Thursday 12 October 2023

Happy Birthday to the Barnet Eye blog - The first, the best and the longest lasting Barnet blog is fifteen today

 Would you Adam and Eve it? Today is the 15th birthday of the Barnet Eye blog. I had been blogging for about six months on the Barnet Times website prior to this . To my amazement, the blog there became the most read feature on the paper's website. I took a very confrontational stance with the then Tory administration of Barnet Council, run by Mike Freer and Brian Coleman. This chimed with many on bothe the left and right. The council responded by threatening the paper with the withdrawal of council advertising. The paper caved in and sacked me, from my role. Mike Freer, Brian Coleman and their lacky Robert Rams went out to celebrate "the end of Tichborne's blogging career"(they left a couple up when they sacked me). They were a tad premature.

David Miller, AKA Dont Call Me Dave, former chair of the Chipping Barnet Tories and son of Baroness Hendon was outraged and urged me to start a blog that could not be controlled. I had a whole stack of rules I had to follow at the Barnet Times. I didn't look at the readership stats for six months, terrified that no one would be reading it. When I did look, I was amazed to see that I'd had over 100,000 views. The current total is -


Can you imagine that? Nearly 4 million views? I wish my old English teacher, who used to tell me "no one is interested in your blatherings" was still alive to see this. 

I have an apology. It had been my intention to have a big party to celebrate. At the start of the year, I was planning a proepr event. It is quite an achievement. I know a rather good band to play it and I am a great believer in such momentus anniversaries being celebrated. But my recent brush with cancer derailed all of my plans. I'll now have to wait for the 20th Birthday in 2028. 

When I wrote that first blog, I had no idea what we'd achieve. The successful campaigns

Save Friern Barnet Library

Exposing and stopping the Barnet Freedom Pass Scandal

Reversing the CPZ overcharging and getting residents there money back

Exposing the Metpro Scandal and saving Barnet Taxpayers Millions

Stopping the Mapledown School respite care cuts

Restoring Pay and Display parking

are just a few of the best ones.

I am also proud of the guest bloggers. For our tenth birthday, I produced a list detailing the best. This will be updated. Giving others a platform has been one of my biggest achievements. It is a fairly unique feature of this blog that we give others a platform. 

I am also proud that I encouraged other individuals to also start blogging about Barnet. The best was Don't Call Me Dave who actually started blogging whilst I was still blogging on the Times website. It is a shame that all of these seem to have hung up their boots. Mr Mustard still blogs, but on the subject of parking. Mr Reasonable occasionally gives an update on council finances, but has largely lost interest since Labour took over. Also worthy of a mention is Vicky Morris, AKA Citizen Barnet, Barnet's original female blogger, who invented the Friday Joke tradition. 

One of the more amusing things that has happened is the jealousy in some quarters of the success of this blog. One or two rather interesting individuals took exception to the fact that people liked what we do more than their own efforts. One particular character has spent years on Twitter claiming that they are the original Mill Hill Blog, despite not blogging for years after we started. Another threw their toys out of the pram, when we were awarded the accolade "Top London Blog" by the Guardian. I was amused to be contacted by the blog editor at the Guardian, who told me that the harrassment on Twitter was driving him mad. I suggested that he simply add their blog and shut them up. It didn't bother me and it raised the profile of Barnets bloggers. I was always amused that despite these claims, no blog counter ever appeared on these sites. 

For me, it has always been about producing interesting content. I've always tried to blog about a range of subjects. One of the best early blogs I wrote was "50 things to do before you are 50 in the London Borough of Barnet". What is interesting is how many of those cannot be done anymore

1. Write a blog about life in Barnet.

2. Watch Barnet FC win at Underhill.

3. Have a Curry at "The Mill Hill Tandoori" restaurant (I'd recommend the chicken Tikka to start, the Bengal Fish Bhuna as main, a Keema Nan and Bindi Bhaji (I don't like rice). Wash it down with a pint of Kingfisher Lager.

4. Score a Hat Trick against your mates at Powerleague 5-a-side on a Thursday night.

5. Walk the dog across Arrandene Open Space on a gloriously sunny Winter Sunday afternoon.

6. Have a fry up breakfast at the cafe on Apex Corner.

7. Thrash your kids at Bowling at the Hollywood Bowl in Finchley.

8. Do the walk from the Ridgeway in Mill Hill via Darlands Lake to The Orange Tree in Totteridge for a nice leisurely lunch.

9. Sail a boat on the Welsh Harp.

10. Visit the RAF Museum in Grahame Park for an activity day.

11. Watch live jazz at lunchtime at "The Rising Sun" pub as part of the Mill Hill Music Festival.

12. Go to The Finchley Lido and play in the waves from the wave machine.

13. Go To Alfresco Italian restaurant in Whetstone for a dinner. Try the Fried Smoked Cheese and the Parmiagana.

14. Have dinner at the Good Earth Chinese restaurant in Mill Hill, The lobster is out of this world !

15. Buy a bottle of the finest Plonk known to man at Mill Hill Wines in Mill Hill Broadway.

16. Take said bottle of wine and have a picnic as the sun goes down on the Millfield on the Ridgeway in Mill Hill on a glorious July Saturday night (Technically this breaks the anti boozing in parks rule Barnet Council have brought in)

17. Visit Highwood House at the Top of Highwood Hill for a summer open day, they have a fantastic garden.

18. Watch Hendon & Edgware cricket club play on a Sunday in Mill Hill Park.

19. Pick Blackberries with the kids at Arrandene open space on a glorious late summers afternoon.

20. Catch a carp in Totteridge ponds as a 251 bus goes by.

21. Watch a great jam at The Mill Hill Jazz club on a Wednesday Night.

22. Go on a fairground ride at the Watling Festival at Montrose Park.

23. Watch a band at the East Barnet Festival.

24. Watch the School band competetion at the Finchley Carnival.

25. Watch the End of Term concert at the Finchley Music Centre at Moss Hall School.

26. Watch the Mill Hill School marching band perform at Finchley Nurseries as part of the Mill Hill Music Festival in the summer.

