Friday 28 July 2023

Rog T's Cancer Blog - A statement

 Dear Reader, 

As you know, this blog has been chronicling my journey with cancer since 2011. There have been ups and downs. The last six months have been very down. You need all of the support and love of your families. I believe you should get the best care possible for yourself and take as good care of yourself as you can. 

It is fair to say that I am having a difficult time at the moment and I thank my wife, family and friends for their support. I am lucky that I have had this. It makes it all seem better. I had wanted to write a blog today, detailing my chosen treatment path. However, for reasons I do not wish to discuss today, which are non medical, I cannot. This is causing me much mental stress. 

What I do want to say is that whatever happens, I will continue to support the cancer community and especially men with prostate cancer. My blog has a large readership and I will continue to use this platform to push for the very best care and results for men and women affected by cancer.

A friend signposted me to a treatment that provides the very best outcome for me with one of the top surgeons in the country. I am grateful to his input. I am hoping to have surgery on the 9th August, but there are issues to resolve around this, which have cropped up that need to be resolved before I can fully discuss where I am going. I am posting this so that my readers, friends and family know that I am fine and there is a path forward, which I believe will mean that I can get on and enjoy my life.

I urge every one of you to mind your health. If you were born with a prostate and you are 50+ get a PSA test or other prostate test. If you were born female, get screened for breast cancer, especially if there is a history of cancer in the family. None of this will stop you going through what I am going through right now, if you are blighted with the big C, but it will give you better options if it is caught early. 

There are many things that I want to say right now, but it is not the time. Please be assured that none are related to my physical health which is pretty damn good right now. 

One thing I've learned in life is that if you just crumble and don't fight when faced with a challenge, you always lose. Even if I lose the battle I have, I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that no one else has these ridiculous challenges put in their way. And don't worry about me, I'm fine. I'm off on holiday for a few days to top up my tan.

And finally, as you know I write  songs. Here is one to urge men to get a prostate check. It has proven rather popular at recent shows

Thursday 27 July 2023

Sinead was right to tear up a picture of the Pope

RIP Sinead O'Connor. I only really spoke to her once. She was good mates of Boz and Lyn Boorer, who are great friends of mine. I'd love to share some stunning revealation or insight, but all I can really say was she was a bit shy, nice to chat to and perhaps surprisingly funny. It was a very long time ago, before she had become a controversial figure. At the time I'd never have predicted the way her career would develop. In some ways, I find it rather sad that the two things she'll be remembered for was her cover of a Prince song and tearing up a picture of the Pope on Primetime TV. Whilst Nothing Compares to you is a stunning version, and it is very hard to own a Prince song, there was so much more to her music than that song. She was an accomplished song writer and very deep thinker. Sinead also realised the value of shock and the necessity for it on occasion.

When she tore up the Pope's picture on TV, as she sang the word Evil, she alienated many Catholics who had admired her as an Interenationally well known Irish singer. They were simply not ready to accept that there were serious abuse issues withing the Church. It was an incredibly brave action to take. It took the Vatican nine years to admit that there was a child abuse scandal in the church. Like Sinead, I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. For all of us, the scandal has been a something shocking beyond belief. Unlike Sinead, my journey has not ended with alienation. I can still see enough positive things in the church and enough good people to persevere, but Sinead was 100% right to make her statement. She felt so strongly about the issue and she know she was right. She could have sat back and taken the easy path, let the money roll in and have a comfortable life. She never did.

Like many artists, Sinead was a sensitive soul, who saw things for what they really were. She felt the need to call out what she saw as wrongs and injustice. Of all the injustices, sexual abuse of minors, especially by those in positions of authority is perhaps the greatest. Sexual predators who prey on the vulnerable, purely to satisfy their own sadistic and controlling urges are the worst. Sinead saw this and used her platform to smack them all in the face. Tearing up the Pope's picture was a shock, but events have proven that she was right to take the stand. The church still hasn't fully faced up to it's responsibilities. If Sinead hadn't taken her stand, I believe they'd have made even less progress. I know of no Catholic who doesn't want to see the Church become what it should be, an open and honest organisation, where predators cannot hide and which fights for social justice and peace. 

I was devastated to learn of Sinead's death. When I thought about it, I imagined another, parallel world, where the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was what is should have always been. A force for justice, where all of the Priests mission was for the good of their flock, rather than the institution they belong to. Where those that were predators were made to atone properly for their sins in courts of law and where abuse was not tolerated. In that world, Sinead would have been a successful singer, without the demons that I believe she battled all of her life. 

Like Sinead, I believe in an afterlife. If there is such a place as heaven, I believe that Sinead O'Conner will be one of the Angels who's music will grace us when we join her. A strange thought occurred to me, in some ways, Sinead was almost a modern day Joan of Arc.  A fierce warrior for justice, at the same time too passionate and too delicate for this world. When people pass, we say Rest in Peace. I can think of no one, those words are more appropriate for than Sinead. This is how I want to remember her.

Monday 24 July 2023

Why ULEZ is not the solution to London's air quality problems - Environment Monday

 On Thursday, the Labour Party was taught a well deserved lesson in what happens when you ignore your core voters. The voters of Uxbridge astounded just about everyone and elected a Conservative MP. The reason? Everyone agrees that it is Sadiq Khan's ULEZ policy. This has hit Labour on two fronts. The first was the soft Tory vote, who in the other two by elections stayed at home, to show their disgust at the chaos in the Tory Party. ULEZ gave them a reason to vote. The second was Labour voters, who own old cars affected by ULEZ. I doubt too many well off Tories in Uxbridge actually drive old bangers that are affected. People who drive pre 2006 petrol cars are by and large people who can only afford to run something that is cheap and cheerful. When you upset a significant lump of your core vote, then don't be surprised if you lose a seeming slam dunk. 

There are three things that I simply cannot understand about Mayor Khan's policy. The first is his lack of understanding of who drives old bangers. People don't own rustbukets because they like cars. They own them because they need one to survive and they simply can't afford anything better. Hitting them with huge charges is not something a party claiming to be standing up for working people should do. One of the most perverse things about Mayor Khan's policy is that if it succeeds, it will mean that owners of vintage, classic cars, who can afford to drive them in London, will have a better experience on the road, whilst key workers will be taxed off them.

