Sunday 30 June 2024

Farage's Nuremburg style rally demonstrates the lack of political savvy of Reform

I don't agree with Reform's politics at all, but I didn't write this blog to criticise their policies. I assume anyone reading the Barnet Eye is perfectly capable of making their own minds up. I know a few Reform voters read the blog and we often have interesting chats over a pint at our local pubs. It is fair to say that they are more excited and animated than at any stage since the Brexit referendum. So what is this blog about?

This blog is more about a couple of absolutely schoolboy errors Reform have made, as a political campaign machine. I've just been watching the Reform rally on Sky News. I was flicking the channels and there it was, a live stream from Birmingham. I was fascinated to see Farage in action. There can be no doubt that he's an excellent public speaker, if you like that sort of thing. Every seat had a bum on it in the hall, Sky said there were 5,000 people in there. Without anyone to scrutinise him, he really was on good form. He was able to debunk many myths to his loyal supporters. He was also able to set the record straight about various scandals etc that have befallen the Reform campaign. I am sure everyone in the hall lapped it up and thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon.

I actually spoke to someone who voted Reform using a postal vote on Friday. I was surprised as they were not someone I'd expect to touch Reform with a bargepoll. What they said was quite illuminating. The truth is that Sunak has comprehensively lost the team. I asked if the Tories had canvassed them, as they are a registered postal voter and a former supporter. The answer was no. The Tories locally are usually brilliant at this. I can only assume that they've given up on Hendon and are putting their full efforts into seats that they think they can win. I think Reform will poll better in Hendon as a result and the Tories a lot worse. But it won't translate into winning the seat. This is why I think the rally was a huge tactical and strategic mistake by Reform.

The first mistake was holding a rally like this on the last Sunday of campaigning. I have to assume that Reform packed the hall with 5,000 of their best activists. These are the people who go out and knock on doors and change people's minds. Today is a Sunny day, people are in good moods and many will be at home getting ready for the football. I've done a lot of campaigning and canvassing and the last weekend before the election is the one where you put every last ounce of energy into turning those few voters who may win you aa seat. Except the activists were all at Birmingham. You may say "Well far more will watch Sky News than could ever be knocked up". This is, of course, true but one of the main purposes of canvassing is to identify your supporters, so you can get them out on election day. We all know what Nigel Farage looks like. We all know he's a more dynamic speaker than Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, then again my goldfish is. Most people do not watch long speeches by party leaders, unless they are already converted. However if those 5,000 supporters had been put into, say the 50 most likely target seats, that would be a 100 door knockers in each. If each knocked on 100 doors today, that would be 10,000 engagements in key marginals. If they could turn, say 2,500 Tory waiverers, that would be the difference between winning and coming second. Whatever effect the TV coverage of the rally has had, the butter is spread thin and not targetted. By my estimates, every seat that Reform miss by less than 400 votes on Thursday, they would probably had won if they'd had the 5,000 out there knocking on doors rather than having a love in with Nigel. 

The second mistake is that it was clear that a huge amount of logistical effort has gone into the rally. I have to wonder whether the resources of the party have been sensibly used in spending the time sorting this out. You could've plonked Farage down with some Reform supporting celeb, fed him tame questions and got the same output. Reform may feel that showing Farage parading and swooning to a home crowd will make him look presidential, but I suspect that most normal people will just dismiss it out of hand. It very much seemed to me that Farage was more there to soak up the adulation than to win votes. I do wonder if they have any real strategy at all to win seats. As a member of the Lib Dems, I know how hard it is for a third party to break through. You have to target areas properly and do a lot of work in them. If the Lib Dems win more seats than Reform, it will not be because the system is broken, it will be because the Lib Dems know how to get the best bang for their buck.

Which brings us onto the third thing that I think Farage got horribly wrong. Again it went down well with the home audience, but I suspect it will play badly with the wider voting public. It seems that every mishap was the fault of someone else and a conspiracy by the Liberal Elite. Hostile questions from the audience? That was because the BBC picked an audience of Reform haters. Racism from his campaign team? That was the fault of Channel four emplying dodgy actors to wind people up. Then there was his rant about the governor of the Bank of England. Clearly a baddy, although I doubt too many of the 5,000 really had a clue why he'd earned Nigel's ire. I may be stupid and naive and know nothing of politics, but having a rant about someone 90% of your audience have never heard of, about something they don't have a clue about, just makes you look like you are going off on one.

Another mistake is that Farage has done this in the period after most people have done their postal votes. Most people receive them and do the more or less immediately. This sort of political TV evangelism is ideal for postal voters, but most have been done. Now we are into the in person voters. That is why door knocking is important. 

The final point which I think they got horribly wrong is the timing. Farage and Reform were clearly hoping that the rally would be the top story on the news tonight. That surely is the point. This shows how clueless they are. The story will be England v Slovakia. By the time News at Ten is on, everyone's memory of Nigels massive rally will be a dim memory. Planning a keynote event before the biggest football match this year was bonkers. If he'd had it on Scotland or Wales, he may have got a better reception. 

