Monday, 31 May 2010

Is there a God?

As it's a Bank Holiday and it ain't too sunny, I thought I'd post something nice and thought provoking. Here's a question for you. If you were offered the chance of a flip of the coin to win £100 million pounds if you won and get immediately executed by a firing squad if you lost, would you take it?

Just think - what a choice - an end to all your problems? Either way you'd never have any financial worries ever again. So who would go for it? I guess anyone who is feeling suicidal due to financial woes would jump at the chance. Problem solved. Who else might go for it. I wondered whether a believer or an athiest might be more prone to try their luck? A believer may think that a few well placed prayers might tip the balance in their favour. If they survived it would be proof of divine intervention. As to an athiest? Would they be less or more likely to go for it? Would a person's faith make any difference to the decision? I suppose that a Muslim is forbidden from gambling, so may decline as a matter of principle.

How many people would go for the chance just to feel the buzz of such high stakes? Just suppose you got 50 atheists and 50 believers who were prepared to give it a go? Statistically 25 of each should become very rich and 25 of each should get their brains blown out. Just suppose all 50 atheists lost and all 50 believers won? Would that persuade you that God exists. What about if all 50 atheists survived and all 50 believers got the bullet? Would that persuade you that God exists and has a sense of humour? So what has all of this got to do with whether there is a God?

Well what is the first question people ask when tragedy befalls them? "Why me?" they ask. "What did I do to deserve this?". I pondered all of this and it occurred to me that it is strange that despite the billions of believers in God, no one seems to have the slightest idea of the true nature of God. Does God really intervene in the events on Planet Earth. Being of the Roman Catholic tradition, there are many logged "miracles" that people take as evidence. The problem with such miracles is they are extremely random and extremely rare, in a planet of billions of people. Any statistician will tell you that such oddities can prove nothing. What about the other side of the coin? The assumption of athiests is that there is nothing before/after/beyond this existence. All we experience is as dust. Life started as a result of random chemical reactions (which as yet are even more elusive than the search for God). Athiests strike out the religious argument as "unscientific", without being able to provide a provable scientific answer as to how life actually started. If it was as simple as passing a lightning strike through a soup of mud and water, it would have been recreated in a laboratory years ago.

The big problem for athiests is that there is a great big chunk of the jigsaw missing and you can't legitimately claim that others are basing their arguments on superstition and stupidity when you don't actually have scientific proof yourself. It got me thinking to what is the nature of God. I suppose there are two theories :-

1) A superbig megageezer in who's image and likeness we are all made


2) Somerthing else completely, which we are unable to fully comprehend and understand

I personally subscribe to 2). Look at how scientific knowledge and progress has changed us. Take the cleverest person alive 2,000 years ago (if we exclude people who may or may not be the son of God, based on your personal beliefs). If you gave that person a couple of hours in todays world, how would they rationalise TV, The Internet, air travel, electricity, X-rays, nuclear weapons, Taser guns?

My guess is they'd struggle to explain any of it. If we can develop so much knowledge in 2,000 years (most of it in the last 200), how far will we progress mentally in the next 2,000 years. I have a little theory that 95% of what we understand to be God is just enlightenment. I don't think religious belief changes bad things or alters bad things. I think it just gives us the enlightenment to deal with the consequences. I believe that this world is mans realm and as such we are left to get on with it. Does God have a personal relationship with us? Yes in as much as we can experience enlightenment. Does God perform miracles? I see these as opening the window to somewhere else and a little light shining in. When we draw the curtains and we see the sun, the sun warms us and lights up the room. It changes the way we see things, but the sun is 93 million miles away. Sunliht makes plants grow and our skin change colour, but we can't really get anywhere near the sun. We need the sun to survive but we need the sun to be 93 million miles away otherwise it will burn us up.

For this world to work and life to exist, you need a planet this size to be 93 million miles from a star the size of the sun (too small not enough gravity for an atmosphere, too large and the gravity would squash us). To have life on dry land, you need a moon the size of the moon to exert tidal pressures and have a marginal area between land and sea. You need the right mixture of C02, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Now I've no idea if it's true, but I was told we only have the proportion of Oxygen in the atmosphere because we have plant life. Plants can't survive in the dark in a pure C02 environment, so the earth has the atmosphere because of the plant life on it. If you want to know what sort of a planet you have without life, a moon, the wrong size and the wrong place, look at Venus or Mars.

So back to the question. Is there a God. Well if you say no, then you believe in a massive load of enormous coincidences, a massively complex chain of chemical reactions to initiate the process of life, with hugely complex bio-chemical chains being built that cannot be replicated under any conditions in any laboratory and which then have to completely change the planet  to get us where we are today.

I have my views and beliefs. I'm quite happy to discuss it and to have the flaws in my logic pointed out, but what really disturbs me is that many atheists use science and reason as a weapon against religion, when there just isn't the evidence there to support their hypothesis. I'd be perfectly happy for an atheist to say "I don't believe in God, because God doesn't fit my view of how the Universe operates" That is a perfectly vaild viewpoint. I have a problem when they say "Science, reason and logic supports the hypothesis that God doesn't exist", because as far as I can see it doesn't.

In short, theories such as evolution are not a problem for me. It is fairly easy to demonstrate evolution. The AIDS virus has evolved to be drug resistant in a very short period of time. Flu viruses mutate and kill millions of us, but to extrapolate this rock solid evidence of Darwinian evolution into an explanation for every form of life on earth (and possibly beyond) is to me pushing it. Given the distinctive genetic differences between men and dogs, how long would that process have to take. If a dog had a puppy that was a cat, the cat would not survive as it would need another cat to procreate with, to establish genus Felix. The chances of two dogs having two cats at the same time are beyond the statistical probability that is possible of feasable. To apply the same logic to every genus is, even more tenuous. You can completely change the temperament and appearance of a dog in 50 generations of selective breeding, from a wolf to a pug. You can't change the genome of a dog to a cat in a hundred times that.

Now I'm not seeking to convert you to my beliefs or my way of thinking. I'm just asking you to think about these things as if you come up with some better arguments than mine, we'll both end up a little more enlightened and that will bring us both a little closer to God, regardless of whether you believe or not. For my God, the only enemies are lies and ignorance. Hope you've enjoyed your bank holiday weekend as much as I have.

The Festival of football

Well, I've been away since Friday. As regular  readers know, my son plays football for the Watling FC under 10 team. We were "on tour" at Butlins in Bognor Regis for the Spring festival of football. The tournament is a 7 a side tournament. Watling FC played six games (drew 2, Lost 4). There are a whole host of clubs from far and wide. Watling FC approach to the tournament is to give the boys a great weekend. The value of team building and developing friendships far outweighs the benefits of performing well in the competition, nice though that would be. Our club has an ethos where everyone gets a game and we try not to leave anyone behind. It is fair to say that there are far more competetive clubs around, but for our team, we are trying to get the boys to enjoy football and develop their skill levels. We also have high expectations for behaviour and team spirit. I'm pleased to report that the whole tournament was played in great spirit. It is fair to say that many of the teams approached the competition more seriously than our team. Every team has it's ethos and ours works for us.

The best thing for me was seeing a diverse group of boys of all sizes, creeds, colours getting on, playing together and enjoying themselves. It also gives parents a chance to get to know each other. Normally we might pass each other and swap a few pleasantries, over the course of the weekend, we have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other better. I happen to believe that football can be a strong force for the good. It helps us to get on. Having watched our boys develop over the last three years together has been a real joy. If you have a child in a youth football team, I'd thoroughly recommend that you check out the festival of football website. The football side of it is well run, the facilities at Butlins were superb and we all felt genuinely sorry when it was time to come home.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Mill Hill Station tea hut has a new owner

Just a quick note to say that on Friday I had a very nice cup of tea and pattie at the Station tea hut at Mill Hill Broadway. I was nipping in to town for a lunchtime beer with a few mates. As I just missed the 12:14 train, I had 15 minutes to kill.

