Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mutual Aid - A message from the Leader of Barnet Council

Leader of Barnet Council - Richard Cornelius
The tragic events we recently witnessed with the Grenfell Tower fire have made councils up and down the country take an urgent look at their housing stock.Our number one priority throughout this process has always been about ensuring that residents are safe in their homes.

The way people rallied around to help the residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in their time of need showed how Londoners show such indomitable spirit in times of crisis. This extends to support between London Councils. We have a robust and strong resilience network in the Capital that offers assistance between boroughs when they need it most. The Grenfell Tower fire was no exception in that respect. We were one of the many London councils that supported the emergency response.  By providing our experienced Emergency Planning and social care staff, we played our part in managing an extremely difficult situation.

This mutual aid also extended to our neighbours in Camden, when they evacuated thousands of residents in response to concerns about the safety of cladding on a number of their tower blocks.
This work is ongoing. We still have social workers on the ground in West London helping the families that have been made homeless as a result of the fire that engulfed the high-rise tower block. In some cases, this assistance can be as simple as booking taxis to get children to school or by arranging viewings of potential new homes.

However simple; it all helps and make London so unique and well-prepared when it comes to dealing with a crisis am extremely proud of the support and help that we and others offered to a fellow London borough.

To read more about our response to the Grenfell Tower fire, please read the following update.

This statement was originally published on the Barnet Council website

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Wednesday Poem #26 - Where are the sardines now?

Todays Poem marks the start of Silver Jubilee season with an Ode commemorating the most infamous momemt in Premier League History!

Simmons says he was in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'.
Ooh La La, Cantona

Ooh Aah, Oooh La La,
An early bath for Cantona,
Left the field in disgrace, 
then kicked a yobbo in the face,
Scandal headlines in The Sun,
A lengthy ban soon begun,
Up in court before the beaks,
Community Service for a couple of weeks,
Cantona what did you do?
Uniteds hopes were pinned on you!
United's season in disarray,
Us City boys exclaimed Hooray!
Blackburn Rovers won the league,
A single point I do believe,
These days old Eric advertises lager,
United fans recall the saga,
Viewed through the prism of time,
They think old Eric did just fine,
The Seagulls have all now flown,
The Sardines will be left alone,
So long Eric, one thing is true,
We won't see another like you. 
Copyright 2017 - Roger Tichborne

Guest Poems always welcome

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Common Sense Prevails - The Garden Bridge is cancelled

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The dead bridge - the end of afinancial disaster
Back in 2015, I wrote a blog entitled The Garden Bridge - The mother of all vanity projects. An amazing thing happened, Brian Coleman, my political arch enemy tweeted that he agreed with me! Coleman would not say such a thing lightly. But both he and I recognised that the project was a complete waste of money, didn't solve any issues and was likely to be a money pit for decades. The officially quoted price was £175 million. Apparently it's cost nearly £50 million without the construction even starting. Based on this, I'd estimate that it would probably cost four times this amount.

I've run a successful business for 38 years. I have a few simple rules. The first is that I never spend any money on things which there is no good business case for. The second is that I have a list of priorities and I spend money on the most important and all the nice to haves have to wait. I regularly ask my staff what we could do to make things better in the business. A few years ago one said "why don't we get energy saving bulbs?" This was a simple suggestion that saved money, so we did it. Another one said "why don't we replace all the amps in the studios with top of the range new models". I thought about this. Yes, the amps would look nice, but it would cost tens of thousands of pounds and would it ever bring that back. So I did a questionairre for our customers. I asked about various things. Not one mentioned that they'd like top of the range amps in the studios. Most guitarists want something simple to use. Those that have special requirements, bring their own. Most players these days use effects pedals. In short, there was no business case. The customers actually said that they'd prefer better bathroom facilities, so this was what we did.

How many Londoners think the garden bridge was the best way to spend hundreds of millions of quid? I don't know any. Sure Joanna Lumley and a bunch of luvvies think it would be wonderful, but it doesn't solve any problems and will create quite a few. London already has great parks. I was discussing this with someone who said "Well what would you spend the money on". My answer? Nothing. Why is there this idea that you have to spend money. If someone comes up and says "I've got a great idea that will cost £175 million, will cut congestion in London, won't put a burden on the taxpayer for decades and will give a payback", I'd be all for it, but just trying to dream up projects to spend the dosh on is ridiculous.

