Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Saturday List #127 - 10 dates for new Bank Holidays

There has been much ridicule in the press of Jeremy Corbyns suggestion for four new bank Holidays. I hadn't realised that Jeremy Corbyns suggestion was to celebrate the four patron saints of England, Wales Scotland and Ireland. For me, this completely changes the dynamics of the suggestion. I think it is a great idea as it would help us all to become more aware of the other parts of the Union. But are these the best dates? I thought that maybe we need a full list of all potential bank holidays, so we could perhaps have and informed discussion. Let's start with Jezza's then move on to Rogs!

My view is that we need a couple more. We should do a 4 year cycle of the national days and have one in the Autumn and maybe one in late June or Early July.

1. St George's day - April 23rd. A great suggestion for the English, I firmly believe this should be a public holiday in England. Not quite sure how the Scots and The Irish would take to it though.

2. St Patricks Day - March 17th. As someone of Irish Heritage, I always celebrate this, usually with a few pints of Guinness and an Irish band (ideally the Pogues). However, knowing Irish culture, maybe March the 18th would be a better day, so we can all recover from our hangover.

3. St Davids Day - 1st March. Celebrated in Wales with Daffodils and leeks. Not quite sure whether this will catch on in London. It would be good to know a bit more about our Welsh brothers though, so maybe with a bit of thought it could catch on.

4. St Andrews Day - 30th November. There are two great reasons for this one. Firstly it is in November, which is in the middle of a bank holiday drought, which starts at the end of August and only finishes at Xmas. As well as Scotland, St Andrew is the patron saint of  CyprusGreece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, BulgariaSan Andres Island, Colombia, Saint Andrew, Barbados and Tenerife.  This means that a whole bunch of different cultures can be covered.

5. Armistice Day - 11th November. I think it is a national scandal that Armistice day is not a bank holiday and day of national mourning. I firmly believe that we need reminding of this. If  ever I was Prime Minister, I'd pass a law that EVERY TV station and radio station covered the Remembrance Sunday service and observed the two minutes silence.  It really is the least we should do.

6. World Cup Day -  30th July.  We are bad at celebrating National Achievements. What greater sporting achievement is there than Englands victory in the World Cup. Of course, the Scots don't really celebrate that. I suppose it could be a day of mourning up there.

7. Bob Marley Day - 6th Feb - We don't have a day that celebrates the joy of music, the many cultures that make up our country, the huge contribution of the Commonwealth and the history of people coming to the UK and chaning the world. Bob Marley is such a man. I can think of no one more deserving.

8. Winston Churchill Day -  30th November (his Birthday).  Churchill is the greatest Prime Minister ever. He saved the world from the evil scourge of Nazism. There should be no argument about this at all. Same day as St Andrews day, but I'm sure the Scots wouldn't mind!

Amy Johnson portrait.jpg
Amy Johnson
9. Amy Johnson day - 1st July (her anniversary). What better day could we have than a day to celebrate a fearless woman who showed that there really are no boundaries to what can be achieved if you are prepared to try. Everyone in the country should know the tragic story of Amy Johnson.

10. Brunel Day - 15th September (his anniverary). One of the things the UK should celebrate, but doesn't is our amazing engineers. Of these Isambard Kingdom Brunel is perhaps the greatest. As far as I'm concerned, they should teach children about the achievements of engineers such as Brunel, Frank Whittle and scientists such as Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin, rather than Kings and Queens who lived it up at the expense of the ordinary people in history.

 So you may wonder. What are my choices. I'd be happy to celebrate any of them, but if I had to pick two, it would be Amy Johnson day in July and Armistice day in November. Both should be commemorated and both are at times when there are not normally holidays, so we could all do with a break. Personally I'd move May 1st to Amy Johnson day. I know it is an iconic day in the Labour movement, but there are just so many bank holidays around April/May. We could do with a break when the weather is warmer and we could appreciate it more. What do you think?

