Tuesday 31 January 2023

How can we be building the Edmonton incinerator whilst imposing a ULEZ zone

 There has been an ongoing campaign against the proposed new Edmonton waste incinerator for several years now. The incinerator is being commissioned by the North West London Waste Authority. It seems to me to be absurd that we can be even considering an incinerator in an urban area, given the known harm that pollution causes to our lungs. The Mayor of London recognises this with his imposition of the ULEZ zone, but for some reason seems strangely reticent to support the campaign against the incinertaor. In May, GLA member Emma Best asked Khan about his support for the campaign. The Mayors response was lukewarm to say the least. It seems that Mayor Khan is happy for the incinerator to be built and for the govt to take the blame.

The rights and wrongs of this scheme are quite clear. We should not be building incinerators in urban areas. London needs a strategy to remove the amount of packaging that we produce. Sadly one of the biggest side effects of shift to online shopping is a massive increase in packaging. When we buy stuff from shops, most of us now take our own bags. When stuff comes via delivery services, we see huge amounts of cardboard and plastic added to the packaging. Much of this will end up being burned or buried. Barnet Council had a successful food recycling scheme, but this was ended to save money. It cannot be right that it is cheaper to burn such waste rather than composting it. 

London needs a strategy to massively reduce packaging and to have proper recycling. With this, incinerators and landdfill would no longer be needed. Mayor Khan has invested huge political capital in the ULEZ, but he seems to have a blind spot on waste. My preferred resolution would be to make retailers liable for disposal of non recyclable waste that their businesses generate. It used to be that you'd get a few pennies back from the sweet shop for glass bottles. I'd like to see that brought back, with legal penalties for non compliance, for all packaging. Supermarkets would soon cut back, if they had to deal with the rubbish they generate. 

Such a scheme needs leadership. Sadly, Sadiq Khan doesn't really seem interested in this.

And if you are wondering why all the noisy Tories moaning about the ULEZ haven't pointed this out, look no further

Monday 30 January 2023

Tom Verlaine RIP and the general failure of the music industry to cherish talent

 On Sunday morning I awoke to the sad news that punk guitar legend Tom Verlaine has passed away. Listening to the work of Tom and Television in 2023, if you didn't know the story, you would be forgiven for asking why on earth he was ever labelled as punk. His best known work ears little relation to the work of other proto punk bands in the USA and the UK. Apart from a few demo's subsequently released on bootlegs, etc, his work with Richard Hell (the man credited with inventing the punk look) is almost forgotten. Hell departed to form the Heartbreakers with Ex NY Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. Television added Fred Smith from Blondie. 

The band released Marquee Moon in 1977 followed by Adventure in 1988 and then split up. Verlaine sporadically released solo albums and there was the odd Television reformation. The bands material was reflective and Verlaine can properly be described as a guiatr virtuoso as well as an amazing songwriter. Verlaines lyrics were reflective and detatched. The songs were highly layered, but without the pomposity associated with genre's such as Prog Rock. The bands performances were very much in the  progressive punk ethos, not showy or overblown, if highly accomplished. Marquee Moon is one of those albums that you listen to every ten years and rediscover as a masterpiece. Adventure is more accessible if maybe less monumental. 

I saw Verlaine several times as both a solo artist and as a member of Television. Rather comically, I recall a solo gig in1987 at the International in Manchester, where Verlaine was billed as a punk legend. One local, expecting to hear music sounding like the Pistols or The Heartbreakers, was completely enraged by the soft, technically perfect tones and thoughtful melodies. He started shouting "Tommy, you F***ng sell out" only for the bloke next to him to say "Oi, this is what they always sounded like, shut up". 

After the passing of Verlaine, I got to thinking about the way the music industry treats genius's like Verlaine, who fit no pigeon hole and aren't particularly interested in conforming to anyone's idea of what they should be. In the Jazz world, there are many small labels that keep artists busy developing new tracks. In the non Jazz world, many brilliant artists almost seem to have given up on pushing themselves. Many artists seme to take the view "It's not worth my while recording new material, as no one wants to hear it live and no one buys the records". His last album, "Songs and other things" was released in 2006. Surely it is a complete failure of the industry if a genius like Verlaine was playing but not recording new material for 17 years. Radio stations, record labels and us as punters need to really think what we want music to be to us.  We need to support artists in growing and developing. I am all for enjoying the hits at gigs, but we have to try and embrace new material, listen to new albums before we see the gigs and try and 'get' what they are doing and why. 

Just imagine for a minute a world where David Bowie hung up his recording boots after The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and just carried on churning out the same show? No Station to Station, Low or Heroes, No Lazarus. Bowie had the stature to carry on recording and innovating. Recording high quality albums is a lengthy and quite costly process, if you want to engage the best musicians. The commercial labels are not interested in doing this, if they do not feel that there's a realistic chance of a big return. Whereas when Bowie started, he was given leeway to experiment, Verlaine who was only a few years later, was never cut the same slack. He would never be a Bowie in terms of commercial success, but I cannot believe that there was no audience at all for his music, with an intelligent degree of support and marketing to the people who might be an audience for his music. When I listen to Verlaine's music, especially the later tracks, I am always surprised it wasn't used more in films etc. I cannot believe that a label would fail to recoup if they supported people with talent. It is an acute failing of the industry that the only way you'll hear albums such as "songs and things" is on dodgy Youtube playlist. 

If you like the electric guitar and well written songs, checkout Marquee Moon. It should be a part of any self respecting vinyl collection.

Sunday 29 January 2023

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 29th January 2023

 An interesting week for me. On Monday, we went to see Ruby Turner at Ronnie Scotts, which was a wonderful evening. Wednesday had a pretty good rehearsal with The False Dots and yesterday I saw an absolutely cracking game of football at Hadley, where they narrowly lost to Berkhampstead FC, the league leaders. You won't see a better game of football anywhere this weekend. After the fun at the footie, it was off to The Dublin Castle to see my old mate Rick Collins performing with Jock McDonnell in the Bollock Brothers.