27. Collect conkers with your children in Wills Grove, Mill Hill in the Autumn.

28. Go toboganing at Bunns Lane Park in Mill Hill in the Snow in the Winter.

29. Attend the fantastic Firework display at Mill Hill County High school (sadly not on this year).

30. Have a kebab at the Mill Hill Kebab house at the Green Man, at 2am after a great night out (I'd recommend the Lamb Shish with Chilli source)

32. Take some great photographs of the Totteridge valley in it's autumnal glory.

33. Walk down Sanders Lane, the country footpath in the middle of Mill Hill East.

34. Watch Exorcist at The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley.

35. Check out an exhibiton at the Church Farm Museum at the Top of Greyhound Hill, Hendon (Currently it's Calligraphy).

36. After you've done number 35, go for a long lunch at The Greyhound pub.

37. Go for a mad friday night of drink at the Claddagh Ring in Hendon.

38. Go to a wedding reception at The Hendon Hall Hotel of some good friends.

39. Buy the Elvis Presley CD Box set in Woolworths on Mill Hill Broadway.

40. Catch a comedy show at the Arts Depot in Finchley.

41. Check out the animals in Golders Hill Park on a hot, sunny, summer Sunday.

42. Have an Ice Cream at Golder Hill Park in the Summer.

43. While you're doing no 42, Watch a band on the bandstand.

44. Fish for Tadpoles with your children in Angel Pond.

45. Get fish and Chips from the King Neptune chippy in The Green man.

46. Walk along the Ridgeway, Mill Hill on a clear day and spot the Gherkin, the Telecom Tower and the Wembley Arch.

47. Go to The War Memorial on the Ridgeway for rememberance Sunday.

48. Watch The Battle of Britain Flight fly north from central London, from The Ridgeway in Mill Hill.

49. Walk through St Josephs College fields and give the horses a carrot with the Children.

50. Best of all, play loud rock and roll with a Punk Rock band at The Mill Hill Music Complex.

The last one brings us onto the subject of music, which is where this blog started. The Barnet Times originally asked me to write a blog after I contacted them saying they needed to do more to cover the Barnet music scene. Back in the 1980's, when my band was starting, the Barnet Times had a wonderful local music column, first run by Kevin Black RIP, then Clarence Mitchell (now leader of Tory Reading Council). Phil Crowther, editor of the Times, suggested I covered a few other issues. When the local Tories over reacted, I felt duty bound to put my oar in properly. I vowed to be the last man standing, when Freer, Coleman and Rams boasted of their celebrations at my demise. Coleman and Rams are long gone and Freer is set to depart next year. Their gift to Barnet of Capita and One Barnet virtually destroyed the council. Freer has not shone as an MP, I doubt too many will remember him when he's gone. Robert Rams did write a blg about wrestling for a while, but that was about as successful as his time as a councillor. 

When Freer and his mob left the Council and Richard Cornelius took over, relations between this blog and the local Tories thawed significantly. I never really saw eye to eye with Richard on Politics, but I like him personally and I still have a chat with him when I see him. Other local Tories such as Hugh Rayner, Elliot Simberg, Laithe Jajeh, Lucy Wakeley and Peter Zinkin have all shown themselves to be decent and approachable. In recent years, these local Tories have sought to work with the Barnet Eye on matters of mutual interest, which never happened previously. In short, common sense has broken out.

As for the loca Labour group. I had high hopes for them when they took over last year. I personally had been hoping that there would be a Lib Dem presence, holding the balance of power in Barnet, to ensure that whoever ran the council, there would be checks and balances. When Labour won a landslide, the leader, Barry Rawlings asked if I could assist with drawing up a new strategy for culture. I put a huge amount of work into this, only to be told my services were not required, as my CV was not up to scratch. It seems that running Londons oldest and most successful independent studios for 44 years and the Mill HilL Music Festival for nearly 30 years is not enough. Labour councillors have stopped contacting me, except when they have no real choice. I suggested to Barry Rawlings that the council work with bloggers, to try and make the council more accessible. It is now clear that the Labour group are set on controlling the narrative. I suspect the real reason that I was excluded from the Culture strategy steering committee was a perception that I wouldn't tow the Party line. 

Interestingly, the council did contact me this week about the strategy. The email was quite bizarre, totally ignoring the fact I'd had many meetings last year with the Leader and Cultural lead to discuss this, before the door was slammed in my face.

We want to make sure Barnet’s music scene is properly represented in the strategy and would love to hear your thoughts on how we can develop music in the borough over the next five years. Please let me know if this is something you’d be interested in. 

No mention of the fact I'd spent a month drawing up a draft strategy, circulating it to the leader and the cultural lead, only for them not even to acknowledge it. 

This has confirmed to me that Barnet needs critical bloggers. It seems that after 15 years, my work is not done. I've broadened the themes, there is now more music coverage and my battle with Cancer has been a big part of the mission for  the last twelve years. I've also had a great response to the blogs on dyslexia and school. I will spent the next week exploring some of these themes in more detail, but thought it best to start with a catch me up for newer readers!

I hope my loyal readers have enjoyed the ride. Here's to another fifteen years.



P.S. Here's a clip of my band to celebrate. Please have a gander and come to one of our forthcoming gigs.  The 28th October at The Bull Theatre in Barnet, supporting The Silencerz will be a blast

This video of The Burnt Oak Boogie was a bit of an internet sensation last year.

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