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Friday Joke 28/04/2017 - The Queen and Donald Trump

During his visit to London, Donald Trump met with Queen Elizabeth.  
He asked, "Your Majesty, how do you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give me?"
"Well," replied the Queen, "the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people."
Donald frowned, and then asked, "But how do I know the people around me are really intelligent?"
The Queen took a sip of tea and said, "Oh, that's easy Donald. You just ask them to answer a riddle."
Seeing the puzzled look on Donald’s face, the Queen said, “Let me demonstrate it for you.”
The Queen pushed a button on her intercom and said, "Please send in Theresa May."
Theresa walked into the room and said, "Yes, you’re Majesty?"
The Queen smiled and said, "Answer me this, Theresa. Your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?"
Theresa answered, "That would be me."
"Yes! Very good," said the Queen.
Donald returned to the White House and asked Mike Pence the same question. "Mike, I want you to answer this riddle. Your mother and your father have a child. It's not your brother and it's not your sister. Who is it?"
"I'm not sure," said Mike. "Let me get back to you on that one." He phoned around all of Trumps appointments, cabinet and friends and asked everyone, but none could give him an answer.
The next evening Mike and his wife were dining at a fancy restaurant when he noticed Hillary Clinton dining with Bill. Thinking he might be able to get an answer to his conundrum, Mike walked over to her table and asked, “Hillary, can you answer a riddle for me? Your mother and father have a child and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?"
Hillary answered, "That's easy, and it’s me!"
Mike smiled and said, "Thanks!"
After dinner Mike returned to the White House and met with Donald. Mike said, “I did some research and I found the answer to the riddle.”
Donald said, “Fantastic. So, what is the answer?”
Mike replied, “It's Hillary Cinton!"
Donald yelled, “No, you idiot! It's Theresa May!"
. . . And that, my friends, is what is going on at the White House.

Have a great weekend

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum AGM

Last nightI attended the AGM of the Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum at Hartley Hall. The chairman John Gillet gave a fascinating presentation detailing the various plans and schemes involving the redevelopment of Mill Hill. This lasted over an hour and as it progressed, it became crystal clear jist how much the nature and character of Mill Hill is under attack. Mill Hill is a leafy suburb, much of it covered by Green Belt and Conservation areas. We have several landmark buildings and in the University of London Observatory, a world class scientific institution.

He outlined how two massive schemes are with the Mayor of London for determination as to whether they are detrimental to the local area. John showed a series of slides which graphically demonstrated the sacle of this. Have a look at them.

It is important to engage in your local community. Find out more about The Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum here -

This is the only way we can preserve the character of our homes.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Restore the bursary for student nurses now!

The Labour Party has announced that it intends to restore the bursary paid to student nurses. The Barnet Eye totally agrees with this policy and thinks it is scandalous that it was ever abolished. Lumbering nurses with huge debts, given the role that they play in the health and wellbeing of the nation is immoral. Not only that, it is short sighted. The NHS already relies on immigrant Labour to function and financially penalising young people keen to work in a caring profession will only make this skills shortage worse. Personally, I believe we should return to a full grant for all students, because in the 21st Century the UK can only succeed with a well educated and intelligent workforce. This is investment in the future, not simply throwing money down a black hole (like some public spending such as allowances for Barnet Councillors at £1 Million a year and the Garden Bridge at nearly two hundred million).

Sooner or later we will all need nurses. I personally want the people who care for me as I lay dying to be valued and respect members of society, not debt straddled wage slaves, struggling to get by. It is simply called basic decency.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The great HS2 Rip Off and how the the Conservative government guarantee profits for private monopolies

The Evenimng Standard is reporting that there has been an outcry as the French Government owned operator SNCF has tabled a bid to run the HS2 service when it has been built (with UK Taxpayers money). Union leaders are furious that the taxpayer has paid to build the line, but the French taxpayers will reap the profits. Whilst I find this proposition ridiculous, there is another scandal that the Standard and the Unions have missed altogether. It appears that HS2 and the existing West Coast franchise are going to all be rolled up into one big franchise. One of the attractions for me of the HS2 service was that it offered the prospect of more competition on the London to Birmingham route. This is one of the busiest services and by splitting the two routes, I saw the possibility of competition forcing down prices of fast train travel between the two cities. Whilst the HS2 services would undoubtedly be faster, trains running over the existing route are not slow and for many people, savings on fares would be a price worth paying for a few extra minutes. This would force the HS2 route to also sharpen up its act. However by rolling the whole lot up into one franchise, the lucky winner will be able to rig the prices so the taxpaying commuters, who paid for the line to be built, have to stump up a premium fare.