I'm always one to plug local businesses. The new owner (new to me anyway) has redecorated the cafe and has massively improved and widened the range. Many commuters had been put off by a previous owner, so I really wanted to make sure everyone knew that the new guy (been there a couple of months) really is working hard to makle things better. Prices are lower, the snacks are tastier and the service is friendlier.

If you are travelling through Mill Hill Broadway, buy a cuppa off him or get your paper there. The snacks are tasty too. It's the one big improvement in First Capital Connect journeys from Mill Hill of late

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Apologies to Mrs T

I owe Mrs T an apology. I am of course referring to my good lady, rather than the blogger who writes a certain blog. I completely ignored all mention of her concert last week at St James church in Muswell Hill with the BBC Elstree Concert Band to raise money for the North London Hospice. The concert was superb, and I was chuffed to bits for them having such an appreciative audience. She's played in the band for over 20 years and they have gone from strength to strength.

You can catch the band again on Wednesday 23rd June playing “Music from the Silver Screen" at St Jude-on-the-Hill, Central Square, London NW11 7AH. This is part of St Judes proms. Money raised goes to the North London Hospice and Toynbee hall. Please support this, it is a superb event with some fine performers. The causes are most deserving.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Londons finest bus journey - Mill Hill East to Mill Hill Broadway on the 240

One of my most avid readers asked if I could do a little more coverage of the bus service in Barnet. Unlike Lady Thatcher, I don't think any man over age 26 who is on a bus is a failure. In my experience, he's likely to be a normal Londoner, who finds the bus an easy and cheap way to get around. Unlike many critics of Boris Johnson (of which I count myself as one), I am actually excited by his bus project. I believe that London needs special buses. London needs different buses. I always used to know I was in London because the buses look different, the taxis look different and the tube trains look different. I'm all for vanity projects if they make our city special. What many of the critics don't realise is that such icons are part of "the London brand" and have a priceless value in marketing the city. Who visits London for a ride on a bendy bus?

I vividly remember my last journey on a London routemaster. It was on the day of the London bomings of 7/7. I was doing some consultancy work at Debenhams in Oxford St. I had taken a Thameslink train to Kings X Thameslink, when the system ground to a halt. No one knew why. At first the talk was of "power surges". As the tube service was shut, I decided to get a bus for the last portion of the route. I jumped on a no 30 bus outside the station. This was not a routemaster. We got about 100 yards when a panicking policeman slung us all off. He gave us no reason. As I walked down the Euston Road, I saw a chinese chap staggering around. He looked like he was covered in confetti. I thought it was a bit early for a wedding booze up. As he got closer, I realised that he was covered in debris. How odd? It was only when I walked down Tottenham Court Road and saw a TV that the true situation became clear. I went into a cafe, had a cup of tea and listened to the radio.

At Debenhams, no one was there, so I decided to go home.  I took the opportunity to go to an empty Selfridges to buy my wife a birthday present. I was the only customer, so I got fantastic service. As no buses were running, I walked up to Swiss cottage. There was a no 13 Routemaster there. I took it to Golders Green. I felt very nostalgic. It felt right being on this London icon as my city was under attack. I felt safe and happy. I thought back to my mum's story about the Blitz and how she saw a blown up bus, on the way to her job in Bond St. I went back home and immediately went to see my mum for a cup of tea. I knew she'd be worried about me. We discussed buses and London bombs.

Anyway, I digress. The last portion of my journey, from Golders Green to Mill Hill was on a bog standard 240 bus. Now the title of this blog is "Londons finest bus journey". I believe this journey to contain the finest bus ride in London. The section from Mill Hill East to Mill Hill Broadway is, in my humble opinion, unsurpassed in London (or possibly the world). If you want a cheap day out, this short journey, contains more than any other route I could possibly imagine.

As you get on the bus at Mill Hill East, across the road is the site of the Inglis Barracks. This was the former home of the Royal Engineers. It is now a council depot and is soon to be transformed into a new town centre. The IRA bombed the barracks in the 1980's. I remember it well, I was in Istanbul at the time. As the bus goes up the hill, there is a pub on the right. This is the Angel and Crown. It has had a few names. When I was a kid it was called "The Royal Engineers". It's name was changed as it was felt that the name may attract an IRA bombing. It became "The Railway Engineer". It is located on Saunders Lane. This is an oddity in Barnet. It is a closed to cars road, which is a nature reserve. I am sure Brian Coleman has his beady eyes on it with his "roads, roads, toads" policy. A local campaign recently to oppose his plans to transform it into a two lane Highway was successful, but we all know Coleman. He doesn't let matters rest easily. A friend of mine, Valerie, who is a qualified surveyor lead the protests. When she previously confronted Coleman, he said "shut up you silly housewife". Let's just say she isn't a fan. As the bus ascends Bittacy Hill, there is a fine view of London to the back of the bus. I especially like this view as the sun comes up. At the top of Bittacy Hill, you have the Jehovas witness centre. Sadly this isn't really much to look at. As the bus travels down the Ridgeway, you pass a real London landmark on your right, the National Institute for Medical Research. This has been used as a film location, most notably it was Arkham Asylum in "Batman returns".

On your left you have a fabulous panoramic view of London. On a clear day you can see the Telecom Tower. The bus continues, and on your left you have a small church, called "The Brotherhood of the Cross and Star". If you are lucky on a sunday, you will see the worshippers in their eye catching white robes. I used to work with Brother Julius, who was the pastor of the church. The sect are vegetarians who believe Jesus has returned. On your right as you pass the church, you have a superb panoramic view of Totteridge valley. The house on your right, with the swimming pool in the back garden, was formerly owned by Patrick McGoohan at the height of his fame. As his fame grew, people used to stand on the Ridgeway and stare at him in his garden. Paddy lived here at the time of The Prisoner. He erected the high brick wall to prevent this. The Mill Hill Preservation Society launched a campaign against McGoohan and his wall. They drove out McGoohan, who moved to Switzerland, but the wall remained. I suspect we'd have all been happier, if Paddy had remained and the wall had gone.

As the bus progresses, you have Mill Hill Schools impressive facade to your left. the school is one of the largest landowners in Mill Hill and is responsible for keeping much of Mill Hill green. On your right is St Pauls church.  This church was built by William Wilberforce, the man responsible for the abolition of slavery. I am proud that such a great man lived in my manor. Immediately after the church, we see Sheepwash pond. This is one of the best loved sights in Mill Hill. Generations of children have enjoyed looking at the ducks, geese, fish and other more exotic wildlife that have been reported there.

Immediately past the pond, is Mill Hills newest attraction. The Belmont Stables has been transformed into a lavish theme park called Belmont Childrens farm. The theme park has some great attractions such as tractor rides, face painting and trailer rides. The zoo has wallabies, Siberian Chipmunks, chinchillas and cockatiels. There is also a waffle house on the site and plans for a shop selling honey. The theme park owners proudly report that they've attracted a whopping 25,000  visitors since it opened in November. If you want to see the Theme Park, I'd advise you get along there rather soon. The neighbours are objecting to the fact that the owner hasn't applied for planning permission for the change of use and intensification. As the site is on the green belt and in the conservation area, there is a good chance it will all be shut down. It would be rather sad if the local businessman who opened it lost all his investment, purely because a bit of paperwork wasn't filled in.

On your left, you have the Three Hammers pub.  Strangely the Ember inns website has a picture of another pub on the top. The Hammers is my local. It's OK. I've done a few gigs there, most notably in 1985 when I met my beloved wife. Generally though it doesn't have music or entertainment. The bus now turns left down the Ridgeway. This is a stunning view of the west of London. My advice for this portion is to travel on the 240 at dusk as England play. You'll see a stunning view of the lit up Wembley Arch, but it's worth it even if they aren't playing. On your right as you descend, you'll see the Cottage Homes. This was formerly owned by the retail trust, but is now a private retirement estate. The houses look to me like Swiss Music box chalets. Beyond that, you'll see the former missionary training college - St Josephs College. This has recently become derelict and has occasionally been used as a film and TV location.

