Friday 31 March 2023

Barnet Eye Exclusive - Barnet Council to reopen Hendon Dog Track as virtual race track

*** updated 12.00 1st April 2023

Barnet Council have issued the following clarification regarding this matter



The Barnet Eye has been searching through recent council papers and we have found details of a massive council cock up, that has left Barnet Council facing millions of pounds of legal compensation fees. When planning permission was granted for Brent Cross Shopping Centre in the early 1970's, a clause was inserted requiring the site to be returned to it's original function as a dog racing track in 50 years, otherwise Barnet Council would be liable to pay a bequest equivalent to TEN TIMES the value of the site to the British Dog track association. The clause was inserted, to ensure that if a rise in popularity for dog racing required the reinstatement of a dog track in the Borough, the council would make an alternative site available.  The dog track was on the site of what is now Brent Cross.

Such clauses are quite common in planning applications. Barnet council had an option to offer the dog racing association an alternative site, or pay £10 million in  2011, forty years after the planning permission was granted. Sadly, Barnet Council neglected to review the clause or make an offer to the dog racing association. As the Dog racing association have an absolute right to the site and Barnet Council is liable, the council is faced with a huge dilemma. Council officers have been checking the small print and have found that the exact wording would allow for the Council to provide a virtual track, based on Imax cinema technology. The plans involve Barnet Council recieving live streamed dog races from around the UK, with punters experiencing the full dog racing experience, without having to have a full size dog track. It is understood that a substancial payment will also be made to the dog track association. 

Barnet Council are looking for a partner for the Imax cinema and the intention is to rebuild the orignal facade and turnstiles. When the cinema is not acting as a virtual dog track, it will show other films. There are also exciting plans for virtual dog track tours, where you can go behind the scenes and see the dogs getting fed, exercised and warmed up. Apparently the council are expecting a backlash from animal rights groups, who consider greyhound racing cruel. It is also understood that talks are at an early stage with a large chain of bookmakers, who are interested in screening classic horse races such as the Grand National and The Derby. There are interesting plans for VIP boxes at the site, offering the full experience, without having to drive to Liverpool. There are also plans for a Super Casino as part of the complex

In council papers the Leader of The Council, Barry Rawlings said "This is not what we wanted to spend money on when we took over last May, but the incompetence of the previous regime has left us with no choice. As such, we have to make the best of the mess. Although talks are at an early stage, there is a very real prospect that Brent Cross could become the UK's answer to Las Vegas and generate a huge amount of revenue for Barnet Council. With the decline of the need for space for shops, to make Brent Cross regeneration work, we need new uses for the space which would have previously been used for retailing". Tory group Leader Daniel Thomas commented "This is typical of Labour Councils, wasting money on bonkers schemes. It will end up with Barnet Council following Croyden into bankruptcy".

The Barnet Eye is keeping a close eye on this and thank the Local Conservative Councillor who rather naughtily put all of the blue papers through our letterbox ( an offence under the local government act). We believe there is a huge and demonstrable public interest in this matter. We do not believe that Barnet Labour should be encouraging gambling. The note stated that this shows the true hypocrisy of the local Labour party, who vehemently opposed a previous bid to get a super casino at Brent Cross. 


Have a lovely weekend. Please note this post was originally posted at 00:00 hours on 1st April UTC +13 Time

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Why are companies seeking staff so unprofessional?

I was recently contacted by a recruitment company looking for IT consultants in the field I used to specialise in when I did IT contract work. I stepped away from this in 2017, to concentrate fully on my music related business, but the last couple of years have put a massive strain on my business and whilst I am not actively seeking work, I had decided that if a suitable opportunity came along, I would consider it. I didn't really do very much about this, however last month I was contacted by a recruitment agency, who had seen my Linkedin profile and found a match on a couple of key words from a brief they had. 

They asked me if I was interested and I said I was. The position was a good fit and an interview was soon fixed up. I was told this would be a technical interview, to ascertain whether my skill set was appropriate. in my former life as an IT consultant, I had participated in many interviews, usually as a technical specialist trying to ascertain the elegibility of candidates. One of the key things I always remembered when interviewing prospective candidates was that they were also interviewing me. If we wanted them, it was because we perceived that they had a positive contribution to our organisation. The area I worked in was fairly niche and generally if you didn't know the candidate, you'd know someone they knew.