When it comes to river crossings, there is a case for a new one in East London. One which cars can use. There is a case for crossrail 2, which will transport commuters. There is a case for the Brent Cross Light railway, which will improve commuting and reduce congestion in our neck of the woods. But all of these need proper business cases and justifications. They all need proper scrutiny. They all must be shown to deliver benefits to the tax payer.

The Garden Bridge did none of this. It solved no probems. It added little benefit. The oddest thing is that a Tory Mayor was its arch supporter. As far as I am concerned it is more abut his ego than anything. The only mistake Sadiq Khan made was not cancelling it on day 1.  It's just a shame that we've flushed nearly £50 million quid down the bog to achieve nothing.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The far Right are not just a problem in Charlottesville

The big news story of the weekend was the awful events in Charlottesville. The violence at a far right rally was not only rather scary, it was a wake up call to all of us to be aware that there are people with some very dangerous views in our world, who see nothing at all wrong with NAZI salutes, emblems and ideology. These are people who worship Adolf Hitler, a man who brought the world to the brink, exterminated nine million people in a systematic program of genocide, targeting Jews, Gypsies, the Disabled, Homosexuals and political opponents. Tens of millions were killed in the war he started. Europe was partitioned for decades as a result of the settlement at the end. When the concentration camps were opened, not only did we see systematic extermination of people, starvation and totrure. We saw awful evidence of inhuman experiments.
Some of us may see Charlottesville and think "oh well, that's the USA bible belt, it couldn't happen here". Think again. One of the candidates in the UKIP Leadership campaign, Anne Marie Waters, is a well known anti Islam campaigner. Sadly for many, Muslims are seen as a soft target for bigotry. There is a subtext that Muslims are somehow rather dangerous. This idea is planely rather stupid. There are a billion and  half Muslims in the world, with 2.7 million of them living in the UK. Whatever you may or may not think of the religion, it is patently obvious that the vast majority of the 2.7 million are not supporters of terrorism, rape of white teenagers or any other behaviours that the likes of Waters shriek about.

Just for a moment think about the logic the likes of Waters employ. By her logic all of us white Christians are KKK sympathisers, which we are clearly not. Why should Muslims who are decent people have to justify their behaviour any more than I have to? We must always be vigilant guarding against the forces of unreason. The biggest worry is that the USA has a President that hasn't called out  these vile racists for what they are. Let's not forget that the KKK are steeped in a history of murder of people who did nothing except be born black. The concept of lynching anyone is abhorrent but doing it to cow a section of society to accept inequality and slavery is vile. There is no excuse. What we need to ensure is that such fascist thought is not tolerated here. We seem to have fallen off the cliff of sanity into a very dangerous period. Burying our heads in the sand is the most dangerous thing in the world.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Tweets of The Week in the London Borough of Barnet 13/08/2017

Here we are again. At the end of the week. So it's time for our fave regular feature. The tweets of the week. What's going on in our community, through the eyes of the local twits. Don't forget to follow any who tickle your fancy!

1. Looking for something to do with the kids in Burnt Oak this week?

2. A story we've been following. The Railway Hotel in Edgware is now up for sale

3. Finchley Residents will be pleased to learn that a nuisance moped driver has had his moped confiscated

4. Proud of your marrow or your tomatos? Here's your chance to wave them around for all the world to see!

5. Great picture of the momentous Hendon Town Fc team of 1972, after their famous Barrassi cup victory!

6. Mill Hill has a new newspaper and it's proving popular

7.A rather sad little story in Golders Green

8.Who needs Hollywood, when you've got Cricklewood!

9. A little puzzle from one of our regulars!

10. The artistic influence of our little corner of London is spreading far and wide!

That's all folks

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Saturday List #142 - My Top Ten comic characters


Last weeks list was my top ten books. After I'd compiled the list, it occurred to me that, the list was perhaps a tad misleading. Whilst it is deffo my top ten book list, it doesn't accurately reflect my reading habits. I don't know if it is because I'm dyslexic or some other reason, but I've always been an avid reader of comics. People unfamiliar with the genre, often think "comics are for kids", however I totally disagree. The success of the genre of comic heroes at the box office sees to validate this, although I feel that very few films do the genre justice. As with the book list, this is semi chronological, in as much as they are ordered roughly by when they came into my life, rather than when they came into existence. There are two different medium, comics and newspaper strips, that for me are both equally important, so I've tried to cover the best of both worlds. Of course there are many great ones I couldn't include here.