So that was enough of my week, what have the tweeters of Barnet been up to?

1. IF you are wondering if beer is better than football, the answer is clear, Beer + Football is best!

2. Struggling with bills to keep warm. Well done to St Pauls for this initiative

3. Gotta love this tweet!

4. A nice post from Grahame Park

5. Can you help?

6. Our old friend Donald is well known for showing off his marrows and courgettes. Now he's putting his sausages on display!

7. A date for your diary

8. I love this tweet. Is this true or an urban myth?

9. Got any spooky spots you want to share

10. Calling all local musicians. Wanna play Glastonbury

That's all folks

Saturday 28 January 2023

The Saturday List #394 - The ten best bands/artists you've never heard of (Probably)

 Now I don't know why I've had to wait until list #394 to do this. I've seena  lot of gigs over the years. I've seen some amazing bands. Some have gone on to be mega artists. Sadly some absolutely brilliant bands have simply disappeared totally or just never progressed beyond small clubs. Now if you are one of my mates, you will probably now most/all of these. My criteria was that a) I must have seen the band and been blown away by them b) They must have something online so that I can share it (which sadly ruled out some great bands) and c) They must have been almost forgotten and d) They must be well worth a revisit! Even better is that some of these bands are actually still going, so if you see their name on, check them out. 

1. Lets start with a great British Ska band, the Potato Five. In the mid 1980's I used to see this lot all the time. I even went over to Amsterdam to see them at the Milk Weg

2. ANd on to a brilliant post punk, new wave band. I used to see the Monochrome Set at places like the Moonlight Club. Always value for money, quirky and slightly different from the rest of the scene

3. I saw this mob supporting the Ramones at the Rainbow in 1977. They were amazing. The Rezillos were a bunch of Scottish nutters and I immediately bought the album. They had a couple of hits and then seemed to disappear

4.Crass were not everyone's cup of tea, but they were an absoluetly amazing live band. I can't honestly say that the records caught the full power, but I've not seen a more intense live band ever. I was at this gig, sadly you can't hear to much of the music on it, but I'm sure you get the idea.

5. I think everyone who saw themloved the Yatchs. They were regulars at the Music Machine, did John Peel Sessions but somehow a wider audience eluded them

6. Way of the West had a Radio One Single of the Week. The False Dots supported them at the Midland Arms, in a giog promoted by Rob Austin of Tape Copying Services. Alan Warner brought a mobile rig and recorded the bands. This may well have been recorded at that gig, although it doesn't say. They were a very good band.

7. Another band we played with that were pretty damn good were The Vektors. They supported The False Dots at The Harwood Hall and one of their Dad's videos it. The band would always bring a hundred mates down to watch them. They were a rather lively bunch, not sure if they made it beyond Harwood Hall but were a very good local band

8. Another band that we'd see all the time were The Johnny Mars Blues Band. They are probably my favourite ever straight down the line Rythme and Blues band. Johnny is a great harmonica player. Their gigs were joyous, it never quite translated to vinyl, which may be why they never did more

9. Talisman were our favourite reggae band of the early 1980's, another band we'd schlep all around the place to see. They are still going but this is what they sounded like back in the day

10. And finally. The Shrinking Violets. I came across this lot supporting The Sway, when I was managing The Sway. They were absolutely Brilliant. I got them to play at a protest rally in Montrose Park against the closure of Edgware General Hospital that I organised in 1988. I was so pleased to find this. They were brilliant and quirky, but had a manager who wanted them to be a 'serious band', missing the point completely.

That's all folks!

Friday 27 January 2023

The Friday Joke - 27th January 2023

 Once more, I'm endebted to Robert Wilkinson for a real cracker!

On the subject of Mars, I've been fascinated by the pictures on the NASA website returned by the various Rovers. This is one of the most interesting

And what better excuse to start the weekend with this classic!


Thursday 26 January 2023

If all you do is look backwards, you'll walk into a lampost - What would my Tory Dad have made of the failure of Conservative Britain

 My Dad, who was a WWII RAF pilot was not someone who was sentimental about the past. He once explained to me that when you were involved in an armed conflict, you soon realised that every improvement to your plane, be it an engine upgrade, better radar, a better plane, etc meant that your chances of making it home from your tour of duty was better. He loved innovation. He was a brillaint photographer and had a stack of old, manual, top notch cameras. We'd have slide shows after holidays etc. Many of the pictures of the 50's and 60's I use are ones he took. When automated cameras came out, with autofocus, inbuilt flashes and light meters, he bought them and never used the old, manual ones again. He explained that you took better pictures, as you didn't have to muck about. As a business owner, he embraced progress, realising that new innovations meant you could do jobs quicker and make more money. Dad was a Conservative, in the 1960's/70's Conservative tradition. He beleived that the Tories were a forward thinking party, who would pull Britian forward and keep us at the centre of innovation. He believe Labour were luddites, wedded to Trades Unions who resisted change. One of his sayings was "If all you do is look backwards, you'll walk into a lampost".

Dad passed away in 1987. Thatcherism and the 'Loads of money '80's, were at their height. Many of the guys who worked for him at his car business, were buying their own council houses in Burnt Oak and Edgware. Dad probably went to his deathbed believing he was politically vindicated. Dad was a major influence on me. I was diametrically opposed to his politics, but I fully understood that many of the the arguments he made were reasonable and well argued. Last night, I had a dream about Dad. It was very vivid. I still dream about him quite a lot. I always wake up, almost in tears, realising that he's not here and we can't continue the conversation. So what did he have to say? Well, as ever, he was putting me right. You may have noticed that I've had nothing much to say about the current woes of the Tory Party.  There are two reasons for this. The first is that I have always tried to keep the focus of the blog on local and London issues. The second is that I felt I have little insight into National politics and other people can do it far better.  Well, Dad was not too impressed. He said "The country is going to the dogs at the moment, people read your blog, why are you sitting on your hands". He went on to say that "Don't you care that a man appointed Chancellor of the Exchequor had fiddled his taxes, what sort of message does this send out". He then said "I always supported the Tories Conservatives because they were forward looking and good for business, but you run a business and you know how they are killing it. You know that Brexit is a backward looking concept and you know that it is damaging the country. Why aren't you shouting this from the hilltops". He finished off by saying that there are always dodgy spivs in politics on all sides, the difference now is that they are not being slung out of office. That is the politics of a banana republic, not the UK.  I asked him if he was still a Conservative, he said that unless they sort themselves out, nobody should vote for them, until they rediscoved a degree of morality and have some sort of vision for Britian to take us forward. 