This is not completely unprecedented. In May 2003, there was a huge refurbishment of the existing West Coast railway. For a period of eighteen months, there were very limited routes over the line to Manchester. The rail regulator realised that this would be bad for Britain, so they made the then operator of the Midland Mainline service, from St Pancras, to set up a direct service from St Pancras to Manchester.  This lasted until September 2004. This service proved popular, especially in the East Midlands, where many people appreciated a direct service to Manchester. However despite the fact that this service could be accomodated, offered the prospect of competition on the route and was popular, the rail regulator insisted it was closed down at the end of the engineering works. There was never the slightest chance that having seen there was a potential for a better deal for passengers, a rival service would be allowed to flourish. The reason? Rail Franchises are nice little earners. They are not designed to improve the lot of passengers. They are designed to make big profits for operators. If passengers decided it was worth an extra half an hour on the train to save a decent amount of cash, then that would be no good at all, would it? If that started to happen, dodgy operators would have to start upping their game.

Let me give you an example. I took two journeys of similar distance. London to Iswich and London to Bedford, leaving at 6pm today. The cheapest ticket on the Trainline to Ipswich  was £49.20 and it takes 1hour and 11 mins. The journey London to Bedford takes 57 minutes and costs £23.60. Why is a journey taking only 14 minutes longer more than twice the cost? It may seem puzzling until you realsie that on the Ipswich route, there is only one operator. That is Greater Anglia. On the London to Bedford route, there are two operators, Thameslink and East Midlands Trains. It is clear that if there is competition, prices are lower. An even starker example is the cost of a train from St Pancras to Wellingborough. This is the next stop up the line from Bedford, but is only served by East Midlands trains. For that extra hop, the cost rises to £57.00. If you were to buy two tickets, one from London to Bedford it's £23.60. The ticket from Bedford to Wellingborough is a mere £10.50, realising a saving of nearly £23.

This whole mad system is a product of a Conservative obsession with privatisation. Does this serve the passengers or the rich companies? Clearly not. However because they couldn't possibly admit that British Rail, a nationalised entity, could be better value, we are forced to pay through the nose to subsidise companies owned by foreign governments. The Tories may preach Brexit, but they are happy to sell the crown jewels!

Monday, 24 April 2017


We have some exciting news.  The Barnet Eye has been asked to help arrange artists and promote  two great local music festivals! We are also helping to promote a third one, so check out the details below for details of some great music happening in our own little corner of London! ( And don't forget that if you are an artist, rehearsals are the key to success.Visit the Mill Hill Music Complex site to Book Now! - Mill Hill Music Complex are sponsoring all three events)

#Save London Music! #KeepMusicLive

North Finchley Festival

The North Finchley Festival is happening on Sat 20st and Sun 21st of May. Venues involved are The Bohemia, The Elephants Head, Cafe Buzz, M's, Chix Chox and Toolins. The cafe/bar places are looking for solo and duo's who are appropriate for a cafe environment. The pubs are looking for suitable bands, who have a bit of a track record of playing local venues. The organisers are hopingto relaunch North Finchley as a go to music destination (may of us remember The Torrington as a well established London pub rock venue)
Please provide name of band/artist, style of music, cocial media links, list of gigs played, number of performers, set length and style of music. And keep an eye out for full details, which will be announced shortly.

Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum Summer Festival in Mill Hill Broadway

Save the date for the Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum, Mill Hill Summer Festival on Friday 16 June and Saturday 17 June. Mill Hill town centre will be celebrating summer with live music, entertainment, a food and gift market, and a buzzing bar!
Mill Hill Music Complex is organising artists for the stage, so please contact them via their website if you are interested in playing. Must be suitable for a mixed age family audience. Expenses will be paid.
Also, please get in touch for more information about becoming a stallholder at this and other Mill Hill town centre events.
For more information contact Osita Udenson at Vibe Markets 

The 12th Mill Hill Music Festival

June 16th-24th sees the return of the bi-annual Mill Hill Music Festival. We've got all of the artists now lined up and there will be some great gigs over the nine days of the Festival.
As always we will have a selection of Later@ evenings at local pubs and a fantastic evening of rock and roll classics from Recollection and our headline ska band, The Silencerz featuring Lee Thompson of Madness fame at Mill Hill Golf Club on Friday 23rd June. Mill Hill. We also have local legend Alan Warner, from the Foundations at the Adam and Eve on Saturday 24th, which is Free Entry.