At the bottom of Hammers Lane, the bus turns right into Flower Lane. On your left is Mill Hill Park. In the summer, you'll see Hendon and Edgware Cricket club playing. You also have Mill Hill Bowls club and a pleasant cafe. There is a mini golf course and a childrens play area (currently and rather badly) being upgraded. Just beyond that is the Wyvale Garden Centre. This is on the site of the Former Mill Hill Swimming pool. For me this is a major bugbear as the swimming pool was bequeathed to the people of Mill Hill for use in eternity as a pool. The Council crassly ignored this in the 1980's, shut the pool and allowed the Garden Centre to open. As ever with Barnet Council, kids come last.

The bus then turns right into Albert Road and left into Victoria Road. The houses on the right are in distinctive Dutch Cottage style. Sadly many property developers are eyeing these up to transform into luxury flats as has happened to no's 1,3 and 5. At the End of Victoria Road, is a little green area with a stream. This is known to locals as Simmonds Mead. The Mill Hill Preservation Society successfully applied to have this designated as a village green last year. The bus turns right onto Mill Hill Circus. Sadly there is no circus here, just a roundabout. Once across the Roundabout, you are into Mill Hill Broadway and the end of the epic journey. If you have worked up a hunger, there are some great restaurants here. For lovers of Chinese food, we have The Good Earth and Hees. For lovers of curry, we have The Mill Hill Tandoori and The Day of the Raj. There's also a Pizza Express, The Olives and Half Full.

At Mill Hill Station, you have the Thameslink station, which can take you to central London or Luton airport ! What more could you possibly want from a 15 minute bus journey. I hope that when Boris Johnson brings his new bus in, the very first route he converts is the 240. It deserves the worlds finest bus.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Atoning for my misspent youth

It's fair to say that most people are not the same when they are 47 as when they are 17. I like to think I've grown up a little bit (god you must think, what was he like then?). In truth, I was pretty awful. aged 14 I threw myself lock, stock and two smoking barrells into Punk Rock, its ethics and its morality. I had the morals of a polecat (and probably the personal hygene to match). Strangely this never really seemed to put too many young ladies off. In my early teens, when I was at Finchley Catholic High School, the best source of local girls was St Michaels Catholic Grammar School down the road. Many of these girls got the 221 bus home with us. Often we'd congregate around Tally Ho corner and try and entice them with bags of chips or other suitable culinary delights. These early attempts were invariably doomed to failure. As the scruffiest and most objectionable kid at the school, with a poor acedemic record, I wasn't really at the games with the aspiring and clever young ladies at St Michaels. Then one day a miracle occurred. Bill Grundy decided to interview the Sex Pistols on the Today program.

All of a sudden, being a smelly oaf was cool. Pete Conway and myself, decided that this was an opportunity far too good to be missed and took our complete lack of musical talent seriously. We formed the False Dots. We were in a band. All of a sudden the ladies who had crossed the road and held up their noses, started to find us interesting. All of a sudden, the fact we were skint, scruffy and objectionable didn't matter. Sadly the school I was attending didn't quite see my charm in the same way and I headed on over to Orange Hill Senior High School. This had the added advantage of the girls being on site. Through circumstance and other reasons I won't go into right now, I ended up spending a lot of time hanging around with a few young ladies who lived in various squats in the Kings Cross/ Notting Hill area. Given that this would have not gone down too well at home, I kept this all rather quiet.

Although my grades improved at school as I developed better coping strategies for my dyslexia, my lyfestyle choices didn't help my grades. Band rehearsals, attending gigs and hanging around dinghy flats seemed far more attractive than actually working. I had a handy stream of spare cash from my rehearsal studio and other schemes I'd cooked up, so the paper round could be dispensed with. As the bands local fame and notoriety increased, we enjoyed a halcyon period where life was a complete scream. Life seemed to be one long party. All of those snobby girls from St Michaels now chased us. We didn't have to do anything at all. As an aside, let me share a little secret with you, which sometimes makes me giggle. Mike Freer's much feared favourite henchwoman Vanessa Gearson was a snobby St Michaels girl. She was credited with killing Iain Duncan-Smith's leadership of the Tory party. I get the feeling she doesn't like me and I've often wondered why? Anyway, I digress.

As with all parties, sooner or later they come to an end. In my case, this happened in 1984. The band was on the verge of major success, but we split up. I'd managed to have a steady relationship for two years at the time and this went as well. As if all of this wasn't bad enough, my health went. Oddly enough it wasn't my poor lifestyle which done for me, but a misprescription of a drug. When you wake up one morning throwing up blood uncontrollably, you know you are in trouble. When you spend six weeks in bed, you know things are serious. Now how does a brush with the grim reaper affect you?

It affected me in a rather strange way. I stopped drinking for six months. I started madly practicing the guitar for three hours a day. I started trying to write proper songs. I started to formulate a plan for my studio, to build it into the best studio in North West London.

So why is all of this relevent? What's it all got to do with the price of fish? Well on Tuesday night we had the first session of Sound Skool, a project run by YMCA at our studios. It gives young people aged 14-18, who are not in education, training or employment the opportunity to undertake a 10 week accredited course in Music Production, DJ'ing, MC'ing Singing or Band Skills. It's completely free and is held on a Tuesday evening between 5pm and 8pm. The courses are fully booked (in fact well over subscribed).

You can find out more about the Sound Skool project here -
We are now looking for candidates for our next set of courses starting in September. If you are 14-18, not in education or training and have 3 hours free on a Tuesday night, get in touch.

I've got many things wrong in my life. I've made a stack of mistakes, but there are some things I am truly proud of. Helping to get the Sound Skool project off the ground is one of them. The great thing about running your own company is you can spend your profits on what the hell you like. I urge everyone who has their own business to put a little bit back into the community. The pictures on the blog are just a few of the young people who came down on Tuesday evening. To me that's a source of pride. When your dyslexic kids start misbehaving, coming home mashed, playing music you detest, talk to them, help them, advise them. When I started my band, my Dad let me have the use of one of his garages to rehearse in. He told me to rent it out and make a bit of money from other bands. I daresay he wouldn't of approved of much of what happened, he wasn't stupid, but he turned a blind eye. He ran me to hospital when I was bleeding to death, I probably knocked ten years off his life one way or another. He never saw the success we became, but we were turning the corner when he died in 1987. I believe that wherever he is, he's a bit proud of what we've done. I just know I'm lucky to have had such a wise father. I can't say thanks to him for what he did, but I can live in a spirit he would have liked. Have fun, enjoy life and give something back

First Capital Connect : First class fare for a third class journey

There is a very interesting report in the Daily Express today - - detailing how rail companies are charging First class ticket prices for routes where there is no first class service. Can you guess which company was described as one of the main culprits? None other than our beloved First Capital Connect. When asked how they could justify selling first class tickets from Luton to Wimbledon, when no trains have first class accomodation. A First Capital Connect spokesman said: 
“It is perfectly feasible for the entire national rail journey from Luton Airport Parkway to Wimbledon to be carried out in first class. FCC tickets to Wimbledon all include cross London travel for people who decide not to travel on a direct service, therefore the suggestion that an additional fare needs to be paid is incorrect.”
 So you are at Luton Airport Parkway, you have a load of bags and you want to get to Wimbledon in comfort and without stress. You know the service can get overcrowded so you buy a First Class ticket. Is there anyone who believes that you'd want to change trains, maybe several times?