It is pretty clear to me that Reform will do well in terms of numbers of votes. I know plenty of people who will be voting for them. Most are disgruntled Tories. What is much less clear is whether this will transform into actual seats. If they under perform, I predict that Farage will blame everyone, without looking at how naively he marshalled his resources the weekend before the election. Where the Tories are really fighting Reform, they will have people out walking the streets, cajoling waiverers to keep the faith. I'm really not sure that Farage wants to be the Prime Minister. He's seen how quickly the public fell out of love with Boris when the promises evapourated and his true character was exposed. I think Farage knows his limitations. He's a great orator, he is a showman, as he claimed he has charisma. He claimed this was necessary for dealing with ISIS and Putin. Sadly I don't think this is true. What you need is someone who understands the problem and understands what the UK can and can't do. If Farage really believes, as he claims, that Charisma is the key, then I suspect like the result on Thursday, he will never really be given the platform to put things to the test. 

But then again, what do I know. Over the last ten years I've woken up after votes to shocks on serveral occasions and voters are a fickle lot. But if I''m right, I think this blog may tell you why. 

The Sunday Reflection #17 - Why are Dad's so badly represented in the media?

I've been wanting to write this for a long time, but never quite had the inspiration to finish it and do the subject justice. I started writing it a few months ago. I went to the funeral of a friend Debbie from schools Dad, who also happened to be a member of the Mill Hill Services club. I knew the pair of them in very different ways. She is one of the life and soul of members of our schoolfriends reunion group, who meet biannually for a boozy evening. We've been mates since we were at Orange Hill School together. Our kids went swimming at Copthall together and our families have a strong affinity with Mill Hill. Her Dad was a life member of the Mill Hill Services club. One of the 'old boys' who are the fabric of such institutions. Always good for a natter about things, if you were waiting for a mate to turn up or just having a swift half on the way home. The fact he was a peer of my Dad in the club was also something which gave me a warm glow inside. Like many such people, he'd often regale me with stories of long scrapped motors that had some strange repair that only my Dad could do properly, or some welding task my brother had spent three hours on and only charged him a fiver. 

When I started to write the blog, I realised that there was one aspect that was indefinable. It was the way such old boys (a term used with love) could strike up a conversation about anything and it would be enthralling. Whether it was about the shenanigans at Mill Hill Village Cricket club, or the state of the roads on Mill Hill Broadway, there was always something to be discussed. It was never angry rants, just good humoured observations of things that a long and well lived life gave you a perspective on and enabled you to make astute comments without getting cross. 

At the funeral I chatted with Debbie about her Dad Roger (wonderful name there) and I was struck by how genuinely sad she was that he wouldn't be around anymore. It wasn't because she needed financial help, the lawn mowed or babysitting. It was just that a chat with Roger was better than a gin and tonic when she needed a bit of cheering up. Another thing they had in common with us is that their family were incredibly close. Mums and Aunties all chip in to help out. Dads and Uncles were a source of fun. As we discussed her Dad's life and his love of his family, a thought came to me. Why are Dads so misrepresented in the media, on TV  and in films? You may wonder what I mean. Well Debbie chatting about her Dad reminded me of my own. In the media, there are men. Men are portrayed in many ways. James Bond, Mad Max, Hannibal Lecter, Sherlock Holmes, Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Indiana Jones. Although some may have been parents, the Dad aspect of such heroes and anti heroes is never explored. 

But there is a subset called Dads. Whilst 'men' are usually interesting and exciting, Dads are bland, boring, lazy,  hen pecked, dim and idiosyncratic. I was trying to think of archetypal Dads. Stan Ogden, Terry from Terry and June,  Martin from Friday night dinner are the first few that sprung to mind. There is the odd rogue such as 'Dirty Den' from Eastenders, Frank Gallagher from Shameless and of course Darth Vader. I couldn't think of a single example of a Dad like mine or like Debbies Dad. Interesting men, who do stuff, enjoy themselves,  are astute, funny and clever. You may say "Well it isn't good telly" but we've abolished just about every other stereotype. We don't stand for it, unless it is a Dad. 

Back in the 1970's I'd watch the Coronation St, Terry and June etc with my Mum and I'd get quite frustrated. It was selling a very different image of being a Dad to my experience. I wouldn't have minded if there were a few Dads portrayed as Dads but as Dads who had a life. Dads who add something to offer to the family, rather than just taking up space and being the butt of jokes. When I chatted to Debbie about her Dad, I got a warm feeling as she was saying the same things I felt about my Dad. There are a lot of us orphans around, who miss our Dads. I loved Friday night dinner, but I'd love a show even more that had a Dad character that reflected what I and many others see as the reality of our Dads. I was chatting to a friend who writes comedy and they explained that most sitcoms need a victim to be the butt of the jokes. Generally in modern television, it is the Dad. I sort of accepted this for a while, then I thought about my conversations with Roger and the other old boys in his gang at the club, conversations with my own Dad. Often they were generally hilarious with no one being the but of the joke. There was just a wry observation on life. 

