Tuesday 31 October 2023

Did Lockdown actually happen or did I imagine the whole thing?

 When I was a teenager, people would talk about the 'roaring twenties'. The post WW1 era of Jazz, prohibition and decadance. I imagined the women were glamourous, seductive and chain smoking. The music was up tempo sleazy Jazz. The age of talking films and Hollywood was dawning, the likes of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin were comedy superstars. People had come through the first world war and wanted to enjoy themselves. FOr most of us in the UK, we went to the pictures for the big night out when we got paid. Of course, for most of the planet, it was nothing like that, but the tale that the TV told me as a youngster was of a golden era, before cynicism took hold.

Fast forward 100 years. It's 2023. We have recently lived through 'the pandemic'. It is perhaps the strangest period of any in the history of the planet. Unlike the two great wars of the 20th century, the world really was not that different when it emerged. There were no new countries, the political consensus was more or less the same as at the start of the pandemic. It was just as if someone pressed the pause button on our lives. Of course, many of us lost cherished loved ones, I certainly did, as any regular reader will know. But the more I think about it, the more I find it hard to believe the whole thing actually happened. From March to June, all I really did was lie in the garden, sunbathe, eat and drink beer. I tried not to think about anything. When I started to plan this blog, I thought I'd have a trawl the through the blogs I'd written during the lockdown period, come up with some pithy quotes and demonstrate that it was a very odd period. One that stuck out was this. I wrote it on the 1st April 2020, right in the middle of lockdown

 I love London, my London. My London is different to my mothers. I wish I'd asked her the bars, clubs, pubs that she loved, but I didn't. My London is different. My London is The Roundhouse, Bar Italia, Ronnie Scotts, The 100 Club, The Jazz Cafe, The Great Nepalese restaurant, The Globe pub in Borough Market, The Rake (around the corner from there), The Artillery Arms near Royal Artillery Court, Whitecross Street and Borough food markets, The pubs and Indian restaurants around Euston and Victoria. Perhaps my favourite areas are Fitzrovia (I worked around there for a couple of years) and Soho. I love Won Keys, The Coach and Horses, Gerard Street, but it is ever changing. 

I've been to all of those, apart from Won Key's, clearly something I need to put right ASAP. I realised that I was missing London desperately. Another hint was this, from a blog entitled "What you most want to hear during lockdown"

When I started to write this blog, it was entitled "Why I hate Zoom". Then I realise that I don't hate Zoom, I just hate the circumstances that have caused me to use it. If my kids were living in the USA and Australia and we were all having the time of our lives, I'd probably love it. As it is, when I use it, I just realise that it is a symbol of what we can't do, that we really enjoy. Life is a bit strange, it is like we are living Groundhog day. Every day, we do the same things in a slightly different order. The highlight is the daily press conference from number 10, when the latest hapless minister shares the death toll, tells us how many people got the bus yesterday and gives us some good news to soften the blow, such as that shoplifting is down or that the A43 roadworks have been completed.

I'd sort of forgotten about all that. Had you? Listening to the news about the Covid enquiry, I realise that my concerns were very different to those of the government. In fact, the more I learn about their behaviour, the more I wonder if it was all a collective neurosis and we all imagined the whole thing. 

As the full lockdown ended in Mid June, I was back in the studio almost immediately, with Charles Honderick providing some cracking vocals on what was the only track I wrote during the lockdown period. It is easy to forget that the whole "Black Lives matter" thing happened when the country was locked down. At the time the pictures of crowds pulling down statues was quite something. We'd not seen crowds at all. 


Time for a change

Nothing comes without a fight
Nothing happens just ‘cause you’re right
Nothing changes overnight
That’s why you need some organisation

Get your knee, get your knee
Get your knee Off my Brothers neck
The time has come, the time has come
The time has come for a change

Forget about conversations
You get nothing through mediation
You better get some organisation
If you want to get your rights

How much longer can you wait?
How many more does it take?
What sacrifice do we have  to make?
Before we get our rights?

