Friday, 19 January 2018

Guest Blog - Why Jeremy Hunt is the most competent minister in the Conservative government by John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,
Why are people appealing to Jeremy Hunt to save our NHS,? Why are they calling him incompetent? Why have they not awoken and smelt the coffee?
It should be crystal clear to everyone in the country that Jeremy Hunt is by far the most competent minister in the Theresa May's  government.  He was tasked with destroying our NHS, an NHS that relies absolutely on staff morale, destroy staff morale and you destroy our NHS. Then starve it of funds to destroy the quality of provision, bring it to the edge of bankruptcy , then claim the only people with the funds to rescue our NHS, is the private sector, that Jeremy Hunt has had numerous meetings with in the past 4 years . Whilst at the same time breaking up the NHS into 28 easy to sell off parcels, for when the time comes for a fire sale to his American and British friends in private healthcare provision. And make no mistake, that time will be soon.

There is no point appealing to Jeremy Hunt or challenging his competence, he was tasked with the destruction and the privatisation of our NHS, and nobody in their right mind can say he isn't achieving his goal.
Image result for jeremy hunt with richard Branson
So wake up and smell the coffee people. Unless you take a stand now, your most valuable and necessary asset in life, our NHS will be destroyed, broken up and sold off.  The health insurers and providers are already circling the UK like sharks smelling blood. That blood is devastation of cuts, where this January we have a crisis so serious, all but emergency operations have been cancelled. (Ed note On friend of ours, has had an operation for a pre cancerous oesophageal condition cancelled). This crisis is not caused by anything other than a deliberate policy of neglect, designed to soften up British voters for a full scale privatisation.
Many millions will die early, or consigned to live a life of pain or debt misery as a result of health bills. This is not scaremongering, as this  is exactly what happens in the good old US of A, where the majority of the private health care companies and health insurers, who Jeremy Hunt has been meeting with these past four years are based.

Either stand up and fight for it, or wave goodbye to our NHS. But for goodness sake, stop appealing to Jeremy Hunt. He is simply carrying out the orders of the paymasters of the Tory party, the well off few who begrudge the common man the right to decent health care, dignity and a life without fear of bankruptcy when illness strikes.  The only way to stop this is for everyone in the UK who cares and has a heart to use every means at their disposal to send Hunt and his cronies a message that they cannot treat the honest citizens of the UK with such disdain. Don't buy the products of companies associated with privatisation of Health Care such as Virgin Group. Don't buy the papers that support this destruction such as The Sun, and when there are elections such as the Council elections in May, vote for the party most likely to keep the Tories out, so that a message they can't ignore is sent. 
John Sullivan is a local resident and regular guest blogger at The Barnet Eye. Guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. John has a special interest in the NHS and Adult Social care issues.

Five years ago, John Sullivan was involved in a legal challenge against the One Barnet outsourcing program. Here is an interview we made at the time, where John outlined his reasons for opposing outsourcing. In light of what has happened with Carillion this week, I think it is very illuminating to listen to Johns comments. His fears expressed at the time are clearly well founded. I would recommend that everyone has a look at this.

The Friday Joke - 19/1/2018

Image result for old married couple  jokes
It's Friday, so it's the time of the week where we have a joke. And this week it's a cracker!

After being married for 25 years, a wife asked her husband to describe her.
He looked at her carefully, then said, 'You are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K.'
'What does that mean?' she asked suspiciously.
He said, 'Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Foxy, Gorgeous and Hot!'
She beamed at him happily and said: 'Oh, that's so lovely! But what about I, J and K?'

He replied 'I'm Just Kidding!'
(The hospital reports that the swelling in his eye is going down and the doctors are fairly 
optimistic about saving his genitals).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Federation of Small Business states that outsourcing policy poses risk to nations economic stability

The following is a statement issued by The Federation of Small Business

Responding to the announcement of overdraft extensions, payment holidays and fee waivers from a number of banks for small firms impacted by Carillion’s collapse, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said:
“The emergency measures put in place by banks for customers hit by Carillion’s collapse will provide some respite at a desperate time for hundreds of small firms. Many hundreds more are still yet to feel the knock-on impacts of the giant’s demise. It’s critical that they also receive support in the months ahead.
“We now need to establish a Carillion task force dedicated to helping all affected small firms and workers to recover and get back on their feet. Following Rover’s collapse in 2005, I was involved in a similar initiative where we successfully supported suppliers and found new opportunities for all of the firm’s apprentices.

This sorry saga has shown that the Government’s reliance on a small number of huge outsourcing firms poses a risk to the nation’s economic stability. As things stand, our procurement regime is stacked against small firms. Providing small businesses and the self-employed with more opportunities to secure public contracts will mean less risk and better return for the taxpayer. At the very least we need to see the reinstatement of the target date for achieving 33% of all public sector procurement with smaller businesses, to 2020.”  