Yesterday, my band, The False Dots played at the East Barnet Festival. There are four of us in the band. Graham, our drummer is a granddad, myself and Fil (our bassplayer) are Dads and Tom our trumpet player, is a youngster (born in 1985, the year Graham joined our band). In truth, apart from Tom, we are now the gang of old boys in the corner. It's our kids that are watching Friday night dinner and looking at Martin as the representation of us! Is that what we are really like, is that how they see us? Lord help us, I hope not.
Just as I finished this, Robert Elms played Daddys Home by Toots and the Maytels. A great Sunday morning track and the best way to finish this blog!

Saturday 29 June 2024

The Saturday List #446 - My ten mantra's that get me through life

 How do you get through difficult times and tough experiences? My Dad told me that when he was flying his bomber over Romania in 1944 and he was being shot down, he realised he may only have seconds to live. What did he do? He told me that he said a quick "Hail Mary" and asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary to see him through. Given that every second was vital in getting out of the stricken Wellington bomber, it may have seemed like a crazy action, but he baled out and survived, making his three score and ten years. When he told me this, I was stunned but he said "I've always said a prayer in dire times to get me through". I don't have his same strong faith, but I do have mantra's that I repeat to myself when I need to find something from somewhere. Here they are.

1. I may be old, I may be past it, it may hurt, but I'm not a quitter. This is (probably a misquote) from a Judge Dredd story in 2000AD comic, where Dredd was battling a younger, stronger, fitter assassin. I always say this before I perform with the band, as I will be doing today at 5pm at The East Barnet Festival.

2. If you don't try, it you don't try, if you don't try, then it's goodbye. A lyrics written by Allen Ashley in a False Dots song called, rather imaginatively "If you don't try". When my knees and ankles were up to it, this was my mantra when I did the various 5k and 10K runs I've done over the years and things were getting tough. 

3. Don't you let nobody turn you round. The old song of the freedom movement. I first heard it as a Steve Miller Song on the Your Saving Grace album. I sing this line to myself, sometimes the whole song, when I have to deal with idiots. 

4. Money so green So casually seen It don't bother me It's not enough. A line from The Heartbreakers song, It's not enough. I use this to remind myself that money has no real worth. It can't buy you the love and respect of people who matter to you. It can't take away the pain of losing someone you love. I sing this to remind myself to cherish the moment, when you are happy. On Tuesday, it was my wife's birthday. I gave her the choice. We could go for a really fancy dinner or we could ask the kids and a few friends over for a barbeque. Option 2 was cheaper. She chose that. We had a great night.

5. When my days are numbered, I'm gonna buy some Jack and Smack, I'm gonna take me on a journey and I ain't coming back. I wrote these lyrics when I was feeling very down about my situation with cancer, for the song Buy me a bottle of Jack. It may seem really dark and nihilistic, but it always makes me laugh. What I am really saying is that I hope I take my fianl journey on my terms. As the situation is now very positive (touch wood), It is not imminent (hopefully), but that makes me smile for it's dark humour. Dark humour is sometimes all the keeps you going to see you through

6.  London is drowning and I live by the river. A line from London Calling by the Clash. I worked for several years in an office overlooking the River Thames near London Bridge. When I was feeling overwhelmed by work, I'd look at the river and sing this. It helped me to face the challenge.

7. No No No No No No Mr Suit. A line from the Wire Song Mr Suit. Whenever I've been faced with beligerent authority I sing this in my head. It helps me keep calm and focused and sane when dealing with idiotic bureacracy. 

8. Life, Mine's not for Sale, Death, I'm not your slave. The chorus of The False Dots songs "Action Shock". I wrote this in 1982, whilst in bed with my then girlfriend, as we watched the news of the Falkland Islands war and the coverage of the battle of Goose Green. Since then, I've sung it at times of extreme crisis, when I am feeling down. It is a mantra to get through the direst challenge.

9. I love rock and roll, stick another dime in the Jukebox baby. When I used to work in town and have awful days, I'd sing this to myself, then go to one of the local pubs that had a great jukebox, get the Evening Standard, a bag of nuts and a pint and stick Joan Jett on. The world would seem OK then.

10. Ain't no stopping us now, we're in the groove. The classic McFadden and Whitehead song. Another song I use when I've got a long walk/run or boring task to complete. It gets me through as well as any tonic or drug. 

The False Dots are playing at 5pm at Oakhill Park for the East Barnet Festival Today. If you need a pick me up, come down for a party!

Friday 28 June 2024

Friday Fun, Local music roundup and local news 28th June 2024

 As ever we start with some fun. This made me smile. I'll explain why below. 

