Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 18/02/2018

It's Sunday so it's time for the Tweets of The Week again.

Don't forget to follow any Tweeters who tickle your fancy.

1. Want to help put together the next edition of Mill Hill Today? Here's your chance

2.David Ardetti wonders what happened to plans for a Cycle Superhighway in the London Borough of Barnet. So do we!

3.Nice Tweet from the Mill Hill Historical Society

4. An interesting picture of Cricklewoods Masonic lodge, which gathers in the Crown Hotel. Clearly not such a secret society these days!

5. And whilst in that neck of the woods, here are some nice pics of Childs Hill by Andrew Roberts

6.Great historical tweet here, from IncludeOurStreetsN12 - I remember Mann Egerton well. My father used to collect spares for car repairs from their service counter.

7.This however breaks my heart

8. Until this is sorted, we will have to keep including Mark Amies Tweets

9. More urban decay in Mill Hill

10.But there is some great music being made!

That's all folks!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Wayne Casey RIP - In Memory of our long serving former Mill Hill Councillor

I am saddened to learn of the passing of former Mill Hill Lib Dem Councillor Wayne Casey. Wayne was a councillor for Mill Hill ward between 1994 and 2010 when he decided to stand down as he'd recently married and was moving to Northampton. I knew Wayne very well over this period. Although I was a Labour party member until 2009, like many Mill Hill Labour supporters, I always tactically voted for Wayne and the other local Lib Dems. Wayne assisted me greatly on a couple of occasions, most notably when Barnet Council outsourced the Meals on Wheel service, resulting in my disabled mother not receiving food for several days. 

In 2009, when I quit the Labour party following the misleading of parliament over the Iraq war, the support for the French Riot police brutally closing Sangatte Refugee camp and the expenses scandal that had exposed our then Labour MP as having made extravagent claims at the public expense, Wayne contacted me to ask whether I'd consider joining the Lib Dems and replacing him as the candidate. I was quite surprised. I suggested that I would make a lousy candidate. Wayne asked if I'd be worse than the Tory alternative. He acted as our election agent in 2010 and was a massive support to me. Sadly we lost and we ended up with three Tory MP's, but with Wayne's guidance, it was a great experience. 

Wayne was a real local councillor. His opposition to certain well known local rich developers took a personal toll on him. During the period in 1994-2002 where the Lib Dems were in coalition with Labour, Wayne used this opportunity to get many things done. He was a champion of localism and was instrumental in getting local area forums set up, where residents could challenge the council on any topic in regular public meetings. He championed sensible local initiatives such as the street skips, that saw the council regularly placing skips around the borough for residents to dump large items. This resulted in a huge drop in fly tipping. Wayne also supported the councils improvements to road safety locally. Under the administration there was a large reduction in people being injured due to car accidents. Road humps and other traffic calming measures were instituted. Sadly, the Conservatives ripped these out as soon as they could and Barnet has seen rising problems since. 

Wayne at theMill Hill Lib Dems curry at the Day of the Raj in 2010
Wayne was also good fun. During the campaign of 2010, we had regular curries, often at The Day of The Raj. Wayne's house was the nerve centre of our operations and Wayne and his wife Pauline always made us welcome. I was sorry to see Wayne move to Northampton, as he was a genuinely decent guy and always good for a chat. It appears that he may have had a heart problem and passed away peacefully in his sleep. I am sure all long standing Mill Hill residents will mourn our departed friend.  

The Saturday List #165 - Ten reasons why I love living in Mill Hill!

I've lived in Mill Hill since 1962, when my Mum brought me home from Edgware General Maternity Ward (apart from a short spells in Stockholm and Queensbury in the 1980's). I went to Primary school in Mill Hill and I run a business in Mill Hill. I love living in Mill Hill. There are many reasons, but here are my top ten. I've been saving this list up all week!  After what is mentioned in number 8, I was moved to put finger to keyboard. I hope the suspense of reading the first 7 is not too much

1. Great links into London. Mill Hill is 12 miles from central London. We probably have the fastest and best route to Central London of any equivalent suburban town centre. Much as the Thameslinks service can drive us mad at times, it is fast, modern and clean. A fast rush hour train has you at St Pancras in 16 minutes. You can get connections to anywhere easily. It will soon get even better in terms of connections when Crossrail opens. This will mean we have a far more painless route to Heathrow, which is the one place we don't have an easy route to. As a business owner, I also benefit from the great bus links, which mean my customers, many of whom are students etc, who don't have cars, can arrive from far and wide. It is one of my bugbears with the Council that they don't promote Mill Hill as a great place to run a business! Mine has thrived and this is in no small part due to the easy transport accessibility. One excellent way to use those excellent transport links will be to hop on a Thameslink train to Hendon next Saturday evening and nipping up the stairs to the Midland Hotel. My Band, The False Dots will be performing live at the Save London Music Campaign Birthday party. It will be free from 8.30pm. Here's a snippet if you wonder what we're like (and it was all filmed in Mill Hill) - ;)

Snapped on a walk through Mill Hill Park last year
2. Great walks. I've got a dog, which means that come hell or high water, I have to have a walk every day. I doubt that there is any other place in London with a better selection of decent walks. Totteridge valley, Darlands lake, Arrendene, The Ridgeway  or even up the road, over the Motorway to the Railway pub for a swift half. All are in there way, great walks. As a kid, my brother used to take me to the footbridge that crosses the motorway, from Millway to Hale Grove Gardens. We'd stand and watch trains and cars pass underneath. I still enjoy it, especially when the Wembley Arch is lit. I featured some of these images in a short video I made of an instrumental song written by our dearly departed Bass player. I know motorways aren't everyones cup of tea, but I still enjoy a pause gazing at the cars and trains passing underneath, on my way for a swift half.