At that point, Clare woke me up with a cup of tea and the morning papers. As usually happens when I dream about my Dad lecturing me, it takes me 20 minutes to get my head around what I was dreaming. Was I just projecting my left wing prejudices onto Dad? What would he say? I have no doubt at all that he'd be appalled by Mr Zaawi's dodgy behaviour. I am sure that he would have had a good rant about a bloke being let off evasion payment of millions of pounds of non payment of tax with no more than a slapped wrist. I have no doubt that as someone who lost mates fighting to end division in Europe and someone who hated bureacracy at borders (he worked as a commercial pilot after the war, he had his fill of paperwork), he'd be horrified at how Brexit is panning out. I had a meeting on Saturday with the group leaders of the charity I volunteer for, that takes people living with disablities to France. We were told that new regulations coming in to place in May, will mean that everyone entering the EU will have to have their biometric profile taken, with fingerprint and retinal scans. This could add up to 90 minute to our journey through passport control, as most people are likely to be passing through an EU border for the first time on our flight. When you have a large group of people who are in wheelchairs, etc this will be, shall we say difficult. I believe he'd have been completely unimpressed with the weakness of the PM, who should have sacked Mr Zahawi. The facts are not in dispute. If you need an 'Ethics advisor" to tell you to sack a tax dodger, then you shouldn't be in the job. 

When I woke up, I read the papers. The front page of the Daily Express was a story about an old lady freezing to death and how Ambulance workers are regularly taking other OAP's to A&E with hypothermia. This is the Express, a Tory backing paper. On their website is a story that business leaders are slating the governments handling of Brexit. There is a poll on the Express website asking whether Rishi Sunak is a weak PM. At present 94% of people say yes. If Express readers are saying this, the game is up

Dad was a Daily Express reader, so I can only assume that his message from beyond the grave was spot on. I think the Tory party needs to get it's act together and quick. Much as I disagree with them, if they are wiped out at the next election, we will have no effective opposition and we all know that is not a great thing. The only senior Tory at the moment with any credibility at all seems to be Jeremy Hunt. He has experience and is a safe pair of hands. I genuinely don't know whether the public would accept another Tory coronation, but I am starting to think that if they don't do something radical, they might find that there are none of them left after the next election.

By the way, at the start of the year, I made the following predictions for January. From what I am seeing, the thermals I've had to wear and watching PMQ's yesterday, I can only think I should put a tenner on the 5,15 at Kempton Park if you know what I mean

The year starts as the year ended. We have the funeral of Pope Benedict. In some ways, this draws a perfect line under a terrible few years. The Weather starts mild, but by the 21st we are back to freezing temperatures, snow, ice and train strikes. Normal politics returns with Labour leader clobbering Rishi Sunak at PMQ's on a weekly basis. Tory MP's, especially those on the right start making noises. We see the start of Nigel Farage's return to front line politics, with his land grab for that area formerly known as UKIP.

All I can really think is that I'm more psychic than I could have predicted (forgive the pun)

Wednesday 25 January 2023

In praise of cassettes and how they made music democratic

Perhaps the most revolutionary musical invention ever was the Cassette tape and player. Around the 1970's, most players were chunky mono players, the sleek Walkman was invented later. Records were expensive. In 1977, my main income had been a paper round. I earned 50p a day, £3.50 a week. An album was around £3.99. When a mate got a new album, we’d tape it. 

I was pondering why there were some inexplicable holes in my vinyl collection (The Buzzcocks 2nd Album, Elvis Costello, etc) and I remembered that a good mate from that time, Dermot had bought the albums and run off cassette copies for me. There was no concept of the collectability of records, we just wanted to hear the music. I’d guess that in the punk community, there would be around five cassette copies of every album. Cassettes were far more portable, record decks and stereo systems were things from your parents house, that you could only use when your parents were out. 

The other great thing about cassettes was that you could record the radio. To hear new music, the options were limited. Only John Peel on Radio 1 at 10pm would really play punk. I had several mates who’d record all his shows, then make mixtapes of the best bits. Peel knew this, so wouldn’t talk over the songs. He also got bands in to do live sessions. Cassettes were the mechanism that generally you heard new music by at mates houses or in the playground at school. Another great thing about cassettes was that you could do recordings of your band and play them to mates. 

In the case of  my band, the False Dots, this had been a bad mistake, as we played them some truly rubbish music when we started.  However, I also heard some amazing music. I well recall bumping into Foxy, guitarist of the Ruts. He told me that he had a great new song and had a cassette of it in his pocket. Despite his reluctance, I managed to persuade him to lend it to me. He made me promise to drop it back ASAP and not record it (which I immediately did when I got home). It was the band rehearsing Babylons Burning and another couple of numbers. As with most cassette recordings, the quality was appalling but the song was brilliant. When the single came out, I was gutted. To my ears, all of the energy had been ripped out (a phrase known as being well produced). It took years for me to realise that the single is a masterpiece. 

The one downside of cassettes is they get chewed up eventually, which is sadly what happened to that gem. I got very proficient at putting chewed up tapes back together, with Sellotape and a pencil to wind them. Sadly, eventually you always seemed to lose the war. For some reason, it was the best ones that always broke, probably through overplay. 

