Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Big Barnet Story! Do you have a chapter

Here is some exciting news for you. The Barnet Eye has been working with the other Barnet bloggers and community campaigners on an exciting secret project. Unfortunately, I can't say too much more about it right now, but I can say this. We are looking for stories to tell in our community. We believe that our wonderful local community is being failed by our local council and by Capita, the contractors who they have sold the running of services to. On Monday night, many residents attended that Capita Service review at Hendon Town Hall. These were not what local Tories refer to as "The Usual Suspects". They were ordinary people, outraged at how local people are being ridden roughshod over by Capita's planning department. Local concerns are ignored in favour of rich developers and vested interest. Local democracy and accountability appear to be dead. We have identified various themes where there are recurring horror stories. These are

* The lack of democracy in Barnet as a result of Capita outsourcing. The removal of democratic control and the end of proper oversight of Council services. Local resident John Dix outlined the issues around this back in 2014. Everything he said inthis interview with The Barnet Eye has been proven to be correct

* Housing - Social cleansing of less well off tenants, towers clad in flamable panels and a chronic shortage of homes for families.

* Libaries - The Council has embarked on a massive program of cost cutting and closure by stealth. In Mill Hill, the Childrens Library has been cut and local people forced to step up and save the remaining bits, running the place in their precious spare time.
* Adult Social Care - We've have ten years of cuts, closure of services for disabled and vulnerable people, hiking of charges (even for things as trivial as coffee and biscuits at day centres), withdrawal of transport for the diabled and vulnerable, withdrawal of wardens from sheltered accomodation and a general decline in service standards. This video from 2012 shows a local resident discussing why he was forced to launch a legal challenge on behalf of his disabled daughter opposing changes to adult social care. Sadly the situation has not improved as a result of Capita.

* Cemeteries - Maintenance of Cemetaries has been outsourced to Capita and cemeteries that were previously kept in an immaculate state are now looking untidy and unkempt.


* High Streets - The council and its contractors declared war on our High Streets and retailers in 2011 by abolisshing Pay and Display parking. This lead to a slump in takings for many business, sadly most of which are no longer with us. This is well documented.  More recently this has extended to aggressive use of bailiffs for minor delays in paying business rates and now we are seeing what appears to be aggressive tactics regarding waste removal. I spoke to a local trader who recieved a demand for £400 for fly tipping, which was apparently withdrawn by the council when the trader asked the council to provide evidence. This video from 2012 shows the anger of traders in North Finchley at the parking changes. Most of the traders seen in this video have since closed down
* Roads - Do you have a favourite pothole? Barnets roads, despite huge payments to contractors, are still riddled with Potholes. My road was resurfaced recently, however this is already crumbling. This is being reported all over Barnet.

These are just a few of the themes we've identified. Barnet is a big story. I went for lunch yesterday with a friend who is a Conservative Councillor in Wellingborough Town Council. They have recently been rated as excellent in an audit. I asked whether they were going down the Capita outsourcing route. He said that in the view of their council that would be bonkers. If anyone suggests it, he simply refers them to the Barnet blogs and points them at a few choice stories. This is not ideological. It is not anti Conservative. It is as simple as the fact that the Barnet Conservatives who brought this all in are simply not very good at running a council. We need a change. We either need the Conservatives to get real and dump these expensive contractors (did you know that if Capita identify a saving to the council, they are entitled to a cash payment  of a percentage of the saving under the gainshare scheme). If the local Conservatives won't see sense (as Wellingborough have), then we need a new council after the elections next year. It is as simple as that.

To make this happen, we need to identify the whole Big Barnet Story. Do you have a chapter of this story? If so please get in touch.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Pentavia retail park development - A suitable place for high rise towers?