 The second thing is that he's done little to provide alternatives to using the car. In our Borough, Barnet, almost nothing has been done to provide safe cycling provision. There have been no new rail, light rail or tube lines. The bus network has not improved and stations such as Mill Hill Broadway still do not have step free access. How can Sadiq Khan reasonably expect modal shift when it is genuinely not an option for many. 

The third thing that he does not seem to understand is the plight of business owners over the last three years. I have a non complaint diesel MPV that I use almost exclusively for work and deliveries. In the summer, we support many music festivals with low cost solutions for sound systems. I am faced with a huge investment in a new vehicle when our business has not recovered to pre covid levels. I've had a few lectures from non business owners, suggesting all manner of alternatives, but when you have incurred huge debts to keep your business afloat (and you are dealing with cancer), the last thing you want is to add more debts and costs. 

Those are three reasons that I believe the scheme is not practical, in terms of serving London's needs. However, even if you completely ignore these issues, the question should be whether ULEZ is the answer to London's poor air quality issues. I don't believe that Mayor Khan has gone anywhere near making this case. There are many sources of air pollution that he's done nothing about. If you look at building developments around London, many kick up all manner or dust and pollutants. Khan himself passed the NIMR scheme in Mill Hill, which has kicked up huge amounts of dust. He has done nothing about the Edmonton incinerator, that spews all manner of pollutants into the atmosphere. Trains in London still use Diesel haulage. Stations such as Marylebone and St Pancras have large diesel engines spewing out fumes, whilst virtually all cross London freight is hauled by diesel powered locomotives. When you also add in wood burning stoves, barbecues, etc, there are all manner of sources of particulates that cause asthma etc in London. 

We are told that electric cars are the answer, but in the UK, over 40% of all electricty generation uses fossil fuels. A petrol or diesel engined car is actually using about the same amounts of fossil fuels to get from A to be B as an electric car. Of course the fumes are not produced locally, but they are still part of the problem. The main cause of roadside pollution is the sheer volume of cars, lorries and vans and congestion. Addressing this would go a long way to addressing the problem. If a new car is 70% cleaner than a pre 2006 model, it still produces emmisions and if it is stuck in traffic, would produce more than an old vehicle moving through at 20 mph on the same street. We need to target hotspots, not places where there is no problem.

Poor air quality in London is nothing new. Air quality is far superior to when we had the great smogs in the 1940's and 1950's. The improvement was down to the clean air act. A sensible and well thought out piece of legislation. What the UK desperately needs is a huge commitment to a proper, countrywide clean air policy. One that looks at, and addresses, all of the causes and all of the solutions. It seems to me that this should include; Better public transport, which is properly accessible; Full electrification of the UK main  line rail network; A massive increase in light rail provision, based around key hubs in large population centres; Road pricing in pollution hotspots during peak times (to move non essential journeys to times when they are less likely to cause pollution); More effective dust suppression legislation for all building projects; Green taxes on air traffic, targetted at older, more polluting planes.

My main issue is that in 95% of the area it targets, there isn't a problem. I'd rather see far bigger costs in the 5% that has a problem, than what we'll have which is a very blunt instrument for very specific problems.

The whole idea of ULEZ was thought up by Boris Johnson as London Mayor, as he recognised that there was a problem. I have a degree of sympathy with Khan who is getting the flack for implementing the scheme Boris thought up, but he has been totally uninterested in the real problems that it will cause people least able to afford it. As the reality of election mathematics bites, his previous refusal to listen means that there is a real chance the scheme will be abandonded rather than made work. If I was Khan. I'd just put it on key hotspots at times of the day when pollution was at its peak. 

The bottom line for Labour is that ULEZ may lose them 20-30 winnable seats in London and The South East and if this means the Tories scrape back in, then I suspect that many sensible environmental policies will be ditched for a generation. The UK will squander a chance to be at the front of green technologies and future generations will look back on us a generation that simply didn't care and didn't have the wit to do anything about it. 

Sunday 23 July 2023

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 23rd July 2023

 My week has been pretty good. I recorded a new single with my band, The False Dots on Wednesday, saw one of my favourite bands, The Dickies on Thursday, saw the wonderful play 'Patriots' on Friday at the Noel Coward Theatre on Friday and had a very pleasant curry with my Daughter at The Mill Hill Tandoori last night.

That was my week, what was yours like? More to the point, what have our local Twitteratti been up to. In truth, it has been a pretty interesting week, with a decent selection. This feature will be on holiday next week, so it's just as well (I'm not around on Sunday), so you'd better enjoy this!

1. Lets start with a question. Did you know there was an HS2 project in Edgware? I didn't until I saw this. Does anyone know the details?

2. Our local football community put rivalries aside and made a magnificent effort. A big shout out to all the teams who participated. I am proud of our local football community

3. Did you know London's first nightbus ran from Cricklewood to Liverpool Street?

4. If you've never heard the Sitar being played, you really should check this out and if you have, you will probably want to!

5. Nice pic of our favourite local cinema

6. One of our fave local charities

7. This is a proper good bit of tweeting!

8. I'm sure a lot of locals will smile when they see this

9. A very good question. Mine is the Torrington in Finchley

10. This is classic!

Earlier, I mentioned our new single. Here is a video we made as we put it together.

Saturday 22 July 2023

The Saturday list #412 - Ten life hacks I learned through being in a band

When, aged fifteen, I announced to my Dad that I was starting a band with my mate Pete Conway, he was horrified. His first reaction was "all pop stars are layabouts and drug addicts, is that what you want to become?". His second response was "You can't sing and you can't play an instrument, how are you ever going to start a band?". In answer to the first question, being a professional layabout didn't sound like the worst job in the world. My Dad would work until 7.30pm every night and come home covered in dirt and engine oil. He'd be cream crackered, have his dinner, have a bath and then drink Guinness and smoke fags, whilst watching News at Ten. My Dad generally had one weeks holiday a year, a Pilgrimmage to the Roman Catholic shrine of Lourdes. He'd take me along, and I loved spending time with him, but all my mates were going to places like Majorca to swim and go to theme parks. My Dad was such an amazing story teller, incredibly intelligent. I always felt it was a criminal shame that he never really had the time to do anything creative. He would have been a wonderful blogger. So yes, I quite liked the idea of being a professional layabout. In answer to his second question, we got jobs, saved up, bought instruments and learned to play. By the time we were ready to start, it was a year later. Our first band reheasal was 14th February 1979. It took us another year to get to the point where we actually had anything that was worth playing to anyone. In 1985, my Dad came down to watch us play at The Grahame Park festival. A day of glorious sunshine. He brought my cousin. a Roman Catholic missionary priest along, who was on a break from his work in Africa. Afterwards, I went for dinner at my parents. Dad apologised to me. He said he'd not realised how serious I was about music and how much work I'd put into what we'd created. 