Another aspect of tapes were the mixtapes that our mates would make up. Derm bought a massive ghetto blaster and would spend hours taping his favourite tracks on albums and organising them into tapes. He’d make statements like “I quite like the Fall, but half their songs are rubbish, so I’ve made a selection of the best ones”. They weren’t called “Mix Tapes” then. Derm would lug the Ghetto blaster everywhere and would ensure that our lives always had a soundtrack. When the False Dots recorded our first demo, I gave Derm a cassette copy. He added a selection of music he thought was in keeping. I was delighted that the first track he put on was “Psykick Dancehall” by the Fall. I took that as a massive compliment.

Cassettes were a huge force in democratising music, long before Youtube and Soundcloud. Before cassettes, you only heard what the labels wanted you to hear, unless you went to gigs. Cassettes gave every band a chance to share music and gave everyone the chance to be a DJ!
An edited extract from my forthcoming autobiograpy "How to make it in the music industry with no talent at all". 

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Local Music Special - Kevin Black - Former Barnet Times Journalist RIP

If you are of a certain age, interested in music and you live in the London Borough of Barnet, a certain Mr Kevin Black is a mythical and iconic figure. If you are not, you will probably be asking 'what's he on about now'. 

Let me tell you the story. In the late 1970's the world of music was very different. No Facebook, YouTube or Spotify. The only real exposure for bands was the music press, NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. There were underground fanzines that sprung up, such as Mark Perrys Sniffing Glue, but you had to be in the clique to get these.

Then one Thursday morning, around 1979, I opened The Mill Hill and Edgware Times and to my delight and amazement,  it was announced that there was a new column, featuring local music and bands.  I didn't need a second invitation, I was straight on the bus to Hendon, where the times had their office, cassette in hand, demanding to see the writer, a certain Mr Kevin Black. 

I was a 16 year old skinny punk rocker, my diary records he was 'a bearded Jock'. It was clear he loved music. He promised to cover a gig I was arranging at The Harwood Hall and was good to his word. He also printed gig listings and interviewed local studio owners such as Alan Warner of The Foundations and Ray Randall of The Tornadoes. He collaborated with Rob Austin of Tape Copying Services to launch the Midland Arms (now The Claddagh Ring) as a venue. This hosted some great bands including Dolly Mixtures, The Purple Hearts and Way of The West (who my band The False Dots supported).

Kevin wrote his column with vigour and passion and gave many bands a first bit of exposure. For a while it seemed that out little bit of London was becoming a mini epicentre of London music. He plugged the local venues such as The Torrington and The Hogs Grunt in Prodiction village. 

Then as always happens with good local journalists, he moved on. After 35 years, I thought the story was long over, but I was listening to the Robert Elms show on 28th September 2016 and Kevin rang up the rang Robert Elms and was on Notes and Queries asking about The Remipeds, a band Rob Austin managed.  It was great to hear he was still interested in our local scene. 

I am in the process of writing and researching my autobiography and I happened tolearn that Kevin passed away in 2019. He is recalled IN THIS BLOG. It was sad news indeed to hear that Kevin had passed.  I spoke to him in 2016, just to catch up. We agreed to meet for a beer, which as often happens never came to pass. 

Sunday 22 January 2023

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet 22nd Jan 2023

So how's your week been. I've had a lurgy so I had a quiet night in last night, and a pretty quiet week all in all. Feeling a bit better today though, so not too much to report, apart from writing a brand new song with The False Dots. The way I tend to write songs is to do a 'skeleton arrangement, get the band playing it, record it on my phone, then take it home, mull over it, then work out a proper arrangement with Fil Ross, our bass player and co-producer. The song was called Men & Motors. As sometimes happens, I listened to it and realised that the lyrics were too pompous and boring and didn't really work. So I rewrote them, played the new version to Fil on the acoustic guitar in the shop and now I think it's a banging number. We sorted out the arrangement, so it may well be a very productive week. Also had a couple of nice walkies with the doggies in the Ice

Anyway, enough of my week. What were the Tweeters of Barnet up to?

1. This is my favourite tweet of the week, it's great to see kids learning about their local enivornment and geography

2. This is amazing, perhaps the definitive explanation of how the Norther Line should look.

3. And what a great tweet to follow it with

4. This is another wonderful tweet from one of our regulars

5. Nice thread from Mark Amies on Colindale Station

6. This deserves a good plug

7. This is why I put up with Twitter and some of the people on it!

8. And whilst in Cricklewood, a new landmark was opened there this week. What's the verdict?

9. A date for your diary!

10. And finally, I missed this last week, but as it's next week, I felt it should be here. Please support this

That's all folks!

Saturday 21 January 2023

The Saturday List #393 - The birds I've seen in my back garden

This morning, as  I came out of the house, I saw our garden Robin. We've had a Robin living in the hedge in our front garden for as many years as I can recall. It clearly isn't the same one, but I always feel happy at his sight. I've lived in the same house in Millway for most of my life, apart from 1983-87 when I moved out of the family home. I bought it from my mother in 1987 when my Father died. As a child, I used to sit with Mrs O'Keefe, who used to do cleaning for my mum and look at the birds. Sho would put a few scraps of bread and bacon rind on the birdbath and lawn and we'd see them hungrily arrive for breakfast. My house backs onto the M1 motorway and Thameslink railway and there is a bit of an unofficial wildlife reserve in the area between the road and the houses on Millway. Over the years, the type of birds we see had changed dramatically. The first section is the birds I commonly saw in the 1960's with Mrs O'Keefe and the second are the ones see now.

1. The Robin.  I guess this is the logical place to start, as this is what inspired the blog. Perhaps my favourite garden bird of all. We had one that would continually attack the windows. A friend explained that this was territorial behaviour, he was confused by the reflection. 

2. The Sparrow. There used to be dozens of these little chaps in the garden, never see them now. We'd see both Hedge Sparrows and House Sparrows. Although they look similar, they are unrelated. There was an article about this in the Barnet Times about this about 20 years ago.