I was informed that I'd be interviewed by the client on a TEAMS chat. I'd never had such an interview before, but the world moves on. I've been on hundreds of such meetings over the years, so this didn't really surprise or spook me. At the appointed time the meeting started. There were two people from the client. We said hello, then they stopped their video feed, so I couldn't see them. They proceeded to ask me some of the most ridiculous questions I've ever heard. As I tried to answer them, I thought to myself "If I was with someone and they were asking a candidate these sort of things, I'd be embarrassed". One question was along the lines of "If you were to do this (a very stupid thing, which you need to understand the technology to understand), what would happen". My response was that, as I had made a career not doing such stupid things, I had no idea, but it would clearly have a very bad effect". I realised that perhaps they were asking because one of their staff had done this. Wherever I've worked, we set up processes that ensured such stupid things weren't done. I added this comment. They persisted "Ah yes, but if you did do this, what would happen". It is like asking someone "If you are driving on the motorway and you decided to shut your eyes and count to 30 before you open them, what will happen?". All manner of things may happen, but any sane person wouldn't do it. After each answer, the interviewers muted their microphone, for a fairly lengthy period, clearly having a discussion, although as I couldn't see their faces, I had no idea of what was going on. I felt this to be extremely rude. 

After about 30 minutes, I was told that the interview was over. I was less than impressed. An hour later, the agent who'd contacted me called back. He asked how I thought it went. I told him that I had no idea really and I thought some of the questions were rather stupid. I assumed that this was the end of the matter. A week later, I got another call. The client wanted a second interview. Given my irritation with the first interview, I stated that I'd only do it if it was not with the same two interviewers. I was pleased to be informed that it would not be. I was reassured that someone sensible would be participating. A new interview was scheduled and so once again, I found myself on a Teams call. To my annoyance, it was the same two chaps that I'd spoken to previously. There was no 'sensible' person on the call. The same pattern of no video call and muted conversations, to discuss my answers to the banal questions. 

After another 30 minutes, where I was getting increasingly exasperated, the interview finished. That was a couple of weeks ago. I've heard nothing since, despite the agent promising me "full feedback". By the end of the second interview, I'd decided that if I had to work with the people who interviewed me, it would be a nightmare and I really didn't want the job.  I was hoping that the agent would call, so I could give my feedback to them. I am in the lucky position that I don't desperately need the job. It would have just enabled me to tie up a few financial loose ends and move my other plans forward. 

But the point for me that really needed making was just how unprofessional the whole process was. I've spoken to friends who have been through the same process recently, on both sides of the process and it is pretty clear that there is a lack of professionalism in how some companies and agencies are doing their business. If you run a company and you are conducting interviews, here are a few pointers for what I believe are the minimum standards.

1. If you are using teams, ensure that videos are used, so people can see each other. Only mute microphones if there are background noise issues. If there are only 2-3 people on the call this should be unnecessary.

2. Ensure that people conducting interviews are competent. If suitable technical resources cannot be secured, then do not simply get people to google a few questions, when interviewing highly specialised staff.

3. Provide feedback from interviews, it is a common courtesy if people give up their time.

4. If candidates are unsuccessful, inform them ASAP so they can look elsewhere.

5. If candidates express concerns about the process, take these on board. Do not simply make them endure the same thing again.

What was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the whole process was the fact that it was pretty clear to me that the people I was being interviewed by were people who had little clue about the actual job they were interviewing someone for. They couldn't answer my questions and were unable to have what I consider to be the usual dialog that one would expect when being interviewed for a highly specialised role. Given certain events that have since transpired, I am rather glad that I didn't get selected, but if anyone from those involved in the process see this, I hope they take these comments on board. It is extremely unlikely that myself or any of the people I know would entertain dealing with them, given my experience. 

Monday 27 March 2023

I'm stepping away from local politics

 I have decided that I will not be standing for election as a councillor in future. I stood in Mill Hill ward in 2010,2018 and 2022 and in Edgware in 2021. On each occasion, I gave it my best shot and would like to thank everyone who helped me and voted for me. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that main  reason that I got involved was because of the total mismanagement of Barnet Council by the former Conservative regime. Not only were we faced with terrible schemes, such as the One Barnet outsourcing scheme, illegal policies such as the CPZ charge hike, the closure of libraries and the mismanagement of meals on wheels contracts. We were also faced with a bunch of politicians, some of whom who were amongst the most disreputable in the whole country, including a former Mayor of Barnet who lost his place on the council after being convicted of assault by beating of a female cafe owner. 

Last May, they were unceremoniously booted out and a Labour regime took over with a massive majority. Although I am not a Labour member and stood for the Lib Dems, of which I am still a member, the reasons for my standing have largely gone. The local Labour group appear to be working hard to sort out the mess. I stood in Edgware on a platform to save the Railway Hotel. The council has now committed to use a CPZ to purchase the building. Over the last six months, I've repeatedly been approached by local people in Mill Hill, asking me to assist with local issues, which our local Conservative councillors should be dealing with. As someone who is not a councillor and who's party has no seats on the council, I can do no more than they can. On each occasion, I ask if they voted for me at the last election. The answer is almost always "No, I would have but....". It is tiresome. Invariably the but is "I wanted to stop Labour/The Tories getting in". In 2010, we beleived the Lib Dems had a realistic change of election, as there had been Lib Dem councillors in Mill Hill 20 years. By the next election, the Lib Dems will not have had councillors for sixteen years and will have finished third at the last two elections. 