Nothing comes without a fight
Nothing happens just ‘cause you’re right
Nothing changes overnight
That’s why you need some organisation

Get your knee, get your knee
Get your knee Off my Brothers neck
How many years, how many years
How many years do you think we can wait?
Get your knee, get your knee
Get your knee Off my Brothers neck
The time has come, the time has come
The time has come for a change

Copyright The False Dots 2020

The track was a real oddity in The False Dots history. A very different sort track to what we were doing at the time or since. It was a bit of an explosion of creativity following a hibernation. What is funny is that we wrote the song in the studio. We could never get it to sound good live. Very much a moment in time. Immediately after that we decided to write far softer and more upbeat songs with a Ska feel, it was almost like the closing of the chapter for me. 

The world has really taken a bad turn since the lifting of lockdown. Whereas lockdown was scary and touched all of us, the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza/Israel have the potential to escalate into something devastating for the whole planet. In hindsight lockdown was peaceful for many. My hope had been that it would be a period of reflection, where humanity, having stepped off the hamster wheel of the rat race, might actually decide to sort some of the long standing issues, such as poverty and inequality out. What we've got is actually far more horrible than I could imagine. We had time to reflect, but we didn't. We simply recharged the batteries of ignorance, bitterness, prejudice and hatred. Lockdown feels like a dream now. We've woken from our slumbers and found that the wolf is not at the door, he's chasing us back up the stairs and if we don't make it up in time and lock the door, he may well eat us alive.

Monday 30 October 2023

Beating Pancreatic Cancer with Madchat!

It’s unacceptable that more than half of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within 3 months. Survival rates have improved enormously for most cancers, yet for pancreatic cancer, this is not the case. Pancreatic Cancer UK is dedicated to taking on this injustice using every possible means. They're supporting people with pancreatic cancer now, campaigning, and funding vital research to transform the future. Help them to make the breakthroughs that people with pancreatic cancer so desperately need.

Madchat, the Madness fanclub Facebook group are holding a fundraiser for research. They have raised over £3,600 this year for the charity. They are holding a fundrasier gig this Saturday at The Dublin Castle in Camden Town as the target is £5,000 for the year. I am proud to be associated with this and my band, The False Dots will be playing. Please support this charity.

Pancreatic Cancer killed my business partner Ernie Ferebee in 2001 aged 52. He left three children under 6 years old, who all grew up without a Dad, so it hurts me personally that this is still such a killer.

If you want to donate to the charity, please use this link

A £5 (or bigger) donation will also secure you entry to the gig, please let Steve Smiler Farthing, the group admin know you are coming (CLICK LIKE ON THIS PAGE AND MESSAGE HIM)

This is what our band sound like. It will be a lot of fun and will make a big difference

In memory of Ernie Ferebee RIP

Sunday 29 October 2023

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

As ever, we start with a quick round up of my week, how has your week been? I've been busy! Monday had a rather nice curry in Brick Lane and a pint in the Blind Beggar. Without wishing to make a politcal point, we did have a discussion abou the Palestinian flags on every lamp post. When I first started working in that area in the 1980's, it was still a relatively Jewish area, with some amazing bagel shops. Things change. Wednesday had a band rehearsal, Friday celebrated my nephews recent wedding. And last night,,,,, 

1. It's always nice when you put on a show and someone appreciates it.

2. This post had to be included. The tweets of the week have been featuring Mark Amies posts about The Railway Hotel in Edgware for nearly a decade now. Sadly it seems no nearer a solution (other than the place burning down)

3. A date for your diary. The Colindale folk club in Barnet

4. Some tweets simply have to be included. Brilliant pic

5. Roger was a Mill Hill legend and his daughter Debbie is a very good mate of mine. RIP

6. Who knew that Crespigny Road was so exciting?

7.A bishop was in Burnt Oak

8.cA date for your diary

9. Nice autumnal pic

10. WE love a nice guitar!

That's all folks.

Friday 27 October 2023

Friday Fun - 27th October 2023

 After over a decade of the Friday joke, I've made an executive decision that this feature is being changed to 'Friday Fun'. It has seemed to me that there is scope for a bit more. Giving a few good things locally a platform as well a mandatory joke or two. 

We will start with a joke that made me snigger. Like a great many others, it was from the rather wonderful Mr Robert Wilkinson (check out his books, it's the least we can do for the supply of rib ticklers).