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Roger The dodger

1. Roger The Dodger. I guess that his cool name was the reason I took to this particular character. I also associated with his love of trying to get out of doing anything, by deploying cunning dodges. Like many cartoon characters, Roger is anarchic, but not malicious. He's a bit of an outsider, unlike the Bash Street gang. I suppose as a dyslexic, this was a persona I could associate with. I thought Roger was the orignal punk rocker. his style was deffo punk!

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Jeff Hawke
2.  Jeff Hawke. Hawke was the star of a comic strip in the Daily Express, and the work of the great Sydney Jordan. Hawke was a British astronaut involved in  dealing with contact with alien races. My parents bought the Express and the Jeff Hawke column fascinated me. Hawke was a complex character and whilst most sci fi and cartoon characters viewed aliens as inherently dangerous or threatening, Hawke tended to view them as interesting and requiring understanding. He tended to take the view that if they had made it to earth, they were probably more intelligent than us. The stories have been reprinted as collections and are well worth a read.

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Judge Dredd
3. Judge Dredd. Dredd is the flagship character of 200AD. He hit the streets in 1977. Set in a future megacity, on the Eastern seaboard of the USA, where democracy has been replaced with a fascistic system of judges, who dispense instant justice. Dredd is the toughest street judge. The strip emerged at the height of punk rock and the society depicted is was in many ways very 1977 punk. Over the 40 years of his existence, Dredd has been amazingly consistent. A brilliant character. The second film (don't mention the first) is IMHO the best depiction of a comic character ever.

4. Selene. Selene's a character in the X-Men series, who first appeared in 1983. I'm not a massive fan of US comics, however, I was working with a friend who set out to re-educate me around that time. Selene was a mysterious and highly dangerous figure. She'd seduce men at singles bar, the bigger and stronger the better and drain their life force, in a  matter of seconds, regarding them simply as food. She was also capable of enslaving them and bending them to her will. I don't think the character developed in a very interesting way (as is the want of US comics), but when she first showed up, she was probably the scariest of all comic creations. Maybe the scariest thing for me is that she looks rather like my missus, therefore she's clearly someone I'd find rather fanciable! (although my missus doesn't usually wonder round in bondage gear with a whip, just to clarify that).

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5. SlΓ‘ine. Pat Mills Celtic berserker, erstwhile King of Ireland, with his axe Brainbiter. Of all the characters who should have had a film or a TV series, this is the one. A tweet from Mills stated that a producer had turned it down because it was "too like Game of Thrones". What an idiot. Slaine is an outcast, who wanders the emerald isle, forever fighting for the virtue of the earth and the earth Goddess. He has a tragic romance with Naimh and is accompanied by a dwarf called Ukko, who he regularly beats. PC he is not!

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The Fat Slags

6. The Fat slags. A creation of VIZ. Two rather large young ladies living in Nottinghamshire (Fulchester) who's two main interests are eating (usually chips) and casual sex. They made it onto the small screen in a channel 4 animated series and a full length film. A running gag is that the Slags will accuse any men unwilling to sleep with them of being homosexuals and/or having small penises, and many other women of being unattractive and overweight, even when they are quite clearly far prettier and thinner than our heroines themselves. Like many cartoons, the translation from print to film was problematic. What worked really well in print, where it was clear that it was paordying the views of many people as much as the behaviour itself of the characters, becomes very difficult to capture in a film. It's rally rather a shame, because I think the film should have been great.

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Accident man
7. Accident Man. Another Mills creation, from the short lived TOXIC comic. Mike Fallon was a High end hitman, who's speciality was making his hits look like accidents. Another deeply scary character. A new level of complexity was added to his character, when his girflriend, a greepeace activist, was murdered and he went on a mission of revenge. According to wikipedia, the story has been picked up and made into a film. I think that it could be rather good, Mike Fallon as a sort of James Bond gone bad character won't work, but if they pick up the revenge story, it could be a damn fine film. As with all Mills creations there is a whole depth of character there waiting to be fleshed out. Hollywood productions tend to remove all subtlty with the comic genre, I hope that this does not happen here.