3. The Mill Hill Music Festival. Ok, I'm biased, I am on the organising committee, but it is a highlight of the year for me. We have it every two years, so this is a year off. We have some truly awesome artists and Mill Hill really does come to life. Here is a clip of The Alan Warner Band playing at last years festival. Although there won't be a festival this year, you can see Alan Warner tonight at The Three Wishes in Edgware (as short bus ride on a 240/221/251 from Mill Hill).

4. Mill Hill's restaurants. We are blessed to have an amazing selection of top notch restaurants in Mill Hill. The Good Earth is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in London, certainly the best suburban one I've used. It is not cheap but it is exceptionally good in terms of food and service. My family will always feel a special affection with the restaurant. In 1984, my father, who was a pensioner at the time, was helping out at his former business, collecting the wages from Lloyds Bank (remember when we had banks), as the new owner was on holiday and he was being paid a retainer to assist,  , when two men armed with baseball bats attacked him and tried to steal the dosh. The owner of the Good Earth saw what happened, followed the men back to their car, took their number and reported them to the Police. When they arrived back home, the Police were waiting and both got 18 months. Kiyoto is a top notch Japanese restaurant, Pizza Express does very good pizza, Hudsons are decent purveyors of burgers. We are rather partial to a takeaway from Cannons Fish and Chips (try the Halloumi if you are a non meat/fish eater). Kobains kebabs in Station Road are good and if you are vegetarian,try their falafel kebab. Then there is The Mill Hill Tandoori, that is almost my second home.

5. Fishmongers. If you haven't got a great fishmonger in your locality, then you are not in a good locality. Elias Fish at Mill Hill East are fantastic. This week was Valentines Day. We never eat out on Valentines day these days, it is too busy. So I always good a feast for my beloved. She doesn't eat meat, so Elias fish is a godsend. I bought some of their giant prawns for starter and sea bass fillets as a main. They were absolutely delicious. Their smoked salmon is also excellent. Fresh fish is so much better than the frozen, tasteless stuff we find in so many supermarkets. It really is worth the effort.

6. Butchers. In Mill Hill we are lucky to have three excellent butchers. The one I use least is Highland Organics, in Mill Hill East. They are great, but are less convenient. They are great for barbeque packs and speciality meats. My brother in law is Kenyan, so I will pick him up some Biltong when he's visiting, which he loves. Cooksleys Butchers are at the bottom of my road. They do fine steaks, joints and turkeys. They also do a brilliant range of pickles and chutneys. My dog is particularly keen on them as they supply tasty bones! Then there is Gerards Boucherie on Daws Lane. More of a boutique butchers, they do some superb sausages, I thoroughly recommend the Choriso Sausages. They also do amazing Shallots. They stock Caramelised Red Onion Chutney by The English Provider, which is surely the finest relish you can possibly find. They also do marvellous pickles.

7. The University of London Observatory. This is located next to the A41 Hendon Way. I've yet to visit (one for the bucket list), but it has always fascinated me. The adjacent subway is decorated with Murals of the planets, which sadly get regularly vandalised. It is worth a trip through the subway, just to appreciate them.

8.  Our great community spirit. Last Saturday, we had a cross community memorial service at The Sacred Heart to mourn Mr Vijay Patel, the shopkeeper killed in Mill Hill Broadway, following an altercation with youths who he refused to serve alcohol and cigarette papers. The service was incredibly moving. Afterwards, the whole community came together to meet each other over a cup of tea and some snacks. Without people, a district is a plot of land. I am proud of our community.

9. Mill Hill Wines. I spare no chance to plug Mill Hill Wines. As I mentioned above, I made a rather special dinner for my beloved on Valentines day. Of course I bought the accompanying plonk, a rather good Malbec, from Mill Hill wines. It is a family run business. Last night, as I walked past at 9pm, on my evening hound pound, they were locking up. As they are dog lovers, Bruno was most excited to be given a tasty gravy bone and get a big fuss made. That is Mill Hill for you.

10.  Mill Hill Music Complex. Ok, I confess, this is my business. I miss no opportunity to plug it, as it is also my life. We have over 1,200 musicians and artists a week passing through our doors. We've seen some of the UK's top artists pass through our doors and two Brit Award winners, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash started their career rehearsing in our studios. I even sold Amy Winehouse the Blue Fender Strat she played when she made her first TV appearance on Jools Holland. We opened in 1979 and we are seeing the third generation of local musicians coming through.

Friday, 16 February 2018

*** Updated *** Twitter declares war on all UK Blogspot Bloggers

Update 16/2/2018
Many readers of the Barnet Eye as well as our small army of Twitter followers have been up in arms about the blocking by Twitter of the UK URL for this blog as well as all other UK URL's.

The Barnet Eye and fellow Barnet bloggers kicked off a campaign to get Twitter to sort the problem out. We Tweeted @Twitter, we Tweeted @TwitterSupport, we Tweeted at all of the senior management of Twitter we could find. We contacted the National Press. We reported Twitter to itself for violating its own rules.