I have a firm belief that we are all getting far to angry and het up about everything. I was nearly run over on the pavement yesterday by an impatient motorist, who mounted the pavement to try and get around a car doing a three point turn in the road. Not only that, but the silly man beeped me and my dog for having the audacity to walk on the pavement. I was quite shocked and angry, but when I reflected on it, I realised just how infectious a virus anger is. There I was, not a care in the world and in an instant I was transformed into a raging lunatic, swearing at a car, driven by someone I don't know, who I will never see again, whilst they gave me the finger. And then they were gone, just leaving me raging and boiling. And then my Dog just stopped and looked at me. She wouldn't move. At first I thought she was shaken by the car, but I realised she could tell that I was stressed and angry. So I gave her a stroke and said "Don't worry, it;s alright". I realised that getting cross at such stupidity is just reducing myself to the level of an idiot who drives on the pavement and beeps at pedestrians to get out of the way. If I was dishonest, I could claim that I was cross because it upset the dog and put us in harms way, but that wouldn't be true. My dog's reaction was far more rational. Let the idiot get on with it and don't get too riled. In the dogs mind, the twat startled them, she ruffed and the threat departed rather quickly. That was the end of it. No brooding, wishing a better response had been forthcoming, wishing they'd dragged the idiot from their motor and given him a good hiding. In the dogs mind, it was done. In some ways, the tweet above is a lesson for us. If we get riled, don't react. Just replace the anger with something that is nice. My Dad, who ran a crash repair business had a great way of dealing with idiot drivers. He'd smile and say "All my best customers drive like that". Such idiots fed me for the first eighteen years of my life so maybe I should be grateful that the motor trade is still being kept in work. 

And on to the local gigs. The False Dots are delighted to be playing at The East Barnet Festival this week. We'll be onstage at 5pm tomorrow.

Here is the full music programme. There really is something for everyone and the fun starts at 6pm this evening.  Full details CLICK HERE FOR THE FESTIVAL WEBSITE - There's also a funfair, food and drink stalls and a classic car show. What is not to love!

If you fancy some post festival fun, here's a few to check out!

Harripaul gig at Butchers Arms
Harripaul (Pop / Rock / Jazz / Blues) at Butchers Arms, Barnet
info icon9pm


Scratch gig at The Three Wishes
Scratch (Rock Covers, 4 piece) at The Three Wishes, Edgware
info icon9pm - midnight

Road Trip gig at Ye Olde Monken Holt
Road Trip (Rock & Roll) at Ye Olde Monken Holt, High Barnet 
info icon7pm - 9pm

AND Finally, 

I don't normally do this on a Friday as Friday is a fun day, but there are a few items of local news to report.

Firstly an event of note. After two years, Mrs Angry, one of the fabulous five Barnet bloggers, and the second of our wonderful female bloggers to start a blog after the much missed Citizen Barnet, has awoken from her slumbers and given us a rather witty account of the election hustings at St John's church in Barnet. It is well worth a read - sadly nothing from the other Barnet Bloggers recently. A real shame because the election is important and it looks like our MP's will switch from Blue to Red, a first in my lifetime.

On Wednesday night, I took my wife our for dinner for her birthday at the rather wonderful Wet Fish Cafe in West Hampstead. We were watching the rather marvellous Acantha Lang, a soul singer from Missisipi. She is really good. If you get the chance, go and see her. She's a regular at Mill Hill Music Complex Studios. It's great to put something back and support her.

What was quite amusing was to bump into one of our very top Tory Councillors having dinner there. We had a pleasant chat, he's one of the group that I get on pretty well with and he clearly has good taste in food and music. As he was munching dinner whilst his party leader was doing a debate on telly, it was clear that he was none too interested in the whole thing (proof in my mind that he's a very sensible soul). We had a quick chat and when the subject of the election came up, it was clear that he was not exactly exited by the whole thing. In May, the Tories elected a new leader and co leader to run the group. I asked how that was working out. He pointed out that two days after this tweet, Rishi Sunak called a general election and the group was thrown into chaos. As he noted "Life does bowl curveballs"

I had a look at the Twitter feeds of the new leadership teams twitter feeds, neither seem too bothered about posting. Odd really, or maybe not. I think we're all sick of it, it seems to have been going on for ages!

And finally, do you want to own a little bit of music history and help a very good cause.

Have a great weekend! Lets finish with an invocation to England!

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Spotlight on Hendon Constituency - Shocking revelation from local Conservative big wig

I met one of our local Conservative bigwigs for a chat about the forthcoming election. Whilst they were more than happy for me to blog this, they did so on the basis of strict anonymity. We had a nice cup of tea and a chat, and they gave me a very interesting, if very disturbing insight into what is going on in the minds of sensible Tories up and down the country. They started by saying "I'm sure all of my colleagues will guess who briefed you, but I'll just deny it". One thing I've learned over the last sixteen years of writing this blog is that the Torys will give you stories in the way that Labour never do. Labour are far more controlled in their interaction with local bloggers. 

So what did they have to say? Well first of all, they told me that the Tories have no hope at all of retaining Hendon. They said that whilst this was mostly down to the national mood, there are three local factors that have scuppered them completely.