 The article says that the ticket for the non existant services is charged at £21.40, rather than £13.40 for a Second class ticket. I have this question for First Capital Connect. How much should the fare be for a Third Class Service. One where trains are late, don't turn up, are too packed to board. I thought I'd visit my old friend, the First Capital Connect Journey check board. What joys did it have in line for us today?
Line problem in the Blackfriars area.
Train services between Brighton and St Pancras International are being disrupted due to signalling problems in the Blackfriars area.
Engineers are working as fast as possible to restore services to normal. Delays of up to 20 minutes can be expected.
Trains are being diverted via Streatham and will not serve London Bridge.
Services will go via Streatham and not call at London Bridge until further notice. Southern Railway are accepting FCC tickets on all reasonable routes.
Message Received: 07:52:51 27/05/2010
Line problem.
Train services on all routes via Shortlands are being disrupted due to signalling problems.
Engineers are working as fast as possible to restore services to normal. Short notice alterations and delays of up to 30 minutes can be expected.
Message Received: 08:57:27 27/05/2010
 So if the 2nd class fare is 62% of the first class fare, surely the third class fare should only be £8.40? Do we get a 38% reduction on our season tickets for the third class service? No of course we don't. Why? Because if there is one thing which is First class about First Capital Connect it is the renumeration package for their bosses such as Moir Lockhead.  You can click here to get the full details of his package :-
Let me give you a summary as reported


Total Annual Compensation£769,000


All Other Compensation£33,000
Exercisable Options735,853
Exercisable Values£185,979
Unexercisable Options297,107
Unexercisable Values£779,906
Total Value of Options£965,885
Total Number of Options1,032,960


Total Annual Cash Compensation£769,000
Total Short Term Compensation£769,000
Other Long Term Compensation£33,000
Total Calculated Compensation£802,000


* I like the way it calls his earnings COMPENSATION. I always thought compensation was what you got from a company that provides a crap service. It seems like the only person who gets proper compensation from First Capital Connect for it's tawdry service is the bloke who runs it. If you want to know what's wrong with Great Britain today, can there be a finer example. 
Now there are a few things you can do. There is a number 10 petition to strip this awful company of its franchise. It only has a week left to run. It is 46 signatures short of 6,000. Please sign now if you haven't already. Please ask any fellow victims of this company to sign it if they haven't

There is also a facebook group, where we keep an eye on the issues related to this company

Then there is the First Crapital Connect noticeboard.
If you have a problem with this line, please log it on one of these sites, it makes it far easier to collate information to  write blogs, letters to MP's etc if we know what they are up to. Given the new Government is a coalition and there is a possibility that there may be another election in short order if it all goes pear shaped, I think that now is an excellent time to keep up the pressure.

Sausages and Brian Coleman

When it comes down to it, the London Borough of Barnet is just a little bit too full of people who are just a little bit too puffed up with their own sense of self importance and just a little too lacking in a sense of humour. Sadly, having failed in most other walks of life, they enter local politics and end up making decisions which have a huge effect on peoples lives. It is something I like to refer to as Esther Rantzen syndrome. Esther Rantzen made her name presenting a program called "Thats Life". It was a mildly humourous program which was on TV in the late 1970's. It was probably the first program to champion consumer rights and give the common man in the street 2 minutes of fame. It featured Richard Stilgoe who would play the piano and sing funny ditties, they would go out on the street and do vox pop shots. It got OK viewing figures until one day they struck lucky. They featured a dog which could say "Sausages". This was an overnight sensation. Everyone suddenly loved That's Life and Esther Rantzen. Viewing figures shot through the roof. Esther Rantzen for a while was hot property.

Now whilst the only thing the vast majority of people wanted to see was the dog saying Sausages, Esther Rantzen thought that the success was down to her personal brilliance. For a while, it was my favourite show, purely because a dog saying sausages was rather funny. Sadly for Esther, she never really got the fact that talking dogs make great TV. She never really got the fact that if the dog could have presented the whole show, then it would have been the greatest show ever, anywhere.

It is rather like the numerous politicians in Barnet who think they have been elected because they are the bees knees. They are really the Esther Rantzen to their party, which is the talking dog saying "Sausages". Sure some of them have a personal following, but how many would have been elected had they stood as independents? I don't begrudge them their success at the polls. I don't begrudge them their allowances, but it does make me laugh when the Brian Colemans of this world say that "The residents party where humiliated" or similar comments. I wonder how many votes Coleman would get as an independent or as a residents party candidate?

Did he write the Tory Manifesto which got him elected? He's just been appointed as Cabinet minister in Barnet for the Environment and he can't even stick to the manifesto he was elected on, ditching the commitments to the Green Belt and saying "My priority is roads, roads, roads". The likes of Brian Coleman really don't get it, do they?

Just as TV has moved on from the days when a dog saying sausages would get you 20 million viewers, sooner or later the voters of Barnet and Camden will tire of the Tory party. Mr Coleman is currently GLA rep for Camden and Barnet. In two years time, I wonder whether the public will be quite so keen on him, as Tory cuts bite. I doubt that even a dog saying "Sausages" will save him. Maybe I'll buy myself a Parrot, train it to say "Colemans got to go" and see if I can get a TV slot. I've tried to train the dog to say it, but she just looks at me like I'm an idiot (she's probably right).

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Is this comment by Barnet Green party parliamentary candidate racist or just obnoxious?

Sometimes in life, you have to sit back and take a deep breath before you say what you really want to say. Of all the blogs I've written so far this is the one I've thought longest and deepest about, because what I have to say is extremely serious. Following a blog I wrote which criticised the Green Party for not standing in Burnt Oak, I had an exchange of comments with one of their local Parliamentary candidates, Donald Lyven.  You can see the original post and the comments here :-

Mr Lyven left a series of comments, which weren't particularly complimentary about me. Whilst much of this was personal and abusive, I guess most people would probably take the view that a blogger such as myself probably deserves it (you'd probably be right as well). When a Candidate makes a comment with what could be construed as deeply racist tones, I believe that is a more serious matter and one which cannot be ignored. I believe it is one which deserves public scrutiny. In his final comment, Mr Lyven said the following :-
Oh, I hear there's a seat going in Zimbabwe North, why not try for it Rog? Don't worry about small parties standing there against you; they can be dealt with...I have a life, Au Revoir!
 I could not believe that a member of the Green party would say such a thing. Zimbabwe is one of the worlds poorest and most deprived countries. How insulting for the people there to be belittled in such a patronising way. It is also ill informed because there is an opposition party to Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. It's called the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Does Mr Lyven not realise how insulting it is to them to make such comments. Does he really think he can compare me saying that it was disgraceful that the Greens didn't stand in Burnt Oak, with the repression and violence meted out by Mugabe thugs on the MDC? In case it has escaped Mr Lyvens attention, the Lib Dems in Barnet are a small party. They have three seats out of 63 on Barnet Council.

Why choose Zimbabwe as a country to ridicule? There are plenty of repressive regimes in the world of all colours. There are plenty of corrupt politicians of all colours. There are many regimes who have killed far more opponents and in a far more systematic manner than Mugabe. So why does Mr Lyven choose Zimbabwe rather than Iran, China, Cuba, Burma or any of a host of middle eastern states to demonstrate his argument? Why does Zimbabwe, out of all of these states come to mind for Mr Lyven?

I have my own opinion about Mr Lyven and this comment.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Mill Hill ERUV - Can we have a debate?

As someone who lives within the boundary of the proposed Mill Hill ERUV, I have been watching with increasing alarm how the debate is progressing on the website of the Edgware and Mill Hill Times. Check out some of the comments on this story :-

In the title of this blog, I asked "Can we have a debate?". Actually I'm not asking the question you thought I was asking, which is whether the people of Mill Hill should all get a say in this decision. I am asking whether we are capable of having a sensible and civilised discussion on the subject. The level of comments I've seen opposing the ERUV indicate that opposition is based on a loathing of religious observance and in some cases anti semitism. Given that the actual ERUV fence will have virtually no impact on anyone, it seems to me that any such problems can be dealt with simply enough by good and sympathetic design.

Which brings us to the question of how the ERUV will affect Mill Hill in other ways. It is likely to have a positive effect on the property prices of houses such as mine which fall within the ERUV area. As my house is a quick walk from the Shul, I might reasonably expect that it's value will be enhanced as people would wish to purchase a property within the ERUV area. The downside of this is that those living just the other side of the ERUV are likely to see their houses marginally devalued. I expect that should the proposal go ahead, a question which estate agents will have to get used to answering is "Is the house within the ERUV". For any observant orthodox Jew, presumably this could be a deal breaker if the answer is no.