Here in Barnet, we have seen the One Barnet outsourcing. Capita are Barnets partner of choice. A billion pounds worth of taxpayers money. Should Capita follow Carillion down the pan, we can only speculate what would happen. As the FSB quite correctly state, we have managed to get ourselves, as a nation, into a situation where a small number of firms more or less run the country. It turns out that rather than being super efficient, some are badly run and this has placed our economic wellbeing at risk. As a long standing opponent of the One Barnet scheme, it gives me no pleasure at all to see many of my fears about outsourcing being recognised.

It may surprise you to know that my biggest reason for opposition to One Barnet is a very classically Conservative argument. If you are a real Conservative, then you are risk averse and you only welcome change when there is a compelling reason. In the case of One Barnet, I thought this brought huge risk., purely for reasons of ideological dogma of a few hard right zealots who control the local Conservatives. They stated that there would be savings, although many of these have proven to be of the  smoke and mirrors type which clever accountants magic up. If you take a holistic view of the Borough, many jobs were exported as Capita moved functions out. Most political leaders try and bring jobs and employment to an area, not actively export it. Now my worries about the risk of the whole concept of outsourcing have been demonstrated so graphically by Carillion.

Sadly, local Conservative Councillors have not woken up and smelled the coffee. We have even seen one of them tweeting only last week about how marvellous outsourcing is

Quite bizzarely, the same Tory Councillor thinks that buying iPads is the same thing as outsourcing the running of council services and exporting jobs.

It is all rather bizarre. I do understand that Tory Councillors must be feeling rather uneasy, given the potential mess they have landed us in. What alarms me is that it is clear that there is no understanding of risk or operational resilience in the regime. If Councillor Rozenberg had been tweeting saying that Barnet have a robust resilience plan in place, should Capita get into financial difficulty, then I'd be reassurred. However, when he tweets idiotically naive rubbish about "we outsource the making of iPads" it is quite obvious that he's stuck his head in the sand.

I am a member of the Federation of Small Business. I need to understand balance sheets to run my business. I need to understand business risk. Carillion has shown the risks we are exposing our nation to. I fully agree with every word of the FSB statement. The organisation has hundreds of thousands of small business people as members. I would hazard a guess that most are not Momentum members. I would suggest that Tory Councillors like Councillor Rozenberg sit up and take note of what they say.  We really need to elect councillors who are not wedded to dogma and ideology and are primarliy interested in representing the people who live in Barnet and pay taxes. Outsourcing has lost Barnet jobs and increased the operational risk of Barnet Council to deliver its core services. I don't think that is clever politics.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Wednesday Poem - #36 - An Ode to Smiths Crisps

Smiths crisps
Smiths Cheese and Onion Crisps
For no reason at all other than a deep desire to have crisps in the right colour bags!

An Ode to Smiths Crisps

Ready Salted are Red
Salt and Vinegar are Blue
But Green Cheese and Onion
Oh Lord, I love you!

Copyright 2018 Roger Tichborne

There are many things that have changed pointlessly. I loathe and despise Walkers crisps for putting Cheese and Onion Crisps (and to a lesser degree Salt and Vinegar Crisps) in the wrong coloured bags. Messing around with these things is simply plain wrong!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

My fears for the future as Great Britain descends into Spivocracy

I am by nature an optimist. I am also a workaholic, which you could probably figure out by the number of blogs I write, along with the other interests I have. If I read something I don't understand, I do research. If I can't find the information that makes sense of what is happening, as an engineer, I assume that I simply don't have all the information I need to form a sensible opinion. If I have to write a blog about such a scenario, then I state upfront that I don't have the information I need to form an opinion and I ask the readers of this blog whether they can make sense of what is going on.

I awake this morning feeling more worried, confused and fearful for the future than I have ever felt in my adult life. Maybe you, dear reader, can allay my fears. Maybe you can make sense of what we are seeing happening to our country? It appears to me that we are at the most dangerous point in our recent history.  Ten years ago, I wasn't writing blogs. Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition, I was still a member (just about) of The Labour Party and Manchester City hadn't won a trophy for 32 years. Out of curiosity, I thought I'd check the "On this day" website for 16th January 2008. To my great surprised, it says nothing happened at all - - Wikipedia also lists nothing, although a couple of notable stories were in the news on the 17th and 18th

17 January – The number of people affected by norovirus stomach bug in the UK reached an estimated 3 million.
18 January – Last working of Tower Colliery, the last deep mine in the South Wales Valleys (official closure: 25 January)