There is currently a plan to build a series of 12 storey flats on the site of Pentavia Retail Park. Having had a tragic reminder of the importance of fire safety in regards to high rise dwellings, maybe we should have another look at this proposal. We have to ask whether or not the concept of high density accomodation in a place which is often gridlocked by traffic is really such a good idea. I daresay builders will say "they will be built to the highest standards", but they always do, don't they. I am sure that the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was done to the "highest standard" and I am sure that the companies that did the work "conformed with building regulations". The trouble with all of this is the unforseen. Sometimes it is only when such a tragedy occurs that anyone actually realises that there is more to safety than just "following the rules". How any of us are guilty  of taking batteries out of fire alarms as they cheep at night and keep us awake? How many of us actually check the fire resistance of the sofa's we install in our homes or the fire safety of the clothes we wear? A few years ago, a friend asked us around for a fireworks party on November the 5th. Just before it started, he remembered he had 60 gallons of petrol in cans behind his shed. People do strange things. It may not be you, it may be your neighbour. The bloke in the flat below you might be constructing a bomb, may be depressed and delosional, may have left the gas on, who knows. What we do know is that if you are in the flat above this, then you are at danger.

The fire safety advice is to "stay where you are" until the Fire Brigade arrive. But what if all of the local roads are gridlocked? The two proposed accesses to the flats are the A1 and Bunns Lane. Both are gridlocked every day during rush hour. They say every second counts in a fire. When you have hundreds of people in a flat, the risks are huge. These incidents are always "unforeseeable" until they happen according to officials. There are usually a large swathe of people who say "we've been saying for years it's a death trap". The worst thing in the world is to see a disaster and be able to say "I told you so".

Last night, I was discussing the Grenfell fire with my bandmates during a gap in rehearsals. One said "It all comes down to Margaret Thatcher" and it is true. Thatcher ushered in the age of deregulation and ended the concept of joined up decision making. Her ethos was that the "market knows best". Her view was that rampant capitalism would raise all our living standards as competition would drive down the cost of good and we'd all have more stuff. One of the mantra's of the post Thatcher settlement is that "red tape and health and safety regulations add to business costs". Of course they do. But they also guarantee that we sleep safe and sound in our beds. To enusre maximum profits for property developers, wider issues cannot legally be considered as a reason for refusing a planning application. The council cannot turn down skyscrapers on the grounds that at certain times of day, traffic gridlock elsewhere means that the fire engines won't arrive in time. Dozens of engines from all over London arrived at the Grenfell Tower. How on earth could this happen at Pentavia in rush hour.

Someone somewhere will make a lot of money, should the high rise Pentavia development occur. Lets hope it isn't the residents who pay the ultimate price.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Jesterfest community Festival this Saturday at Fortune Green featuring The False Dots - Onstage 1.45pm

The False Dots
Do you fancy some fun this weekend? Why not nip down to Fortune Green in West Hampstead to enjoy Jesterfest. There is all sorts of fun for all of the family and there is no admission fee! Fortune Green is the the park that you pass on your right, as you pass down West End Lane from The Finchley Road, just before the Fish and Chip Shop. Jesterfest is a community festival and this is the 45th Year! It promises to be a great day out for everyone. Best of all, if you come down on Saturday at 1.45pm you can watch my band, The False Dots and say Hi afterwards! Here's the full details.

The annual Fortune Green Jester Festival offers two days of fun for all the family.
​Entry is free and so are many of the activities.

There will be a wonderful and varied line-up of stage performances as well as a great variety of stalls: including arts & crafts, charities, local community organisations, bric-à-brac, books, homemade baked goods, potted plants and herbs, and mouth-watering international fare.  

For the children there are lots of exciting activities going on over the weekend: several open sports events, a traditional funfair, a climbing wall, various arts projects, and an under 6 Kids Tent with storytelling and art.

Last, but not least our popular Raffle and Silent Auction with great prizes and goodies donated by local businesses.