So what have you got lined up for the weekend? I've got a busy one. Treating my nephew and his brand new wife to a curry this evening to celebrate his nuptuals! Tomorrow it's off to Brickfield Lane (opposite the Gate Pub)  to watch the mighty Hadley FC. Why not get your fix of football at your local club, the oldest in the Borough of Barnet - full details of fixtures etc CLICK HERE

When I've had my fill of football, I'm heading up the hill to Barnet and the Bull Theatre where my band, The False Dots will be appearing with Barnet legend The Silencerz. The Silencerz are an excellent band, originally put together by Lee Thompson of Madness, who still appears with them. Check this out

There are plenty of other gigs this weekend in the Borough of Barnet, here is our selection

The Bull Arts Centre
Sat 28th October 2023  - CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

The Silencerz plus The False Dots

Barnet's favourite ska band is back with an evening of fun and great music. Maybe with a hint of Halloween?  They are back 'Doing Their Thing' - and it is going to be great.
Come and dance the blues away.   Licensed bar to 11pm.
Doors open at 7.30pm.
Come early and catch The False Dots - "North West London's finest ska/punk band. Nicely sardonic with flights of fancy and social comment in equal measure." www.falsedots.com
 The Bull Theatre, Barnet, EN 5 5SJ


Maddens Bar

130 High Road, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
  020 8444 7444

    Live Music This Weekend
    Thursday: Ronnie Gordon Legacy Band 8:30pm
    Friday: The Illegal Oysters 8pm
    Saturday: George Jack's Band 9:30pm

    Builders Arms New Barnet

    πŸŽƒπŸ‘»πŸ•·️ Join Us for a Spooktacular Halloween Bash with Live Music! πŸŽΆπŸ¦‡πŸ•―️28th of October
    Get ready for a night of chills, thrills, and devilish delights at **Builder's Arms Pub** in New Barnet, a Green King establishment, with a special live performance by local sensation:
    🎀 **Paparazzi with Andrea** πŸŽ€
    πŸ“… Date: October 28, 2023
    πŸ•°️ Time: 8:00PM onwards
    πŸ“ Location: 3 Albert road ,EN4 9SH

    LONDON N12

    Gary Baldwin Trio – Sunday 29th October 2023 - £10.00

    Ed Bentley Organ Trio – Sunday 12th November 2023 - £10.00

    Thursday 26 October 2023

    The Thursday Album #2 - The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup

    The second album in my regular feature of abums that changed my life. We started off with The Rolling Stones and my love of my sisters copy of Sticky Fingers, that I spent a couple of years playing incessantly. In 1973, I was eleven. As a birthday treat, my big sister Val took me on the 52 bus to Kingsbury. There was a 'cool' record shop there. I had some pocket money saved up and wanted a record of my own. I hadn't really decided which one. Val was a pretty hippy chick at the time, and I was her annoying little brother. But she was always kind to me. We turned up at the record shop and she started to chat to the blokes running it. There were booths with headphones, where you could listen to records. I listened to three or four, then Val suggested we buy Goats Head Soup by the Rolling Stones. The bloke in the shop started to take the mickey out of me. Val was rather cross, but I insisted on buying it. On the bus home, she muttered that the guys were rather uncool. 

    I got home, unpacked the album and put it on. I expected it to be like Sticky fingers, only better, because of course, the more records you make, the better you must get (If only I knew). I put it on, took out the poster of a goats head and banged it on the turntable. I was completely underwhelmed. Whereas Sticky fingers started with Brown Sugar, which is perhaps the  classic Stones track, it started with Dancing with Mr D, which is a perfectly fine track, but not in the same class. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Not only that, I was cross, I'd spent my saved up money on a clunker! Then Val explained that you have to listen to really good albums three times, before you appreciate them. She explained how The NME had given Exile on Main St a really bad review when it came out, but a year later, the same reviewer printed a reassessment, saying it was the best Stones album ever. I wasn't convinced.

    Worse was to come. At the dinner table, I showed my Dad the poster. He laughed and then said "Where did you get that". I replied that Val had taken me to the record shop and it was from The Rolling Stones new album. To say he went mental was an understatement. He shouted at Val, threw the album in the bin, smacked my bum and sent me to bed, telling me that I was never to bring Rolling Stones records into the house. I was distraught. Val stormed out. Some time later, Mum came up with the album, that she'd fished out of the bin. She said "Don't tell your Dad". Years later, I came to realise that Dad had PTSD from his wartime experiences. When he was triggered he'd go mental. An hour later he'd be fine and there'd be no problem, but I was devastated. I hated the album. I concurred with my Dad that it must have Satanic properties.