By mid February, Northern Rock Building Society had been Nationalised as the financial services sector went into meltdown. In May that year, Boris Johnson was elected as Mayor of London. I didn't realise this at the time, but these two events are absolutely pivotal events in the UK. They were the start of a decline and a sea change in politics and our national psyche. Northern Rock was the victim of a global financial meltdown, caused by over liberalisation of financial markets. Prior to 2008, no one, least of all the UK Conservatives were calling for more rigorous policing of our financial services. The prevailing view at the time was that the less rules and regulations, the better "the market works". The global financial meltdown plunged us all into austerity and taught a generation that if banks are not properly run, then capitalism does not work. Only it didn't did it? Why do I say that? Because in May, London elected Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson previously had been seen as a bit of a joke figure, best known for bumbling appearances on "Have I Got News for You". He had no experience of running anything, except an extra marital affairs, which he'd been sacked for not telling the truth about. In 2004, Johnson had supported pro EU Kenneth Clarke as Tory leader in the leadership elections. Clearly he was not virulently EU then.

Johnsons election saw the start of the Tory recovery at the ballot box. Somehow by 2010, the Tories had managed to stick all the blame for a global financial meltdown, caused by governments following the conservative ideology of light touch regulation, on Labour. The public were not wholly convinced and made sure that in 2010, the Tories had to rely on the Lib Dems to keep an eye on their shenanigans. The Coalition between 2010 and 2015, persuaded the electorate that The Tories had learned the lessons of the past. David Cameron sold himself as a new type of Tory. He hugged hoodies and got dragged around the North pole by a team of huskies, that somehow persuaded us he was an environmentalist. In 2015, electors felt comfortable enough with the Tories to sack the Lib Dems en masse and give Cameron a working majority.  Labour reacted to this by deciding that there was a sea change in the national mood. It was clear that the attempts to be a "Tory light" party had failed. They elected Jeremy Corbyn, a full blown, no nonsense socialist, to be leader. The right wing press bayed that the party had decided to write it's own suicide note.

Then the whole of British politics imploded. Cameron's attempt to skewer the Tory right with the EU referendum backfired spectacularly. Theresa May became PM and Boris Johnson switched from being Mayor, to being an MP.  The general perception was that Boris had not done too bad a job as Mayor. This was largeley based on the success of the Boris bikes and the fact that London had still continued to function. We overlooked badly managed vanity schemes, such as The Boris Bus, the Cable Car and the rising levels of pollution and congestion. Theresa May decided that Boris was the best man for the job of Foreign Secretary. She'd clearly been impressed with his dealings with foreign dignitaries as Mayor (why, I am not really too sure). She appointed Philip Hammond to be chancellor. A man with demeanour of a hung over undertaker. As Home Secretary, we got Amber Rudd. I was trying to think of something interesting to say about Amber Rudd. The only thing I can really think of is that her name is an anagram of "Red Bum Rad" which is the sort of headline The Sun would put over a picture of Jeremy Corbyn. She really is one of the most invisible politicians ever to hold a major post.

As we know, last year May decided that she could put Labour to the sword, with an election she didn't need and the country didn't want. She thought Corbyn was so unpopular that it would be a shoe in. The only question was how many digits would her majority consist of. It didn't occur to her that the first digit would be a minus character.

Having plunged the UK into a wholly unnecessary political crisis, undermining her own authority, just as we needed strong leadership in the EU negotiations, she then set the sordid tone for her new administration. She had various options, when faced with a minority regime. She picked the worst. She gave the DUP a huge bung in return for votes. The DUP are the most divisive organisation that sits in Parliament (Sinn Fein do not take their seats). They now hold the whip hand, as we saw when they vetoed Theresa May's first attempt at a deal with The EU. The EU negotiations have now become a game of poker, where the UK has a team of innocents playing the world champions. Whatever you may or may not know about the EU, you must surely be aware that the one thing that EU bureaucrats are masters at is defending the interests of EU bureaurats (I say this a staunch remainer). The concept that they will give an inch to any proposal that doesn't suit them is nonsensical. Those who argue for a hard Brexit and no trade deal state that "German car makers will not tolerate a trade deal that harms their sales".  This ignores two major factors, that these economically illiterate dunderheads fail to realise. Brexit has already had a major effect on the costs of buying these cars. German cars are priced in Euro's. The £ is 20% lower than it was when we voted to quit the EU. There has already been a far greater hit to the cost than a reversion to WTO rules would bring. German car manufacturers well understand that the best thing for their sales would be a reversal of Brexit. The second is that by and large, German cars are luxury items. People who want a brand new Mercedes are well off. If you want a Merc or an Audi, you won't buy a KIA because it is cheaper. If you want to see Van Morrison and it's £130 for a ticket, you don't go and see Steps instead because they are only £15. Even if you wanted  a Jaguar, many of the components are priced in Euro's. Ultimately, it will be the UK consumer who will pay.

The bottom line, is that the UK will lose this game of poker. If Tory MP's decide that they can't live on an MP's salary, they will simply vote themselves a pay rise. It really is a great job.