And guess what? As of today, Twitter has sorted the problem out and UK URL's for blogger are now working again.

However, we've yet to have an apology or even a reply. In short, Twitter's customer service stinks. Sadly, it is a private monopoly. Having invested seven years in building a Twitter profile, it is virtually impossible for a blogger such as me to stop using this important delivery channel.

Anyway, we chalk it off as yet another success for the campaigning of the Barnet Bloggers! Many thanks to everyone who supported us!

** Ends **

I am livid. I have been a Twitter user for the best part of a decade. I have over 2,000 followers and have posted over 20,000 tweets in that time. I write a blog (this blog) on the UK Blogspot platform and use twitter as a vital part of my interaction with people who are interested in what I have to say.

Yesterday, I tried to post a link to a write up of a shopkeeper killed in Mill Hill. I was shocked to be informed that Twitter would not let me, on the grounds that I may be a Robot! This is the message that was displayed.

I assumed that someone had reported me to Twitter in an act of malicious spite. I Tweeted at the Twitter support. I also cc'd my fellow bloggers. I found I could post links to other sites, just not my blog.

To their credit, we received support from a most unexpected quarter when the picture started to emerge that the other Barnet Bloggers also appear to have been blocked from posting to their website.

I must say I am highly appreciative of the action of the Barnet Conservatives. It is entirely appropriate that all parties support free speech and genuine comment.

I then discovered that all historical tweets linking to my site also have a health warning. I was shocked to see this message.

In my book this is slanderous. Twitter have absolutely no grounds to state that my blog may be unsafe. Blogspot is a platform owned by Google and as this affects all UK Blogs (for some strange reason US blogs are not affected) it is clear that something has gone very wrong in Twitter.

I decided to try and contact Twitter support. Rather ironically, having been accused of being an automated Tweeter earlier, I clearly got a response from  a Twitter Robot when I attempted this.

Quite frankly, I am completely disgusted with Twitter. I am really not sure where to go with this. I suppose that the National Press is the next step. It seems to me that it ridiculous for Twitter to claim the UK Blogspot URL behaves different to the US version

Quite why Twitter has chosen to declare war on UK Bloggers is something one can only ponder. Is it malicious or simply incompetent. It won't change anything. We won't go away.


The Friday Joke - 16/02/2018 - Friendship

Image result for friend jokes

It's Friday, so it's time for a joke to get us in the weekend mood. Today's subject is friendship.

Two couples were playing cards. Jeff accidentally dropped some cards on the floor. When he bent down under the table to pick them up, he noticed that Dave's wife, Sandy, was not wearing any underwear! Shocked by this, Jeff hit his head on the table and emerged red-faced. Later when Jeff went to the kitchen to get some refreshments Sandy followed him and asked, "Did you see anything under the table that you liked?"

Jeff admitted, "Well, yes I did."

She said "you can have it, but it will cost you $100."

After a minute or two, Jeff indicates that he is interested. She tells him that since Dave works Friday afternoons and Jeff doesn't, that Jeff should come to their house around 2:00 PM on Friday. Friday came and Jeff went to her house at 2:00 PM. After paying her the $100, they went to the bedroom, had sex for a few hours and then Jeff left. 
Dave came home about 6:00 PM and asked his wife, "Did Jeff come by this afternoon?"

Totally shocked, Sandy replied, "Yes, he did stop by for a few minutes."

Next Dave asked, "Did Jeff give you $100?"

Sandy thought, 'Oh hell, he knows!' Reluctantly she said, "Yes, he did give me $100."

"Good," Dave says.

"Jeff came by the office this morning and borrowed the $100 from me and said that he'd stop by our house on his way home and pay me back. It's so good to have a friend you can trust."

Have a great Friday, Jeff certainly did!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The real cause of the crisis in policing in the London Borough of Barnet

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing
Knife detecting arch at Mill Hill Broadway  
In Mill Hill, there has been a spate of quite awful violent crime. Yesterday, we saw the Met Police install a metal detector for a few hours at Mill Hill Broadway Station. Clearly the Met wanted to show they were "doing something". My view is that we need a proper review of how we Police in London and how we work with the Police in our community. I believe there are four reasons why there is a Policing crisis in London and The London Borough of Barnet. When the Police cannot investigate crime, that means we've got it wrong and that we need a root and branch review.

Following the meeting which Matthew Offord organised last week, I have had dozens of conversations with Met Officers. Some have been official and some have been with friends who work for the Met. I have no doubt at all that our Police are a credit to our City and our country. I also have no doubt that politicians (on the Left and Right) are failing them. I have to say that Mr Offord did not impress me at all with his attempts to pass the blame onto the Mayor, at the meeting. It is not leadership to blame everyone else. As there was no representative from the Mayor present to defend his policies, this was simply not Cricket. Whilst funding is clearly a primary cause, I have concluded that there are four other main issues which are as important and which there is no discussion about at all.

To summarise, the real cause of the policing crisis in the London Borough of Barnet is four fold.

1) Local officers are no longer integrated into the community, meaning that local intelligence is not gathered effectively and the bond of familiarity and trust that facilitates information sharing has been undermined.

2) Closure of local Police Stations has meant that we no longer see the Police as part of our High Street. We have no convenient way to report minor crime to a human being, who can reassure us or give in lost property.

3) We have deluged Police officers with paperwork. When they should be out catching criminals, they are stuck behind computer screens, filing reports.