I actually believe that they have a reasonable chance in Mill Hill. The local Tory councillors do not seem to be doing anything. We are likely to have had a Labour government for a couple of years and they will be suffering mid term blues. I don't see much liklihood that the Conservatives will have restored their reputation, so there is a great opportunity for a third party. But anyone seriously doing that will need to do an enormous amount of work and would need to start now. I have other things I want to do in my life, with my band, my businessmy family and with my health challenges. I have learned the hard way that local politics is a sideshow. If the national wind changes, years of hard work can get blown away in a night. That is why excellent Lib Dem councillors such as Jack Cohen lost their seats in 2018 as his local electors were spooked by Jeremy Corbyn. 

I have no regrets at all about standing. It had to be done. In 2018, 2022, I knew we had little chance of winning, but had to make the case and make sure that the local Conservatives took the election seriously. I didn't mind canvassing, in fact I really enjoyed meeting people and chatting. It was always a pleasure. It was also great finding new nooks and crannies in Mill Hill and seeing how the road layouts have changed since the 1970's when I used to deliver papers (and in some case seeing how they've stayed the same). 

The blog will continue. Who knows what the future holds, but I need to concentrate on the things in life I value and where I feel I should be putting my energy into.

Sunday 26 March 2023

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 26th March 2023

 Here we are again! I've had a great week. We had a fantastic time at The Dublin Castle with The False Dots on Friday, It was packed and everyone said it was one of our best ever! 

No football this weekend, which seemed a bit odd, but had a lovely curry at the Mill Hill Tandoori. It was also packed, as was every other Mill Hill Restaurant, which was great to see. 

1. I don't normally include 'political' posts, but the CPO of the Railway Hotel is great news. We've featured the campaign here for years now. Sad really that it needed a change of council administration to happen

2. And a word from Mark Amies on the topic as well, because this is his victory as much as anyone's

3. We agree

4. We love the work these guys are doing

5. A little shout out

6. Always nice to see lovely, talented musicians locally!

7. A shout out to our lovely librarys

8. One of my favourite aircraft!

9. This fascinated me

10. And finally, a happy heavenly birthday to the best Doctor Who!

That's all folks!

Saturday 25 March 2023

The Saturday List #401 - My top ten porkies!

 Did you watch Boris Johnson being interviewed by the House of Commons priveliges committee? I was transfixed for three hours. I don't wish to offend anyone, this is purely a personal opinion and I'm not trying to score politcal points, but for me it was absolutely masterclass in telling porkies. I feel that with Boris, he knows hes lying, we know he's lying and he knows we know he's lying, but he also knows that because he's Boris, we don't really care, it's all part of the fun. I genuinely believe that if Jeffrey Archer had written Boris Johnson's autobiography as a work of fiction in 1980, no one would have bought it, because it would seem too ridiculous. When the likes of David Mellor lost their cabinet jobs for wearing a Chelsea kit whilst bonking his girlfriend, and Margaret Thatcher was the epitome of Conservative values, the concept of Boris as a PM would seem absurd. But times change. Boris is probably the first and last politician to be made by being a bumbling fool on HIGNFY. None of this is a political point. I think the porkies of Labours Tony Blair were a magnitude worse, as they started a war. With Blair, we were not in on the joke from the outset. We felt a degree of betrayal when we learned. With Boris, we don't. My sister used to work at Hendon Magistrates court. A local chancer was up before the beak for embezzelment. He had a record as long as your arm and had set up a dodgy get rich quick scheme. The only person who got rich was himself. His defence was that everyone knew he was a crook and they deserved to get robbed as they only invested because they were greedy. The Magistrate found him guilty but let him walk free, on the grounds that he'd been completely honest about being a complete liar! He agreed that greedy mugs probably deserved to be mugged. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about the lies I've told and been told. It seemed to me to warrant a Top Ten Porkies list. I hope you enjoy these, and I hope it won't deter you from investing in this wonderful scheme I am setting up!