Arthur Ranson.jpeg
Judge Anderson
8.  Judge Cassandra Anderson. Imagine my joy when I went to China and found that Arthur Ransom, my favourite Judge Anderson illustrator was also on the tour. It would be up there with finding John Lydon was on the trip for me. Ransom had just illustrated the iconic Shambala story. I loved Ransoms artwork and was fascinated when he explained that, unlike a few 2000AD artists, he'd not drawn her as sexy, as she's a Judge. As a psychic, who solves crime using her abilities, shes a very complex character, one who, like Dredd, has seen no dips in the stories she's featured in. Often though provoking. There is a dark side to Anderson, that is occasionally hinted at.

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John The Monkey
9. John The Monkey.I simply had to get a mention of Steve Bell in here. Steve Bell is by far the best British political satire cartoon artist, and I believe that John the Monkey is his greatest creation. A totally amoral character, who started his life in the pursuit of bananas by nefarious means, if my memory serves me correctly, as the sidekick of James Anderton, chief of Manchester Police, in Bells fictional world. Sadly his appearances are few and far between in Bell's Guardian column.

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10. Dilbert. As someone who has worked as an IT consultant at various times, this is a column that I find brilliantly observed. The work of  Scott Adams. There are so many scenarios that Adams  chronicles that mirror things I've seen, that I have started to get paranoid that Adams may actually be stalking me. Dilbert features in both The Daily Mail and The Daily Express and in both is probably the only reason to pick up the papers! It is good to see that there are still brilliant newspaper comic strip writers coming through. It is a fantastic medium and I hope that it survives the huge shock that the digital age has been brought to the printed press business.


And finally....

I simply felt I had to give a mention to Rupert The Bear in the Daily Express. Not because it was one of my favourites, but when my eldest daughter was 2 years old, every day, we'd cut out the Rupert the Bear strip from the Daily  Express, read it and then she'd colour it in and sick it in her scrapbook. It is funny to look at now, as you can see how over the course of six months, her colouring got better and more refined. Sadly, the Express started to print Rupert in colour around that time, so we stopped, but she's now doing a fine art degree, so Rupert The Bear, I salute you!

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Rupert The Bear

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Friday Joke - 11/08/2017

I thought this picture and headline from the Barnet Times was a pure gem. Council leader Richard Cornelius and Roads chief Councillor Schmuckus McMuckus have just collected the keys to a state of the art, brand new pot hole repairing machine! Look at it's new paint glisten in the sun.  Luckily there was a photographer on site to record this happy purchase for posterity! (yes this is a genuine Barnet Times story).  I wonder if they bought it in the car park behind the pub, from a man with a dog!

The Hendon Young Conservatives, being a very worldly wise and astute bunch  of earnest young people are clearly impressed. They clearly believe this super duper machine is the answer to all our pothole problems, but of course only if the Tories win the Council elections in 2018 and kick out the current incompetent administration, who have allowed our roads to go to rack and ruin!

Oh hang on a minute, we've just found out that the Conservatives have actually been in power in the Borough of Barnet since 2002. A plague of Socialism must have descended on the Borough to craftily install these naughty potholes, lead by Jeremy "The Terrorist" Corbyn on his bicycle? There can be no other explanation.

I do recommend that you follow the Hendon Young Conservatives account. I don't know if it is really a spoof account drenched in superb irony. Check this tweet!

They've clearly never heard of Lynton Crosby. Here's a nice tweet about how he ran the Tories mavellously successful, positive general election campaign

I suspect that whoever runs the Hendon YC Twitter account has a very bright future in PR in front of them! They certainly know how to cheer up a cynical old git like me!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

RIP Glen Campbell, 22 April 1936 - 8 August 2017

Allen Ashley
Gone Glen by Allen Ashley   

 Why is it that the death of musicians – generally those not personally known to us – seems to hit us harder than, say, the death of novelists or painters or dancers? Maybe what Walter Pater said is correct: “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” And perhaps this is because it remains true that music touches us on more levels than most other art forms; with perhaps the exception of its cousin poetry. Even the sad songs written in A minor or E minor that really ought to depress our lives instead stir us to feel a deep, individual connection with both the song and the singer.