Saturday
12:00      Festival opens with DJ
12:30      The Elderly Brothers : 60s Band
1:00        Mayor of Camden, Councillor Richard Cotton
1:30        Cricklerock Street Dance

1:45        False Dots : Mill Hill's finest band featuring Rog T
2:30        Gillian Winn: West Hampstead School of Dance
3:30        Doctor Schwamp : Eclectic Musical Mayhem
5:00        Mr Meaner : Rock 'n Roll
6:00        Festival closes with DJ
Sunday
 12:00      Festival opens with DJ
12:30      Studio Society : Children's Zumba
1:00        Joli Blon : Cajun Band
​2:00        Spencer Stage School
2:30        Sister Cookie : R
hythm & Blues / Soul
3:00        
Hampstead School Choir
​3:30        Chamegeddon : Belly Dancing Troupe

3:45        The Bad Breed : Twisted Rock 'n Roll
4:30        Raffle Draw - Announcements
​5:00        Shout Sister Shout : Rockin' Rhythm 'n Blues 
 6:00        Festival closes with DJ
There are all manner of stalls as well

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Mill Hill Music Festival 2017 - That's All Folks!

So it's Sunday Morning. All that is left to do is tidy up, unload the vans and put the bunting away for a couple of years. Nine hectic days, Ten great events, over 1,500 people attended the festival in total. Last night we finished with Alan Warner and friends at The Adam and Eve. It was a great party. Alan lined up a rather special treat. He augmented his usual band with Simon Aldridge from Edison Lighthouse on drums. Simon is a multi talented player, as he's usually seen on guitar! This had the added bonus of getting a rousing rendition of "Love grows where my Rosemary goes"! Alan touchingly dedicated "Baby, Now that I've found you" to Clem Curtis, his former bandmate in the Foundations, who passed away recently. The set finished with the Foundations biggest global hit "Build me up Buttercup".  Alan has been a longtime supporter of the festival and it was only fitting that he closed it. Everyone went home happy!

Here's a selection of some of  tweets from the various events, giving a flavour of what we've been doing all week!











Sadly that's it, hope to see all of you at the next festival in 2019.It has been a great nine days. Artistically, I think it was perhaps the best festival ever (although I always seem to think that). Numbers have been good and we've paid all our bills, which is what you want to do with a not for profit festival. We actually had a little bit of a surplus, so we've bought some more lighting equipment, some more staging and a few bits and bobs. The surplus from the 2015 festival allowed us to print more leaflets and pay for a delivery drop to NW7 and we'll be able to do this again.

Finally a special thank you to everyone who helped especially,

The Festival Committee
Clare Tichborne,
Dan Bleich,
Gerry Keane,
Brian Peerless,
Lesley Evans,
Lucia Carabine,
Sarah Bourne,
Cllr Joan Scannell BEM,

And our great team of helpers
Jenni Bond,
Gordon & Val O'Doherty,
Paul Semple,
Paul Amsterdam,
Steve & Yvonne Davis,
Umary Bleich,
Matthew Tichborne,
Fil Ross,
Darren O'Reilly,
Paul Amsterdam,
Stuart Waterman


And
Gillian and Peter at Hartley Hall
Andy, Marcus and Jules, the team at Mill Hill Wines who ran our ticket office
David and Martin and all the team at Mill Hill Golf Club
Paulo and all the team at The Adam and Eve
Gerry and Lorraine and everyone at Mill Hill Synagogue
The staff at Mill Hill Music Complex
Ray at Balls London Motor Cycle club for loan of the van
Vince Cooper for the PA at The Silencerz

And all of the artists and bands who performed

The Hendon Band of the Salvation Army,
Emily Lee,
Mick Jaguar,
The BBC Elstree Concert Band
Enrico Tomasso Quartet
Balalaika and Friends
The Pop-Up Opera Company
Kevin Fitzsimmonds and Band
Robert Fowler and his band
Recollection
The Silencerz and Lee Thompson
Alan Warner and Friends

And a very special word of thanks to our Patron Lady Marina Hobson MBE for all of the support.

And finally everyone who came along. Thanks for your amazing support
12XU

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Saturday List #135 - My Bucket list aged Eight and Eleven Twelfths!

