Sunday 31 December 2023

Goodbye to 2023 - A year of amazing high's and deep deep lows

 It's nearly done and a new year is nearly upon us. Personally I've never had a year like it. In some ways, for me, 2023 has been an amazing year. As a musician, it has been brilliant for me, both as a musician and a fan. As a musician, my band, The False Dots have been in top notch form. We've done a series of brilliant gigs at the Dublin Castle, the last of which was on the 23rd December and was sold out. We got an ecstatic reaction. We've added Tom Hammond on trumpet, the first new member of the band since 2009! Tom has brought a completely new dimension to the band and everyone who's seen him agrees that he's brilliant. We will be releasing a new single featuring him, to celebrate the bands 45th anniversary in February. Fittingly, the song is called "We all love a party!". The band also finished our new album, which also will be released in the Spring, date and tracks to be confirmed. We went out to Boz Boorer's studio in Portugal to finish it off. The sessions and results exceeded my own expectations, which were high to start with. A couple of people asked why I go to Boz's studio, when we have our own. The reason is simple, when I am in our studio, it is also my place of work and it is hard for me to give the music our full attention. When we are at Boz's, there are no distractions. On top of that, the man is a genius at producing music. Not only does he put the icing on the cake, but a cherry on top as well. 

As for the gigs I've been to, I did a blog detailing these a couple of days ago. Some of the gigs I've seen have been absolutely amazing. The stand out shows were Blur at Wembley, Madness in Brighton, The Pogue Traders at Dingwalls and The Mill Hill Music Festival. The new Madness album is pretty damn good. As for new artists, perhaps the outstanding one I came across was Sunny War who we saw at The Slaughtered Lamb. 

As for football, that has been unbeleivable. As a Manchester City fan, I saw my team win five trophys. Given that City won nothing between 1976 and 2011 (apart from a few promotions) and were rubbish for much of that period, it vindicated my keeping of the faith. Even better though, they play a brand of football that is unsurpassed. I don't really know how anyone can doubt that Pep Guardiola is the greatest ever coach. He has totally changed the way teams play. I am also a fan of Hadley FC. They were promoted to the Isthmian League in 2022 and finished the2022-23 season in a very respectable 9th place, consolidating their position. I also purchased a small stake in the club, of which I am very proud. 

I am also pleased to say that my business, Mill Hill Music Complex has returned to profit for the first time since the pandemic. Not a big profit, it will probably take five years to recoup the losses we incurred, but we are in a better position than I could have hoped for a couple of years ago

The final highlight for me, was Xmas. I had my family around me, and two of my sisters came with their familys. I cooked a lunch for 22 people. The oldest was my niece Ivy, who was born in August and the oldest was my brother in law Tim who is in his 70's. It was a lovely day and a fitting end. I am writing this blog lying in a four poster bed in a stately home near Buxton. We are away for new year with our friends something we do every year. It is the time of year that I drink too much and catch up. I then  abstain from alcohol for the first two weeks of the year.

I don't want to dwell too long on the lows. Regular readers will know of my struggles with cancer this year. I feel hopeful that after 12 years, I can put this all behind me and move on (although as they say, men make plans and God laughs). Suffice to say that it has been for me, the most difficult year of my life from a health perspective. Another real low has been the state of my ankle, that has forced me to stop playing football. This has been a massive blow and I really miss it. 

As for this blog. It has been a frustrating year. The Railway Edgware has seen no improvements, despite promises from Barnet Council and local Labour politicians. I had high hopes when the administration changed, but I have now lost all faith in them. What I find irritating in the extreme is how many of them would chat to me and feed me information when the Tories were in charge, but now can't even be bothered to reply to emails. When Labour was elected, I was asked to play a key role in drawing up the borough's cultural strategy. I put a huge amount of work into this, but they then completely excluded me from the process and have done all of the things that I warned them not to, as all they would do is waste money and achieve nothing. I have no God given right to be included, but to the rudeness of certain people in Barnet Council has been staggering. I sent them a draft strategy document, which I was asked to produce. They didn't read it and didn't circulate it. When I did succeed in getting a senior officer to read it, he rather embarrassedly told me he agreed with much of what I'd said, but they'd decided to take a different direction. He'd never been shown it previously. It is a shame because it is a wasted opportunity. 

Another low has been the closure of the Midland Hotel in Hendon. At least the ACV has been renewed on it, affording a degree of protection, and there is talk of proper pub owners buying the property and reopening it.

The loss of Shane MacGowan and Benjamin Zephania hit me hard, in different ways. I must say that when Benjamin died, I felt particularly bereft. Shane was sort of expected, but Benjamin took me by surprise. The news broke on the Eddie Nestor show and it was one of the most difficult but best bits of radio this year. Eddie knew Benjamin and having to announce to the world that a friend died, live on air, must be horrible. He did a fine job. 

So that is more or less that. Having spent much of 2023 feeling rather down and verging on being depressed, to a certain extent, As December wore on, the cloud has lifted and left me feeling more positive than ever for 2024. In some ways I'm more fragile than I've been since I was a 13 year old, with anxiety issues and on valium, but I really am starting to get my mojo back and pray that there will not be any more blows in the short term. I went into 2023 in a really positive frame of mind and I am delighted and some what amazed to say that I'll be departing it in the same frame of mind.

I'll leave you with The False Dots latest single, Sci Fi Girls, a piece of music I am very proud of and which I think is a lot of fun. If you've not seen the band since Tom joined, and you like a bit of Ska, please come down to The Dublin Castle on the 3rd Feb tickets  here - Have a very happy New Year!

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