3. Blackbirds. These were another regular visitor, that I haven't seen for a very long time.

4. Starlings. These used to turn up en mass. Mrs O'Keefe would hate them, she considered them to be thugs. Again, I've not seen them for years.

5. Song Thrushes. These were occasional visitors and we'd get most excited about them.

6. Blue Tits. We'd see these mostly in winter, they were famous for pecking the tops of milk bottles and nicking the cream

7. Swallows. My next door neighbours had a couple of nests in their eves for a few years. I have always enjoyed watching them on late summer evenings hunting for insects. Again not seen them in the garden for a long time.

8. Crows. I've always had a fascination for crows. One used to visit the garden and was pretty tame. He'd take pieces of bacon rind from your hand. My Mum used to go nuts at this, as she thought the crows were agents of the devil. We still see crows.

These were the birds we'd see regularly around the birdbath and on the lawn. All apart from crows and Robins, I rarely if ever see thse now. So what has replaced them.

9. Magpies. In around 1973, the Magpies moved in and most of the songbirds moved out. They rather like the hawthorn trees that border the M1. They are attractive birds, but have completely changed the profile of what we see.

10. Pigeons. We probably saw pigeons in the garden, but I don't really recall seeing them, you'd go to Trafalgar Square if you wanted to see them. I was told that the reason we see so many more is the advent of fast food outlets. There is now a ready food source for them, so they have a far more friendly environment.

11. Seagulls. Again, I don't recall seeing many seagulls in Mill Hill in the 1960's, I can remember a lake forming in Mill Hill Park and seeing a bunch of seagulls around it, probably around 1975, from a passing 221 bus. I was quite surprised. I wouldn't be today.

12. Herons. In 1990, I put a pond in the garden and since then, we've regularly seen Herons. They are amazing birds (the dogs disagree), but I've stopped stocking the pond with goldfish due to their activities. 
Have a lovely weekend. 

Friday 20 January 2023

The Friday Joke and a few amusing musings about Britains Got Talent!

It's Friday, so let's start with a Titter (courtesy of one of our fave Tweeters Mr Robert Wilkinson).

It's been an interesting week at the studios. I've been rather busy sorting all manner of issues out, getting things in place for the coming months. Our end of the music industry has very defined cycles of activities and this to a greater extent defines how we plan our marketing and advertising. This time of the year, there is not much activity in gigs, so bands are by and large working on new material and preparing for the busier period later in the year. A few artists are coming in to touch up and remaster tracks they recorded last year, or to record new tracks. Many artists make new years resolutions to "make 2023 the year that IT HAPPENS". 

It is great as we see some wonderful bands, great artists and hear some amazing tracks. But we also get a rush of artists that, shall we say, need some more rehearsal, but haven't realised it. Had a hilarious moment this week. Perhaps the most amusing are the pushy parents, who have decided that they will manage the next Amy Winehouse (AKA Their talentless daughter).

Had one such conversation this week.

Customer - "Hello, I wanted to speak to you about my daughters career, she is a brilliant singer and needs to get on Britains Got Talent".
Me - "Ok, just google apply for Britains Got Talent"
Customer - "I was wondering if you knew the Producer, as she is brilliant and as soon as they hear her they will put her on".
Me - "Erm, no I don't, if she's good then she'll get through via the website audition process"
Customer - "But the singing teacher on your website says he works on TV shows".
Me - "He does, but your daughter would have to sign up for some vocal coaching and if he can help her, then he will advise you."
Customer - "My daughter doesn't need singing lessons, she just needs to get on to the show. If you help us we will plug the studio".
Me  - "Our vocal coach can only really help people who he is working with. Vocal coaching is more than singing lessons, it teaches you how to protect your voice and how to ensure you don't damage it. If she is a good singer, she should consider it. Even some of the top stars such as Rhianna and Flo regularly see him, to stay on top of their game"
Customer - "This sounds like a scam to me. My Daughter can sing. Why does she need singing lessons. Why are you trying to sell things that people don't need? That is immoral, I bet he can't even get her on BGT if she pays for a lesson!"
Me - "I didn't say he would get her on BGT if she had a lesson. I said he only helps people he works with"
Customer - "People like you are what give the music business a bad name!" Slams down the phone

I wish the young lady well. Not so sure about Mum though

If you need to apply for BGT CLICK HERE (please don't bug me)

Thursday 19 January 2023

Don't give in to the tyranny of decluttering!

 Of all the recent fads, perhaps the one I find most irrational and irritating is the concept of decluttering. The argument seems to be that you'll be happier if you have less stuff around. To me this is completely bonkers. We buy stuff because we want or have a need of it. I'm all for giving used paperback novels to the Charity shop if you aren't going to read them again, or recycling yesterdays newspapers, but that is not what decluttering is about. It's about chucking away perfectly good stuff that you may use, so that the mantlepiece is clear and there is less stuff to look at. I know people who've chucked out vinyl worth thousands in their mad rush to declutter, as well as vintage cameras which are worth a fortune and all manner of other seful or valuable items. There seem to be countless TV programs extolling the virtue of this insanity.

Let me tell you, when you need a nail or screw because something has broken or fallen off the wall, you won't be so pleased you chucked the rusty tin of them out. When you've given your vinyl collection to the charity shop and you suddenly find that old Pink Floyd album from 1973 is worth £100 you won't be feeling so happy will you? About 20 years ago, I was chatting to a mate who was in the process of 'decluttering'. He mentioned that he was taking his record collection to a boot sale. I casually asked what records he had. To my amazement, there was a stack ofhighly sort after choices, including an original copy of Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, with a copy of the programme for the album launch show. I suggested he put that on Ebay before disposing of anything. He got £750 for it. 

One of the strands of our business is we run a music shop. We regularly get people come down with bags full of musical instruments, usually from dealry departed relatives that they haven't got space for, that they just want to get shot of. Sometimes this 'old junk' turns out to be highly valuable items that a cursory search would have revealed were worth a fair few bob. 