I was serously thinking about what was the happiest month of my life. I'm not entirely sure, because I didn't write it down, but I'd guess that Late July-August 1971 would be up there. I was eight and eleven twelfths. Don't get me wrong, life had its challenges, but my mum was recovering well from an operation for what we were told was a "terminal cancer" (she passed in 2008 aged 83). It was the summer holidays and every year I'd go away with my Dad whilst Mum stayed at home and made sure the family business ran smoothly. I was quite a happy kid then, hadn't quite hit teenage angst. Back in 1971, we didn't have bucket lists, but if we did what would have been on it. Here's a list of some of the things I really hankered after. I spent most of the summer playing in my back garden with my best friends Ricky and Luke who lived next door. We used to build dens, play with cardboard boxes, we had a large paddling pool that would be out all summer if it was hot, we had two other games. One was Barricades of war which involved building dens out of iron and bombarding them with clods of dried clay (often with Luke inside). The purpose was to build an indestuctable den. The other game was Monte Carlo Rally. This was our take on the famous car race. However it didn't involve cars. It involved hurtling around the garden, and skidding on the wet mudded area. All of the time we'd give off a commentary, rather like you got on F1 racing. That stopped when, against our advice , Luke chose a Ford Anglia as his rally car and unfortunately fell head first down a muddy hole, in his brand new coat. His mum banned any mention of Monte Carlo Rally after that.

I wondered what my bucket list would be then. It was mostly a list of super cool toys!

Image result for Hornby Blue Pullman set
The Blue Pulllman set
1. Own the Blue Midland Pullman Hornby Train set. This used to thunder past the bottom of my garden as a kid and was the coolest train on the railway. I wasn't into steam engines. These were the future. Recently I read up on them and the design was really rather unsuccessful and they were scrapped as quickly as possible by BR in the seventies, when they decided that uniformity was the best way to save money. No more luxury. Quite criminal really! Sadly this was an ambition I never got. Mum said it was "too expensive" so I got a cheap rubbish set instead. I think I'm too old now!

Image result for Concorde
Concorde
2. A flight on Concorde to New York. This was the future. My Dad vaguely knew the test pilot. He always wanted to fly on it. IT sounded brilliant. I too found the concept of a supersonic passenger plane amazing. We all believed that New York was some sort of mega city in the early 1970's, it always seemed like another world in the early 1970's when it had scyscrapers and we had Terraced houses. American shows always showed the skyscrapers of the New York. The cars were bigger and the Yanks seemed to have many far cooler things, comics, Bubblegum and donuts. I made it there, but not on Concorde, that is a dream I'll never fulfill now.

Image result for scalextric sets 1960
Scalextrix
3. Own a Scalextrix set. This was another mega cool toy, which my Mum said was "too expensive", She used to send me "around to the Fannings" as they had one. Generally though, they never let me play with it, as all of the Fanning boys were older than me. I just used to watch in seething resentment and hope a few of them would go away. Whenever I did play with it I was rubbish, as I'd never got the track time! This yearning got worse when my sister moved to Silverstone to a teaching job. Her road was actually called "Graham Hill", Not sure whether it was after the champion driver. Never achieved this ambition.

Image result for dinky ufo interceptor
UFO Interceptor
4. Own a Dinky UFO Interceptor. I was obsessed with the series UFO. My sister was living in Northampton and itw as being shown in Central TV area, but not London. I saw one episode on a visit and was hooked. All of my mates said I was "lost in space". It was true, I became obsessed. I bought a telescope and would spend hours scouring the night skies. I built up a huge fantasy world in my head around the subject. These days they'd probably say it was unhealthy. I got one of these and it was my pride and joy. The problem was everyone lost the missile!

Image result for dinky James Bond DB6
James Bond DB6
5.  Own a Dinky James Bond DB6 car with an ejector seat. This was one of only three vehicles I've ever truly wanted to own. James Bond was the man. It may amuse many of you, especially my female friends, that I truly believed that the way to be successful with women was to be as like James Bond (circa Roger Moore period) as possible. I always thought Moore was the man. I saw having a DB6 wth an ejector seat as a key part of this appeal. Of course at 8 11/12ths I wasn't really that interested in girls, but I did realise that if I had a DB6, everyone would be very jealous of me. I also liked the machine guns, spinning number plates, smokescreen and oil slick. And you'll be pleased to know I eventually got one. A dinky model that is.