1. The Garden pond. I have a wildlife pond in my back garden. When our kids were born, I had a dilemma. Ponds and kids don't mix, but it is an important resource for local wildlife, amphibians etc. I fenced it off and put a steel protector over, which would stop a child falling in. Knowing what I was like as child, I realised that I had to aff extra deterence. So I told the kids that when Grandpa (my Dad) died, I'd buried him under the pond and that if they disturbed him, he'd haunt them. I'd almost forgotten this until lockdown, when my Eldest daughter, who was 24 at the time asked if Grandad was really buried under the pond. I confessed.

Here is my collection of garden ponds!

2. The Nirvana Album. When my daughters were four and five, and my son was a baby, I told them that he was the baby on the cover of the Nirvana album. When the eldest was a teenager, she mentioned this to a friend. Given that Nevermind was released ten years before he was born, I was rather surprised the penny didn't drop before her friends ridiculed her for saying it. In fairness, the baby on the cover is a dead ringer for Matt.

3. Submission by The Sex Pistols. My old bandmate Pete could give Boris a run for his money in the whoppers department. Especially when he was chatting up girls. One of his best was that The False Dots had written the Sex Pistols track Submission and that the Pistols had nicked it. It all started when someone commented that our track "Not All She Seems" has the same chords as Submission. Pete said "Yeah, we wrote it and the Pistols nicked it, so we had to change the words". When Pete realised that this porkie made him even more attractive to girls, he got on a roll. I still occasionally get asked whether we got the royalties we were owed. 

4. Ladies of the Jewish faith. On the subject of Pete, his Dad, who was a devout Irish Catholic who was none too keen on people of the Jewish faith, told Pete and myself, when we were about 13 that Jewish girls liked to do disgusting things to young Catholic boys, so they could steal their sperm and make babies to sacrifice to the devil (I kid you not). Whilst he probably thought this would make us wary of such ladies, it is probably the worst thing you can tell a 13 year old boy with his hormones running wild. Of all the porkies I've been told, this was probably the most stupid.

5. Marc Bolan. Another porkie that Pete's Dad told us was that Marc Bolan had fleas, after we'd been watching him playing Get it on on Top of The Pops. He told us that Bolan was a 'dirty individual who never takes a bath and infested with fleas'. When I got home, I asked my sister. She said that Marc Bolan had a very beautiful girlfriend and if he didn't wash and had fleas, she'd not be with him. That made perfect sense to me.

6. I'm gay! Times have changed. These days, whatever your sexuality, you are accepted. When I was at school, especially Finchley Catholic 74-78, things were different. There was an oppresively homophobic environment. Anyone who was gay would be well advised to keep it quiet or suffer extreme physical violence. It is a matter of public record that I did not get on with my headmaster. When I go into punk rock, I arrived at school with a pair of dayglo pink socks. There was no rule in the school dress code about sock colour, so I knew I didn't face any sanction. The head saw me and went mental. I told him that there was no rule about sock colour, and they were the only clean ones. Realising I was right, a new version of the dress code was almost immediately issued, and he told me that if I wore them again, I'd be suspended. I felt good, as I'd got one over on him. About four weeks later, he tried to get his revenge. He told my mum at the parents evening that I was gay. She asked why he'd said this. The answer? "He wears pink socks". My mum laughed and said "So does Elvis Presley and he's not gay". God bless you mum, I hate to think what some kids would have faced from their parents back in those less enlightened days. I think people in positions of power who tell porkies really are despicable. Maybe that is why.

7. Toilet roll. Now this is one lie that I am only 99% certain it is a lie. When we were at St Vincents primary school, they loo roll was the hard, medicated Izal paper. It was horrible. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Nuns told us that if we used more than two sheets of it when we wiped our bum, we'd go to hell. They also said that the caretaker would be keeping an eye on us and counting the sheets. I guess I was 7 or 8. I really didn't want to go to hell, but on occasion I needed a third sheet. I was terrified that Jesus would not forgive me. I've come to the conclusion that he probably will. If I'm wrong, I suspect heaven is not the place I hoped for.

8. The secret Clash gig. I've mentioned my mate Pete and his Dad a couple of times. As I said, he loved to tell whoppers. I decided to exact a terrible revenge after one henious porkie caused me much embarrassment. I saw a band with a ridiculous name was playing at a club on the other side of London. I told him that it was The Clash playing under an assumed name. I told him I'd meet him at the gig and I'd got us on the guest list. Of course, I had no intention of going. Pete spread the word, and when he turned up there was a crowd of a couple of hundred people, all hoping to see The Clash. As they'd all gone there, they went in anyway. The band were rather good and got a deal. Years later, I met one of the band at the studio. I don't think he believed me when I told him the story. He did admit they were surprised at the huge turnout and said that it was the key moment in their career. I sort of wish I'd gone along now.