The ERUV is likely to lead to a concentration of Orthodox Jewish people within the ERUV area and a depletion of this population outside. Given that the Jewish population is generally law abiding, is this a problem? Well it is clearly a problem for any anti semites who happen to live within Mill Hill, but what about the wider community. I was struck by how much Mill Hill had changed when I recently stood for the Council elections. I visited many homes which I used to deliver papers to as a delivery boy 30 odd year ago. At the time I cannot remember a single customer who was black or Asian (apart from Mickey Mosts maid). There has been a massive influx of people and a massive outflow of older people. I was struck by how the demographics have changed. As a practising Roman Catholic it is clear to me that our church is fuller than ever, mainly due to eastern Europeans and African immigrants. The point is that areas change with or without ERUVs. If a large Mosque was to open in Mill Hill, we'd see an influx of Moslems. Would this be a reason to oppose the Mosque?

Organisations such as the BNP seek to put the clock back and dream of a world of warm beer and white anglo saxon Christians.  This world no longer exists in Mill Hill. We are a multi cultural society and we all get on pretty well. Is the ERUV likely to change this? Well no one will be forced to become an Orthodox Jew. The ERUV won't be accompanied by a recruitment drive or knocks on the door as the Jehovas Witnesses, Mill Hills other large religious establishment practice. Will non Jews be forced to get out of the area against their will? No, but if they decide to move, they will get more money for their house. All sounds good so far. What about non jewish families who have lived in Mill Hill all their lives and have children who wish to buy property in Mill Hill? Well this is an issue. It will become more expensive and difficult and will over time see long standing Mill Hill families move out purely for financial reasons. This does concern me, because I love the area and whilst I have no objections to newcomers, I would like to see the "Mill Hill Community" continue.

I have spoken to many Jewish friends about the proposal. You may be surprised to hear that the majority (though not all) are against the proposal (yes I know my friends are not necessarily representative). They prefer a diverse Mill Hill and feel that an Orthodox Jewish monoculture would be a bad thing for the wider Jewish community. The friends who are reformed Jews feel that the development would be a step backwards. One friend who is a particularly vociferous opponent, who comes from a Polish background and who lost family members in the Holocaust said that the last thing we need is a Jewish ghetto in Mill Hill. He feels that it would actually flag the area up as a target for anti semites and cause resentment within the local community. He is of the opinion that those people who are championing the proposal haven't properly thought the whole issue through. His view is that all residents of Mill Hill should be given the opportunity to take part in a referendum on the issue. That is how things are managed in Switzerland and he quite likes it.

As to my own views. I really haven't made up my mind. I believe in freedom of religious expression, so I wouldn't oppose it on these grounds. We have to live and let live. As to whether I'd vote yes or no if we had a referendum. I don't know as yet, I'm leaning towards yes, but my friend makes some powerful arguments. I suspect that Barnet Council don't trust us Council Taxpayers enough to actually let us choose, so it's all academic, but I for one would like to see a proper debate occur. I would like to see a decision where everyone participated occur. I would hope that we could have a proper, unemotional and sensible debate and get a decision which Mill Hill was comfortable with. Is that too much to ask for?

Please note that on this post, I will delete any comments that I deem to be offensive or anti semitic. I want to see a debate not a slanging match.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Andrew Dismore needs your cash !

As the Tory/Lib Dem cuts start to bite people on the public payroll, one man is fighting back. He believes he was the first victim of the dodgy policies of the new government. That man is former MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore.

He believes that incompetence at Barnet Council lead to him being cheated out of his rightful place in the house of commons. He lost the Hendon seat by 105 votes. Mr Dismore has evidence that all sorts of things happened to voters who were unable to cast votes for him. He has until Thursday to launch a legal challenge. He only has one small problem. He hasn't got the cash necessary to launch the case. Lawyers have told him that it will be a six figure sum.

Now I don't want any naughty wags leaving comments that maybe he could sell his second home and fund the case out of the profits or take out a debenture against future expense claims. Anyway if you have a cool quarter of a million pounds to spare and fancy helping Andrew challenge the result, he'd be absolutely chuffed to hear from you. You can can contact Mr Dismore on 0208 202 2154 or email

If you have a quarter of a million to spare and you don't want to help Andrew Dismore challenge the decision, you can click on the "EMAIL ME" link in my profile and you could help fund a youth project run by YMCA for disadvantaged children aged 14-18 to develop music related skills and I'll put you in touch with Marcella at the YMCA  who runs the project and would be endebted for ever for your generosity. Even if you only have £10 she'd appreciate it.

A new strategy for Green Belt destruction in Mill Hill

Make no mistake, the Green belt faces a  massive threat in Mill Hill.  I was incredibly disturbed to read the following article in yesterdays Mail on Sunday :-

This article contains the following two paragraphs near the bottom of the article.

And the alpaca farm ruse is an easy way of getting round planning restrictions in areas with toothless councils. GVP has three other sites in the South-West where it is using similar schemes to justify mobile and permanent residences.
Marc Willis, agent for GVP, has set up more than 35 alpaca farms for people wanting to build houses in restricted areas. Willis is the only Chartered Town Planner who is also a member of the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants, giving him a rare specialism in rural planning.
****** Update 18:27 ************
Further to the comments left by the management of Belmont Childrens Zoo, I've added a link to their website :-

It appears that there may be a misunderstanding as to the nature of my comments and I've added the link to allow anyone wishing to find out more about the establishment. As I thought I'd made clear above, in many ways the establishment is an asset to Mill Hill and many people are pleased it has opened.

As such I think it is only fair to the establishment to qualify my comments. The only issue I have with the establishment is the dispute with Barnet Councils planning department as to whether it requires planning permission. As the site is on green belt lands within the conservation area, I am of the belief that it should rigorously and pro-actively comply with these rules, before it even considered opening. This should have been sought and obtained through the usual channels.

If this had been sought and obtained, I would be championing the work done in preserving rare breeds.

I must say I find it odd that they claim not to be a theme park, given that their website has an entire page devoted to "Parties" which is clearly a "fun" activity and not educational or related to farming.

When I visited the "farm", they were hosting "face painting" which again is an activity unrelated to farming or education. It struck me as being a commercial leisure activity. I also see from the website that "tractor and trailer rides" are available as part of the "theme park" activities for May. I must say that advertising ride does reinforce the image of a theme park, rather than a serious commercial farm.

As to the comments about Alpacas, as the establishment calls itself a farm and keeps Alpacas, which are specifically described in the Mail on Sunday article, one must presume they were being farmed.If they are not being kept for farming purposes, then surely it again lends credence to the claim that the establishment is not a farm in the true sense of the word.

In short, my concern is protection of the green belt. If the Belmont Childrens farm has complied with all of the planning rules and regulations, this blog would be fully supportive of it as it would be an asset to Mill Hill. If it hasn't then I'm afraid that we'll have to campaign for the Council to enforce planning regulations, just as we would for any other usage where full permission had not been obtained on the green belt. Maybe the management would be so kind as to update us on their view of the situation regarding planning permission as they have with other activities.

The nasty side of the Barnet Green party

On Saturday, I had the audacity to criticise the Barnet Green Party. Read this post :-

I wake up this morning to see Donald Lyven has left a comment. It seems like Mr Lyven doesn't like criticism very much. He says
Rog, your behaving like a complete arse again. I did not state in a letter anything of the sort. What is your problem? Is this the new politics? slagging off other parties because of your own twisted logic? You're the one who should be thoroughly ashamed.

Call me on 07939-021480 and I'll explain.

Donald Lyven - Barnet Green
Well for the purposes of clarity, lets set a few things straight. Firstly, if you read the original post, you will see that I put a link from the blog to Donalds letter to the Times. People can read what he said and decide whether I was being unfair (or an Arse as Donald so eloquently puts it).