Then we have public finances. The Tory party berated the Labour Party for not managing public finances properly. Let's go back to Boris Johnson. Do you think he managed the Garden Bridge project effectively. We spent £50 million for absolutely nothing. Would you appoint a man who can waste £50 million of your money on a whim? If you think the answer is no, think again. You already have.

Then we have Carillion. Why on earth would the state sector appoint a contractor who is insolvent? They are running two of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, with HS2 and Crossrail, not to mention a plethora of other schemes. It is simply unthinkable to me that they could have been appointed, when they were issuing major profit warning and their accounts were clearly littered with warning flags. How can a company go from paying handsome dividends to being liquidated in a year? The answer can only be that a huge number of people in government have not done their job.

In short, the government is in a state of semi collapse. Last week, we saw that the Prime Minister is too weak to reshuffle her own cabinet. She has a team negotiating Brexit that is clearly incompetent. She has a team doling out billion pouind public sector contracts that are clearly incompetent. Then there is our rail network. This is run by a bunch of private companies, that receive huge subsidies and pay huge dividends to their (often foreign) shareholders. These franchises are effectively monopolies. They are also licenses to print money. If they don't work out, the operators simply hand them back to the government, as we've seen with the East Coast mainline.

Passengers suffer sub standard services. In Mill Hill, where I live, we have Thameslink, which has been panned for not delivering a decent service or value for money. Don't believe me? See what the National Audit Office.

I am not anti outsourcing at all. It may shock readers to know that my business has provided outsourced services to both Harrow and Barnet Councils in the past. We were selected, because both councils did not have the expertise or the facilities to do what we do. In both cases we had to jump through all manner of hoops, to earn trivial amounts of money (approx 1% of our turnover). In the case of Barnet Council, the last dealings we had with them, they ended up not paying us for services provided, as they had "lost all of the paperwork". We ended up providing drum tuition to a disabled man, free of charge for six months. At the time I had a dilemma. The choice was to tell a disabled person, who clearly loved the experience to go away, or to simply take the hit and let him carry on. I took the hit. I was told, in my final conversation with Barnet Council finance team "It is taxpayers money. Just because we've lost the paperwork, doesn't man we can pay you. It is taxpayers money". The key person in the adult social care team had left, so there was no one to confirm arrangements. The council seemed to be in chaos. I must say that Harrow Council were completely different and have always paid promptly. It did alert me to the dangers of dealing with the public sector.

As I listen to the radio today, I hear that small businesses that supply Carillion are losing all support in 48 hours. This is totally immoral. If I am supplying a company working on a government project, then I would expect the government to have done due diligence. Whilst I have no sympathy at all for shareholders or management of Carillion who created this mess, the small businesses, supplying on the basis that the government was underwriting projects, must be helped. It is simply immoral that such companies could go out of business in these circumstances. How has Great Britain descended into this Spivocracy, where the government are incompetent, the risk always ends up with the taxpayer and the small businesses, that are clearly blameless take the hit, whilst the people who create the mess walk away scot free?

After the banking crisis, no bankers went to prison, despite the whole economy being trashed for a decade. What am I missing? Why does none of this make any sense at all?


Her Majesties Inspector finds Barnet Council Social work practice "inadequate in many areas"

Her Majesties inspector Louise Warren, has written to Chris Munday, strategic director for Children and young people. The  final conclusion is stark. She says
Social work practice remains inadequate in many areas. The process of changing the culture of acceptable practice remains a significant challenge if the children and young people in Barnet are to be safeguarded effectively and their welfare promoted.

The full letter can be read here -

The Barnet Council Children, Education, Libraries & Safeguarding Committee is meeting tonight (Tuesday 17th January) to discuss the report in more detail. The full papers are here

This report follows the OFSTED verdict of inadequate for Barnets Childrens Services. This is a major scandal, however one which the Conseervative chair, Councillor Reuben Thompstone seems completely oblivious to. 

It is just as well I have a sense of humour. I attended the last meeting of this committee and addressed the committee. The minutes do document this as follows.
"The Chairman invited Mr Roger Tichborne who joined the table and addressed the Committee with a Public Comment."
Now excuse my ignorance, but I always thought the point of minutes was to tell people what went on. Clearly the bods at Barnet Council were either asleep when I was talking or they don't want you to know what I had to say.  If you are interested in what I had to say at the meeting on the 15th November, here is the text - - I can only assume the the complete non reporting of what I had to say in the minutes was a result of my comments regarding the quality of the chairmanship of the committee by Councillor Reuben Thompstone - Councillor Reuben Thompstone - The worst committee chair in Barnet 

It seems that the way democracy and openness work in Barnet is to airbrush the comments of dissenters to the regime out of the minutes. I sincerely hope that in May, the people of Barnet pass their judgement on Councillor Thompstone and his colleagues. I don't expect everyone to agree with my comments. I find it quite interesting that the regime seem too scared to actually mention what they were. I think we can all draw our own conclusions. 