9. The pretend boyfriend. There was a girl I used to see at gigs, who I rather fancied, when I was about sixteen. I bumped into her on the way to see The Fall at The Marquee club. We got chatting and she asked if I could pretend to be her boyfriend, as her ex was going to the gig and he'd been bothering her. Seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to ingratiate myself with her, I happily agreed. We were at the bar in the gig, when sure enough, the chap turned up and started hassling her. I stepped in, as the white knight and told him to leave her alone. As I was bigger than him, he moved away. I was feeling rather pleased with myself, when I got a tap on the shoulder and punch in the face. It was his big brother and his mates, who were all about 21 and built like brick outhouses. I realised I was in a bit of trouble. Fortunately, a couple of bouncers came and threw them all out. They were screaming "We'll have you outside". At the end, I got the bouncers to let me out of the back door and avoided them. Sadly for me, by the end of the night, the young lady in question had attached herself to someone else. The only real solace was that The Fall were brilliant. 

10. Frankie Vaughns car. Perhaps my favourite family porkie mishap was my brother Laurie's. My Dad ran a crash repair business called MacMetals in Mill Hill. In the 1960's, he repaired Frankie Vaughns limosine. It was an amazing car, which had a jukebox and a drinks cabinet in the back. Just before it was ready to be returned, Laurie took it up to The Orange Tree pub, as he knew it would impress the young ladies. Sure enough, he managed to invite one to join him on the back seat for drimk from the cabinet and a listen to the Jukebox. What could possibly go wrong. He poured her a drink and asked her to select a tune. She had a look and said "Are you some sort of Frankie Vaughn superfan?" or words to that effect. Every record was a Frankie Vaughn single. Given that The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who were the bands in the chart, it went down like a lead baloon. 

Have a great weekend!

Friday 24 March 2023

The Friday Joke and .... why not have a great night out tonight at The Dublin Castle

 It's Friday and once again I'm endebted to Robert Wilkinson for a rather wonderful way to start the weekend! He has clearly seen me fishing.

If you are at a loose end, please join me and The False Dots at The Dublin Castle tonight. There are three other amazing bands. The Dublin Castle is probably London's best pub venue. Everyone should go there at least once in their life. Why not make it tonight. This is what the False Dots sound like and look like (when we play at The Dublin Castle!)

Thursday 23 March 2023

Lockdown three years on - A few thoughts

 What were you doing three years ago today? I was sitting in Mill Hill Services club having a pint of beer, as lockdown was declared. It was expected and I thought I'd get a pint of draught bitter as I know it may take some time before I could have another one. We supped up when Boris made the announcement and all went home. I re-read the blog I wrote the day after, before writing this  - Why lockdown is the opportunity of a lifetimewhen I was reading it, I was quite surprised to see how positive I was feeling about the whole thing. For me, the period of lockdown was an opportunity to reset many things. At the start of Lockdown, I imagined that I'd spend the period composing music. I didn't. All I did was lie in the sun and drink beer and write the odd blog. For the first time in my life I was willfully and deliberately lazy. I couldn't really be bothered to do anything and I felt far better for it. When lockdown was lifted, I found that the break had allowed me to recharge my batteries. For me as a musician, it made me realise I love making music and the band is just about finished making the resulting album of new material, which I think is the best of my career.

Whereas the day after lockdown, I wrote a blog, drank beer and lay in the Sun, three years later, tomorrow, the False Dots will play a gig at The Dublin Castle, a venue that is becoming our second home. This wouldn't have happened without the space of lockdown.

But no retrospective look at lockdown can be done without looking at the way our Prime Minister managed the crisis. I took a decision as lockdown was declared that I would not sit and snipe at Boris Johnson or his government. I felt it was important for the nation to come together. A virus does not discriminate. My father once told me that the second world war had taught him that sometimes the worst people in the world are the people who shine in a crisis. I genuinely believed that Boris Johnson would step up and carve himself out a place in history. 

At first, we did all come together. We'd step out and clap for the NHS. No one really argued. When Boris went down with covid, I prayed for him. I was horrified, as it showed that if it could nearly kill the Prime Minister, no one was safe. I didn't agree with every step the government took, but realised we were in uncharted waters. I am not quite sure exactly when the penny dropped, but it may well have been when Dominc Cummings went to Barnard Castle. Bit by bit, our eyes were opened. The government, who we had assumed were on our side and going through the same privations (I was unable to attend my aunt's funeral due to lockdown), were seemingly on an unending binge. The rules that applied to me and my business, did not apply at No 10 Downing Street. I think I watched every Boris Johnson nightly press conference during lockdown. Night after night we were implored to follow the rules. What we didn't know was that when he went behind those doors, it was party time. 