1. Incumbent Matthew Offord  has stepped down. Despite having a reputation of not being too busy on the casework, Offord has built a strong personal following amongst several local religious communities, that his views on same sex marriage etc appeal to. They have been very staunch in support of these communities in regional issues that are prime concerns of members of these faith groups. They have bolstered Offords vote a previous elections, taking him from having London's most marginal seat, to having a previously unassailable looking majority. With Offord gone, his replacement Ameet Jogia has been trying to butter up these groups, but seemingly this has not been quite as successful as Offord and many are not really sure where they stand. 

2. Offords replacement Ameet Jogia was not a Barnet councillor previously and was unknown to most people in the constituency. His leaflets painting him as "The Local Candidate" have baffled many, who's response has been "If you are local, why have I never heard of you and why were you a councillor in Harrow?". 

3. Ameet Jogia has been working for No 10, and is close to Rishi Sunak. As Sunak's star has fallen, the expected stardust that was supposed to have rubbed off on Jogia when he was selected has disappeared. The expected visits from Rishi to massed crowds have not materialised 

When I last spoke to my Tory friend, just after the election was called, they were baffled by the timing but still planning to "do their bit". Apparently this has changed and they are not the only Tory who has  decided to stay in and watch the Footy rather than knock on doors (that's a figure of speech BTW). 

We got on to discussing the state of the Conservative party. This is when I got a shocking insight into how local Tories really feel. "Rishi Sunak is destroying the party and the election can't come soon enough" They added "Many of our local supporters are either not voting, voting Reform or even voting Labour". We are not talking about random members of the general public, we are talking about committed Conservative supporters. I asked for a percentage. The response? "Maybe 5% are switching to Labour, 10% to reform and another 15% are simply not bothering to vote" We are talking about people who turn out rain or shine. I suspect many may change their mind on the day as does my confidant, but if you are losing 30% of your absolute core vote, then you really are in trouble. 

What has caused this? There are three main reasons.

1) Many think that the party has simply lost the plot and needs to regroup in opposition. Of the non voters, many are ashamed to say they won't vote, believing in the democratic process, but cannot support another party and cannot support Sunak's Tories. 

2) The betting scandal and the snub to veterans persuaded many wavering Tories that the party has lost the plot and is no longer representing Conservative values.

3) The candidate is appalling. Even staunch Tories such as Brian Coleman have criticised his campaign. Coleman put the boot in recently on Twitter of Jogia's promise to try and abolish ULEZ. Coleman correctly pointed out that this is not in an MP's remit and the matter was decided conclusively at the Mayoral Election. 

Then we got around to my confidant's own vote.  Their position was that they were finding it very hard to commit to voting for Jogia and supporting Sunak. Sunak has nearly destroyed the party. The Parliamentary party looks set to become a rump of MP's in ultra safe seats. Many of these have been around for years, which will prevent any real prospects of the party addressing the issues besetting it and becoming relevant again. Would they be voting Reform? No chance. Like me, they see Farage's support for Putin and saying the way Putin had consolidated power was admirable was simply beyond the pale for someone who was supposed to lead a democratic party. A Lib Dem was a wasted vote in Hendon, in their opinion. The only real reason to vote Tory was to try and keep Reform in their box and keep the Tories as the only choice to beat Labour. If Reform starts to come second in seats, then they may well threaten the Tories position as the party of the Centre Right in the UK. The doorstep conversations on the doorstep with formerly loyal Tories is emphasising this. If Reform comes second in more than a dozen or so seats, this election may well be the beginning of an extinction even for the Tories. 

Now we get to the real dilemma for decent Tories. Do they move to the right to try and win back Reform waverers or do they move to the centre to head off the Yellow peril from the Lib Dems. This decision will be taken after the election, by whoever replaces Sunak. They will be able to see just how dangerous (or not) Reform and The Lib Dems are. 

We got on to the betting scandal. Who would they be betting on, if they were to do such a thing. Their prediction. Labour to get a 4-5000 majority in Hendon, which is nearly 10,000 shifting from Tories to Labour. They predict this will be on a much lower turnout than in 2019. I asked for some sort of evidence to back this up. "Have you seen any evidence of Conservatives doing any real work to win in Hendon". The answer is no. I've had a few rather shoddy leaflets though the door. That is about it.

And my friend, that is just about it. The election no one wants has eight days left. The odds at Paddy Power are as follows:-

Most Seats 
Labour 1/200
Reform UK  66/1
Conservative 80/1
Liberal Democrat 200/1
Greens 500/1

Although this may just mean that Reform supporters gamble more than Tories or Lib Dems, it does rather back up what my friend seemed to be saying. Labour are 1/16 to win at Hendon at BET365

Monday 24 June 2024

In Cricklewood to pay homage to the UK's last great engineering design masterpiece

 I was mulling over the day my life changed forever at the weekend. I don't recall the day. I was four years old and it was just after Easter in 1967. It was the day I started at St Vincents Primary School and it was the day my education started. What was I taught? Well back then, we believed that the UK was the best country in the world. We had the best bands, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. We had the best Underground system. The big buzz then was about the Victoria Line, which was opening the following year. In Mill Hill, there was a lot of excitement and disruption as the M1 was being constructed. Huge concrete laying machines slowly made their way from Watford to Fiveways corner. The UK had it''s own Space program, with the Black Arrow and Blue Streak rockets. We were working with the French to develop Concorde, the supersonic airliner that would 'change the way we fly'.