4) We have removed the administrational support, meaning that highly paid and highly trained officers have to do menial tasks that are a complete waste of their capabilities.

What has made me draw these conclusions. I've lived in Mill Hill all my life. I've seen the whole way Police operate change beyond all recognition in my lifetime. Let me explain why I have drawn these conclusion.

Here's a question for you. Just suppose that you notice your neighbour behaving suspiciously? Just suppose that every couple of weeks, at 2am in the morning when all decent people are tucked up in bed, a large van arrives outside his house. Just suppose that men quietly bring large packages into the large workshop he's constructed at the bottom of his garden? Lets set the scene, the house is a reasonably large house in an area of Mill Hill. You know your neighbour. He is an unmarried, middle aged man who lives with his mother. He keeps himself to himself. As your neighbour, you say hello, but no more. You never see him enter or leave the workshop, apart from the strange deliveries in the middle of the night.

As time goes by, you start to wonder. Why would such a person go to such great lengths to stop you knowing what he was doing? Why would he blank out the window of his workshop? Why are all of the deliveries made in the middle of the night? Why hasn't he married? What is he up to? Would you be concerned? What would you do?

Well a very good friend of mine had just that experience in the early 1980's. We didn't have Islamic terrorism then. The bogeyman of the day was the IRA. London had for many years been a target of choice for republican gangs. We also had the Angry Brigade, the Baader Meinhoff gang etc. People were worried. We didn't have "anti terrorist hotlines". We didn't have 101. You had three choices. The first, if you were really worried or had seen a crime, was to call 999. You'd expect a car with a blue light to be on the scene in minutes, despatched from your local police station. Or if you were less worried, needed to report a crime etc, you'd pop up to the local police station. There would be a friendly desck sergeant. They'd discuss the issue with you. Often, if you were concerned, the sergeant would say "I'll send a Bobby round to have a look". If you found a purse or a handbag, you'd nip up and they'd give you a form. Then there was your local bobby, who walked the beat. In the 70's our local Bobby was Charlie Dawson. He was a mate of my Dad's. They'd drink together at the Services club. He knew all the shopkeepers, all the traders and all the local old ladies. He was a big chap and when he was on his beat and it rained, Old dears would invite him in for tea and cakes until the clouds passed.

So my friend, worried that his neighbour may have been up to no good, happened to chance across Charlie on his rounds. He said "I don't want to make any fuss about this, but my neighbour is behaving very strangely and I am worried that he might be doing something dangerous". Charlie asked for where he lived, the roared up laughing. He explained "That's Gordon. He is a freelance aviation engineer. He repairs the engines of light aircraft. He always gets them delivered in the early hours as it is easier to park outside the house and get the stuff in and out without blocking the road". Charlie continued "You must be the fourth neighbour of Gordon who has reported him to me".

What has all of this got to do with the crisis in policing in the London Borough of Barnet? Well think it through. Charlie had amazing local knowledge. He lived in the community (Woodlands Way, Mill Hill). He drank at the Services club. When people had a couple of beers, they'd be less inhibited about telling him things. He also understood discretion. I've no idea how many tens of thousands of pounds Charlie saved the Met by popping around and having a look. Although I don't personally advocate it, he'd clipped more than a few of my mates around the ear, then dragged them back to their Dad's. There was no "My son couldn't have done that". There was no expensive court case, no criminal record and no reoffending. All of the local villains knew him. If they got caught, they got caught, that was "a fair cop". If they were behaving themselves they'd say "Good morning". I remember Charlie telling my Dad with great humour, that he'd been called around to investigate a burglary. The victim was the girlfriend of another local burglar. She had a brand new colour telly in the flat, that the burglar had missed. At the time, Colour tellies were a luxury item. Charlie recognised that the telly was one that had been stolen from a large mansion in Nan Clarks Lane the week before. He had a real dilemma. He spoke to the girl who said "I'm surprised they didn't take the telly, Dave had a big win on the horses last week and bought it for me special like, he wanted me to have a nice telly so we could watch the cup final next week". Realising that the girl was not involved, he simply said "Look, I think Dave might have bought it from a burglar at the pub. That's probably why they knew to rob you! It was stolen from a house in Nan Clarks Lane. I should really arrest you for receiving stolen goods, but as I don't think your involved, I'll just take it back to the owner and please tell Dave to spend his winnings more wisely next time". The telly was returned accordingly, to a rather disgruntled owner. Charlie realised that they'd just ordered an even better one, expecting a decent insurance payout! Later Charlie arrested "Dave" for another incident thanked  Charlie for not nicking his girlfriend and explained that she really had no idea "She's a bit naive like that mate".

The whole scenario wouldn't happen today. I know people who've had telly stolen who have not even had a visit from the Police. I've no idea what the current protocol would have meant for the naive girlfriend. Probably the only person who may have been prosecuted would have been the bloke in Nan Clarke's Lane who overclaimed on his insurance.

The point I am making is that a real local police force can do things far more efficiently and cheaply than the model we have. We have no local police stations any more. I've frankly got no idea what we do if we find a purse. I'd presume we have to go to Colindale Police Station, which for many is a bus ride or possibly two from Mill Hill. If we have a neighbour behaving strangely, we could report them to the anti terrorist hotline. Poor old Gordon would doubtless find his door broken down and Lord knows what else done to him, before they realised he was simply mending light aircraft engines. Or maybe, he wouldn't have been reported? Would that have been better.