Who says weak leaders are such a bad thing?

One of  Theresa May and the Conservatives main charges against Jeremy Corbyn is that hes a "weak leader". May claims she needs a strong mandate to negotiate a good Brexit deal and she needs to do this from a position of strength. What is interesting is that no one seems to be challengig the basic premise that strong leaders are a good thing. I see no clear evidence to support this, certainly not in peacetime and in relation to complex, civilised negotiations. There is a stack of evidence to show that nations do better with weak leadership and government by consensus. This rather inconvenient fact is one of the most overlooked. There are dozens of examples and stacks of evidence that if you want your country to do well, you have weak leaders and political systems that involve bargaining and horse trading. Look at the USA. The founding fathers built so many checks and balances into place that it is virtually impossible for the president to do anything. Donald Trump is finding this out in rather short order. You can win the President Election, become the most powerful man on the planet, but you can't make the judge pass your travel ban, or make your congress pass your healthcare bill.  President Obama spent years getting the legislation through. Has this stopped the States becoming the richest and most powerful nation on the planet? Nope. The 20th Century was an American century. Over the course of the century, America faced down a whole host of all powerful leaders, Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin, Mao to name but a few.

The USA is not alone in benefitting from weak government. Who is the most powerful European leader? Surely Angela Merkel. She has lead a coalition government since 2005. Has the German economy floundered and have the German people suffered? Not as far as I can see. At the same time, we have Vladimir Putin in Russia. Here we have a strong man who has little effective opposition. Has this meant the Russian economy done well? No, it is in dire straights, propped up by Russia's massive natural resources. Have they done well in negotiaitions on difficult issues? No, Russia suffers sanctions.

In Belgium, there was a lengthy period where there was no government at all. Did the economy grind to a halt? Nope, in fact it went from strength to strength. As to the EU negotiations. If Theresa May thinks having a pliant parliament is an assett, she knows nothing about negotiations. If the EU think she has control of Parliament, they will be able to dictate terms. She'd be in a far stronger position if she could say "Well there is no point suggesting that because I'd never get it through Parliament". One of the oldest tricks in the book when negotiating is the "Fred says" tactic. This is based on the idea that if you are negotiationg you say "Well I'd love to sign up, but Fred would never agree to that". In this case Parliament is "Fred". Theresa May says no deal is better than a bad deal. This is a ridiculous thing to say. If I was negotiating, the first thing I'd say is that the only deal we will do is a good one and it is in everyones interests to do it. Theresa May seems to think that saying "If you don't give us what we want we'll walk away" is a good negotiating stance. It is not.  A good negotiating stance is one where you have the strength to know that no one would walk away from the table, because that would be insane. If Theresa May gets the 100 seat majority she wants, she will have no joker in the back pocket. She can't play the difficult Parliament card at all. If we don't have the cards to say "you'd be insane to walk away from the table" Then we should take a different tack.

Of course the election was nothing to do with Brexit. It was all to do with the Tories trying to grab a few more years, as Labour is perceived to be weak right now. May sems to think that a big majority silences the awkward squad. It does nothing of the sort. Tony Blair had massive majorities, but all it did was mean that there are more MP's who felt overlooked, more scope for personal rebellions, as MP's know that they can vote agaings their party, with no ramifications, it has nothing to lose and no discipline. If Blair had a 10 seat majority, he'd have had to tread carefully and would probably not have made the awful mistakes that trashed his legacy. But with the massive numbers, he need not worry about the awkward squad. Now, one of them, Jeremy Corbyn is the party leader. Blairs huge majority gave rise to the stresses and splits that created the state of Modern Labour.