The main thrust of my criticism is that the Green party in Barnet are not interested in the least well off people. This can be demonstrated by the fact that they stood candidates in well off areas like Mill Hill but didn't bother to put even one candidate up in Burnt Oak, probably the poorest ward in Barnet.

Now having said that I have a problem and my logic is twisted, Mr Lyven then invites me to ring him to explain. Why doesn't he just use the comments system to leave a clarification? He could say anything he likes and if he really believes that I've used twisted logic, he could give a fullsome explanation, which really would make me look like an "arse".

Mr Lyven says I should be ashamed. What for, for pointing out that Mr Lyvens party ignore the most deprived ward in Barnet? For putting a link to his own comments? He asks "Is this the new politics". Well sorry mate, I rather like the old politics. I preferred Labour when it was "Old Labour". I prefer it when people speak openly and frankly. Some of the people I admire most (but don't agree with) are Conservatives who are not afraid to speak their mind. Are they "arses"? No, they are just people who disagree with me. If Donny boy wants to be taken seriously, he'd better learn to deal with criticism in a more mature manner.

Mr Lyven's comments remind me of one of the "friends of freer" who often used to leave comments here claiming I'd "twisted things", whilst never ever actually providing any evidence (such as I do with links). I do wonder if maybe John Hart carried out his threat to buy the Greens a beer and used the opportunity with his sweet talking charm to persuade Donald to leave such a stupid comment.

P.S Note to Donald. I like a good row so bring it on.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A few interesting customers of Mill Hill Music Complex

Guess what. I've just started a new blog. I'm sure that many people in Barnet will be think "Hasn't he got anything better to do with his time?". Well this new blog is all about what I do with my time, when I'm not banging on here. I've launched a blog for my business - Mill Hill Music Complex. We get so many interesting characters passing through that I thought it would be a great forum for keeping track of what is happening.

Anyway, here's the latest entry -

Hope you enjoy it.

A message to William Hague : What is the point of having an Army?

I've been brought up to believe that the British armed forces are the best in the world. If it is true then it must also be true that our politicians are the worst in the world. How can I say this? Well the purpose of having armed forces is to protect the citizens of the nation.Paul and Rachel Chandler were kidnapped by Somali pirates whilst sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania in October.

It has emerged that a vessel of the Royal Navy was on hand and could have intervened. This article in the Independent explains the view of the ministry of defence that no action was taken because the couple might have been killed. Daily Express columnist Frederick Forsyth has uncovered information that the crew of the Navy vessel asked permission to intervene but were denied it by Whitehall. Well I ask this. If we really have the worlds greatest armed forces, then William Hague, the new Foreign Secretary should instruct the MOD to launch a rescue mission. Does anyone seriously believe that a rag bag hotch potch band of Somali pirates would be any sort of a match for a squad of Royal Marines and SAS. I would go further. Once we'd got the Chandlers back, if I were Hague I'd instruct the Royal Navy to go on a search and destroy offensive against these Somali Pirates. Sink all of their vessels and destroy all of their operating bases. Once this had been completed, Hague could announce that this was would happen to any rag bag band of such people who in any way threatened British pensioners. Apperently we have to spend £100 billion on a Trident replacement. If we can't even defend our citizens against a ragbag bunch of pirates, how can we possibly believe we'd ever use a nuclear weapon. We haven't got the balls. I think that such an action against this ragbag bunch of chancers would send a far stronger message and make British citizens sleep soundly in their beds (or yatch cabins) the world over.

This may sound like a very harsh course of action for a lefty such as myself, but I take the view that these pirates do nothing for the ordinary people of Somalia. Until such time as the develeped nations deal seriously with such lawlessness, that country can never move on. These people make millions fro piracy, which means that decent Somalians will never get the chance to build up their country. If we won't use our armed forces against a ragbag bunch of pirates, why have them? I know quite a few servicemen and ex servicemen. They are ashamed at how we sit on our hands when things such as this happen. Is it because the Royal Marines and the SAS say "Sorry we can't do it, we may get hurt?". No of course it isn't. That's their job and they'd love to do it. It is because are politicians are cowards. I can guarantee this. If we got our boys and girls to do their job and sorted this out, people would walk with an extra spring in their step. They would feel proud to be British.  There is no nice way to deal with piracy. The very worst way is to pay them off. We have a new government. If it shows that it has balls, it may just succeed. If it hasn't, then it deserves to fail. If the Chandlers are still in captivity in three months time or we've paid a ransom, then William Hague will have shown that he's a failure and not fit for the job.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


Being a punk rocker, Toad by Cream exemplified everything I didn't like about overblown rock tracks and long, boring self indulgent drum solos. These days there are bigger Toads to fry ! Sadly Eric Clapton of Cream was instrumental in the setting up of Rock Against Racism and not in a good way. Whilst Clapton has never withdrawn his offensive racist comments, many good things came out of Rock Against Racism, not the least my love of Misty In Roots. I got into Reggae music as a result of the policy of putting reggae and punk bands on together. Of all of these Misty were my favourite. I couldn't leave ya on a Saturday Night with a Toad alone could I? Enjoy

Barnet Greens? More like Barnets biggest disgrace

I daresay that this particular blog will upset a few people. Sometimes harsh things have to be said. Don't get me wrong, I support many of the policies of the green party, but now the Green party have an MP and they want to be taken seriously, we need to have a closer look at what they are, what they support, what they stand for and who supports them. In a letter to the Hendon Times Donald Lyven, green party candidate states that they doubled their vote. Well I have this question, how many votes did the greens get in Burnt Oak? The answer , none. They couldn't be bothered to stand (Check for yourself if you don't believe me - Now is this because burnt Oak has the most superb environment in the Borough of Barnet? Is it because everyone in Burnt Oak already buys organic? Is it because everyone in Burnt Oak already drives a Prius?

Nope, none of these reasons would apply. If anywhere needs it's environment improving in Barnet it's Burnt Oak. Where are the legions of Green Party activists fighting for better conditions for kids in the most run down area of the Borough. Where is the campaign to preserve the habitats? So why ignore Burnt Oak and campaign in the next door ward of Mill Hill? Well in terms of the quality of environment, Mill Hill is clearly less in need of a bit of "greening" than Burnt Oak. Unlike working class Burnt Oak, middle class Mill Hill is seen by the greens as a happy hunting ground. You see when you are asking for cash, the population of Mill Hill has more wonga in their wallet. A nice green campaigner outside Waitrose, grabbing people as they emerge with their organic wholefood tofu burgers is far more likely to stick their hands in their wallets than a harrassed single mum buying her beans in Burnt Oak. You see the "highly principled" green campaigners don't care about the people who need environmental champions the most. They care about the people with the dosh.

On the election night I was having a bit of a laugh with Tory Mill Hill candidate, John Hart. He told me he loved the greens in Mill Hill "They are our fifth column". John knew that they would take votes most likely to go to the Lib Dems. John said that if he won he'd take them out for a drink.He then said something else. He said that Matthew Offord won the election in Burnt Oak. He said "The 600 votes we picked up there was the difference". John Hart understands the world of real politics. Even the Tories campaign in Burnt Oak. Even the Tories care more about the people at the bottom of the pile than the Greens. Whilst I will always fight the corner for the environment and the green belt, I consider the Greens to be a disgrace. Any supposedly national party which doesn't care about those at the bottom of the pile should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. There really is no excuse.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Brian Coleman - My priorites are Toads, Toads, Toads

Being a thickhead and a dyslexic, sometimes I spell things incorrectly, so please bear with me. Leader of Barnet Council, Lynne Hillan has announced her new cabinet. Full details are here in this press release :-

The most intriguing thing is the way they award themselves ever more meaningless and wordy job titles. Check out some of these :-

Cabinet Member for Customer Access and Partnerships, Councillor Robert Rams
Cabinet Member for Governance and Civic Affairs, Councillor Melvin Cohen
Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, Councillor Daniel Thomas
Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion, Councillor Joanna Tambourides
Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Families, Councillor Andrew Harper

What has this blogs dear friend Councillor Brian Coleman done wrong. His title is vaguely understandable and to the point.

Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Brian Coleman

What is less understandable is Colemans interpretation of the role "My priorities are roads, roads, roads and roads" he croaked. Now like Councillor Coleman, I think sorting out all of the potholes which have appeared due to his administrations incompetence should be a top priority. Having said that, he obviously didn't read the Tory manifesto which said that "protecting the green belt" would be their top priority. So much for the manifesto then Brian?

I do wonder what Brian wants from his role. Does he want to cover Barnet in tarmac? Where are these new roads he wants to build? Maybe a nice bypass through Totteridge valley? Maybe he wants to turn Barnet Lane into a three lane highway? Given that all trunk roads in Barnet are controlled by Boris via TFL, he must be talking about rebuilding and widening existing backroads. Maybe he's planning to up the speed limit outside our schools. There is a theory that if cars drive really fast past schools, parents make sure that their kids keep well clear (well there is a theory now that I just made it up).

One small point though. Given that Barnets Tories lost much of the reserves in Iceland and overspent another chunck on their last major Highways project at Aerodrome Road, how does Brian Coleman plan funding his "Empire of the Roads". I guess he'll fund it the way he funds everything else. He'll get us to pay for it through our taxes.

I do wonder what his colleagues think when he opens his mouth and croaks his bizarre blatherings. Do they think "Good old Brian" or do they groan. Well I'll tell you what I think. I think it's disgraceful that Councillor Coleman has abandoned all of the Tories manifesto commitments to protect the green belt, less than two weeks after the election. Needless to say that he'll soon be agitating for Lynne Hillan to sacked  so he can completely take over. It's the job he's always wanted and I hear he has reason to want it now.

Jesus, Mary and Mohammed (peace be upon him) and Facebook

Aint religion a funny old thing? Now when I was growing up as a kid in a Roman Catholic household, I went to church every week and I went to St Vincents RC Primary School on the Ridgeway. We were taught that Jesus loves you and you've got to be nice to your neighbours. We were taught to turn the other cheek and we were taught that the early church members were led, singing hymns, to be eaten by lions in Roman auditoriums. I really couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't really want to be a member of such a marvellous religion.The first little doubt crept in when I was talking to my friend Suzi who lived up the road. I guess I was seven or eight at the time. Her family were Jewish and along with all of the other families in the road (of all denominations) we were in and out of her house and didn't give it any thought. One day she said a rather strange thing to me - "My dad said that the pope says that jews eat babies". She was rather concerned about this. I didn't really know too much about the Pope then. He was a bloke who lived in Rome and wore a funny hat. My parents used to say, if I was naughty the Pope would be cross. Anyway Suzi didn't really know who the Pope was, except that he was the top bloke in the Catholic church. She was worried by this. I promised to make some enquiries. I asked my Dad "Dad, if the Pope says something, is it true". My Dad replied "Yes, he's infallible". This was bad news indeed. Now it was quite clear that Suzi didn't eat babies (given that she was disturbed by the comment her Dad made). I was pretty sure her mum and dad didn't either, so why had the Pope said it?

Anyway, we held another discussion on the subject. I lied "I asked my Dad and he said the Pope wasn't talking about your mum and dad, he was talking about someone else". Now Suzi was a bit worried, could it have been one of her uncles? Her Dad had clealry said it for a reason. There was someone in her family who her Dad didn't talk to. She said "I think I'd better ask my Dad who it is". The conference was adjourned for a couple of days. When it reconvened, she'd got the full facts. Her dad had been talking to a mate of his and made a flippant remark, not knowing she was in earshot. When he'd found out she'd heard and she'd been really upset, he was mortified. Although she was only a kid, he sat her down and explained how lies had been spread about Jewish people and one of these was that they hurt babies. He assured her that the modern Pope didn't think this, but in history there were some rather naughty popes who did bad things, especially to jewish folks. He said that now we all got on fine and were friends. He told her that lots of bad things happened in the past and we had to move on.

Anyway, Suzi duly reported this back to me. Now I was troubled by the fact that my Dad had said the Pope was infallible, but clearly there had been some naughty Popes if Suzi's Dad was telling the truth. Later I asked him "Dad, were there some Popes a few hundred years ago, who were bad people". Now my Dad was always pretty honest and this troubled him. He didn't really want to tell his eight year old son that there had been bad popes, but he didn't want to lie. "The Pope is only human, he can make mistakes. A few hundred years ago there were problems, but they changed the rules and now we've got a good pope". Well that sorted that out, but the whole incident planted a little seed of doubt. It's fair to say that as I learned more about the history of the Church, I realised that, yes there had been some naughty popes.

So what has this conversation from 40 years ago got to do with today? Well there is a massive row going on about a page on facebook called Lets Draw Mohammed. This has 200+ followers. In response an Everybody who is against Lets Draw Mohammed facebook page has sprung up. This has 9,500 + followers. This is an interesting conundrum. The supporters of the first of these pages are exercising their right to free speech. This is perfectly legal and is one of the reasons why Western Society is the choice of the vast majority of people who have a choice. However the supporters of this page are deliberately insulting 1 Billion + people. To a Muslim, this is a blasphemous and deliberate insult. Now most Muslims are actually pretty sensible about such matters. In the Islamic religion, it is blasphemous to show the image of any prophet. As Jesus is also recognised as a prophet, theoretically every Roman Catholic church is blaspheming against Islam, as every church will have images of Jesus. Muslims don't go around demanding churches are shut or starting facebook pages calling for a ban. The reason they have reacted against the Facebook page is because it is a deliberate insult. I once sat through a day in Hendon magistrates court. A Scotsman was up before the beak for punching a Policeman. He was lying on the ground in a state of inebriation when the copper kicked him and said "get up you drunken Scottish B*****d". The drunken Scottish B******d did just that and thumped him, immediately getting arrested. His defence was that if the officer had simply asked him to move along, he would have moved. As he insulted Scotland, he felt he had to thump him for the "Honour of Scotland". Both sides agreed on the facts of the case. I suspect that the magistrate was Scottish, as he said "normally I would impose a harsh custodial sentence for striking a police officer, but as I do understand how your National pride would have been insulted, I am only going to impose a £100 fine". The police were furious. The point is that if you deliberately set out to antagonise someone, bad things happen. We can all make silly comments that can have profound effects. My friends Dads comment to his friend was one such example. He not only worried the hell out of his daughter, but had the potential to cause bad feelings. When he realised she'd heard, he sensibly defused the situation. I can remember telling my Dad about the drunken Scotsman and his lucky escape from jail. My Dad laughed and said "Now there's a lesson for us all, if you don't want to get thumped, don't go around insulting people." With regards to the facebook pages, I rather think a few people have to grow up a little bit.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Strange happenings on my Laptop Computer and who can spy on it

Let me ask this question, because I genuinely don't know. Who exactly has the power/ability to legally snoop around on our computers at home, without our knowledge? I'd guess that the secret services do, but what about councils and commercial organisations? Do any of these have the ability to interecept our emails? Do they have an ability to poke around on our hard drives and read/steal private emails?

The reason I ask is because some rather odd things have happened on my computer recently, all since I put a request for anyone who had problems voting in the Barnet Council elections to email me.

My stats show that quite a few people have accessed the link to send me an email, in the last 5 days (over 30 people). How many emails have I got? One from the BBC. So 29 people clicked the link to send me an email and changed their mind? An even stranger thing happened. On the 13th May, a years worth of emails mysteriously deleted themselves from my hard drive. Do you want to know an even odder thing. The same thing happened to Don't Call Me Dave a while back and he lost six months worth of emails. DCMD put this down to a glitch. I did until I talked to him about it.