I've no idea where the concept that having nothing on the mantlepiece is somehow attractive or good for ones mental health, it is bonkers and I'd everyone to realise that it is just a part of the philosophy of our wasteful, consumerist society, getting you to free up space so you can buy more rubbish. 

Wednesday 18 January 2023

The Brass Neck of the Barnet Tories is a sight to behold - Golders Green By Election Commentary

There will be a by election in Golders Green ward of Barnet Council on 16th Feb 2023, caused by the death of long time Councillor Melvin Cohen. Please make sure you vote if you live in the ward, CLICK HERE FOR full details for getting a vote.

I have been fascinated to see how little activity there is on social media from the three main parties. I was hoping for a pithy round up, but there was so little pith, that all I could find was a local Tory tweeting about it that had much to take the pith out of. The only tweet the Tory candidate has posted is a retweet of one of his mates tweets? Clearly working hard. So lets have a look at his mate!

In October 2021, when the Tories, were still doing OK in the polls and the Boris Johnson regime had yet to completely implode. The Tories were selecting their candidates for the elections in May 2022. They were expecting to hold on to the council back then. The view was that Corbyn had made Labour too toxic for Barnet. The Tories had their largest ever majority on Barnet Council so even a few losses would not have overly damaged their position. In December of 2021, I'd spoken to a local Tory who told me that they expected to take more seats, due in no small part to the popularity of Boris Johnson. A quick look at the poll tracker shows how quickly things turned, once Dominic Cummings was sacked and started to drip poison into the veins of the Tory party poll ratings

There were some boundary changes and a few new seats were formed that no one really knew how they'd fall at election time. Sometime around the end of 2021, I was having a chat with a local Tory regarding their expectations. They made some claims that seem rather laughable in hindsight, but at the time I genuinely believe they were giving what they thought was a sensible analysis. One of the more absurd claims was that Anne Clark would be in trouble in the new ward of Cricklewood. When I heard this, I relaised that maybe the Tories were trying to kid themselves. The reason? These threefold. The first was because Sir Keir Starmer would not detoxify Labour in Barnet in our lifetime. Corbyn had simply done too much damage to the standing of the party. The second was because disgraced former Tory big wig Brian Coleman's baiting of Clark as simply a being a dopey housewife, who was out of her depth, had hit home and done real damage to the local perception of her. The third reason was the Tories had selected one of their rising stars, Yosef David, who I was told was very hardworking and had a brilliant feel for social media. I'd never heard of him, but noted the name and kept a beady eye on him. I soon realised that he wasn't quite as good at social media as I'd thought, getting into pointless rows with local residents, then moaning about them 'piling in'.

I have to admit, I was a tad disappointed because it would be good to have a decent Tory tweeter and blogger to fulfill the Dan Hope RIP role. Sadly for Yosef, his early promise did not really live up to expectations at the ballot box.


Now whilst this was less of a shock to me than to some of our Tory friends, as part of my public service remit, I thought I'd keep a beady eye on what the new crop of 'hard working, 'social media savvy' Barnet Tories were up to, whilst they await the glorious revolution where they retake Barnet Council?

Well sure enough, it appears that Yosef had bought the 'Twitter for Tory Dummies' book and turned to the chapter on how to make a name for yourself as an up and coming social media guru in a local political party. Chapter one. Take a picture of a pothole and blame the other lot

Yosef has taken one of the loveliest pictures of a pothole I've ever seen. The artistic composition is spot on, with the tree tastefully reflected in the water. To be honest, I almost want a pothole like that outside my house, so I can spend the long summer evening fishing in it. 

As to Chapter 2. Take a picture of a bus with a slogan on it and claim that it's evidence that the other side have ballsed everything up.

The trouble with pictures of buses with slogans on at the moment for the Tories, is that all it really does is remind people of the big Boris Vote Leave lie that once Brexit was done, there would be £350 million a week for the NHS. As the nurses and ambulance workers are on strike for a basic living wage, clearly this is a porkie and the cash hasn't materialised. Why Yosef would seek to remind us, I don't know but I am grateful.

On to Chapter three. If you want to ingratiate yourself with right wing loonies have a pop at Greta Thunberg. 

Anyone who's had teenage daughters/grand daughters, be they Tory, Labour or Monster raving looney's doesn't really enjoy seeing pictures of young girls who pose no threat to anyone being hauled off by burly police in full body armour. Is it just me? I see a small, vulnerable girl at the mercy of large, armoured men. There's plenty of pictures of Greta Thunberg looking a bit smug etc, but this show's she's got some balls. Perhaps a lot more than some of our local political wannabee's. Not something I'd want to emphasise.

On to Chapter four. This is the one that says 'Any Brickbat lobbed at Prince Harry and Meghan is an open goal, waiting to be scored.  Given the other three tweets we've looked at, you have to smile at the unintended irony here. Maybe Yosef should take his own advice. Now I don't think Harry and Meghan have done anyone, least of all themselves too many favours with their books and films, but let he who is without sin cast the first stone, when it comes to gobbing off when you should keep schtum. 

We've reached Chapter Five of "Twitter for Tory Dummies". This chapter says, the message is to get your voters out to vote. So how does Yosef approach this conundrum?

We'll ignore the typo. I am sure that Labour and the Lib Dems will be delighted if all of the local Tories put an 'X' in their diary on Feb 16th. I'm sure Labour  and the Lib Dems will be campaigning for their supporters to put an 'X' next to their candidates name!

And finally, Chapter six. The one on Brexit, "remind your supporters that only the Conservatives are true believers in  Brexit.

Yosef comes out with a classic here. In effect, he's saying that Remainers shouldn't bother pointing out the economic damage that Brexit is doing, because Brexit was about the identity of the UK and any collatoral damage to the UK was a price worth paying. Did Yosef miss the bus? You know, the one with the promise that Brexit would make the NHS £350 million a week better off? If that wasn't a promise of a better, stronger economy, one which millions fell for, I've no idea what is. As a business owner who has to pay the price of Brexit and who has lost 50% of my staff due to the downturn caused directly by Brexit, it is all about the economy for me and just about every business owner I know, many who have supported the Tories. 