Then there was our railways. These propelled the UK to lead the industrial revolution. Having the Midland Mainline Railway at the bottom of my garden, I witnessed the replacement of 'old fashioned' steam engines with more modern diesel ones. My Dad, being an engineer, was not at all sentimental and considered steam engines to be slow, old rustbuckets and loved the shiny new diesel ones. Dad ran a crash repair business called MacMetals and was a proper petrol head. Every time a fancy new motor, such as an E Type Jag, Aston Martin DB6 etc came in, he'd take me for a spin in it up to Watford, ingnoring all speed limits and often hurtling past police cars. I don't condone such behaviour, but it was real fun!

Within ten years, by the time I was ready to leave school, it had all gone wrong for Britain! Blue Streak and Black Arrow were cancelled. The Motor industry was mired in disputes and almost bankrupt. My Dad's high hopes that the M1 and other motorways would make the UK a pleasure to drive around disappeared and they all became car parks. Concorde only changed travel for a very rich few on a few select routes. It felt like the country was falling apart and that we'd given up. Britains railways summed up the malaise. The Japanese had high speed rail for nearly 20 years, on specially built lines. Here British Rail was struggling to keep the network running, with clapped out engines and Victorian infrastructure. Back then, British Rail did more than just 'run trains'. They ran ferries under the Sealink brand, they made their own sandwiches and had their own brand of Cafe called Travellers Fayre. Unlike modern station franchises, they were cheap and cheerful. They also designed and built their own trains under the British Rail Engineering label. This division was stuffed with some of Britains finest engineers. Starved of funds in the 1970's, they were tasked with modernising the Inter City network with no money. They had two solutions to try and bring us up to speed. The first was the strategic solution, known as the Advanced Passenger Train. It used the latest technology, tilting carriages, that meant trains could travel at high speed on existing tracks, it ran on electrified railways. The other was a stop gap. Originally called The High Speed Train (HST), it was a diesel engine, that used more conventional technology, but was leading edge. It was styled to look modern and it offered a quick route to faster journeys. As most of the network was not electrified, it was introduced on long distance mainline services, which were not electrified. Originally these were the East Coast Main Line between King Cross and Edinburgh and The Great Western Line between London and Bristol and Cardiff. The new trains knocked an hour off the time of a journey between Kings Cross and Edinburgh, with a maximum speed of 125 MPH.

A huge advertising campaign, rather unfortunately with Jimmy Savile at it's helm. The service was branded as Inter City 125 and was a great success. The modern styling and the shorter journey times were proved popular. British Rail sold the design to the Australians, who even had their own version. British Rail had plans to electrify the Intercity Network over the next 25 years, which was the expected life of the these new trains. By 1989, the East Coast line had been electrified and the trains were moved to the shorter Midland Mainline between London, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield. Sadly, due to lack of investment, initially, they were limited to a maximum of 100mph on this route, although sections were upgraded for faster running over the years.

These workhorses ruled the roost on the line until lockdown. For a long time, it looked like their days would be numbered as the government planned to electrify the line. Work was started and reached Kettering and Corby, before austerity derailed it. The then Minister of Transport decided that it wasn't value for money. This gave the HST's another lease of life, but eventually time caught up with them. The final scheduled service ran on 16th May 2021. The Barnet Eye was lucky enough to be invited to Cricklewood, by Robin Morel, the local Network Rail manager. We recorded this for posterity. It seemed like the days of the HST were numbered, apart from a few destined for museums.

However you can't keep a good design down. Some bright sparks came up with the idea of buying a few of the units to run charters. Others were procured to run services in Scotland, delivering quicker journeys to parts of the network that were in dire need of better services. Recently some have been exported to places such as Mexico and Nigeria. What was seen as a 'stop gap' is still stopping gaps in places that the BREL designers of the 1970's never dreamed of. I find such things fascinating. 

A couple of weeks ago, Robin told me that an HST unit would be back at Cricklewood Rail Depot for a visit. It was running a charter on Saturday from St Pancras to Skegness and so would be being refuelled and stabled overnight in Cricklewood carriage sidings. Robin invited me down for a nose around, whilst it was being refuelled. As I have a bit of a fascination for industrial sites, it was an opportunity not to be missed. Seeing one of these amazing trains at close had was also a pleasure. It also gave me the chance to find out about other planned improvements on the Thameslink line. I asked about the West London Orbital Scheme (still in planning phase), the new freight superhub at Radlett (the line is being closed for nine days at Xmas to build a bridge for the new freight line) and the slowly progressing electrification in the north (new trains arriving soon for testing). 

Since my last visit, the new station at Brent Cross West had been built. Robin seemed amused that the new station has twice the number of trains, for almost no passengers currently than Cricklewood, which is packed to bursting in the morning rush hour. 