It seems to me that until the likes of Councillor Thompstone stop ignoring all difficult comments from concerned members of the public, they will never be able to sort the more serious issues out, such as the failing of our local children, 

I daresay that Councillor Thompstone thinks that not mentioning my comments is a jolly wheeze and mightily clever. Perhaps he hopes that if he pulls such stunts, people such as me will give up on trying to hold him to account. If he really is that silly, I suspect that he has a bit of a nasty surprise in store.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Carillion Collapse - What would happen to Barnet if the same thing happened to Capita

The collapse of Carillion is the big news story this morning. Private companies are run for profits. In many cases their accounts are a combination of smoke and mirrors. Only last year Carillion were paying generous dividends to shareholders. Their services were held up as an example of how the "private sector was more efficient at delivering services than the public sector". This morning, there are all manner of projects and public services that are in disarray. The most high profile is HS2. It may well be ironic that Capitalism will do to the project what environmental campaigners, Nimby campaigners, local MP's and worried residents could not.

For us in Barnet, it raises a far more worrying question. If Capita, the supplier of choice for a billion pounds worth of council services was to go into liquidation, how would this affect Barnet Councils ability to deliver services and what would be the cost to local taxpayers.

Of course, at the moment, this scenario seems unlikely, but I'm sure the government thought the same when they awarded contracts to Carillion. Does the Council have a contingency plan?

I have asked this in an FoI request this morning

Dear Barnet FoI.

Please can you supply the following.

1. Confirmation that a contingency plan exists in the event of Capita going into liquidation. 
2. Details of such plan, with commercially sensitive information redacted, if this can be provided for less than the FoI cost limit.
3. Confirmation of the date of last planning meeting to discuss such a resileince plan

Roger Tichborne

It will be interested to see if Barnet Council have a business resilience plan for such an event.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet

Here are this weeks tweets.

Don't forget to follow any tweeters who's work you like.

1. We start with the community response to a very sad event in Mill Hill

2. Great post concerning Edgware history from The Mill Hill Historic Society

3. We always like to see people thanking staff for great service

4. Remember community police stations?

5. We featured the PDSA as one of our Advent Calendar causes. Now they need your help even more. If anyone know who did this, please let the Police know. Stealing from charities is scumbaggery of the lowest order

6. Thanks to Samuel Levy for this lovely tweet

7. Have you seen this missing pussycat in Cricklewood

8. Have you seen this missing elderly chap?

9. Some nice train photo's in Cricklewood

10.Make music. Be Happy!

That's all folks

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Saturday List #160 - The ten best nights out in The London Borough of Barnet

Do you like a nice night out? As regular readers will know, we've been running a series on local pubs. Many thanks to "Big Dave" who contacted us after last weeks blog with the complete list of pubs in Barnet. Dave suggested that we do a Top Ten pub crawls in Barnet. At first I was rather taken with this idea and it may well come to fruition, but to me a pub crawl needs at least five decent pubs in walking distance and I'd need to do research. However, it got me thinking. What about the Top Ten nights out. If we say a good night out encompasses a meal, a drink and some sort of event. Lets say that all such things must be within a mile? As some pubs good meals as well as drinks, this clearly muddies the waters. So I thought, OK lets have a three hop rule. Here goes! Let me know your great night out.  The format is food, event, drinks.

1. East Finchley.
Food - A Japanese snack in Yama Yama. They do absolutely delicious skewers and other authentic Japanese food. Great for a pre cinema snack (not too heavy)
Event - We had to start with The Phoenix, my favourite cinema in The whole of the Borough. Also the Boroughs oldest cinema, I'd especially recommend the beamback shows they do.
Apres Drinks - The Bald Faced Stag is a great pub, they also do good food if you'd rather have gastropub food before.

2. High Barnet.
Food  - I would recommend Melange as a great place to eat before.
Event  - The Bull Theatre has some great things in the pipeline. If you've not seen Lee Thompson from Madness in The Silencerz, Feb 10th is a good opportunity. A real local Gem
Drinks - Ye Olde Mitre is one of my top five fave pubs in Barnet. They do pretty standard tasty pub food as well if you want something a tad cheaper. It is more or less right next to The Bulls

They say rules are made to be broken! So here is a slightly different running order.
Event - Why not start the evening sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire at The RAF Museum! This runs from 11am -4pm, so you'll have a bit of time to kill after, but the museum is open till 6pm Nov-Feb and is well worth looking around after your Spitfire experience.
Food - I'd recommend taking a brisk walk up to Bang Bang Oriental, which is the largest Asian foodhall in London. There is a whole range of various asian foods available.
Drinks - The Chandos Arms won the award for the UK's best community pub. It is a nice place and also has good pub food if you prefer that. They have live music on Monday and  Thursday evenings and Jazz on Sunday Afternoons.