Over the course of my life, many of the things I learned running the False Dots have come in very handy. I thought I'd share these with you. 

1. You won't achieve anything without the tools to do the job. The first challenge for the False Dots was to actually get instruments. You can't learn to play the guitar without a guitar. If you want to play punk rock, that meant also getting an amp. Pete Conway got a job at Dewhursts butchers and I got a paper round to buy the equipment. This is true whatever your profession. If you are a plumber, it is plumbing tools, if you are a website designer, it's website design tools. 

2. You need to learn to operate the tools of your chosen trade properly. Having procured the gear we needed, we spent a year practicing together, in my bedroom. As soon as we'd mastered a few chords, we started writing songs. They were all rubbish, but gave us the opportunity to practise and develop our technique. It kept us motivated and the progression in songwriting and playing was an incentive to work harder. You have to put the hard work in, but try and make sure that you can see progression, as this will help keep you going.

3. Build a team that can help you deliver your goals.  Having learned to play and written some songs, we set about recruiting band members. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that people move on. Having started the band with Pete, he left on the day of our first gig, not turning up. Luckily, by then, we were a five piece band, so managed to do it. A good team will see you through such calamities. This is always much harder than you'd think. The story of The False Dots bears testament to this.

4. Set yoruself clear goals and have a plan to realise them. Once we had a working band, our goal was to do as many gigs as possible. We achieved this and built up a nice circuit of gigs in London as well as touring in Scandinavia. Our set was very much geared to playing live and we thoroughly enjoyed doing gigs, Whilst we never earned enough consistently to live on, we did quite well in periods. In any walk of life it is good to set goals.

5. Make sure your goals align with a plan to ensure you make the most of your talents. One of the biggest failures of the False Dots in our early incarnation was to not align our goals with a proper plan to make what we were doing a sustainable income. As we were pretty good as a live band, we had the first building block, but as we didn't understand the music industry properly, we failed to ever move beyind small London gigs. When we made demo's it was always to get gigs, rather than to secure record deals that would have taken us to the next level. A few times we touted demo's to labels, but in a very chaotic way and in hindsight, it is not surprising that they had little interest. Ted Carroll at Chiswick records liked one of the tracks that we'd done with a synthesiser. Rather than develop this interest, we ended up dropping the track. A deal wasn't the priority, but it should have been. I always advise young musicians to envisage where you want to be in three years time, how you'd like your career to progress. You then build a plan around achieving that. You may not get there, but if you have no plan, then the chances are infinitely smaller. The same is true of any walk of life, whether your dream is to buy a home, go travelling to Australia or open your own business.

6. If you lack passion for what you do, you are much less likely to succeed. The thing that has sustained the False Dots for 44 years is a love of what we do. People sometimes ask me if I consider my band a success. I do. I thoroughly enjoy the gifts it has bestowed on me. It has also ensured that my business, which is Mill Hill Music Complex music studios always has the interests of musicians at its heart. If I didn't have the band, I may have given up on the studio a long time ago. I love having a studio, but the band is my passion. It gives me the fire to do all of the other things. I know people with passion for all manner of businesses. They are people who have successful lives. They may not be the richest people, but they are the happiest and that is what I measure success as.

7. Use your time productively. This is the most important lesson. The False Dots rehearse weekly. We have five types of rehearsals. The first we rarely do, this is where we integrate new members. This involves playing through the songs in the set and concentrating on playing them correctly. The second  is rehearsals for gigs. This involves playing the songs once through as we would play them at the gig. If there are any problems, we then revisit the song at the end. The third is songwriting rehearsals. We tend to play an abridged version of the set to warm up, have a break then spend an hour or so sorting out a new song. The fourth is the pre production rehearsal, similar to the third, but we concentrate in avery focussed manner on the transitions etc in songs. The final reheasal is the post gig rehearsal, when we don't have much on the horizon. These are relaxed affairs, where we generally try a few new ideas on old songs to keep them fresh. I think it is really important to ensure that you maintain focus on the job in hand, whatever that is.

8. Listen to the experts and learn. I am lucky in life, luck is my super power. I have had some wonderful mentors. When we started, our drummers Dad was Hank Marvin. He gave me some wonderful tips on how to present yourself as a guitarist. We did our first demo with Alan Warner of The Foundations. Alan has always been a wonderful mentor. He is always receptive to ideas and always has something interesting to say. Boz Boorer, Morrissey's former musical director is another great influence. He is producing our album and his influence is invaluable. Whatever your chosen field, finding a suitable mentor and good advisors is a surefire way to improve your chances of success.

9. People have their own agendas and stab you in the back, get over it. One of the main reasons that The False Dots failed to reach their potential in their first incarnation was because certain ex members simply saw the band as a stepping stone on their own path. They saw a successful, gigging band and used it as a way to open doors, leaving the band in the lurch at the worst possible time. The first couple of times that this happened it was devastating. Experience taught me to get over it and always have a plan B in the back pocket. I didn't appreciate that even though they'd used the band, they'd helped us realise goals. One ex member sarcastically commented to me when they left "I suppose that next month you'll be out with a brand new line up and the same name". I replied "Yes, why wouldn't we?". It actually spurred me to not cancel the forthcoming gigs and do just that. It is hard to deal with friends letting you down, but it is part of life. Don't let it destroy you.