There seem to be a legion of Boris Johnson accolytes, claiming we need to move on and that he didn't 'knowingly' mislead us. Did I imagine all of those press conferences? Johnson's claim that he had to organise booze ups to keep up the morale of staff in No 10 Downing Street is sickening. If he wanted to thank staff, he could have sent them a case of beer and a card. Did nurses working like Trojans get a booze up and a cake with their mates? Of course they didn't and I know a couple who were completely burned out by the experience. 

I personally believe Boris Johnson should be in the dock, charged with criminal neglegence and corporate manslaughter for the way his administration managed the pandemic. Whilst his reckless non observance was repulsive, they were al grown ups putting themselves at risk. I think we can now see why so many caught the disease. What is the real issue is how vulnerable people were thrown to the wolves. Sending elederly people who were infected with covid back into care homes, with no mitigations, caused tens of thousands of needless deaths, deaths where the family couldn't say goodbye (unlike Johnson's staff who got a booze up and a cake). 

Should we find ourselves in pandemic conditions again, Boris Johnson has blown all trust that the British public had for our ruling class. What no one seems to keen to mention is that his Chancellor was living next door and must have known all about it. Why was he not before the committee, after all, he got a fixed penalty notice as well.

For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of Johnson's behaviour was that he has poured petrol on the bonfire of anti lockdown, covid denying anti vaxxers. They can claim, and it is hard to refute, that the people who ran the country and knew all the facts, were not following the lockdown rules, so they must have not really been too bothered about covid. I don't subscribe to this view, but Johnson has given them a very plausable argument.

One of the things that did interest me about the anti lockdown argument is that "Sweden didn't lock down and they did far better than we did". Unlike most covid deniers, I have lived in Sweden. When I was living there, several things struck me. Firstly, people followed rules. People put litter in the bins. If the government suggested observing basic hygene rules, people would do it. The second thing is that there are far fewer people in there cities. I recall going to the large department store in T-Centralen and being amazed at how much empty space there was. The rush hour public transport was nowhere nearly as busy as London. In short, the culture is very different and they did not have a government that sent infectious people back into the community. Lockdowns are very blunt instruments. My belief is that Boris was a week late in implementing it. If we'd have locked down when it was clear that it was needed, I believe we'd have seen far fewer deaths. 

Over the nine months before a vaccine was deployed, the NHS learned a lot of lessons in how to treat covid sufferers. The lockdown bought us time to learn those lessons and develop a vaccine. I believe that the Eat Out to Help Out policy was responsible for bringing the virus back. Rishi Sunal should have waited until the vaccine was available. 

Personally, distasteful as it was, I'd have forgiven Boris his beer and cake if he'd done his day job properly. As he didn't and tens of thousands died needlessly, I'd like to see him behind bars. AS he will get away with that Scott Free, if he gets booted out of Parliament for his antics, all I can really say is that's the least he deserved. 

Wednesday 22 March 2023

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

 So here we go again. Last week, I had my annual MRI scan at UCH following my ultrasound treatment in 2016. This morning, I had the follow up with my consultant. I last had a PSA test in October, and it had dropped slightly. On the basis of this, I was not really expecting anything other than good news. This is always a mistake, I have found that being as pessimistic as possible approaching the follow up is always sensible as then you never get bad news. Anyway, having been fine for seven years, it seems that we now have a small area of concern. Nothing to be overly concerned about at this stage, but a small area of concern. So the next step? A biopsy is being arranged. These are never fun. I'll also be doing a PSA follow up ASAP. I can't lie, I feel totally gutted. This is not because I'll be dropping dead any time soon, but I know that there will be a few months of anxiety and stress. For those of you familair with the Gleeson scale, I've gone from a 3+3 to 4+3. 

Putting things in perspective, I am lucky. I have been under supervision, which means that this will be nipped in the bud, before it becomes anything too nasty. Being lucky enough to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, I am also not going to be bankrupted by the costs of treating this. There is not a lot of point speculating on what will happen prior to the biopsy, but there are three main scenarios. The first is that we simply carry on montoring it and do nothing. The second is that I receive another bout of Hifu or similar treatment to address the immediate problem. The third is that I have my prostate removed and that is the end of the matter. Each of these has upsides and downsides. Not all of them may be realistic options, I'll have to wait and see. It depends how nasty the 'change' is. At some point, around this time next year, I'll be writing a similar installment to this, where all of these questions are answered. 

In some ways, I am lucky with the timing. I'm meeting up for a drink with some old schoolmates tonight, which will take my mind off the matter. The False Dots are doing a gig on Friday at The Dublin Castle, which should be a blast and again will take my mind off it all (Please come along if you are not doing anything - Full details here

For me, the worst thing about all of this is the uncertainty. I've been through this a few times now and it isn't much fun. It means that things like plans forsummer holidays etc may well have to be rearranged. The consultant informed me that there is a backlog for biopsies, so it may be a while. She was not overly concerned about the delay as the area of concern is small. 