    A week later, when Dad was at work, Val suggested that we listen to it again. I wasn't overly keen, but when she explained that the last track on side two had a very rude chorus, I relented. I realised that whilst it wasn't Sticky Fingers, it wasn't too bad. A week later, I listened to it again and realised that it was actually rather good. I have come to think that it is perhaps as good as Sticky Fingers. It doesn't have songs quite as outstanding as Brown Sugar and Moonlight Mile, but it is far more consistent. 

    So what do I think of the tracks.

    1. "Dancing with Mr. D."

    I really disliked this track for a long time. It is possibly my least favourite track on the album, but that is probably a hangover from that first listen. It is an OK track, but I always felt they should've written a stronger track to start the album

    2. "100 Years Ago"

    A nice, reflective track. Bit of a melancholic, boogie woogie feel to it. I have always liked the line "Don't you think it's sometimes wiser to grow up".

    3. "Coming Down Again"

    Never been a massive fan of this track, it's ok but thats all . The begining is a bit too 'Elton John' for my tastes. Not abig fan of the piano in rock tracks generally. Redeemed by some nice slide guitar. Keith Richards sings. He doesn't do a bad job, but I prefer Jaggers vocals. 

    4. "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"

    For me, this was always the point at which the album gets going. I've always believed that if this had been track 1, the album would have sold ten million more columns. A proper upbeat Stones track. This was the sort of Stones track that I loved. A proper belter, that I believe has never properly been recognised

    5. "Angie"

    Another track I didn't like at all when I first heard the album. I've come to realise that it's a beautiful song and one of their best. I spent a long time learning to play this on the guitar about 45 years ago. Reputedly about Angie Bowie. I was puzzled when my sister told me this. Writing  a love song for your mate's wife seemed a bit iffy to me. 

    Side two

    1. "Silver Train"

    I've always had a soft spot for songs about trains. A half decent track that has a nice train running, shuffly groove and slide guitar that sounds like a whistle from a steam engine. What is not to like.

    2. "Hide Your Love"

    Starts with a pub sing song style piano riff. As mentioned earlier, not a big fan of that. It's a nice enough track that grooves along, but for me it is the number where I put the kettle on and make the tea.

    3. "Winter"

    The sort of slow Stones ballad I love. Just listening to the opening bars makes you put the heating on. Reminiscent to me of Moonlight Mile. The Stones did strangeness in ballads rather well when Mick Taylor was in the band. I've always felt that when Ronnie Wood joined, a lot of the subtleness went out of the music. If you are a songwriter, these songs are well worth a bit of analysis, to understand why they sound so good.

    4. "Can You Hear the Music"

    A bit too ploddy for me, not a bad track, some nice keyboard work by Nicky Hopkins on it. 

    5. "Star Star"

    For years, my favourite track on the album, mostly because of the up beat rhythm and the profanities in the chorus. In hindsight, I do sort of see that it confirms all of my Dad's prejudices about the Stones and to some extent his reaction. I'm not entirely sure how I'd have felt if my eldest daughter had taken my son out to the record store and got him to spend all his pocket money on a song that had the lyrics

    Honey, honey, call me on the telephone
    I know you're movin' out to Hollywood
    With your can of tasty foam
    All those beat up friends of mine
    Got to get you in their books
    Lead guitars and movie stars
    Get their tongues beneath your hood
    Yeah! You a starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, star
    Yeah, a starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, star
    A starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er star
    This and Sticky Fingers were the albums that made me love Rock and Roll. When Punk arrived, I put them to one side and didn't listen to them for a couple of years. When Pete Conway left The False Dots and Craig Withecombe joined, he suggested we did a cover of Get off my cloud and The Last Time in a punky style. I was never overly keen on covers, but we did a half decent job of them. It made me revisit the early Stones catalog, which is rather good. I saw the Stones at Wembley in 1982 and was totally underwhelmed. Having spent five years watching punk gigs in small halls, I hated it. The songs didn't sound anything like the albums, the whole thing was ridiculously overblown and the selection of songs was a bit iffy in my opinion. I didn't listen to them at all until my mate Boz Boorer did a set in Camden playing mostly songs from Sticky Fingers about fifteen years ago. I revisited the albums and remembered why I'd liked them.