10. The time to stop doing something is when you don't enjoy it. I stopped playing with the band between 1990 and 1998. I just lost all passion for it. I felt what we were doing was stale and realised I was just going through the motions as I felt I should. Stopping was liberating. I had time to do other stuff and not having to worry about keeping a band going was a big weight off my shoulders. I fully intended stopping forever. In 1998, I was persuaded to have a jam. We'd opened our recording studio and the idea of "properly recording the old numbers" appealed to me. When I started playing again, I realised that I needed to be in a band to be fulfilled. Initially, it was just a very occasional thing, but over the last few years, I came to realise that the band has something and we should be playing regularly and making records and videos. Stopping was the right thing. So was starting again. If it isn't working for you, put it down, whatever it is. Get your energy back and start again.

The band are recording a new single. We made this little documentary about it, to give you some idea of how we do this and how much fun it is.

Friday 21 July 2023

The Friday Joke and a new music documentary based in the Borough of Barnet!

 It's Friday again. It only seems like last week that it was Friday! Anyway, in the time honoured tradition of the Barnet Blogs, we always start the weekend with a joke. This is actually a true story, at the time I didn't see the funny side, but I do now. When we were campaigning for the local elections in 2022, my fellow Lib Dem Candidate Richard Logue contracted Covid and was unable to do any canvassing or face to face campaigning. Richard contacted me and said that a lady who lived in Page St had contacted him and wanted to speak to him about a problem with Barnet Council. Richard asked if I could nip in and see her. I went around and she explained the problem and the fact that nothing had been done. She said she'd spoken to the Conservative councillors three times and they'd done nothing. She was at her wits end and very cross.

I took all of the details, contacted the council, explaining that it was causing a lot of problems for an elderly lady. To my astonishment, two days later, it was sorted out. A nice council official emailed me to tell me and to pass on the council's apologies to the lady in question. I went around to her house, knocked on her door and we inspected the perfectly completed work. She was very pleased and so I said "It's been a pleasure to help, I trust that we can rely on your vote at the election". Her smile disappeared and a frown appeared. She screamed "Vote Lib Dem, I wouldn't be seen dead voting Lib Dem, I am a UKIP supporter, now get lost". I was absolutely stunned. I have seen the said lady several times since, most recently at the Mill Hill Music Festival and she always growls at me. As they say, no good turn goes unpunished. In hindsight, it has given me a rather amusing anecdote.

And as mentioned, we are proud to launch a new series of documentary films. These are a fly on the wall look at the workings of working band. In the first episode, The False Dots invite you in to watch the process of recording a new single. Being in the band is an absolute scream. The best moments are often behind the scenes. If you enjoy music and wonder how it all comes together, this will give you some sort of insight. Enjoy. 

Thursday 20 July 2023

It's raining in Edgware! - Weather, Climate Change and Global Warming

Sometimes, I have to write blogs, as I am driven to distraction by crass stupidity and willful misinterpretation of proveable facts by people who are either very thick or very malicious. 

Let me start, with a short diversion, to explain why this interests me and why we should all educate ourselves on the subject. About 40 years ago, Gray Ramsey, the drummer in my band excitedly played me a cassette demo of a new track by the legend that is Steve Strange called "It's Raining in Edgware". Steve had bought a sampler and sampled a fart and played a melody with it at the beginning of the track. It was a rather good track and since then I've always associated Edgware with rain (rather like I associate Borehamwood with overripe tomatoes, but that's another story). My Dad was also there. He roared laughing and berated me for not being able to make such amusing music. Later that evening, he took me to one side and said, in his thick Aussie accent "I really like your mate's song. But did you know that Mill Hill is the coldest place in the whole of London?". Dad had been a WWII pilot and part of the qualifications was in meteorology. For bomber pilots such as my Dad, it was literally a matter of life and death to understand the weather. He explained that as Mill Hill was the highest point with a London post code and was the most North Westerly, it was colder, up to four degrees colder than central London. Dad came from Australia, they didn't have weather in Blackall, Queensland. He was born during a drought, a proper drought. There had been no rain for five years, he told me that he first saw rain at the age of four. What had been a dustbowl was now a huge river, called Coopers Creek. The land sprung into life. Plants and strange animals, dormant for years, sprung into life. When we had what we called droughts and hosepipe bans. he'd laugh.

Dad died in 1987, he was an intelligent man. He believed that understanding the patterns of weather was a something that was fundamental to an education. When he first heard of the subject of global warming, he was fascinated. As an Aussie, born in the outback, where the temperatures were always around 40 degrees, he dreamed of such a climate in England. When he studied it, was horrified. He told me that it would not make Britain like the outback of Queensland. He explained that due to the unique position of the UK, the prevailing change was that the UK would simply become wetter and more miserable. This is because the more the earth heats up, the more water will evaporate in the seas. This will form clouds in the Atlantic, that will dump water on Edgware and Mill Hill. Dad felt that the reports he'd read failed to take into account many factors, not least this evaporation. As clouds are white, they actually reflect sunlight, so to some degree would offset the rises. None of the papers he read mentioned this. He did however 100% accept the science and explained it's effects to me in detail. It is a shame that schools seem unable to do the same.

I was lucky. Dad took time to explain everything to me properly, in terms I could understand. What makes me laugh is just how stupid most of the people who tweet about the subject are. They look out of the window, see clouds in July and dismiss the whole matter, stating that as this July is colder than last July, climate change is nonsense. I felt it is high time, that I explained the fact that weather, climate change and global warming are three different things. I am under no illusion that this will be wasted on people, who cannot tell their backside from their elbow, but you have to try and help the poor darlinghs.

So first of all, we need to understand the difference between weather, climate change and global warming.

Weather. This is what we describe the state of the atmosphere at a given time, in a given place. As my Dad explained, Mill Hill is colder thand Edgware. Inverness is colder than London. In Mill Hill, the thing that determis the weather is the direction the wind is blowing. If it is blowing from the South West, off the Atlantic, it is likely to be wet, as that is where clouds are former. If it is blowing from the north, it is likely to be cold. If it is blowing from the South East and up from Africa, it is likely to be warm. If it is coming from the East, in Winter it will be dry and cold and in summer it will be warm.  

In the UK, the most common weather pattern is prevailing winds from the South West. The sea is colder than the land in Summer and warmer in winter. Presently, this is the way the wind is blowing, so that whilst Europe swelters, the air we are getting is colder and damp. Last year, when we were sweltering, we had a large area of high pressure, that is fairly still, with air moving from the warm south east. The biggest factor in determining our winter and summers are the jet streams, huge air currents that determine how the air systems move around the north atlantic. When these move north or south, we get different weather, hot summers such as 1976 and cold winters such as 1962/63.