I daresay that there will be a few people who dislike me and my blog who will be popping open the champagne today when they read this. I'd suggest that it's rather premature, unless a bus hits me, I'll be around for a while, maybe more miserable and angry, but here none the less.

This may all sound a bit doom and gloom. I can only be honest about how I feel. Don't let this put you off getting checked for cancer. I was first diagnosed in 2011. I had Hifu treatment in 2016. Apart from a couple of weeks of discomfort on a few occasions, I've had a completely normal life. If I hadn't been checked, I'd have found out when I had few options. Who knows where I'd be now? Please get yourself checked. 

I wrote this number to try and encourage blokes to keep an eye on these issues and to talk about it. Please have a listen. God bless you all and stay healthy.

And here's the full story, if you've not read this series before.

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, there's what this is all about. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 59 years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October  which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive. A  PSA in October 2019 was 4.6, so stable and good news, the last in May 2020 was 5.45 a small rise, so worrying, however after a review against the most recent MRI, it was decided that this was fine. My two latest ones in February 2022 was 6.7 and October 2022 was 6.6 was stable. My MRI in March 2022 showed 'a change' so I am now awaiting a biopsy.
  I've no symptoms apart from needing to wee quite regularly and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Looking forward to The False Dots at the Dublin Castle on Friday evening

So what are you doing on Friday night? If you've nothing planned, come down to The Dublin Castle in Camden Town for a night of amazing music at Londons finest grassroots venue. My band, The False Dots will be playing and we have three absolutely cracking support bands with us. For me, there is always an amazing buzz seeing the bands name up outside an iconic venue such as the Dublin Castle. As a musician and a band member, it's why you put all those hours of hard practice in. Full details here

The gig was originally scheduled for Wednesday the 15th March, but had to be rescheduled as the pub was being used as a location for filming of an Amy Winehouse film. Given our links with Amy, it is good to hear that her memory is being kept alive. She was a long time customer of our studios and Fil our bassplayer engineered on demo's for her. She really was a very special person and we miss her. 

It is an honour to have a regular gig at the Dublin Castle. It is a really good place to play, the sound engineers are top notch and the crowd is always up for a good time. Live music has made a resurgance in London over the last five years. 

As to The False Dots. If you've seen us since lockdown, you'll notice a bit of a change in direction. We have embraced our Ska and punk roots and added some music hall, keeping alive the spirit of Mr Ian Dury, who the Irish Times said of, in his obituary "only man to successfully combine the energy and excitement of rock and roll and punk with the bawdy humour, wit and homespun philosophy of music hall and of his native Essex." 

For us it is a mission to keep such music alive. We are not a covers band, but numbers such as "Channelling Ian Dury" reference the work and the memory of the great man, recalling a chance encounter back in 1977 in a cafe in Camden Town.

We made a little video called London's finest castle to celebrate the venue. This will be just one of the numbers we are performing!

Our previous gigs at The Dublin Castle have been a real blast and we are delighted to have been joined at all of them by The Shoals, who are once more playing with us. Have a listen to them here

Also appearing will be The Slender Pins, who I've not come across before, but who look pretty lively and should put on a good show.

 Purple Implosion will also be playing. I rather enjoyed this rendition from their Youtube channel. The Dickies did a rocking version of this back in the 1970's, so it put a smile on my face.


Monday 20 March 2023

Why the governments policy on getting older people back to work is half cocked and ill thought out

 Last week, the chancellor announced that a key element in his economic strategy is to get older people, who have retired, back into the labour market. This is mainly based around tax law changes that are specially beneficial to wealthy pensioners with large pension pots. I had to laugh when I watched his speach. On Monday, I'd been out for a beer with a mate of mine. He was made redundant at Xmas from a senior position at one of the countries top blue chip organisations. He'd been a victim of a 'reorganisation'. He's a month or two older than me, we both turned 60 last year.

As he feels he needs to work for at least a couple more years, I was pleased to learn that he's starting a new, senior role at another well respected company. What wasn't quite so pleasing was what he told me about another job he'd applied for. He was extremely well qualified for it and had worked for the company for 30 years, until he took his previous position seven years ago. He'd been put forward by a mutual friend, who was hoping for a finders fee bonus. When an interview did not materialise, the mutual friend made some enquiries and was told on the QT that my friend was 'too old' and they didn't want someone who would just hang around for a couple of years. 