I've heard countless examples of the police saying that they don't have the resources. They have to stretch the number of PC's across the Borough and they can't do it on the money that us taxpayers see fit to allocate them.

I have thought long and hard about this. I've spoken to local Police as well as more senior Police who are friends. The Met actually have far more officers than in Charlies day. But whereas in Charlies day, the scenarios I outlined generated virtually no paperwork, these days, Charlie would have spent days writing reports on all of the things mentioned. The Met is flooded under a deluge of paperwork, forms, reports, etc. We pay a kings ransom to ensure that the Police are well trained, then we lumber them with a system whereby they are stuck behind desks filling in reports.

There is a reason for this. Because both the Conservative government and the Labour Mayor don't want to see the number of Police Officers fall as they chop and slash budgets, they have cut the number of back office admin staff. This means that Police Officers have to do many of the administration tasks that lower paid admin assistants etc previously did. An admin assistant may previously have been supporting five front line officers, meaning that each had 20% more time on the beat. That person was maybe paid 1/3 of what the officer was paid or even less. So every three of these that is cut, equates to a cut of nine officers in financial terms.

To summarise, the real cause of the policing crisis in the London Borough of Barnet is four fold.

1) Local officers are no longer integrated into the community, meaning that local intelligence is not gathered effectively and the bond of familiarity and trust that facilitates information sharing has been undermined.

2) Closure of local Police Stations has meant that we no longer see the Police as part of our High Street. We have no convenient way to report minor crime to a human being, who can reassure us or give in lost property.

3) We have deluged Police officers with paperwork. When they should be out catching criminals, they are stuck behind computer screens, filing reports.

4) We have removed the administrational support, meaning that highly paid and highly trained officers have to do menial tasks that are a complete waste of their capabilities.

I know that we can't go back to the 70's style of Policing in London, but there are lessons to be learned and the main one is that Police Officers have to be far more integrated into our community. We need to be far less "statistic driven". I'd welcome any guest blogs on this subject. I'd be especially happy to have on or off the record blogs from serving Police Officers. Am I right? Am I talking out of my backside?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Wednesday Poem #38 - St Valentines day (& My top tips to be a proper St Valentines day smoothy)

St Valentines Day

I'm not going text to say I love you,
I'm not going to play that part,
I'm not going to buy you cheap chocolates,
Warm Prosecco, cardboard hearts.

I'll leave all that tat for amatuers,
As our love has stood the test,
for all those years we've spent together,
I will only give the best.

Image result for St Valentines day
Are you an aspiring lothario? Do you have someone you want to woo? Do you want to really show them that you are a smoothie who knows how to make them purr! We'll here's my top tips for your date. Of course this strategy is only worth using on someone you really like.

1. Selecting a venue for the date.
I'd always recommend booking a nice restaurant, but meeting first for a drink. Far easier for either of you to do an off if needs be! It is always worth checking out your Beau's dietary requirements and making sure that they can cope. If they are a vegan or have food allergies this is absolutely vital. If you can ascertain that there is somewhere they really want to try out that is good. I'd recommend somewhere with easy access home after. If things go well, you don't want three hours waiting for a night bus, followed by a long journey. It is also well worth slipping the Matre De twenty quid and saying "There's another one for you at the end if it's good service. Consider it an investment. Valentines night is the busiest day of the year and you need to make sure you get good service.

2. When you meet.
This is what sets things off on the footing that you want the night to continue on.  I'd always recommend making sure you look as if you've made the effort. Haircut, nice shoes and nice any other item of clothing etc you might be hoping will be seen at some point in the evening. Always have a bath or shower first as well. There is nothing worse than a date with a nasty niff.  Don't give your beau a present. Give them three. Start with "I've got a little something as a surprise" Start with an expensive single Belgian Chocolate. Then say "And I've got something else". A small, tasteful item of Jewellery, should then be dispensed. Then say "And' I've something really special for later, which I hope you will really like".

3. At the Restaurant.
There are three things that are a guaranteed turn off. Firstly however much you drink, make sure that you are less drunk than your partner. Drunks are bores. Let your partner talk. And don't order Spagetti. It makes a right old mess of your clothes.

4. At the end of the evening.
Now this is the key to success (whatever that means). At the start of the evening, you said that you'd give a third present at the end of the evening. Have two envelopes ready. One in the left pocket for if the date was a disaster. A £10 gift voucher for M&S is a good gift and a note saying "Let's get a dine for two and we can share another wonderful night". If it was a disaster, it's cost a tenner and no real harm has been done and you can make a joke of it. In your right pocket, have a ticket for a weeks holiday in the Bahama's or somewhere equally nice depending on your taste and a note saying "I'd really love you to join me for this" (make sure the trip is refundable/changeable). Now that may seem a hellish extravegence, but if you've met someone who you really like and they really like you, just consider it an investment.

5. A couple of other tips!
After the meal, if it has gone really well get a Taxi home ASAP. Don't wait for a bus/tube etc. Don't go on to a casino afterwards. Casino's are full of people (at the start of the night) who are a bit bored with lots of cash. It may go horribly wrong. If your partner is considerably worse for wear with all the excitement and alcohol, don't take advantage of the situation, act with respect. Only creeps don't. If you get a thanks but no thanks at the end, that is fine. It's just the way life is sometimes. Don't be afraid to ask why. You probably won't get an honest answer, but you might and there may be a good lesson in there.