Weather in the UK is often almost impossible to predict, even with massive computers and hundreds of stations monitoring weather. Knowing exactly where clouds will drop rain is very difficult to know. Sometimes, it rains in Edgware and is sunny in Mill Hill. This year, the Mill Hill Music Festival cancelled an outdoor gig, because rain and Thunderstorms were predicted. They never materialised, although South West London had flash floods. This is what weather is like. If you see someone comparing a random day this year with last year, they simply don't understand that the wind in the UK was blowing in a different direction. 

Climate Change is a different thing all together. This has little to do with day-to-day weather. Climate change means that prevailing temperatures and rain patterns show a marked difference over a longer period of time, which results in physical changes to the landscape. This may mean crops won't grow, animals lose their environment, waterways disappear or flood become common place, when they weren't before. I went to Pune in India in 2015 and the locals told me that the dates for the monsoon, which used to be accurate almost to the day, had completely changed. Areas that, unlike the UK, are not surrounded by water, see this to a far greater extent. As my Dad noted, there are all manner of factors, which we may not understand until we see the effects in action. But the bottom line is that when climate changes and food supplies are affected, that results in huge impact on local populations.

Global Warming is different to climate change, although it is also a driver. This is the thing that the armchair army of tweeters understand least. They see clouds today, when we had glorious sunshine last July and announce that Global Warming is a myth. It is a shame that they don't actually understand what it means. Across the globe, there are tens of thousands of stations that monitor the temperatures, humidity, air pressure and wind levels. Any one of these, on any one day, records the weather. When you take the sum of them all, from across the whole planet, and analyse the changes over a number of years., this tells you whether the planet is warming up or cooling down. Having all of this data, is a relatively new phenominum. We have no idea of global temperatures in Roman or Neolithic times. Does that mean that the modelling we have now is invalid? Of course it doesn't. The job of scientists is to analyse the data, identify trends and postulate theories based on this data. The way science works is that until someone disproves a theory, we tend to accept it if the data supports it. Sadly, what climate change deniers and people who refute Global Warming tend to do is look at very small subsets of data to make their point. So the fact that it's raining in Edgware in July, to them means that the fact that subsistence farmers in sub saharan Africa cannot grow crops due to the changing climate is 'nonsense and a scam'. It may well be that the people who decry climate change and global warming are correct, but if they are, they need to base their theories on complete data sets, rather than a small subset that they can manipulate to suit their rather fatuous arguments.

If you want to know which way the wind is blowing in the UK, check out the Met Office Surface pressure charts. As you can see, the wind is coming off the Atlantic from the North West, which explains the clouds and the slightly lower temperatures. If it was coming from the opposite direction, the temperatures would most probably be 15-20 degrees hotter. 


Wednesday 19 July 2023

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

John Sullivan with his Daughter Susan in 2011

 Some things are too horrible to contemplate, especially when they touch on your life and affect your friends and family. Long time regular readers of this blog will be familiar with long time contributor to this blog, Mr John Sullivan and his daughter Susan, who passed away in 2020 from covid. 

John believes that Susan died as a deliberate policy of 'culling' disabled and vulnerable people in the first wave of Covid. When Susan was admitted to hospital with Covid, Johns family expressly requested that Susan did not have a "Do Not Resuscitate" notice placed on her and all efforts would be made to save her. Susan lived with the Downs condition. She was in good health prior to covid. The families wishes were ignored. 

John is not a man who ever gave up on Susan and he's not going to start now. Please watch this video podcast and read this article, which explains his campaign

John's Podcast


I have to confess that when John contacted me and asked me to help publicise his campaign, I struggled to deal with what he was saying. Not because I don't have immense respect for John and his family, but in all honesty, what he was saying dug up a lot of very raw emotions, that I have struggled to deal with. 

This is especially painful for me to deal with. My cousin Theresa Fanning, who also lived with Downs Syndrome,  died of Covid. Theresa was in poor health prior to contracting Covid and was suffering from demetia. I was very closed to Tessie, as I knew her. I, rightly, had no say in any decisions about her treatment. She has brothers and sister who felt that the DNR was the right path for her, given her diminished quality of life in recent years. From what they told me, it was unlikely that much could be done for her by the time she was admitted and her passing was peaceful.

I used to take Tessie to Lourdes with our group in the summer, but she had become unable to travel, several years previously. My main reticence about publicisings Johns campaign was that I didn't want my cousins to see my comments as a criticism of their decisions. I thought about not mentioning Tessie at all, but that would be plain dishonest. When it comes down to it, I realised that the two situations were very different. It would be a dereliction of my duties as a blogger to not give John's campaign a platform. Every family has the right to do what they feel is best for their loved ones, and to fight for justice for them. I have no criticisms of what happened with Tessie, her siblings are comfortable with her treatment and the decisions made and I fully support that. John's situation is different and I support the Sullivan family as well.

Whilst, I am not criticising Tessie's treatment or the circumstances leading to her passing, I am sickened by the fact that we couldn't properly mourn her, due to covid regulations, but Boris Johnson and his cronies were partying, ignoring the rules that meant we simply had to mourn alone, in silence. I sincerely hope that when people vote in the Uxbridge by election, they do not forget the behaviour of their former MP and his cabinet chums, including the current Prime Minister, who was up to his neck in the shenanigans. 

 I also have to question whether protocols were properly in place to protect Tessie at her home, in the care of Barnet council. We all know of the appaling death toll at care homes. Everyone knew Tessie was highly vulnerable. Was every measure possible taken to prevent her contracting covid? I genuinely don't know. What I do know is that in tens of thousands of cases, vulnerable people in care were let down. The sad truth is that this has saved HM Government a fortune in care costs, as looking after vulnerable people with dementia and other similar conditions is extremely expensive for them. 