This was quite shocking, not least because this contradicts what the company says about it's own recruitment policies on its job adverts on Linkedin. When I listened to the Chancellor, it made me wonder as to whether the government had actually done any research at all into what might tempt older people back. Clearly he's done a bit of research into the very wealthy, newly retired, who the opportunity to top up the pension pot will be attractive, but I doubt this will have a major impact, beyond a few niche roles.

Many of my friends are coming up to the point where retirement becomes an option. What is striking is that so many of the conversations are the same. It starts with "I'm not quite ready to retire, but I'd prefer to work a 2-3 day week for a few years and start to wind down.". A few have also spoken to me in recent weeks and said that they are considering re-entering employment as the recent fuel costs and inflation spike have played havoc with their household budgets. They feel that a top up to their family budget would be nice, but are wary of having to work in a stressful environment.

It strikes me that the government seemingly ignored these sort of people. It seems to me an absolute no brainer that firms should want to retain trained and skilled employees, who want to work but do not want a full 35 hour week. It would also seem to me that this offers huge opportunities for mentoring younger staff and passing on knowledge. If we need people to stay in the workplace, it is surely desirable for them to pass on skills and increase the robustness of the economy. I know of a fair few people who have left firm, only to return shortly after as part time consultants, as the firms have lacked the in house skills. My view is that the government should look at incentivising firms to retain older staff and especially to job share and pass on knowledge. One of the biggest drains on the skill set of the economy is women leaving the job market to have children and then finding it hard to get back into decent jobs. It seems to me that enlightened firms should look at using staff approaching retirement age to job share/skill share with such people. There really should be government backed schemes to enable progressive employment practices, where people who would prefer to work part time can. Huge sums are spent on apprentice schemes, but the best apprenticeship of all is to work with someone who knows their job. I'd give tax incentives and tax breaks to companies that have employment policies that encourage people to job share, work part time and utilise people who would otherwise be economically inactive. This would be a very worthwhile investment in the economy.

Firms with over 250 employees should be able to demonstrate that they have polices that ensure people are not forced out and those wanting to job share are accomodated. This will build resilience into firms, as having more people around who know the job has to be a good thing. It means that projects do not stop when holidays are taken and staff should be able to share ideas, which will improve the general performance of the companies.

It strikes me that Rishi Sunak and his governments simply to not engage and consult properly with the people they are targetting their policies at. If they were to make job sharing and part time working more desireable for firms, then they would deliver a massive premium to the economy. The Tory right are always clamouring for tax cuts. To me, the sensible thing is to target any cuts at firms that are doing the right thing. If companies that could demonstrate policies that promote employment equality are working, then surely giving them breaks, such as lower rates of corporation tax would be eminently sensible. The right believes that tax cuts make the economy more efficient. If we actually had a progressive tax system where doing the right thing was rewarded, I might be inclined to agree with them. As it is, we simply seem to be giving breaks to people who largly don't need the cash.

Sunday 19 March 2023

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet 19th March 2023

You may wonder why this feature didn't appear last week? Despite an hour or two of looking, I couldn't find more than three decent tweets worthy of inclusion. This week, our tweeters are back on form. There are some really good threads on this today

So what have the local army of tweeters been up to? Here is our pick of the most interesting this week. 

1.  I had to start here. I wrote a track called Sunday in the 70's More of that later), maybe this picture from Burnt Oak in 1972 is the most 1970's photo ever taken. The clothes, the telly, the football, the curtains. It has the lot!

2. A good way to get a mention here is to alert me to some good local music trivia. I was chuffed to see thus as I rather like Fairport Convention (especially in the Sandy Denny era)

3. Seriously, what is not to love here?

4. This is one tweet I will deffo be following up on. I do love a bit of nice Jerk chicken, and I trust Sarah's judgement

5. If yoiu read the Saturday list I posted yesterday, you'll understand why I simply had to select this tweet!

6. Back in 1985, my band, the False Dots played a rather good gig at the Cricklewood Hotel. I was unaware of this rather odd story concerning the venue!

7. As yesterday was St Patricks day, I was fascinated by this wonderful thread about the history of our local Irish population, that goes back far further than many realise

8. Another absolutely fantastic thread here from Mr Mark Amies and his @Time_NW account. If you were wondering what Hendon Aerodrome looked like before it became the Grahame Park estate, this will answer a few questions

9. Lol!

10. As you probably know, we love a bit of live music and there was an amazing gig last night

And on the subject of live music, if you want to see some the best local bands in action, then come down to The Dublin Castle on Friday night, for The False Dots and The Shoals. It will be a great night.  Please come down, details are here

This is what The False Dots sound like this

And The Shoals sound like this

That's all folks, have a wonderful Mothers day if you are a mum and if your not, have a great day anyway and if you are lucky enough to still have a mum, make sure they know you love them!