Image result for Action Man Mercury rocket capsule
Action Man Space Capsule
6. Own an Action Man Mercury Rocket Capsule. As I mentioned above, I was obsessed with space. Whilst my mates generally liked playing "lets kill Germans" with Action Man (any surprise we voted #Brexit), I was obsessed with the space toys he had. I nagged my parents mercilessly, but they said it was "too expensive". Fortunately Fr Traynor, a local priest and good friend of my Dad, took pity on me and bought me the Action Man Rocket Capsule for my birthday (he was a lovely guy and also took me to see the first Star Wars film. Unlike many, my experience of the RC clergy was incredibly positive and I hold the ones I know in the highest respect). I loved it. In 1970 my parents had a kitchen extension. This gave us a first floor balcony. With Ricky and Luke, we built a Space Station out of a cardboard box. We had a game where we'd go on the balcony with the space station and the Action Man rocket capsule on Fishing Rods and practise docking manouveres. One would hold the space station fishing rod, the other the Mercury and the third would sit in the kitchen and watch through the window, pretending it was the big screen at NASA, I suspect and shout instructions through a Tin can walkie talkie we'd made. I suspect that generally I was Luke in mission control.  He was the best at a fake American accent. So this was one I could tick off.

7. Get a dog. Every 8 & 11 month kid wants a pet. I wanted a Dog. My mum said it was too much trouble. We finally got one when I turned 13 and got a paper round. I told my mum I'd walk it every day. I did. He was a Beagle called Bruce. To this day I've always loved dogs & have had one for years.

8. Have a pond. As well as Space I was obsessed with water. I started to dig a pond aged about nine. I didn't want my mum to know so I disgused it, planning to tell her when it was finished. Sadly it was so well disguised, she fell in it and broke her ankle. I managed to persuade my Dad not to murder me by saying it was a trap for burglars. Suddenly his anger was replaced by admiration for my work. He said that all such future traps had to be signed off with him and mum in advance. I now own a pond.

9. Eat a cooked Fray Bentos pie in my hut, with Ricky and Luke. This may seem a modest ambition, but I was obsessed with Fray Bentos pies. I was clearly susceptible to advertising. I believed that Fray Bentos Pies would make me a man. I believed that as they were mans food they should be eaten in the den at the bottom of the garden. I believed that as Ricky and Luke were my best friends, they too would benefit from this. I suspect that everyone thought I was seriously nuts. My mum gave in on this to shut me up. Bad move, I became addicted. The truth however is they work! Myself, Ricky and Luke all grew up to be men.  Watch this commercial below to see how all this trouble started.


Image result for fresh pineapple
Fresh Pineapples
10. And finally. This one may perplex you. When I was eight years and eleven months, the thing I wanted most, but never got was a fresh pineapple. Every time we'd walk past the greengrocers, I'd ask my mum for one. But she always refused as they were "too messy". She'd only buy pineapple chunks. This annoyed me. I came up with a cunning plan to save my pocket money and buy one for myself. On the day, in an act of supreme spite, my sister Caroline told my mum of my plan to buy a "real pineapple" with my pocket money. My mum said "I'm going to the shops, give me the money and I'll get you one". She returned with a tin of pineapple chunks and a bad of sweets. I went mental. This persuaded my mother to take me to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist insisted that under no circumstances must I be given a real pineapple as this would reinforce the bad behaviour. Oh, they also gave me some medication, valium I believe,  that turned me into a zombie like presence. My Dad insisted I stop taking them. About a year later, my Dad took me out, bought a real pineapple and we ate it in the park, whilst he slurped a tin of long life beer and I drunk a tin of shandy. He said "Roger, the best thing in life is doing things you are not supposed to, if they don't hurt anyone". After we'd finished, he said "Son, was it really worth all of that trouble over a bloody pineapple?". I said "Yes, I think it was, it was great". To this day eating a pineapple gives me a buzz only surpassed by sex, playing the guitar and scoring a goal. Whatever that psychiatrist was hoping to suppress, he failed miserably!

And that, my friends, was my bucket list aged 8 and 11 months (possibly give or take a year on either side).