4. North Finchley
Food - If you like Italian food, checkout Il Tocca D' Artisa, a great little restaurant in North Finchley  324 Ballards Ln, London N12 0EY. Very friendly place with lovely food.
Event - There is always great stuff on at The Arts Depot. I'd recommend Stephen K.Amos on 8th Feb, who is always a great night out.
Pub - This has to be The Bohemia. A proper Brew pub, also does great food, especially the chicken wings.

5. Lower High Barnet!
I know it's not called Lower High Barnet, but thats what I always call it. The bit where the tube line crosses and the road diverges down to New Barnet.
Food  - Next door to the Everyman is Fresh Fry Fish and Chips. A proper chippy and sit down restaurant. Top quality food, enormous portions.
Event - The Everyman Cinema is well worth a visit. It has a decent bar and cafe as well. The chairs are very comfy and you can take a bottle of plonk in with you, should you so desire.
Pub - The Queens Arms is also next door, which is a decent pub in the Sky Sports/Pool table vain.

6. Mill Hill
Food - Why not start with a delicious Italian meal at The Rising Sun pub on Highwood Hill.
Event - Hartley Hall has some excellent events. In April, The Mill Hill Musical Theatre Company are staging The Boyfriend. Their shows are always a great night out.
Pub - After the Boyfriend, a bracing walk up Hammers Lane, to the Ridgeway and to the Adam and Eve is a great way to round off the evening. Most locals would take the 240 bus, if it is coming soon (just on the 1 mile boundary). The Adam and Eve also does decent food.

7. Mill Hill.
We stay in Mill Hill for a completely different night out. As we have Europe's best rugby team why not have a proper sporting night out! As is tradition, we'll do the curry afterwards.

Pub - The Bridge - This is next to Mill Hill Broadway and is a traditional meeting point for Sarries fans, before jumping on the bus shuttle. It is a typical shop style pub, friendly service and quick. No food. It does what it says on the tin rather well. The better informed Mill Hillians go to Mill Hill Rugby club for a pint.
Event - The best way to see Sarries is to watch an evening fixture under the floodlights. Check out their schedule here
Food - There is only one place to go to eat after a Sarries game and that is The Mill Hill Tandoori (by Mill Hill Broadway bus station). Proper Indian food as it should be after a game of Rugby. Unpretentious, tasty and served by a friendly team.

8. Totteridge.
It's winter, it's cold, it's miserable. However in six months time we'll be enjoying the best days of summer. So think warm for this one.
Food - The Orange Tree Pub is a lovely spot for dinner. We recommend starting early for this one.
Event - The Totteridge Valley Walk is a great way to spend a warm evening.  If you don't know it, you'll be amazed you are still in London. Take your camera.
Drink - Well this walk takes you back to The Orange Tree!

9. Edgware.
Once again, we break the rules, but I think you'll agree that it is fairly sensible in this instance.
Food - If you like Turkish food, checkout Izgara. A top place for a decent kebab, hummus etc
Event/Drinks - The Three Wishes (technically in the London Borough of Harrow, but well within a mile of Barnet!) is one of the very best music pubs locally, all tastes catered for - CLICK TO CHECKOUT THE SCHEDULE - great beer too.

10. The 240 bus pub crawl - In honour of Big Dave, I thought I'd end with something a bit different. He suggested ten local pub crawls, so why not a perfectly legal pub crawl (using my fave bus) across the Borough. I'd suggest getting the bus times app though, to maximise drinking time.  The 240 bus traverses the Borough, starting in Golders Green, through Hendon, Mill Hill East, Mill Hill finishing up at Edgware.

1. The best pub at the start is The Spaniards Inn, which in truth is more Hampstead Heath than Golders Green, but is well worth the effort! Walk from here to Golders Green Station to ...
2 The Burroughs, Hendon - There are two pubs here that are well worth a visit. Walk up The Burroughs and you will see The Claddagh Ring. This is a proper Irish pub. They serve such delicacies as Bacon and Cabbage and a fine pint of Guinness. It's fair to say that it is one for people who like Gaelic Sports and Irish culture. The food portions are generous.
3. Once the Guinness has been finished, pop around the corner, down Greyhound Hill to The Greyhound. A lovely pub, favourite watering hole of Barnet Bloggers after rather dry council meetings, They have live Jazz and reasonable food. This was my mums fave local pub!
4. When you've finished your beer, pop back on the bus. The bus passes The Adam and Eve, which we mentioned previously. Worth a visit. It then passes The Three Hammers. The Hammers is cheaper than the Adam and Eve and the Garden is nice in the summer. Service can be slow. The food is very much standard Ember Inns fayre.
5. And I'd recommend finishing up at The Three Wishes as mentioned above.