In truth, I'd rather not think about the whole thing. Yes, that is cowardly and dishonest, but it is far more comfortable to think of the future, of your next holiday, or the next family barbecue. But John and his family have an empty chair at their family parties and they believe the were failed. As for Tessie, when she passed, we didn't hold a wake, we had a gathering a year later when the regulations allowed. It was nice to see the family, but I feel she was robbed of the send off she deserved, which is important in our Irish tradition. Me, All I could really do was make a video and put some of my music to it. She was a beautiful and fun person. Many people seem to think that people with Downs syndrome have no right to exist, are sub human. I disagree profoundly, I celebrate the fact that humanity embraces our differences. This was my tribute to Tessie, please have a look. It may give you some insight as to why John feels that people with Downs syndrome are people and they deserved better.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

“Isn’t it awful what they did with Edgware" - A guest blog by Muted of Edgware

By Muted, of Edgware,  

This is going to be the first of I hope many contributions I am going to make to the blogs of Barnet Eye. I have long admired the work that Roger Tichborne has done over the many years (Ed note: I didn't pay them to say this, I'd rather people didn't but I don't edit guest blogs unless asked to check). He has dedicated himself to what is truly a community-centred journal. It gives residents of Barnet borough and beyond a different take on what goes on in this part of London.

So, what is my first contribution? Well, it’s Edgware. That often-maligned town on the A5 and the end of the Northern Line. Once a place of 1920s suburban aspiration, where new homes were built in what was Middlesex countryside. Of course, it existed before then, as a linear village along the old Roman Road of Watling Street, with many inns serving the coaching trade that ran along the road from London to St Albans and beyond. Many historians will probably tell you that Edgware has never really known stability, it has responded to change and grown over the years, it is therefore not a place for stagnation. Just as the A5 brought people through Edgware in the pre-Victorian era, so too did the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in the 1860s, and then the London Electric Underground in the 1920s. 

Now in the 2020’s Edgware is about to undergo another moment of change – the arrival of the Ballymore redevelopment of the town. Since buying the late 1980s Broadwalk Shopping Centre , in 2020, the company intends to build a huge new housing and retail development that will swallow up the old shopping centre, as well as the car park and some of the surrounding land. You can read more about the scheme here, given favourable support on a housing journal -

Naturally, this new proposal has shaken up many residents, and quite rightly so. The very fabric of Edgware town centre is going to be changed forever and it is likely to mean that Edgware will have a very different feel to it. As usual with many of these schemes, Ballymore has promised much, along with its partners in the scheme, Transport for London ( who will donate the land their bus garage and bus station which currently sit on the site, as well as some legacy land along the Northern Line), Barnet Council (who since the scheme was initiated changed from Conservative to Labour control), and the ever-so -fluffy looking NLA ( New London Architecture), who describe themselves as “…an independent, purpose-led organisation for everyone with an interest in London’s built environment.  NLA’s programme and its family of brands and projects engages the broadest possible audience across government, business and the public to educate, challenge, connect and create positive change.” NLA is composed of the Corporation of London, City of Westminster, London & Partners (yes, that is a new one to me too), something called ‘London Councils’, the Mayor of London, Network Rail and Transport for London. 

The overall scheme clearly uses the need for housing in London as its primary excuse for existing. Yes, London needs more homes, in fact what it needs is more affordable homes, and the Ballymore scheme will include this, but it is not a major component. In September, Ballymore will submit its planning proposal, and at that point the residents of Edgware will have an opportunity to voice their thoughts. One thing is for sure, Ballymore and its partners will have their way. They spent a reported £75 million buying the Broadwalk shopping centre, and they will want a return on that investment, plus profits.

As a soft front to this major scheme, New London Architecture, along with Ballymore, Barnet Council and Transport for London came up with a jolly thing called ‘More Edgware, Less Anywhere’  - a competition described as… inviting emerging architects, landscape architects and designers to develop and submit a proposal for a new public realm intervention that will test ideas for ‘re-greening’ Edgware town centre and can help inform long term improvements to the area.”  - if you can make sense of that, then you are a better person than me. 

Effectively it means a load of opportunities for these applicants to create art installations murals and such like to make it look like the developers are caring and understanding…which they may be, (I do not think so myself, but do not let me cloud your opinions). The first of these ‘interventions’ have already appeared in the form of some wooden boxes on the island in the forecourt of Edgware tube station.

So, with this huge development, (that will apparently take ten years to build), one would think that the voices of disquiet would be piercing the suburban air of north west London…., but as yet it seems not. There appears to be two Facebook groups one with over 600 members called ‘Save Our Edgware’ and another with about 270 members called ‘Local residents against Broadwalk development’. There is also an anonymous platforms that exists in the form of a website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, called ‘Edgware Voice Future Edgware’. The weblink is here - . It claims ‘We are an independent community-run account’, but there are no physical addresses and no names attached to it. Its Facebook page was set up in June 2022, and has 38 followers. Its Twitter account was set up at the same time and has 85 followers.  Of course, there are other voices of disquiet to be seen on social media all acting independently.

One thing I must say is that the NLA competition name of ‘More Edgware, Less Anywhere’ is really quite something. It is effectively suggesting that Edgware is currently a place that (to quote the Beautiful South), could be anywhere, at all. It gives the impression that Edgware is just another dull, anonymous London suburban town, and that somehow, the benevolent forces of Ballymore and its partners will magically transform it into …’a destination’. Pretty insulting stuff really. It is the sort of mission that is carried out from a central London office, by a team of 20 to 30 somethings called ‘Seb’ and ‘Jaz’,  who have probably never visited Edgware. 

The fact is that Edgware is a place, that has a history, that has an existing community and quite frankly the idea that these assorted bodies can come in without any proper opposition and change the face of Edgware is rather galling.

So, how do you feel about that? Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you are one of the many people who exist on Facebook memory groups who used to live in Edgware and now consider it past its best (or in other more colourful and vulgar terminology). Maybe you do care, and maybe you might just want be ready in September for that Ballymore & Co planning application and get ready to speak your mind. Either way, don’t be the person who says in ten years’ time. Isn’t it awful what they did with Edgware, someone should have done something”.


Back in January 2020, I made a film about the decline of Edgware with local historian Mark Amies. Who knew then that things would get worse?


Muted of Edgware is a local resident who is sick to death with what they are seeing happen in Edgware. They do not wish their name to be public.

Guest Blogs are always welcome

Monday 17 July 2023

BBC Proms - Northern Soul Prom - Review

 On Saturday night, myself and Clare made our way to The Royal Albert Hall for the Northern Soul Prom.