So who would want to spend time and money monitoring and knobbling me as someone who writes blogs about Barnet Council? Well maybe Barnet Council would, but would they have the technical skills or prowess? Probably not. What about their suppliers of technology? Well they probably would have the ability, as to whether they could do it legally or would be prepared to break the law, I have no idea. Why has all of this started since the blog asking for details of problems voting in the Hendon Parliamentary Election? Probably coincidence, but I'd be very interested to find out. Oh and if you are worried about whether someone is intercepting these emails and something you wished to keep private has been intercepted, then let me know via a comment on blogspot to this post.

As to the years worth of deleted emails. A true pain in the bum, but all of the really interesting stuff gets archived off to my  memory stick and deleted from my outlook file, just in case. That's where the juicy stuff lives and it isn't kept at home (or at work).

Please email me if you can throw any light on any of these mysteries. If you don't get a reply within 24 hours, post a comment CLICK HERE TO EMAIL ME. Am I getting paranoid? Nope, just puzzled and I'd like an explanation. If someone is ploughing through my last year of email, I don't envy them.

A message to Labour supporters - Vote for Diane Abbott

I was asked today who I wanted to be the next Labour leader. I replied Diane Abbott. The question was re asked "Who do you want out of the serious candidates". Now the correct response to this rephrased question would have been a punch in the face, but I'm a pacifist. Diane Abbott is a Cambridge graduate. She was the first black female MP. When she first became an MP, she was regularly asked if she was a cleaner. My guess is that to have got to Cambridge and become the first black female MP, she'd probably have to have been about 20 times as good as many white male mp's. She hasn't played the game, which is why she's a backbencher and she hasn't sold out. She got pilloried for sending her kids to private schools, but her response was one I respect - "Yes it may be hypocritical, but I want the best for my children".

Diane has all of the attributes I want in a politician, clever, honest, decent, witty, principled and pragmatic. She tells it how it is. Some may say "Labour could never win with Diane Abbott. Why? because she's black, because she's female? Well they said Thatcher couldn't win because she was female and Obama couldn't win because he was black. They won. Diane would be the perfect antidote to the Cleggerons. I don't want to live in a racist or a sexist country. I want to take pride in the fact that we as a nation rise above such things. John McDonnell aside, all of the contenders are, shall we say cut from a similar sort of block. They offer no choice and no hope. They won't take the Labour party forward and they won't take the country forward either. The Conservatives had twelve years under Thatcher where they actually had someone who was committed to Conservative policies, had  the balls to challenge the status quo and had no care for who she upset. I couldn't stand the woman, but I admire her drive and conviction. I believe that only Diane Abbott will offer the Labour party such drive, honesty and passion. If they really believe in their principles they will choose her. If she wins she'll do for Labour what Thatcher do for the Tories.

I still haven't found what I'm looking for - Have you?

Many people hit on the blog doing Google searches. For your entertainment, I thought I'd share what people are looking for when they find the blog. My stats keep track of the most popular searches people perform to find the blog. I've removed any where people are looking for me (ie Barnet Eye, Rog T) and I've aggregated ones where people are using different spellings etc for the same thing (Mike Freer, Mike Freer MP).

1. matthew offord
2. andrew reid mill hill
3. mike freer mp
4. show me your tits
5. barnet council management structure
6. death by poison
7. hank marvin jehovah's witness
8. brian coleman
9. captain useless
10. first capital connect awful

Sadly I think that the bevvy of people performing the fourth most popular search will be sorely disappointed. I do hope Matthew Offord is pleased, he's more popular than Mike Freer by a long way (Andrew Dismore didn't even make the cut). It is also interesting to see that Mr Andrew Reid, a controversial local landowner is featuring in many searches (one or two people locally might say Mr Reid put the cont in controversial in Mill Hill, but personally I think he's an wholesome Asset - (Did I ever mention I'm dyslxic?)). Farmer Reid has built a childrens zoo and conference centre on the Ridgeway in Mill Hill. This has proven extremely popular with crowds of thousands flocking to it on busy days. The new Conservative Government has stated that it plans to relax regulation and allow small businessmen like Mr Reid to start up such ventures without red tape. The Tory administration in Barnet have been one of the first to enact such polices, allowing this whole enterprise to open without planning permission. Despite howls of protest from some local neighbours, so far Barnet Council has stuck  to it's business friendly guns and refused to take enforcement action against this local farmer/businessman. Barnet Council is to be applauded for standing up to local Council Taxpaying residents and defending the right of rich businessmen to do what they like on their own property. This blog is interested to see if other such businesses will be allowed to open on the green belt fields as part of the Barnet business friendly drive. By the way, Mr Reid was proudly elected as Deputy Chairman of Hendon Conservative association with special responsibility for fundraising and membership in March 2009. He must be praised for the sterling work he did getting our local Mill Hill Tory Councillors elected and securing the Parliamentary seat for Matthew Offord. Maybe Barnet Council would like to rent me a couple of green belt fields in Totteridge as I'd love to open a scrapyard there. I hear local Councillor Brian Coleman is motorist friendly, so surely the opportunity to buy a few spares on the cheap locally will be a great boon. I mean who in their right mind would rather look at rolling fields than a scrapyard.

Back to the subject of Google searches - I took to wondering who was the most disappointed person to do a Google search and find this blog? I reckon the person who entered this search

5 star hotel in mathura bakery and confectionery

or maybe this one

amusing appealing message to wife for service

I hope whoever you are and however you found this blog, you enjoyed reading it. I look forward (without irony) to the next Tory leaflet shouting "Local Lib Dems plan massive stadium scrapyard for Mill Hill Totteridge green belt" and you know what, they'll probably get away with it.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A proper job for Mike Freer

I was dismayed when Mike Freer was elected MP for Finchley and Golders Green. Not because of any personal dislike of this man who once described me as a "one handed blogger", but because I find it perverse that a man who failed so miserably as leader of Barnet council should be rewarded for his failure by stepping up to being MP. I believe that his success is wholly attributable to the lacklustre campaign run by Labour in Finchley and Golders Green. With his record at Barnet they should have mercilessly put forward his record as proof that he wasn't the man for the job. If you want to know his litany of failure, just search this blog for the tag "Councillor Mike Freer". If you don't believe me and think I'm biased, have a look what former Barnet Tory bigwig, David Miller has to say about him in his blog.

But he won, the people of Finchley and Golders Green have spoken and Mr Freer is MP. We all have to move on. Now Mike has the job, maybe he'll find himself a role. Maybe being relieved of the day to day stresses of running a council will be the making of him. I wish him well in his new job and hope he does the business for his constituents. I have a vested interest as he's MP my daughters school.

I was pondering the question of what Mike Freer brings to the Parliamentary Conservative Party and it suddenly struck me that Mr Freer could actually carve himself out an important niche and make a name for himself. He is one of  a tiny number of openly gay Conservative MP's. This is one area where the modern Conservative party is massively out of step with public attitudes. When Mike Freer was Leader of Barnet council, he championed gay and lesbian inclusion withing the council. He personally took on the cabinet responsibility for promoting inclusive policies. I asked a member of what their opinion of Mikes performance in this role was and they told me that he  worked his socks off to promote inclusive policies for gay and lesbian people. They added that unlike the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration which paid lip service, Mike actually rolled up his sleeves and got his hands dirty.

It is plain to absolutely anyone that the Parliamentary Conservative party needs someone to speak up publicly on these issues. When was the last time a genuinely progressive policy emerged from a Conservative about such issues? The Tories would be mad to let Mike Freer near any finances given his record with Icelandic investments. They would be bonkers to let him near any projects which involve building anything, given the Aerodrome Road bridge fiasco. They would be insane to let him anywhere near anything to do with the environment, given Barnets appalling record in the green belt. They would truly have a screw loose if they let him loose on anything which involved the law, given the Sheltered Housing court fiascos. They would however be extremely wise to put Mike Freer in charge of overhauling the Conservative party in relation to gay and lesbian issues. This is one area where Mike Freer has earned genuine respect in Barnet Council. Maybe he can find his place in Parliament, add some value and do something useful. Mike has a good record and a good reputation at Barnet Council in his work for inclusivity. I genuinely think he could do a good job on a wider stage, given the chance.