6. If all that beer has made you hungry, The Zanzi Bar, more or less opposite The Three Wishes as marvellous Indian restaurant. Well worth the effort.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Dyslexia Blog - Anger issues - Coming to terms with dyslexia

Dyslexic musings from a 9 year  old Rog T
For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex(although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and to get people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

I have a question for you (assuming you are dyslexic). Do you have anger issues? Dyslexia has thrown many challenges at me, but perhaps the most difficult are the issues around anger. Let me explain. Until I was in my 30's I did not actually know I was dyslexic. It should have been obvious to any vaguely qualified English teacher reviewing my schoolwork, but for reasons I can't quite fathom no one noticed or bothered to tell me. Actually, that's not quite true. I can remember my mother telling my father that she thought I may be dyslexic, when I was about ten. she said "He writes letters the wrong way round and his homework is awful". My Father said "He's just lazy". To me that made more sense. I wasn't really keen on being labelled as dyslexic. I thought this may involve being carted off to a special classroom at playtime for extra work. In some ways they were both right. I was probably both dyslexic and lazy. But apart from that, I had no clue.

In fact, the truth didn't emerge until the mid 1990's. I had realised that I have anger issues. This was affecting both my working and private life. Most of the time the anger was very internalised. I am not a violent person, but I could get very riled. A couple of events made me realise that I needed to talk this through. The worst was playing football. I was playing centre half and the opposing centre forward spent half of the game trying to rile me. At a corner, he trod on my foot and headbutted me as a ball came over. I realised that he'd it was a very sly action. I was extremely riled. A term we call red mist. I decided that the next time he got the ball I'd "do him". Shortly after, the ball broke between the two of us. We were both ten yards from it. I launched myself at the ball and the player as hard as I could. Being hit, studs first by fourteen stone of fat lump at 20mph is not good. As I had got the ball first, it was deemed a fair challenge. Sadly for the other player, he was carried off. A couple of months later, we played the same team, and the player was on the side on crutches. After the game in the clubhouse, I apologised. The guy said "no problem mate, the ball was there to be won, these things happen".  We shared a beer. He told me he was self employed and had been unable to work for two months, so was signing on. I felt absolutely awful. Up until that point, I'd felt highly pleased to have got the better in a physical battle. It dawned on me that such violent action had consequences. Because I had got the ball, everyone thought it was OK, but it really wasn't.

I also had an argument at work, with a colleague. The person in question had a very condescending tone and at the end of a meeting, I went to the pub and drank four pints to calm down. I had also split up with my partner (now wife) after a series of big rows about nothing. I always feel I am completely right, and somehow felt that this gave me cart blanch to be horrible. I realised I had to do something about this, as it was making me physically sick at times. I went and sought counselling for anger. I sat down with the counsellor and she asked me a few questions. The subject of school came up. I'd never discussed my real feelings about school. After about ten minutes she said "are you dyslexic?". I was quite surprised. What did this have to do with anything. She explained that many of the people my age, who had the same sort of feelings and experiences had turned out to be dyslexic. She explained that often dyslexics are quite bright and hard working, but are labelled lazy and thick. As a result, they end up with an ingrained sense of injustice. Anger is a fairly natural response to being put in a difficult situation. Being stuck in a class, where you do your best and the person in authority continually belittles you, and makes you feel inferior is a classic way to breed resentment and anger. I asked "How can that translate to trying to break someones leg on a football field?" She explained "You are conditioned to thinking that no matter what you do, you will not be treated fairly, therefore your brain has been programmed to react highly defensively. The referee did not give you the protection you felt you deserved, so your self preservation instinct said 'raise your adrenalin level and deal with the threat'".

I had three sessions. I then got assessed for dyslexia, and was found to be moderately dyslexic. I decided that I needed to learn more about the subject before I tried to address any issues. I was horrified to find that there really was very little on the subject. There are all sorts of theories on how to address the learning issues, but nothing at all on how to deal with the damage and baggage that people in their mid fifties carry around with them from the years of mental anguish and abuse that we endured at school. I googled "people damaged by dyslexia" and there is nothing offering help to deal with this.

There are websites that give adults pointers to the fact that they may be dyslexic. One I saw gave six tell tale signs

1. Avoid Reading

In order to hide their disability, those with dyslexia will often avoid any activities that involve reading—such as reading to themselves or aloud to others—as their struggles are a source of shame and embarrassment.

2. Slow Reading and Writing

If required to do tasks that involve reading or writing, those with dyslexia may take an unusually long time to complete them. When reading, this is often because a person will have to re-read sentences several times to fully understand. They may become tired or bored very quickly.