Northern Soul was a genre I was introduced to fairly late. Not least, as a Southerner and being into punk bands, it all seemed rather strange. Northerners, speeding to the eyeballs, gyrating wildly into the early hours, at venues with names such as "The Wigan Casino", to old B sides from the US seemed odd to me. Perhaps my first proper interest was when Soft Cell covered Gloria Jones Tainted Love and went to no 1. I sought out the Gloria Jones version. It sounded nothing like Marc Almond, but I thought it sounded great.

I'd occasionally check the genre out, with no great effort expended, until late 1984. When Venessa Sagoe quite the False Dots, I started looking around for new musicians and a new direction. I had a brief hook up with "Bob from Stoke". A sax player, who was also a Northern Soul nut. Bob persuaded me that a Northern Soul review band would be the way to go. He lent me a stack of records. I spent a week making notes, listening and trying to get the vibe. I wrote a song in what I thought the Genre was, called Maybe Once More. A week later I met up with Bob to discuss the way forward. I said I really got what he was saying, played him the new number, which left him completely non plussed. He then asked if I'd learned all of the songs. I hadn't realised that was the plan. When I said no, he called me a "f***** c***" told me I was an idiot and stormed off with his bag of records. I never saw Bob again. I was taken completely by surprise, but the brief musical collaboration gave me a love of the new genre and a cracking song.

When Clare suggested going, I didn't hesitate. I was fascinated to see a 2023 on thiis genre. I've always regretted not taking a train up to Wigan for the evening, but in truth the  scene was almost done by the time I'd have been in a position to go. Clare loves the Proms and always attends at least three or four. I pick and choose, but this was a must. We shared a bottle of wine in the Stella Artois Bar and took our seat. The songs included ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Love You’, ‘Open the Door to Your Heart’, ‘It Really Hurts Me Girl’, ‘Hold Back the Night’, ‘Time Will Pass You By’ and ‘Just Like the Weather’.  The BBC Concert Orchestra sounded amazing and the six vocalists were wonderful, with Darrell Smith being the pick of the bunch. Stuart Maconie came on before the end to intoduce the the '3 before 8': "Time Will Pass You By" by Tobi Legend, "Long After Tonight Is All Over" by Jimmy Radcliffe, and "I'm on My Way" by Dean Parrish.These were always the last three songs before the gig finished at 8pm at The Wigan Casino. 

Of course there was an encore. To no one's surprise this was "Tainted Love", a far more Gloria Jones version with Vlula Malinga on vocals. The night was a breathless celebration of the genre. If I hadn't seen Blur last week, it would have been my gig of the year. 

And one amusing aside. Halfway through the second set, there was an altercation, down to our right. Too far away to see exactly what went on, but I am sure one of the men was "Bob from Stoke", he had a very distinctive look. Of course it probably wasn't, Clare says "You always say you know everyone".

All in all it was a wonderful night, don't miss it when it was broadcast.

As an aside, I thought I'd just mention that Bob from Stoke did inspire me to write a few songs in that genre. It was a real shame that we crossed paths after Venessa Sagoe left the band, as I'm sure his influence would have made us an amazing band. In 2010, we hooked up with Connie Abbe, an amazing Sudanese singer. I dusted down a few of the songs and we did some amazing gigs. Sadly, Connie was so good that she departed for richer work before we could really get going, but here is one of the songs performed live at Camden of that ilk. I was inspired to have another listen and despite the basic recording, I think it sounds great. One day, we'll nab Connie and record this properly with brass added. 

Sunday 16 July 2023

The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 16th July 2023

 I've had a wonderful week. The highlight was the BBC Northern Soul Proms last night. The BBC has it's detractors, but it has kept the UK at the very top of the league culturally and continues to do so. If you've never been to the Proms, check it out. It's not stuffy, how could it be with a Northern Soul night. 

The only people who would want to see the end of such wonderful things are clearly people who hate the UK and probably hate themselves! 

Anyway, enough of my ramblings, how's about the Tweeters of Barnet? Once again they've not failed us.

1. How could I not start with this wonderful tweet!

2. We've had some wonderful butterflies in our garden this week. Our good friend Don has seen a few around Edgware. Excellent tweeting

3. How could I not include this. The wonderful fire fighters of Finchley! Spiffing tweeting

4. I love this. I remember the prefabs at Cricklewood, next to the railway line, just south of the station. I felt quite sad when they were demolished, but then again I didn't have to live in one.

5.If you want to get included in this list, post something like this. I can remember being gutted that I missed this gig, only found out about it after the fact. George Thorogood is an absolute force of nature

6. One of our local legends. Used to be a teacher at my old school, Orange Hill.

7. Nice tweet from our friends at The Mill Hill Historical Society. Always wondered who John Keble was! Done quite a few shifts for the Mill Hill Homeless night shelter at the church.

8. Why indeed?

9. A fair question?

10. And to finish, some awful news. I am a Hadley FC season ticket holder. I knew Tony was unwell, but this is devastating. My thoughts and prayers are with Anthony and his family at this time.

Oh and being a shameless self plugger, please put the date in your diary and come down and see The False Dots on the 15th September at The Dublin Castle. This is what you'll get. If you like a bit of Ian Dury inspired slightly punky ska music, you'll love it

Saturday 15 July 2023

The Saturday List #411 - My top ten favourite football grounds (updated)

Back in October 2020, I did this list. I was looking at that old blog and I really felt I'd not said what I should. I also felt I'd changed my mind on a couple, so here is my 2nd attempt. I promise not to revisit this again. 