Of course, my list has assumed that you have a few spare quid to splash out. If you haven't, don't despair. Just cook the meal yourself and be creative. If you can't afford the trip to Bermuda, put a note saying "I'm working on getting some tickets to Bermuda, but in the meantime here's tickets to ...." and if you've done your homework, you'll have found a musical genre or show that will do. People love to be spoiled!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Vijay Patel RIP - My personal reflection on the community memorial service in Mill Hill

"The Lord works in mysterious ways".
This was something my mother, a wise lady of Irish ancestry would often say when tragic events, family crises and periods of great life stress resulted in family reconciliations, new friendships and a deeper wisdom of the daily struggle we call life.

On Saturday night, the local Mill Hill community came together with the wider family and friends of Mr Vijay Patel, the shopworker killed in Mill Hill Broadway. A memorial service and a gathering was held at the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill Broadway in memorial for Mr Patel. This event was something which resulted from a conversation between myself and Fr Michael McCullagh. In the immediate aftermath of Mr Patels tragic death, I felt that the Mill Hill community should do something to respectfully pay tribute to Mr Patel. I also felt that we should respond to the appeal for funds for Mr Patels family, who faced severe financial hardship as a result of the tragic events. As I am a member of the Parish Pastoral Council at The Sacred Heart Church and it is the nearest church to the shop where Mr Patel worked, this seemed the logical place to start. Fr Michael agreed that we should offer to host a "cross community event" and asked me to help him put it together.

Local faith leaders join together
As we reached out to members of the various communities and Mr Patel's family and friends and  I discussed with Fr Michael, we agreed that a short, multi faith service in the Church, with readings from various scriptures by members of faith communities would be most appropriate, so that people could properly pay their respects in a manner in keeping with their beliefs. We also agreed that the reception in the church hall should be a chance for the various communities to mingle and commemorate Vijay in a spirit of love and brotherhood.

We reached out to our contacts across the community and tried to have the widest community representation as possible, with the focus very much on us all being part of the same wider family of humanity. We were most heartened by the response from across all the groups we contacted.

I was delighted that the Mayor of Barnet was also able to attend along with Martin HC Russell, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, representing Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

As the memorial service drew nearer, I found myself worrying about all manner of aspects of what we had planned. Most of the worries were irrational and simply based on ensuring that we had covered all bases with cultural sensitivities etc. Perhaps my biggest worry was that enough people would turn out to ensure Mr Patel was given a fitting send off. As the memorial was pretty unprecedented in Mill Hill, we didn't know how many people to expect or cater for. We estimated that somewhere between 100-300 people would turn up.

Arriving at the church to check all of the preparations, greet people and show people who were unfamiliar with the church where the various facilities were, I was heartened as the church started to fill up. By the time the service was underway, the pews of the church were full with a diverse group of residents of Mill Hill, friends and family of Mr Patel. As it was about to start, we even had a large delivery of somosa's sent by the Day of The Raj takeaway, who said that although they couldn't attend they wanted to do their part and make sure no one was hungry at the reception afterwards.

For those that attended a booklet was produced, several people asked for an order of service to be printed here, for those who could not make it.

The order of service was as follows (This is from the draft booklet, apologies if there are any omissions etc, I was not taaking notes). Many people suggested that I published the prayers and readings on the blog, as their was a universal feeling that they were apt.

We began with an introduction by Fr Michael

Tonight we gather primarily as sisters and brothers mourning a brother who has died, sharing the same pain, offering words of comfort to Mr.Vijaykumar Patel’s family, praying to God, as we understand God in our lives, to bring healing to all who grieve deeply the death of someone they loved.

We begin with a reading from the Hebrew scriptures by a member of our local Jewish community,
A reading from the Hebrew scriptures by Harris Bard 
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster, their leaving us, like annihilation; but they are in peace. If they experienced punishment as men see it, their hope was rich with immortality; slight was their affliction, great will their blessing be. God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; They who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.  (Wisdom 3:1–6. 9)

We then recited a Psalm

The Lord is my Shepherd  

The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me rest.
Near still waters he leads me he refreshes my soul:
He shows me the right path he is true to his name.
His goodness shall follow me all the days of my life. 
I will walk in God’s kingdom forever 
Though I walk through the darkness no evil I fear:
With rod and with staff you comfort my soul;
You prepare me a banquet in the sight of my foes.
My head you’ve anointed my cup overflows.

Surely goodness shall follow me all the days of my life:
I will walk in God’s kingdom, the house of my Lord:
Singing praise to the father and praise to the son;
And praise to the Spirit forever AMEN.

A Reading from the Quran:

Mr Patels employer at Rota Express, who is a member of the local Muslim community then gave us the Scripture reading. 
 “To Allah (Almighty God) we belong, and to Him is our return.” (Qur'an 2:156)
"Multitudes of men have walked on the surface of this Earth. They all belonged to different nations and cultures. A few of them made history for which they were remembered, whereas others were never to be mentioned again. Although each one was personally different from another - their habits, thinking and tastes differed - they all had two (2) things in common, first, they were all delivered from their mother’s womb (birth) and second, they all tasted death. Who claims he has lived a thousand years?
Almighty God blesses us with all His gifts. The Sun gives us light during the day to help us see and it helps our crops grow so that we can eat. But the Sun also teaches us other things. The Almighty God causes the day to die with its setting and allows the night to take over, which is a time for rest. In this way, He may be showing us that all of us will eventually have to die just like the day.
And when the Sun rises in the morning again after our period of rest, it is as if Almighty God is telling us that we too will be raised to life after we have died. These are all signs of Almighty God to teach us to take care of our life."