There is a real brass necked element to these posts. Barnet has been a nightmare for Potholes since I started the blog. It was a major feature of my election campaign against the Tories in 2010, 2018 and 2022. Sure I believe Labour could do better, but to pretend the problems are new are just ridiculous. The concept that the economic damage caused by Brexit is irrelevant is perhaps the strangest and biggest whopper I've ever seen in Barnet Tweeting. Does anyone really believe Leave would have won if they'd told the truth and said "Brexit will trash the economy, but we'll all have our identity back"? 

There is a council by election in the safe Tory ward of Golders Green on the 16th Feb, where long standing councillor Melvin Cohen stood for years. Peter Zinkin, who lost in Childs Hill last year is standing. Peter was one of the most competent Tory Councillors in the last administration and despite his politics, I quite like him. It would be a major surprise if he lost, despite the unpopularity of the Tories, which is even worse than in May. But if he doesn lose, maybe he should have a look at the tweeting of his Tory mates. Whether or not they like it, Barnet was and is strongly remain.  Most people support the councils goal of net carbon zero, even Tories. The British are not keen on riot police carting off teenage girls and most of us don't want to be reminded of Prince Harry right now. 

If I was a Barnet Tory and I was trying to persuade people to vote for Peter Zinkin, I'd start with looking at all of the successfull policies of the Tories in Barnet over the last 20 years before last May and tweeting about that instead. Personally, none come to mind, but I am sure there must be some. 

As for Labour, Sue Waller is the Candidate - twitter.com/suzianna63

For the Lib Dems, the candidate is James Goldman.

Monday 16 January 2023

How the government and the Mayor are discrediting environmental measures with greedy, moneygrabbing policies

 I've spent all of my adult life campaigning for green issues and trying my hardest to argue the case for sustainability, clean energy and sensible environmental measures. Over the last 25 years, I believe I've been proven right by science and by events. You may think that I'd be celebrating but the truth is that I believe that the Government and The Mayor of London are seriously undermining support for sensible environmental measures by seemingly using eco friendly measures as a way to drum up cash. I've always believed that energy efficiency, good public transport and sensible long term policies are the way forward. What do we have? We have 'green taxes', ULEZ and Congestion charges, scrapping of feed in tariffs that incentivise solar energy, Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes that alienate local residentsand cavalier and pompous statements that alienate all but the staunchest eoc warriors.

Lets look at a few issues.

1. CO2 emissions. To combate these, we need a global effort, centrered on new technologies and new ways of doing things. If the UK had passed stringent laws on insulation and set a target of ensuring every home, factory and business was properly insulated, when we had the first COP summit, we'd have lower energy bills now and would be insulated from the effects global incidents such as the Ukraine war. We have long needed a coherent policy to renewable power sources. Instead, we have had to reopen coal fired power stations this year. Carbon levies are giving the concept of environmentalism a bad name in some quarters. It seems that it is all cash generating sticks, with no carrots at all. 

2. Car emissions. The big schemes in London to deal with car emissions are the ULEZ zone and LTN's (although LTNS have other benefits for residents). For many small businesses, the ULEZ zone will have a massive negative financial impact, with it's implementation coming at a time when many businesses are just starting to recover from the pandemic. Musicians, who need vans to transport equipment and are not flush with money are especially hard hit. The Mayor simply hasn't listened. There has been no reasonable trade in scheme to encourage small businesses to move away from Diesel. It is worth remembering that in the first few years of the century, the government were encouraging people to buy diesel vehicles. Clearly we shouldn't have highly polluting vehicles belching out fumes as kids leave school, but many suspect that the ULEZ and the congestion charge are more about money making than really cleaning up London's air. The main cause of pollution on London's streets is congestion, with cars, vans and lorries stuck in traffic, stopping and starting, belching out fumes. LTN's do nothing to address this. Some residents have to do long detours, just to get home. The best way to reduce this is better, cheaper and more reliable public transport. London's transport prices are ridiculously high and the network is ever more unreliable. Last night (Sunday), I went to a gig at The 100 club. It finished at 11am, but the last Westbound train on the Elizabeth line from Tottenham Court Road was 10.47pm. That is no way to run a transport system in a 24 hour global city.

3. LTN's. In theory, I'd support these, but whenthey cause congestion and long detours, it cannot be argued that they are sensible. They have simply united many residents against them, which makes the case harder to argue. My view is that consultations with residents should be legally binding and subject to local referendums. If locals vote for a scheme there can be no arguments if the scheme is passed.

4. Reopening of closed rail lines. In the 1960's the UK took the axe to it's rail network. All manner of lines that would provide decent public transport were chopped. In the Borough of Barnet, a link between the two branches of the Northern Line, which would provide an interchange with Thameslink at Mill Hill was closed. Had this been retained and developed, Journeys from east to west across the borough on public transport would be far easier, quicker and cheaper. In places like Croydon, Manchester and Sheffield, efficient Tram networks have been installed, many on disused and lightly usesd rail lines. Trams are powered by electricity and have dedicated track beds, so are far quicker and greener than buses. People generally take the form of transport that is most convenient. If the Old Mill Hill East to Edgware line was converted to form the core of a NW London tram network, extending from Edgware to Finsbury Park along the old track bed and sharing track with The Northern Line between FInchley Central and East Finchley, this would give NW London a step change and remove many cars from crowded roads around the A1, Bunns Lane etc.  When we hear arguments about costs, we should think in terms of decades, if not centuries, to recover costs. The Thameslink line in Mill Hill was opened in 1867. If the costs were annualised over 50 years, they'd be miniscule. I'd personally like to see the line reopened using hydrogen powered tram technology, with trams running on roads for the built over sections. As a business owner, I recognise the benefits of borrowing for investments, which produce a return. Such schemes generate economic activity, lower pollution and improve the quality of life of all concerned. It is a win/win.