I will start this by taking about a few grounds I dislike. Top of the list is the London Stadium, home of West Ham. It is an impressive stadium, but it is rubbish for football. I've been there a couple of times and there is simply no atmosphere. You are half a mile from the pitch and you can't hear the other fans. I used to dislike Highbury.  Firstly it had one of the smallest league pitches, that lent itself to horrible, defensive football, exemplified by the George Graham era, when Arsenal fans favourite chant was "1-0 to the Arsenal". Arsenal have always been an anaethma to me. A club that moved from Woolwich to a posher area so they could make more money. They used to have the Met Police band on the pitch before the game, which always struck me as rather pompous, as did the ornate frontage. The Clock End, where the away fans stood was uncovered, which to me showed a disdain for other teams fans. Given Arsenal were a rich club, it always seemed a deliberate slight. I was none too keen on the old White Hart Lane either, there were pillars that obstructed the view. Perhaps top of my bugbears is The Hive, where Barnet FC now play. A soulless and drab ground, which has completely put me off a team that were second to Manchester City on my list of fave grounds. And finally, I must add Old Trafford. Now you may think that this is down to my allegiance, but it has been let rot. I went there for the Euro 96 championships and I thought the ground was decent. I went a couple of years ago, in the Utd end for a derby. I was shocked at the decrepid state of the stadium. The seats are uncomfortable with no legroom. The toilets were disgusting, not enough hand basins and the catering was appalling. I feel sorry for the Utd fans. Utd should be the richest club in the world, but their owners have fleeced them. Football allegiances aside, I hate seeing such behaviour. I think Utd fans are totally taken for granted by a callous and arrogant club.

Anyway, rant over. Here are the grounds I like

1. Maine Road, Manchester. Now you may think "He would say that" and it is probably true, but there were several things that I can demonstrate to prove it. Maine Road had the largest pitch in the league. This meant the football was exciting and wingers ruled the day. Seeing Peter Barnes and David White in full flight was a joy. Another slight oddity was the Kippax Street stand. Every other club put seats at the pitch sides and the cheap standing at the ends, where the view was worse. City had a huge standing area. Maine Road boasted the largest ever gates in the country. Even Manchester United had their biggest home gate at Maine Road, when Old Trafford was being repaired after the war. By the end, it was falling down, but watch the film Billy Grimble and you'll understand just how atmospheric it was.

2. Brickfield Lane, Barnet (Hadley FC).  Again, I would say this, wouldn't I. I am a season ticket holder. In some ways, I'd agree.

There are similar non league clubs all over the land, nice little grounds, good club houses, a great atmosphere. Hadley boasts a pitch that is better than some league clubs, it's own brand of beer and some of the best chants of any club in the world. If you love football, then you'd enjoy a visit.

Image result for Underhill stadium
Underhill - Pic
3. Underhill, Barnet. Underhill was always a bit of a mish mash of a ground, but it was a great place to watch football. A beer in the Queens Head before, a walk up the hill afterwards for a curry with mates and a couple of pints in the Mitre. As for the football, the heyday was the Barry Fry/Stan Flashman era, with the mad 5-4 results and crowds of 8,000 that would always appear in the paper as 2,000 (the cash going in Mr Flashmans pockets to the chagrain of the taxman and local authorities). The Barnet Torys and the Chairman simply didn't care that this was a gem in the crown of Barnet and it moved. I have fogiven neither.

4. The Old White Lion Ground, Edgware. In the  1960's and 1970's, my Dad, who had no interest at all in football, being an Aussie, sponsored the team through his business MacMetals. He'd take me down, usually spend most of the time in the bar chatting, leaving me to enjoy a hot chocolate and a bag of cheese and onion crisps. The football was full on. Some of the guys who worked for my Dad played for the team, others would watch and look after me. I used to love going. My Mum banned me, when she realised I'd learned a few new words. Dad ignored this and told me that I mustn't say anything I heard at football in front of Mum, if I wanted to keep going.

5. Loftus Road, QPR. So having got all of the clubs I have some affection for (well almost), now we move on to grounds that are 100% there on merit. Loftus Road is, in my humble opinion, the last proper ground in London hosting a major team. It is tight and noisy. The pies are good. If I want to show someone what a ground should be like, then this is where I take them. I quite liked the football of QPR in the 1970's. Sadly, it is not quite the same today.

6. Craven Cottage, Fulham. I will add a caveat on this that it is the Craven Cottage of the 1970's, I've not been since the new stand has opened. The last time I went was 1999, when City and Fulham were in the third tier. We got tickets from City legend Dave Watson, who is the uncle of my former chief sound engineer. Craven Cottage was always a friendly club, I loved the little house in the corner. In the 70's you could see Bobby Moore, George Best and Rodney Marsh on the same team. Perhaps the best defender and best forward to play in the league. The only problem was it was always freezing, with a wind blowing down the Thames. 

7. Upton Park, West Ham. Having started with a rant about the home of West Ham, I have to say that Upton Park had the best atmosphere of any London ground. For some strange reason, there was never any animosity between Hammers fans and City fans. They would drink in the same pub before the match with no tension. Both teams played football that was easy on the eye. The ground itself was quite claustrophobic in a good way, which seemed to amplify the noise. I especially liked attending games under the floodlights. You always felt like you'd been to a proper game.

8. Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient. A few years ago, I went to watch Wrexham play Orient at Brisbane Road. I'd not been to the ground previously. Both were in the conference and at the top of the table. It was clear as soon as we arrived that Orient were a league club. The ground was excellent. At the corners, there are tower blocks at the corners, where people loung on balconies, with a free view. The stadium has one of the best bars of any ground, with some amazing ales on hand.

9. The old Wembley Stadium. I used to go to every England match in the 1970's, which also was the time when England were at their worst. I loved going to Wembley. The old stadium felt like the "home of football". The beer and pies were not extortionate. I saw the 1981 cup final replay and the full members cup final in 1986. City lost both, but the day out was memorable. As to the new Wembley, the less said the better. Soulless, corporate and overpriced.

10. The Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

I thought long and hard about including the Etihad. If I'd done this list ten years ago, it may have been in the rant list at the top. However, City have grown into the stadium. When I first went, it seemed completely soulless compared to Maine Road. However, the bar areas have been well decorated, the toilet blocks are clean and ample. The seats are comfortable with leg room and the City fans have grown into the stadium. The owners have done everything they can to make the experience better. The light shows for night games are wonderful. You have to move with the times. 


I could not finish this list without a mention of the new White Hart Lane. In many ways, that is the best ground in the country now. The bar areas are amazing, the views are great, the atmosphere when Spurs are playing well is wonderful. But I feel that the owners of the club are simply not focussed enough on making the football worthy of the stadium. They seem to see the stadium as an asset that is as much for Beyonce gigs, American Football and Boxing as it is a football ground. I've no objection to clubs staging such things, but put the football first, if you want to make a list like this.