I don't blame May for going for an election. She is a politician, her job is to do such things. She has had the albatross of not being elected around her neck. She needs authority and at the moment this is lacking. But what is required is a new manifesto, a new program of government and a set of coherant reasons for electing May. We've not had this and the evidence says that we need "Strong Leadership" is the mother of all red herrings.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The joys of supporting Manchester City FC through thick and thin

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Manchester City FC
For Manchester City fans living outside of Manchester, perhaps the question you are asked most frequently and one which is probably the most annoying of all is "Why don't you support United?".  I doubt supporters of any other club are ever asked such a question. I once asked a London based Birmingham City fan if he'd ever been asked why he didn't support Villa. Now in my family, there is  a City/United split. My mum's family were born in Oldham and were City fans (my Dad was an Aussie so didn't do football). When they moved to London, they took the love of City with them. My eldest brother, raised in North London, started life as a Spurs fan, but defected to Manchester United, when he went to Uni, seduced by Charlton, Law and Best, Busby, the League Title and the European Cup. Many people in the mid '60's had a soft spot for United following the Munich crash and for a few seasons they became an acceptable second team. I'm a bit younger. I started to take an interest in Football when I was five. My brother tried to persuade me to support United, but I chose City. There were several reasons. Firstly, I was born with the rhesus syndrome, what was known as a "blue baby". How could I ever possibly be a Red? Secondly, in the 1960's we were told that blue was for boys. Thirdly, as the 1968 season came to it's cumination, City were playing United and the winner was odds on for the title. My brother persuaded me that United would stuff City and that would prove they were the better side. even though I was only five and my brother was twenty two, I realised that football presented an opportunity to get one up on him and wind him up. Imagine my delight when City won, and went on to win the title! I realised the delight of how pleasing it is to wind up Manchester United supporters. That is one pleasure that never goes away. For most of the next decade, life was good for the blues. Under Joe Mercer, City followed the League title with the FA cup, then the Cup Winners Cup and the League Cup. In 1974, United were relegated. That was a golden time in our house (for me at least).

However, supporting Manchester City is not about glory. It is about something far more important. At the end of the 1970's things turned sour. The nemises was 1999, when City were in League 2, going nowhere. For a while, it seemed like they would say there. For reasons I can't fathom, this was perhaps the period that I loved the club most. The supporters, who still turned out. When the football on the pitch was dire, we brought inflatables and had a party. At many away games, the away support outnumbered the locals, and several clubs were kept afloat that season by the  inflated gate takings.

The season finished with a play off final vs Gillingham. At the time,  I explained to my nephew Alex, that the best reason to support Manchester City rather than Manchester United, is that it prepares you for life and makes you a better person. To support City requires a sense of humour and strength through adversity, wheras to support United simply requires arrogance, a feeling that you are better than everyone else and a sense of entitlement. I took my nephew to the game. The efforts of Nicky Weaver and Paul Dickov ensured he saw the lights. That season United won the Treble, but for City fans, the play off final was a far more pivotal point. Had they lost, it felt like we'd be cast unto Hades itself. With 89 minutes, we were two goals down and playing appalling football. That was my last visit to the Old Wembley. No one there could imagine what the next couple of decades would bring, but that was the key moment. At 88 minutes, it seemed like we were doomed. Noel Gallagher famously stormed out. But we are Manchester City. The word impossible is alien to us. If we win we win impossibly. If we lose, we lose spectacularly. Under Mancini, I went to watch City at The Emirates. We were rubbish. With six games to go we'd blown the title. I left feeling truly depressed, the train carriage had City fans morosely saying we'd never win anythingunder Mancini. But as ever, with City, you have to lose your faith to find it. I wrte a song recently about the experience of being a football supporter, with Allen Ashley, (my co writer and a Gunners fan). It contains the line "Keep the faith, Always believe, take us to the top of the league". Sometimes it is only the gallows humour that makes that possible. I was at a City vs Bournemouth game at Maine Roaud in around '88. City were 3-0 up at half time. That was in the Harry Redknapp period at Bournmouth. The guy standing next to me was raving and saying "We really are back (we were in the 2nd tier), we are awesome". The game finished 3-3,with him vowing never to come back. A couple of weeks later, there he was. That is the life of a City fan.