Sunday 15 January 2023

The Tweets of the Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 15th January 2023

 My week? One of disappointments especially with regards to football. Manchester City were abysmal against Southampton, the Hadly FC's game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. I also learned during the Manchester Derby that I no longer understand the offside rule. We had a decent recording session with The False Dots, we've got a spiffing new song called "The sexy sci fi sirens of the seventies", which is a bit of a mash up of Glam Rock and the Cramps, with a bit of an R Dean Taylor vibe going on. Last night I had my first beer and curry of the year, just a couple. It was very pleasant. 

That's enough of me. How was your week? This is what the Tweeters of the Borough have been up. 

1. Lets start in Burnt Oak, with a word of thanks to a much loved retiring local PC

2. If you are a football player or fan, this is the sight you hate most! All week you look forward to the match, then this happens. In some ways it's worse than . I hope that Cricklewood WFC had a better Saturday afternoon than I did!

3. Can you chip in a few pennies to help.

4. And whilst we are in Cricklewood. I love the work of Reel Streets

5. Have you got talent? HEre's your chance

6. HAve your say on the future of Finchley Lido

7. A great thread from one of our regular top tweeters.

8. \Talking of @Time_NW, I think he'll enjoy this

9. Take care in Salcombe Gardens, NW7 - The Daleks have invaded!

10. Did you know about the much missed Jeff Beck RIP's links to Mill Hill

That's all folks!

Saturday 14 January 2023

The Saturday List #392 - My top ten minor indulgences

This week, my missus booked up an overnight break for us at Champneys health spa in Tring. As I don't drink for the first two weeks in January, this seemed a well timed break. It is her idea of being pampered. We splashed out and had massages and I spent most of the time readin the autobiography of Patrick MaGoohan. 

It was a real indulgence for me to have time just to read. I only ever read books on holidays and breaks, I simply don't get the chance to concentrate for long enough usually. It got me thinking, what are my top ten indulgences. When I want to treat or pamper myself, what do I do?

1. Listen to my Wire playlist in the bath. Every Thursday, apart from the first of the month when our football squad has a beer, I have a bath after 5 a side football, where I listen to my custom made Wire playlist. It is wonderful. Occasionally I listen to another list, but Wire seem just right for a bath and it is just the right length. 

2. Lying in bed every morning with a cup of tea, reading The Guardian and The Daily Express. I don't know how my wife puts up with me. Every morning, she brings me a cuppa and the papers. You may be surprised at my choice of papers, but these give me a degree of balance. Much as I dislike the political tone of the Express, it helps give me perspective. As the Mail is owned by people who backed Hitler, which my Dad would not line the cat's litter tray with and I despise the way the Sun lied about Hillsborough, if I want some right wing tabloid perspective, it's the only choice. TBH The Guardian has become almost unreadable over the last few years and seems to have got rid of all it's best writers apart from John Crace. It sets me up very well. 

3. Lying on a lounger on a summers afternoon, having a craft beer. As it is raining buckets, I can only dream of this. During lockdown, I did a lot of this. Our garden catches the afternoon sun and despite the  noise of the M1, it is glorious in the sun.

4.  Reading 2000AD comic. Back when it started and I was a teenager, I started buying the comic 2000AD, featuring Judge Dredd. I still read it. It is hilarious and at time thought provoking. So many of it's stories of the future of society have come true. Drone Surveillance, Hipsters, Banksy/Streetart, and even Donald Trump (AKA President Robert Booth)

5. Pasties De Nata (AKA Portuguese Custard Tarts). I don't have a sweet tooth. I only really buy chocolate bars if I have a cold or the flu (It's how I know I am getting ill). When we eat out, the only puddings I ever go for is apple pie and custard. I can't stand gunge and I generally avoid dairy (apart from Custard). But a few years ago we visited Lisbon, and I discovered Pasties De Nata. They are wonderful. Both M&S and Joice Cafe in Mill Hill sell them, and they are good, but still warm in Lisbon, they are divine.

6. Xmas Morning. This is the one time, as I prepare the dinner, that I insist the whole family listens to my punk rock vinyl collection at full volume. This gives me the energy to peel the spuds and do the dinner. As soon as the first guests arrive, Clare takes charge of the music, but that makes me look for ward to getting up early and do the work.

7. The Friday Night Curry. I love a good curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori, with a couple of Kingfisher beers. I don't eat meat on a Friday (I'm not very good at being a Roman Catholic, so I try and observe  the meat free Friday tradition, to get a few brownie points with the big fella. It is also quite good as it makes me try other foods. The Tandoori Salmon is amazing, I'd probably never have tried it if it wasn't for my meat free friday rule. As it is, it is possib ly my favourite Indian dish.

8. The Sunday Roast. This is a big indulgence for me. I love cooking a good roast dinner. I love experimenting, trying to make things taste better. I always try and get the best ingredients, work out the best way of cooking them, pickimng up tips, refining and improving. I think I've got beef and chicken more or less perfect. My roast spuds are also pretty damn good, as is my roast cauliflower and roast mushrooms (we have vegetarians in the house. Still got to get the perfect recepie for roast parsnips, which are best slightly burned. My mission this year is to make the perfect gravy. I've got that for Xmas dinner, with the gizzards, but I for the beef, a bit more work is required.

9. The Saturday morning fry up. I love a good fry up. We are lucky in Mill Hill that Gerards butchers do wonderful bacon and sausages. When I started eating meat again, in 2000, I vowed to only eat good quality, organic meat that was produced to humane standards and was locally sourced. Luckily Gerard can tick these boxes.

10. A good Jazz lunch at Ronnie Scotts. Soho is best in the day. I start with a beer and a Pasties De Nata at Bar Italia, have the Sunday Roast, then we have a few beers after, being home by 7pm. Wonderful! Try it!