    When we were getting our new False Dots set together, I wrote a song called "Buy me a bottle of Jack" which I sort of channelled the spirit of Keith Richards for. A sort of bluesy riff and gruff, nihilistic vocals. People seem to like it (you can see the band on Saturday 28th October at The Bull Arts Centre -   CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS )

    Wednesday 25 October 2023

    Mystic Meg slot - When will Rishi Sunak call a general election

     For a bit of fun, at the start of the year, I make a month by month set of predictions for the year. Last year I gave myself an 8/10. This year if I get 1/10 I'll be doing well. I predicted that the Tories would sack Rishi Sunak would resign in July, and be replaced by a resurgent Boris Johnson. As for October


    Five days before the election, Dominic Cummings releases his memoirs. This is a horror show for Boris. A soft pack between the Lib Dems and Labour see's the Lib Dems take 30 seats from the Tories in the South of England. Labour achieve an 85 seat majority, which Boris claims is a victory for him. Many Tory MP's breath a sigh of relief that they still have a job and it wasn't as bad as seemed likely when Sunak was in charge. Jeremy Hunt is knighted and Boris resigns. We are faced with yet another Tory Leadership contest although no one really seems that bothered. 

    Given that Boris has left the Commons and current predictions state that the Tories will lose 200 seats, I daresay a fair few Tories wish I'd been right. 

    So having established my credentials as a pretty rubbish soothesayer (I also predicted that Arteta would leave Arsenal for Real Madrid at the the end of last season!), I thought I'd turn my attention to the next General Election.

    One way or another we have to have one by January 2025. It is unlikely that this would happen. If we had the election in January, there is a change that snow/bad weather may affect it. Whilst it may be a fitting end to this Parliament, to have an election where everyone was snowed in and couldn't vote, I doubt that even Rishi Sunak would think that was a good idea.  The most likely dates for it would be May or November. May would have the advantage that the Tories could do a big giveaway budget, to try and shore up their vote. They could set a few traps for Labour, with populist giveaway tax breaks, that would damage the economy, but be popular. Labour would be faced with the dilemma ofreversing them and losing votes or being hamstrung with policies they don't like that circumvent policies they do like.

    As for November, this would follow on from the conference season. Jeremy Hunt could announce a giveaway autumn statement at the Tory party conference and send the troops out to knock on doors, rejuvenated by a poll boost. The Conservatives are extremely good at doing things that win elections. I would not be surprised. 

    So which of these scenarios are more likely. My bet is on May. I suspect that they will plan for a May election, do the giveaway budget and hope the polls shift. If they don't tNovember and hope for a poll bounce. If they are planning a November election, then they have nowhere to go if events take a turn for the worse. 

    So what measures will the Tories consider to boost their popularity? Here are a few things I suspect will be a part of any plan.

    1. Abolish inheritance tax, or increase the threshold to £2 million. With inflation, especially in property, many ordinary families are now caught by this. It would be a policy that would appeal to a lot of aspirational middle class people tempted by Labour but sitting on estates that fall into tax. I've always felt that if they reduced it from 40% to 5%, this would result in an increase in tax take, as the super rich spend millions on tax avoiding trusts etc. It would not be worth it anymore, so the amount of tax taken by the treasury would likely go up. It is worth remembering that David Cameron announcing that he was abolishing this tax, gave the Tories a huge poll boost, causing Gordon Brown to postpone the election he was planning. Labour never recovered from this. 

    2. Increase the national minimum wage significantly. This puts money in people's pockets and costs the government nothing. For people running small businesses, it is a nightmre, but everyone else seems to benefit. Putting cash in peoples pockets does win votes.

    3. Increase the top rate tax threshold significantly. This will help aspirational middle England to feel sympathetic to the Tories.

    4. Windfall tax on energy companies to fund a one off tax cut. The energy companies have made a killing with high energy prices. It has been beyond my comprehnsion why there has been no windfall tax. I have concluded that this is  a joker the Tories can only play once, so they will play it before an election and give the cash away as some sort of energy discount for voters.

    5. Scrapping or cutting green taxes. The Tory grassroots hate these. I suspect that Sunak has this as another Ace up his sleeve.