We all donned Hi Vis jackets and had a good old look at the things you never normally see. 

Anyway, here are my pictures from the visit

This is the visitor. Painted in what I find to be a rather odd colour scheme, that looks as if it's been photoshopped into black and white!

It is great to see these grand old ladies of the British Rail network looking all nice and shiny with fresh paint. 

Here is a more close up view from the front. As I mentioned above, I am not sure of the colours. It reminds me, and this will date me, of the old Airfix kits. Robin explained that this particular version of the HST has proper buffers. This means it can be used for other duties, such as delivering other trains etc, which apparently is a nice little sideline for Rail Adventures, who own them.
Another view of the train. In the distance you can see the crew that came down with the train. They started their journey in Butterley in Derbyshire. There is a heritage rail centre, where the coaches are kept when not working trips. 
There are inspection points at the depot, to allow cleaners, etc access to the trains. 
A nice view inside the cab.I wonder how many millions of miles has been observed from this view.

We also had a looka round the rest of the facility. The Luton Express service in the background is a broken down unit that is waiting a part from Germany. When this arrives, it has to be dragged to another depot, where they actually have ramps etc and a lift, to repair it. There are no such facilities in Cricklewood anymore. 

"Fill her up Jacko!". Robin Morel of Network Rail explains the refulling process for the diesel locomotives etc at the depot.

After my previous visit, I wrote a tune for The False Dots about some of my experiences on our railways over the years and with some commentary on how it's all gone a bit Pete Tong with privatisation. I used some of my footage from my previous visit, as well as other clips I've taken over the years.

Sunday 23 June 2024

The Sunday Reflection #16 - Are you feeling a bit flat?

 Are you feeling a bit flat this morning? I am. This is not just due to the beers last night after The False Dots gig at The Dublin Castle. In fact it's not that at all. Is it just me, or does this bloody election seem to have been going on for half of our lifetime? I hate to say this, but not a single candidate, party leader or other political sort has said a single thing that excites me. Perhaps the highlight has been watching Ed Davey falling into a lake full of sewage. Maybe we should throw them all into a lake full of sewage, with concrete boots on. Well not really, I'm not an advocate of violence and I don't wish physical harm on any of them, but honestly, they really are  an awful bunch. Rishi Sunak and the Tories. In 50 years time there will be whole textbooks written on their campaign, as the classic way to get it wrong. When they announced it, everyone was baffled as to why. Now we know, they all had a tenner on the date at Ladbrokes. Silly buggers didn't realise that the one lot you don't try it on with are the bookies. It was bad enough that Rishi disrespected the Normandy veterans, but now we know that the whole election was just a cunning ruse by a bunch of spivs to make a few grand. What's worse is that they were too thick to get their mates to do it for them, so they've all been caught. 

Then there is the new saviour, Nigel Farage, "Nigel, he's not the saviour, he's a very naughty boy!", It turns out he thinks that the reason Putin invaded Ukraine, poisoned people in the UK etc, is all our fault. He is a big admirer of the way Putin got his hands on the levers of power in Russia. Now think this through. Do we really want a PM who admires someone who gets their opponents thrown out of the 13 floor of the local hospital, who has assasinated just about everyone who has opposed him. I really don't want a leader who aspires to emulate Vlad The Impaler. If ever he gets in, don't say he didn't warn us all.

Sir Keir Starmer? If being boring and having zero charisma is a virtue, then he's the man. In truth, after Boris, a bit of boring might be nice, but the country is a mess and a bloke with no policies to address it surely cannot be the answer. 

What is hilarious is that the Tories seem to think that pretending that Sir Keir Starmer will morph into Joseph Stalin if he gets a 'supermajority' is a great way to win votes. The sad truth is that if Labour do win a massive majority, in 20 years time, as we do with Blair, we will talk about why he didn't be more radical. The idea that he will use a supermajority to pass laws insisting women have a penis or to tax roadsweepers £2,000 a year more are absurd. I am coming to the view that the best thing for the country would be a virtual Tory wipeout. It is clear that the lot running the party are totally corrupt. The betting scandal has exposed this. These are people who Rishi Sunak worked with on a daily basis and if he couldn't see what sort of people they were, then he really is very dim indeed. The Tories need a new broom and fresh ideas. Boris purged most of the sensible ones in 2019 and now the party is falling apart. Th next generation of people such as Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke, people who see the bigger picture and are not right wing ideologues are needed. In my constuency, we have a candidate Ameet Jogia, who is one of Rishi Sunaks bag cariiers at No 10. A man who has not had a proper job in the real world. The Tory party should select candidates who have real life experience and have run businesses if they want to reconnect. Not people who have studied politics and are simply part of the machine. 

I had hoped that the football would provide some respite from these dullards kicking lumps out of each other on telly. Sadly England are playing as if managed by Sir Keir Starmer. There is no imagination and no fresh ideas. The only passes we seem to make go backwards. The few truly exciting moments have come from teams like Georgia, who throw caution to the wind and seem genuily proud to wear the shirt.