Glen Campbell was, initially, a self-taught guitarist of astonishing virtuosity. As a member of the Los Angeles session band The Wrecking Crew, he played on loads of successful and significant records from the Phil Spector Wall of Sound – including “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” – as well as hits by Elvis, Sinatra, The Monkees and others. Possessed of a bell-clear voice, a mop of sandy hair and all-American boy good looks, as well as the ability to wear a brightly decorated rhinestone cowboy shirt like nobody else bar Gram Parsons, it was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually have a glittering solo career. He recorded all his great work for Capitol Records in the late sixties to mid-seventies and hit big with several songs including “Gentle on my Mind”, the semi-spoken “Honey Come Back” and the narrative paean “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”. This latter song, including cover versions, was named the third most performed song from the period between 1940 and 1990, by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). That’s a lot of leaving! 

For me growing up in the sixties and seventies, Glen Campbell was mum and dad music. I suppose I thought of him as a good old country boy who crossed over to the pop charts with easy listening ballads or story songs. I had much the same view of his predecessor in terms of bridging the country-pop gap, Johnny Cash. I was young, keen on music, but still with so much to learn. Campbell was the poor son of a sharecropper (British equivalent – tenant farmer in hock to the landlord); Cash and his family picked cotton. They both maintained the sheen of a uniquely American, almost mythic country background. Cash left us many years ago; although his and wife June’s song “Ring of Fire” gets played by the supporters’ band at every England football match. He’s got male appeal. Campbell, at least during his peak years, seemed softer. Until he hit the buffers with drink and drugs and divorce around the end of the seventies.
Campbell was old school, likely to politely address an interviewer as “Sir”. Sure, he was mates with John Wayne, a confirmed “born again” Christian and a lifelong Republican. Maybe he seems to be some distance from my beliefs and lifestyle. But the key factor in Campbell’s history is his association with songwriter Jimmy Webb. Webb gave him many of his biggest hits, including “Phoenix” and “Galveston”. This latter had an accompanying film promo (proto video) of an American serviceman doing what it says in the lyric, cleaning his gun and thinking of home. Campbell interpreted it as supportive of the troops in Vietnam; Webb was clear that it was an anti-war piece because the soldier is afraid of dying and should be back at home on the beach with his girlfriend. Ah, the gap betwixt cup and lip.
Jimmy Webb is the songwriters’ songwriter. In a catalogue that contains “MacArthur Park”, “Highwayman” and “P F Sloan”, one song – and one performance – stands head and shoulders above everything else. If Glen Campbell had never recorded anything else, he would be immortal for his reading of “Wichita Lineman”. This has to be firmly in the ten best pop songs of all-time. Legendary bassist Carol Kaye brings the song in and we are treated to lush strings that speak of the wide open prairie or semi-desert landscape, its arid featurelessness broken only by the telegraph poles bordering the highway. Glen Campbell inhabits our narrator, a lineman (which sounds much more romantic than Telecom engineer!) climbing these fake but vital trees and repairing any faults as part of his solitary existence. In the first verse we hear of his work, with intimations of the mystical (“I hear you singing in the wires”); in the second verse we enter his soul as he shares his loneliness and longing, conjuring his own thoughts or, in modern terms, spin upon the conversations passed along the wires. Is it his voice alone that speaks of love and loss or is he the vessel for all the heartache carried by the telegraph? The song contains some of the most achingly beautiful lyrics ever put to music, lines that make all of us say heck, I wish I’d written that:
“And I need you more than want you,
And I want you for all time.
And the Wichita lineman
Is still on the line.”

This song creates its own 3 minute universe, its own timeless infinity. It’s an epic performance that can never die.
In passing, one might note that when the Foo Fighters released their anthemic single “Everlong”, the heart of which deals with similar themes of love and longing, the picture sleeve was of a row of telegraph poles on the highway.
If Glen Campbell gets to his Christian heaven, I hope the angels serenade him with “Wichita Lineman”. Despite the Alzheimer’s that blighted his final years, overall one would have to say that he had a good and fulfilled life in many ways. But it is what he gave to our lives that is significant and for which we both celebrate and mourn him.

- Allen Ashley, London, 10 August 2017
Allen Ashley is a writer, poet, teacher and the lead singer of The False Dots. Guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. Many thanks to Allen for writing this blog.