3. Poor Spelling

Dyslexia makes it challenging for a person to associate letters with the specific sounds they make, which can lead to poor spelling. This may cause tasks like taking notes and copying content to be difficult and frustrating.

4. Difficulty Planning and Organizing

Struggling to estimate the time required to complete a task makes planning very challenging for those with dyslexia. As a result, they may have issues meeting deadlines.

5. Difficulty Memorizing

Although people with dyslexia tend to have excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations and faces, they tend to struggle with memorizing sequences, facts or things they were not personally involved in.

6. Speaking Challenges

When speaking, someone with dyslexia may experience several challenges, such as struggling to retrieve the proper words. This may lead to frequent pauses in a conversation—where gaps are often filled with plenty of “ums”—or the use of words like “stuff” or “things” if proper names cannot be recalled.
I was quite intrigued by these tell tale signs. I have four out of six. I am good at planning and organising things. As a business owner and a member of various festival organising committees, I was actually quite surprised to see this on the list. It is something I have had to teach myself to do. I think I was lousy at this as a child. I'd never plan anything, but as an adult, I have to.

I also do not avoid reading. I quite enjoy it, truth be told. As I am moderately dyslexic, I guess I've overcome many of the challengers around this, although I am a slow reader.

My family would recognise some of these challenges as classic me. The speaking challenges. I didn't learn to speak until I was four years old. I often use "replacement words". If I say to my wife "is there any splongy in the fridge" she will know I mean pomegranite juice.

As for difficulty memorising, this is a classic. Perhaps the best example is that I even forget prayers such as The Lords Prayer, that as someone born and raised a Catholic, I've said thousands of times. At primary school, a teacher once asked me to recite it and called me evil when I couldn't.

The worst thing for me is public speaking. I cannot memorise speeches. I have learned that I simply have a crib sheet of words and prompts, to ensure I don't miss anything and I simply busk the rest. When my best friend died, I was asked to give the Eulogy. It was the most stressful thing I've ever done, as I was scared I'd simply crack up. It went Ok, but on a level of one to ten, stress wise it was a ten

As for poor spelling, autocorrect is a blessing for blogging.

I would add a seventh category to these. I would say "Do you get irrationally angry at random things?". I've spoken to several dyslexic adults my age and it seems to me to be as common as the six tell tale symptoms above. There are several things that are especially likely to trigger an irrationally angry response from me.

These are

A) Unexpected Loud noises - If I am somewhere quiet and relaxed and someone suddenly, deliberately makes a loud noise, I often feel incenses.  When I flat shared, I once punched a flatmate who thought it was funny to wake me up by blowing up a paper bag and making it go bang. I was incensed and I really couldn't see why everyone thought I was being a bit psychotic about it.

B) People not being respectful -  I may be a tad hypocritical here. I can wind people up, but if I see someone acting in a disrespectful manner to me or to anyone else, and they have a sense of smug supercilliousness thinking they can get away with it, I can see red mist. The worst case of this was when I was walking home and I noticed my elderly (now dearly departed) disabled elderly mother crossing the road on Mill Hill Broadway. She was walking using a stick. A young Jack The Lad character was frustrated because he was being held up. He wound down the window and barked at her "Hurry up, you should be in a home". I absolutely lost it, ran to the car, dragged him out and made him apologise. In hindsight, I may have been guilty of an assault. Several other bystanders saw what happened and were supportive of me, but I was so incensed I felt like killing the person. It is fair to say that I do not regret making the person apologise, but my anger scared me. I am not entirely sure that the affirmation that the bystanders gave me was entirely helpful. This isn't the only time I've reacted badly to such things, but it was clearly the one where I was most angry.

C) People blatantly lying. When people blatantly lie to me, I find it simply impossible to not get angry. I am sure that no one likes people telling them porkies, but I do react badly. Generally I will simply respond with a volley of abuse. Sometimes this has degenerated into very difficult situations and there are several friends I've fallen out with permanently when they have told pretty minor porkies.

I am sure that most people would react badly to most or all of the above. I do however feel that my experiences as a dyslexic at school in the 1960's and 70's made me have difficulty dealing with anger. What the anger management helped me do was deal with situations better. Where it works less well is where situations happen in a sudden and unexpected manner. The situation with my mother was one such incident. When there is a situation where anger is built up, I can now generally deal with it. Where there is a sudden explosion, it is far harder.

The reason I wrote this blog, is I am intrigued to know whether this is a common issue. The person I saw in the 1990's suggested that many people who'd seen her with anger issues were dyslexic, often undiagnosed. There are several behaviours that dyslexics display, such as liking to sit near exits and on the margins of public gatherings, not putting hands up to ask questions, not liking to stand out in a crowd, that don't seem to be widely recognised. Can anger issues be added to that list?