We then had some reflective music, beautifully sung by Roz from the Sacred Heart musical group
I Watch The Sunrise

I Watch the Sunrise
I watch the sunrise lighting the sky,
Casting its shadows near.
And on this morning bright though it be,
I feel those shadows near me.
But you are always close to me
Following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
Following all your ways, Lord.
I watch the sunlight shine through the clouds,
Warming the earth below.
And at the mid-day, life seems to say:
I feel your brightness near me.
For you are always . . .
I watch the sunset fading away,
Lighting the clouds with sleep.
And as the evening closes its eyes,
I feel your presence near me.
For you are always . . .
I watch the moonlight guarding the night,
Waiting till morning comes.
The air is silent, earth is at rest
Only your peace is near me.
Yes, you are always...

A reflection by
Dr Shah
 Dr Shah spoke about Mr Patel, his life and his role in the community.
Followed by a Hindu prayer :
Dr Upma Prayer
Jai Shree Swaninarayan
Vijaybhai’s life and death have forced us to reflect on the meaning of life…..his life and ours.
This short prayer is from his ATMA (soul) to us and from our ATMAs (souls) to each other.
The prayer asks us to follow a path of friendship, righteousness and forgiveness to gain ultimate salvation or Moksh from this cycle of birth and rebirth.
Hun Sarvano mitra chhun                     
 - I am a friend to all
Badha mara mitra chhe                          - All are my friends
Koi man jeev paap na karo                    - May no one commit sin
Koi man jeev dukhi na thao                - May no one be unhappy
Baddha jeev sukhi thao                        - May all be happy
Badha niramay thao - May all be strong and free of disease
Koini saathe mare vair nathi - I have no enmity with anyone
Koi maro apradhi nathi - No one has wronged me
Sarvne dharmana sadhahni ni prapti thao - May all get the instruments to attain dharma or right path
Badha Dharma pamo -
- May all attain the path of right conduct
Darkni vair, virodh ane ashubh vruttio nash pamo   -
May all tendencies for enmity, grudges and wrong belief be quashed
Badhana raagdwesh sami jao - May all passions positive and negative be quelled
Badha parkna hit ma rakht bano - Be the life source for others benefit
Badhane samatv mahaamrutni prapti thao - May all attain the essence of truth equally
Badha jeev darshan, gnan and charitrani sadhanama khub khub aagal vadho - May all progress in the vision, knowledge and experience of the spiritual path
Sarve jeevo karmathi mukht thao - May all be free of Karma (positive or negative)
Sarve atmao parn kalyan ne pamo - May all souls attain the ultimate salvation or Moksh
Om               Shanti               Shanti         Shanti
Fr Stephen from St Michaels and All Angels Church then read a text from St Johns Gospel.
A Reflection on God’s love
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.  (John 3:1-3)

Fr Michael then lead us in a Moment of Quiet Reflection
followed by a poetry reading
For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Announcements and Word of Thanks 

Words from The Mayor 
 The first citizen of Barnet, Councillor Brian Salinger, gave a short address on behalf of the local council and local residents. He stated that whilst such events were rare, we seek to use such tragedy to help us make our community better
Closing words from Mr Ravilal Gorsia 
Mr Gorsia stood up and said some moving words, his theme was that all beliefs share the same basic morality and it is incumbent on us all to ensure that these values are kept alive and that we don't let materialism rule our lives to the extent that life becomes something of no value

Final Thank you from Fr. Michael: 
"Thank all of you for coming thanks to all for enriching our night in word and song.  Once more we offer our deepest sympathies to Mr. Patel’s family and we will continue to remember them in prayer.  Following our Hindu prayer for peace and our  hymn now we invite you to come to the hall for refreshments where Mr. Roger Tichborne, who thought first of bringing us all together will have a few words for us. "

There followed a Hindu Prayer for Peace. 

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the real
Oh God, lead us from darkness to light
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality
Shanti, Shanti Shanti unto all
Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in all celestial regions
May there be peace on earth,
May the waters be appeasing
May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all
May all beneficient beings bring peace to us
May thy Vedic Law propogate peace
All through the world
May all things be a source of peace to us
And may peace itself, bestow peace to su
And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all
and may that peace come to me also

Our musical team finished with a well known hymn.
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in you
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness ever joy
Oh, master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of your peace
It is in  pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving of ourselves that we receive
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

After the Service finished, we adjourned to the church hall for the reception. I spoke with members of all our local communities as well as Mr Patels family.  Everyone I spoke to had a great appreciation of the shared reflective moment. Many of those present had never set foot in the Sacred Heart previously, despite having lived in Mill Hill for years.

Many said they'd never heard the scriptures of the other faiths before. All said that it was clear that the basic morality behind all faiths is the same, to an extent that maybe they hadn't appreciated until they heard the readings side by side. After Mr Patels employer spoke during the church service, members of the community burst into applause. He had spoken of his genuine warmth and appreciation at the reaction of the people of Mill Hill to the what has happened. He said that he was overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity. It struck me as a mark of our community that a Muslim should be addressing a multi faith gathering in a Catholic Church, mourning a departed Hindu colleague in a moment of community solidarity. If only such things could happen everywhere in our world today.

