly recovered from the surgery, but we had a gig to do and it was pretty damn good! I love playing at The Dublin Castle and our mates in The Shoals put in a fine set. For me, it was a real lift as I'd been feeling very sorry for myself.


In October, we saw Lloyd Cole at The Union Chapel. He's a wonderful singer, last saw him in 1986 in Milton Keynes so it was good to re-acquaint ourselves with him.Sunny War at the Slaughered Lamb was another exceptional gig worth mentioning. 


November saw The False Dots back at the Dublin Castle, for the Madchat (Madness fan community) charity fundraiser gig. Madchat raised £6000 for the Pancreatic Cancer charity in 2023, and it was an honour and prividge to be part of it. It was also a wonderful gig and The Shoals, who played with us were spiffing. 


In December , I really was spoiled for choice to pick something. Madness, Black Grape, Shalamar, The Dub Pistols, our gig with The London Sewage Company were all brilliant, but I'll go for the Pogue Traders at Dingwalls. Due to the sad passing of Shane, it was especially poignant.