    So will these work and what will Labour do?

    That is a very good question. I suspect the first thing they will do is wait and see how the markets react. Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeve are not stupid. I am sure they will have gone through all of these options, the likely response of voters and markets and their responses. Some of these, they know they will just have to live with. I suspect they will accept the minimum wage rise, the increased tax thresholds and any inheritence tax changes. The windfall tax will be done so there is nothing they can do. That leaves green taxes. I suspect Labour will announce a review, put a sympathetic Tory/ex Tory in charge and bring back a modified scheme, that they will announce will work better. The Tories will get a poll boost, but I suspect that it will not be as big as they hoped. 

    Then there are other polices that the Tories belieeve are popular. The problem they have with policies on things like immigration is that they've been in power for 13 years, so big announcements will be met with cynicism, and they just demonstrate that they've failed. I believe that Suella Braverman believes that if a couple of dozen people are sent to Rwanda before the election, it will give them a poll boost. I doubt that the public will fall for this. The public see all of these stunt based politics for what they are. 

    There will also be a lot of bashing of the European Court of Human Rights. Right wing Tories believe that the public are obsessed with this. They are not. Most people I know on all sides of the political spectrum see the governments issues with the ECHR see it as much as government ineptitude in rushing through ill thought out policies. I suspect that Braverman will try and pick a big fight, as a pretext to withdraw from the Jurisdiction, but as this will have no effect on ordinary peoples lives, it will simply show that the government are not capable of engaging with the wider world in a mature, intelligent fashion. 
    The next Tory Leader with his best mate?

    I also suspect that the Tories will talk up "the death of Brexit" with Labour. I don't believe this is a vote winner either. I don't see any signs at all the Brexit has made people happier or more prosperous. Of course there are people who still passionately believe in it, but they, by and large, feel that the Tories failed to deliver a real Brexit. I suspect that what Brexit ultras who vote Tory want is Nigel Farage to rejoin the Tories and become the next leader. I suspect that the only way this will happen is if they get clobbered at the next election and Farage and his supporters know this. In my view, should this happen, Farage will do to the Tories what Corbyn did to Labour. 

    There are several other things in play that will not help the Tories. Not least, the fact that many of their MP's are 'retiring'. There will be no personal loyalty vote. A bunch of fresh faces, with no track record will cost at least a couple of thousand votes in many constituencies. 

    In my analysis above, I mentioned that there would be a non aggression pact between the Lib Dems and Labour. On first glance, the Mid Bedfordshire vote may show that this is a pipe dream. I believe the opposite is true. Both parties believed the seat was in play. There are many seats where they are not and in a General election, party resources are spread far thinner. The parties will pore over the result and I believe lessons will be learned. But hey, ho what do I know. I predicted that the SNP's vote share would rise in August!

    Monday 23 October 2023

    Questions that the Barnet Conservatives have to answer about the HAMAS boss's council house in Colindale

     I was amazed to wake up on Saturday and read a story on the front page of The Times (Metro picked up on the story, which is not behind a paywall), stating that a HAMAS boss was living in Colindale. Not only that, but he was living in a former council house that he'd bought without even needing a mortgage, saving himself £112,000 through the right to buy scheme. He'd been housed in the property by Barnet Council in 2003, a year after the Tories took control of Barnet Council. There are many levels on which this story is mind boggling, but there are a few points that must be asked of Barnet Council.

    Lets put aside the rights and wrongs of whether or not the person should be here in the first place. That is an emotive issue and I have no idea about the background to his case or why the Home Office granted him a passport and residency. If he has a legal right to be here, then that is where we are, whether people like it or not (and I'm sure there will be strong opinions). What I am interested in is the spotlight this shines on the due diligence that Barnet Council are doing in regards to housing applications.

    1. If a man is rich enough to buy a property outright after five years, without a Mortgage, why was he in a Council House in the first place? I know dozens of people who have been unable to secure a council house for decades, despite having proven need. Recently, I've been trying to help a man with learning difficulties in a private dwelling that has been deemed unsafe by Barnet Council's own housing department three times in the last year, to secure a council house. Thus far completely without success, despite medical support as he is deemed a suicide risk. 