Once more I head off to Wembley to watch the Blues, with a sense of trepidation and impending doom, mixed with excitement and expectation. If they lose, it will be "Damn, typical City" if they win, then the anxiety will simply shift to the forthcoming date with Chelsea. No other team are as capable of losing when it seems impossible and no other team would ever have that Aguero moment, with the camera moving to Fergies face as the truth dawns that the noisy neighbours have snatched the title with the last kick. That is how Premier league seasons should finish. As myself and Matthew sat watching the moment, completely emotionally drianed, Clare came in and said "Oh dear, so they lost then" we said "no they've won!". She said "Why aren't you happy then". I said "we are too drained". That is the life of a City supporter. #CTID

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 23/4/2017

It's been a momentous week in our blessed Nation. However, if like me, you are already sick of this election, you'll be pleased to know we are giving it a wide berth in our selection of Tweets. There is far more important things in our little island of sanity that is the London Borough of Barnet than such trivial matters as national electons.

1. We start with a rather sad tweet of Burnt Oak market, from the Burnt Oak Police. I remember the halcyon days of the bustle of Watling Market, when it was the place for meat, fish, records, bric-a-brac, pet accessories, cheap suits, towels & linen, and fruit and veg. Time moves on but, wheras places like Camden Market have reinvented themselves and attracted new business and young people, Burnt Oak market has simply rotted.

2. Fancy Taking part in the Hendon History Project?

3. The name of the rose? Anyone help Lucy Reynolds?

4. A local lad done well!

5. Barnet Rebel is being chirped at!

6. Congratulation to that little Rugby team down the way in Copthall. In the final of the European Cup. Well done lads, awesome. Looking forward to the open top bus down Mill Hill Broadway!

7.I think this is a rather good photograph!

8. Fancy a bit of Musical Theatre in Mill Hill

9. Any small business owners interested in a bit of networking in a relaxed atmosphere?

10. Strange goings on at North West London's finest studios

That's all folks

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Saturday list #126 - 10 household words and phrases that have disappeared in my lifetime

This morning, I was awoken by the Jo and Simon show on BBC Radio London. They were discussing coal bunkers and whether there were any of the old concrete bunkers left in London. One of the callers mentioned that they kept "coal under the sink in the scullery". It got me thinking. We used to have a scullery, before my parents had "the extension" and created a large open plan kitchen. I can't remember the last time I heard the word scullery. Which, as it's Saturday, made me think of other words and phrases that have disappeared. The criteria I've used is whether my 16 year old son would be bemused by the word.

1. Scullery. This was a sort of mini kitchen, where the cooker and the sink wer kept, but there wasn't room to swing a cat.

2. Gas poker. We used to have a gas poker to light the coal fire in the front room. They were very popular.

3. The Mangle. My mum used to have a mangle to squeeze the water out of the washing. Famously she caught my elder brother Laurie putting worms through it when he was a toddler. These days we have tumble driers.

4. The Black and White Telly. In these days of flat screeens etc, the concept of a black and white telly to my kids is truly bizarre. My daughter asked once why people didn't like colour.

5. Storage Heaters. These were large electric radiators with big concrete blocks in. You put them on when the electricity was at "cheap rate" and they stayed warm all day.

6.  The airing cupboard. This was where the hot water tank was kept and it had a space above for drying items in the winter.

7. The outdoor loo. Before the extension, we had an outdoor toilet. I never quite figured out why, until I asked my dear old auntie. Before the days of central heating, double galzing etc, keeping the house warm in winter was difficult. You didnt want smells trapped that couldn't escape, so the loo was outside.

8.  Eiderdowns. There was a period oin the late 70's when everyone had an Eiderdown on their bed. Haven't heard the term for years.

9. The potting shed. In the 1960's people had potting sheds. I was never quite sure what happened in them.

10. Servents bells. We still have these, although they don't work. Odd really for a semi in Mill Hill!
 My daughter asked what it was recently and didn't believe me. I've kept it in place to remind me of our aristocratic past. All the rooms apart from the little "maids bedroom" had a bell.

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Servents bells