Your Saving Grace
We should work for peace, we should treat everyone as our brothers and sisters, we should seek to raise our level of consciousness beyond simple material wealth and greed and we should cherish and protect our neighbourhood and our environment. We only have one planet. We can work to make it heaven or hell. We can treat our neighbours with warmth and friendship as brothers and sisters or we can treat them with fear and suspicion. We can treat our local environment as something we cherish, which delivers us food, drink and beauty or we can treat it like a toilet and watch it become an ugly, barren wasteland. The amazing community spirit I saw on show, convinced me that the our community wants to take the path of goodness. When I got home, I was exhausted. It had been a very long week. As I often do, when I need to relax, I sat down, lit a candle in a darkened room and looked for a suitable record from my vinyl collection to chill out to. The first record I pulled from the collection was "Your Saving Grace" by The Steve Miller Band. I stared at the album cover and probably spent two minutes just contemplating it. I've not listened to the album or looked at the cover for maybe 20 years. I simply meditated on the words "Your Saving Grace" and the artwork. A line from the title track formed in my mind. A tragic thing has happened in Mill Hill. We mourn. We must work as a community to build bridges and try and fix the problems that lead to such tragic events. I leave you with these lines, written by Tim Davis in 1969 from the album.

Rise up with the new dawn's early morning 
Feel the sunshine warm upon your face 
Tomorrow's come a long, long way to help you 
Yes, it's your saving grace

(Copyright Universal Music Group  - Tim Davis)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet - 11/02/2018

It's Sunday so it's the time for the Tweets of the Week

1. A recurring theme. The neglect of a grade II Listed building that is much loved by the Edgware community

2. And whilst we are in Edgware with Superfast72

3. Some holiday action for kids in Colindale maybe?

4. Before Brent Cross, there was Hendon Greyhound Track. Our historical tweet of the week

5. It's not too late to get down to the Claddagh Ring this Sunday for some late night live music!

6. Thanks to Twitter I now know that we have the worlds biggest bingo club in Cricklewood!

7. And I also found out that Finchley Lido was a venue for the 1948 Olympics. Sadly the Borough had none for the 2012 version

8. Long Lane Pasture is looking good!

9. Remember Mill Hill back in 1994?

10. Need some Music Practice in Mill Hill?

That's all folks!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Saturday List #164 - The most thought provoking endings in TV and film history

Image result for Derry Girls
Derry Girls
Have you been watching Derry Girls? The series about a group of unruly girls and an English boy at a Roman Catholic Convent school in Catholic "Free Derry" in the middle of the troubles? In my humble opinion it has been the best thing on TV for a long time. Very funny and very well observed, focusing on growing up in a completely warped, secretarian society, but behaving like teenagers everywhere. I missed the final episode, earlier in the week so I watched it on catch up last night. 

I was not prepared for the ending. It was a true masterpiece of TV. It was funny, but very thought provoking and quite shocking. I won't spoil it for you. I suggest you watch the whole series. It may take those less familiar with Irish history and accents a while to get into it, but it is worth it. 

Anyway, it got me thinking. I decided that it was a far better list than my prepared "Top Ten items of consumer packaging". So here we go, my top ten TV and Film endings. What are yours.

1. Derry Girls - * As described above *

2. Jacobs Ladder - Perhaps one of the strangest films. I was quite angry at the ending. It is brilliant but vary disturbing. Watch the film, don't read up on it. 

3. Last Cab to Darwin - This is an independent Australian film. It is an absolute masterpiece. Based on a true story, it really makes you think. It is all about a cab driver with terminal cancer who completes a 1,000 mile trip in his cab, picking up waifs and strays on the way, to the Northern Territories to take advantage of the newly passed assisted dying laws. It is difficult to find but can be downloaded.

4. Babylon - Independent British film about the Black community and sound system culture in Brixton in the late 1970's. It is a very gritty film and the ending certainly makes you think.

5. Alien - I can remember going to see Alien at the cinema. That was in the days when papers didn't print spoilers. Sigourney Weaver's performance is just awesome, perhaps the first proper female sci fi role model. I wish they'd just left it there. It was perfect. It is the best sci fi film ever made, but with all the sequels etc, its become rather silly and has diluted what was a masterpiece. I loved the way it finished, like the rest of the film clever. 

6. Easy Rider -  A classic film with a classic ending. The masterpiece of the blokes on motorbikes genre.

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark - What is for the most part a regulation Harrison Ford regulation romp has a truly masterful ending. Quite unexpected and you are jolted out of the jolly romp and leave thinking.....

8. Ashes to Ashes - The follow up to Life on Mars. This is where we learn the truth about DC Gene Hunt. Life on Mars was on of my favourite TV series ever. I loved Gene Hunt as the brash 1970's Northern Cop and Sam as the time travelling PC PC, oddly transported back in time. I felt that Ashes to Ashes was not really cutting the mustard, until the finale. Then it all made sense (almost).

9. Planet of the Apes (1968 version) - another one they should have left alone after making a masterpiece. I can remember seeing this at the cinema in around 1973 with my mates (I think at Burnt Oak Cinema). We all came out in silence and then had an animated discussion on the 140 bus back to Mill Hill. If you've not seen the film and don't know the ending, make the effort. 

10. The Sopranos - I have never quite decided whether the ending was brilliant, a cop our or both. It certainly has made me think. A brilliant series, it was certainly not the finale I expected. 

What are yours?