    2. What vetting did the council do of his application? Did they check his background? If not why not. Having seen the hoops a young man with all of the paperwork to convince any reasonable authority has to provide, I cannot understand how this occurred. Was the paperwork correctly and honestly filled in?

    3. Was the Conservative leaderr of the Council or anyone else at the Council made aware of the background of this character by the Police or security services? Was he on a watch list? 

    4. Do the council run anti money laundering checks on transactions involving council homes? If someone is able to pay for a council house without a Mortgage, has the council satisfied themselves that the cash has been acquired legally? 

    There must be a lot of people who desperately need a council house in Barnet, who will have read this and be totally perplexed. I note that Tory Mike Freer MP has notably silent on the matter on his website. He was leader of the Council from 2006-2009 and must surely have been made aware of the situation. 

    Sunday 22 October 2023

    The tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 22nd October 2023

     As ever, I start with a potted round up of my week, before we get down to business. I've had a wonderful week. Wednesday saw a rehearsal for the False Dots forthcoming gig next Saturday ( CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS ), with Tom our trumpet player.  On Thursday, I went down to the NFT to watch Ken Loach's new film 'The Old Oak'. I am a big fan of Loach's work, ever since I first watched Kez, many moons ago. I realised that in some ways, many of his films are semi autobiographical, one man drowning in a sea of injustice. It is a good commentary on Great Britain today. Whatever you may think of Ken Loach, I believe we need people like him, to tell us things we don't want to hear and to challenge us. I went to an afternoon screening, followed by an Orange Hill School reunion, that was nice. On Friday as reported, I went to see Sunny War at the Slaughtered Lamb. Last night, it was Lloyd Cole who was wonderful. I've seen Lloyd Cole twice in my life, both times I missed watching England lose a World cup game due to a controversial decision. Last night it was The Rugby World Cup semi. In 1986, I went to Milton Keynes bowl to watch him, as well as Simple Minds, The Waterboys and Big Audio Dynamite. It was the day of the infamous hand of God Maradona goal. Lloyd was good, but I'll make sure I don't see him when there's a world cup game on!

    Any way, enough of all of that. I didn't do this feature last week. Barnet seemed too traumatised by the awful events in the Middle East to tweet anything, but this week our tweeters are back on form.

    1. Let's start in Burnt Oak, were a long standing stalwart of the community has just retired. We wish Fr Colin a happy and peaceful retirement

    2. Nice historical tweet from a rather good account that is new to us, and a map from an old friend, showing this cartographhically

    3. A date for your diary (not the Borough of Barnet, but just across the road!)

    4. And whilst we are in the South West of the Borough, this is a nice tweet

    5. Those of you in the Colindale/Graham Park area might want to check this out

    6. Another date for your diary, this does look fun

    7. We are big supporters of the night shelters scheme

    8. A great result for the Borough of Barnet's oldest football team. Why not join them next Saturday at Brickfield Lane (opposite The Gate pub) for some solid non league footie. It's a great club with a friendly atmosphere (and then nip up the hill to High Barnet for the False Dots!)

    9. We would have featured this last week, if we'd done this feature. Not too late to register!

    10. And we'll finish our round up here. A rather good thread from another of our fave accounts

    And finally

    There are three things I don't do on this feature. I don't pick my own tweets, as a Manchester City Fan I don't celebrate Manchester United and their players and I only pick ten tweets. I hope you'll agree that today it is fitting that I break all of these rules. So here is my final tweet of the week. I hope you agree that it's fitting.

    Have a loveley Sunday and a great week. I hope you don't mind before I go putting in a final plug for the False Dots gig at the Bull Arts Centre in Barnet next Sat, 28th October. Here's the poster and a video of what you might expect!

    Saturday 21 October 2023

    Gig review - Sunny War and Flora at The Slaughtered Lamb (+ Carla O'Neill upstairs)

     Since I had my surgery in August, I've not really been going to gigs too much. This weekend is different, tonight we've got tickets for Lloyd Cole at the Union Chapel, tomorrow night we are seeing the rather wonderful Whelligan at the Engine Rooms in Bow. We had Whelligan at the Mill Hill Music Festival and they were rather good. But we kicked off the weekend last night at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, for American singer/songwriter Sunny War. At times it seems that the world of music is awash with female singer/songwriters doing music in the Americana style. I am not someone (contrary to what some internet trolls would have you believe) who is stuck in the past. I am constantly on the lookout for good new artists to see and listen to. I came across Sunny War last year, someone sent me a link to one of her videos and it was awesome. When I saw she was playing in the UK I was delighted. Even better was that it was at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell. It is five minutes walk from Farringdon on the Thameslink line, so it was a really simple journey. For some reason, I've never been to the Slaughtered Lamb before. It is a big attractive pub, with a small downstairs venue. We ate at the pub first. Good pub fayre, I had fish and chips, which were excellent. 