Which leaves music. We had a bit of fun last night at The Dublin Castle, our second gig there in a week. Next week, we are playing at The East Barnet festival. We'll be onstage at 5pm. I do hope that you can make it and we can raise all our spirits. Here's one of our tracks, one of my fave videos that the band have put together. 

Saturday 22 June 2024

The Saturday List #445 - Eleven different instruments that have featured in recordings and gigs by the False Dots and who played them

Last year, a brand new member joined The False Dots! Master Trumpeter Tom Hammond was our first new member in fourteen years! Tom posted the following on Facebook yesterday -

 Following recent releases from Slash Fiction and Express Office Portico, the total number of artists/bands that have songs out featuring myself (Trumpet Tom) has reached 14. So I know what everyone is thinking... how many songs do you play in with each of these artists?
Well I'm glad you asked because I just created a pie chart. Here it is.
If you want to know more, here's a playlist. More songs have already been recorded and are out soon!
Check out Tom's playlist here, there is some brilliant music here.

This post got me thinking. Just how many instruments have featured on False Dots recordings and at gigs and reherasals over the years? I had a look through and the list is really quite amazing. I'd never realised that we'd actually featured eleven distinct musical instruments etc. I've not included vocalists here, as I think band members needed a little bit of spotlight

So here we go

1 Drums  - Dave Edwards, Deb, Paul Marvin, Dav Davies, Dave Williams,  Mark Barnet, Bill Lucas, Adam Francis, Graham Ramsey, Tony Cavaye, Carl Myers, Romi

2 Bass Guitar - Pete Conway, Paul Hircombe, Roger Tichborne, Doug Witney, Andy, Adi Denton, Fil Ross

3 Guitar - Roger Tichborne, Mandy Spokes, PauL Hircombe, Craigh Withecombe, Pete Trayling, Dave Peters, Neil Cox, Tony Robotham, Fil Ross, Boz Boorer, Huw Lloyd Langton

4 Keyboards - Roger Tichborne, Chris Potts, Fil Ross, Boz Boorer, Tony Robotham

5 Saxophone - Dermot Fanning, Mark McQuillan, Lee Thompson, Paul Amsterdam, Boz Boorer

6 Harmonica - Tony Cavaye

7 Trumpet - Millie, Tom Hammond

8 Theramin - Boz Boorer

9 Clarinet - Boz Boorer

10. Bongos, Congas & Percussion - Roger Tichborne, Fil Ross, Tony Cavaye, Romi, Gavin Sorochan, Graham Ramsey

11.  Triangle - Colin Mulberg

------The False Dots are playing tonight at The Dubin Castle party celebrating 50 years of Charly Records. We will be onstage at 8.45pm. Please come down if you can. Of course, we were chosen because We all love a party!

Friday 21 June 2024

Friday Fun Special - THe Friday Joke, local music round up and The Robert Elms show is 30 years old!

 It's Friday, it's a tradition amongst us Barnet Bloggers, that we start with a joke, to get the weekend off to a good start! This wonderful tweet from the Lancashire Archive made me smile. I wonder if she's Aunty Dot! (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN if you don't get the reference!)

Today see's a special anniversary. Local boy from Burnt Oak made good, Robert Elms celebrates the 30th anniversary of his show on BBC Radio London today. I've listened to the show since he started on the channel in 1994. To keep a show relevent and listenable for 30 years, over two millenia is some achievement. I have a massive personal debt of gratitude to him. Probably 30% of the new artists I've discovered in that period, I've heard first on his show.. I've even made friends as a result of going to gigs and chatting to the artists in question. Such amazing artists as Eli Paperboy Reed spring to mind as a great example

 Robert was the first to play Amy WInehouse \(Although I knew of her first as she rehearsed at the studio!). His slot on a Sunday, where people plug there events is a must listen for anyone who wants to enjoy the good things in this city. It has alerted me to some wonderful events, such as the Jah Wobble book reading at The Social in Little Portland Street recently. Robert has been very supportive of our campaign to keep London's grassroots venues alive. We launched the Save London Music Campaign on his show. 

It has to be said that the BBC management seems to be less than supportive of Robert (and the other brilliant presenters) at times. His show times have been mucked around with several times over the years and most recently his hours were cut down. This has meant Robert has far less time to introduce new artists, have guest sessions etc. Fortunately for us, he seems to get on and get by. 

Anyway Happy 30th Anniversary Robert. Before we look at the gigs, here's a special track for Robert, hopefully reminding him of his roots!


First some advanced notice of next week's big festival. Barnet's biggest music event of the year, The East Barnet Festival starts on Friday. I am delighted that The False Dots are playing at 5pm on Saturday. Click here Click here for the full line up

Next up, a plug for our gig tomorrow night, celebrating 50 years of Charly Records. Click here for cheap advance tickets.

And finally, this weekends local gigs

Bad Bones gig at East Barnet Shooting Club
Bad Bones (Acoustic, Duo) at East Barnet Shooting Club, New Barnet
info icon7pm - 9.30pm