    First up was a young singer/songwriter called Flora. I don't think I've ever seen a more nervous singer, but she had no need to be nervous, she is an incredible singer. This is the best clip I found on Instagram (not from last night). She is well worth checking out. 

    Then onto the main act. What attracted me to Sunny War is that she is not only an amazing singer, but also a brilliant blues guitarist. Most of the singer/songwriters in the Americana genre tend to strum plinky plonky tunes and sing over them, Sunny War not only plays amazing guitar licks, but even wrote a love song called 'Baby Bitch' to her guitar! I've not seen a show like it for a long time. In the gaps between the songs, she gives the impression of being completely untogether, shall we say disconnected from reality. She announced she'd only rehearsed with the drummer once, when she did a cover of The Beatles "She loves you" (not a cover like you've ever heard before), she announced that she couldn't remember all the words. Then she started to sing and any doubts you may have are blown away. 

    When she was playing "She loves you", she stopped halfway through. She seemed in some distress and rather bizarrely announced she had a chilli in her eye. Once the chilli was removed, she continued, asking us to imagine the intermission had not happened.  I dragged a couple of friends down with me. I didn't know what to expect but they loved the show. When she played the last number of the set, she unplugged the guitar, switched off the amp and said she didn't know any other songs. A tumulous cheer for an encore eventually relented and a number was remembered. 

    Check out her album here

    Now, when the gig in the basement was finished, I thought the night (or at least the music) was over. We adjourned upstairs for a nightcap, before making our way home. A young singer called Carla O'Neill was performing for free in the main pub, doing a set of covers. She was exceptionally good, If you are having a party or an event and you need someone, I'd thoroughly recommend her. My friends Gary and Sue are bing Fleetwood Mac fans and this song really impressed them. She'd actually started it whilst I was in the loo and thought it was the band. 

    We had a wonderful night. I'll be keeping an eye out for future gigs at the Slaughtered Lamb and will deffo be seeing Sunny War again. It reminded me of what I've been missing as I recuperated. 

    And finally, if you like live music, don't forget that The False Dots are playing with The Silencerz next Saturday at the Bull Arts Centre in Barnet -  CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS 

    Supporting musicians and venues is essential, but the biggest winner is you, because you have a great night out. 

    Friday 20 October 2023

    Well done to Barnet Council for this!

     Credit where credit is due. This morning I saw this sign on the gate to Lyndhurst Park. We all need some beauty in our life and getting the community involved in this is wonderful. A big shout out for the local councillor Sara Conway, who does a great job for the community there. Make sure you get down, I certainly will. There are a few locations in Mill Hill that could do with that

    The Friday Joke - 20th October 20th and a local music update

    A husband notices his wife’s hearing is deteriorating and decides to visit her doctor for advice. “I can’t speak to my wife directly as she might find it offensive, given our old age” he says to the doc.

    “There’s a simple trick you can try to determine her hearing” explains the doctor. “Simply ask her a question at a distance and if she doesn’t hear you, move slightly closer and ask again until she does”.

    That night, the husband arrives home and sees his wife in the kitchen cooking. He thinks to himself, “what a perfect opportunity to test her hearing”.

    He stands in the doorway of the kitchen and promptly asks;

    “What’s for dinner honey?”

    No answer. He moves closer.

    “What’s for dinner honey?”

    Still no answer. He moves even closer.

    “What’s for dinner honey?”

    Still his wife doesn’t answer. He now sees how serious her hearing problem is. At this point, he is stood right next to his wife.

    “What’s for dinner honey?”



    And here's another

    And finally don't forget to come along to the Bull Theatre on Saturday 28th October, to watch my band, The False Dots support the rather wonderful Silencerz CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

    This is what the Silencerz sound like

    This is what we sound like.