Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Happy Birthday to Us! Nine years old

The Barnet Eye is nine years old! This was our first blog  - Hello, Good Evening and Welcome - we published it on 11th October 2008. Yes, I confess, I completely forgot about our anniversary. I didn't think it would last nine weeks, let alone nine years! I didn't anticipate the huge scandals we'd uncover. I didn't anticipate that I'd be joined by a team of other Barnet bloggers, who would become friends and colleagues and would make Barnet a quite unique place in terms of political commentary. I am not going to dwell on the negatives. I believe the Barnet Eye has been a totally positive thing for myself, for the Borough of Barnet and for the global army of readers, who have viewed the blog over 2,100,000 times. It's not just the local politics, it has helped me and other people (who have written to thank me) deal with cancer and dyslexia. Our annual awards, have become a key part of the social calendar and we've had a ton of fun on the way. The good news is that we're pleased to announce that our annual awards are on the 10th December at The Chandos Arms in Colindale. We are delighted to be hosting them at the National Community Pub of the Year!

We will shortly be consulting on who we should be dishing out the gongs to this year! So if you know a charity, a person, a restaurant, a volunteer or anyone else who deserves recogniotion, please leave a comment and we'll get in touch!

Finally, thanks for all of your support over the past nine years. If no one read this blog, I wouldn't bother. This year we've seen our biggest ever story in terms of hits, so it is great to know we still matter!

As a little present to you, we've prepared a London Playlist of some of our favourite London tracks  in the sidebar. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein is not a sex addict

I suppose that a few people may be shocked by this statement. However it is a100% clear to me that Mr Weinstein is not really someone who has a love or addiction of and to sex. His addiction is to control and power. The description of the encounters I have read have nothing at all to with having sex. It is clear that what Mr Weinstein enjoys is being in a situation where he can behave appallingly and without consequences. I contend that rape is never really about sex. It is a serious  act of violence and should be treated as such. By classifying Weinstein as a sex addict implies that his violence and bullying is in some ways a forgivable compulsion. It isn't. It is merely the act of a despicable man who believed he could do as he pleased.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Join our campaign for a better cycle network in the London Borough of Barnet

The Barnet Eye has long been supportive of safer cycling provision in the London Borough of Barnet. To us it seems perverse that it is now safer to cycle in central London than in our leafy suburb. The reason for this is not rocket science. It is because the Mayor of London has been proactively installing segregated cycle lanes. The Barnet Eye currently has an office near New Bridge Street. We've been based their on and off since 1986. Over the last few years, the installation of proper cycle lanes has transformed the area from a cycle free zone to a mini Tour De France on a daily basis. We shot a short film one morning to illustrate the point.

You will see a scene like this any weekday rush hour morning. In Barnet, there has been minimal commitment to make cycling safe. Sadly as we see rising teenage obesity, we see less and less children in the cuburns cycling. This is for the perfectly good reason that it is dangerous.

Installing dedicated cycle lanes is expensive and disruptive to other forms of traffic, as anyone who has seen the massive infrastructure spending on the cycle superhighway project will know. It does however pay off. Cycles use far less road space, produce no pollution and require far less space for parking. In short, you get more road for your money.

So what can be done? What practical steps could be taken in the London Borough of Barnet? We've spoken to various campaigners. At a recent council meeting, one informed us that the council hadn't even understood the meaning of key facts in its own plan!

The Barnet Eye has some suggestions. We are not experts on cycling, however expert advice is what is needed. Our first suggestion is that Barnet should appoint a cycling Tsar.This should be someone who at the very least would be able to spot the errors in the council own plans.

The second thing should be to draw up a proper Barnet plan, in conjunction with local cycling groups. One key aspect is that all large developments should have a proper cycling plan. This does not mean a few bike parking spaces. It means proper safe routes. We believe that every rail and tube station, every school, every shopping centre and every large medical facility in the Borough should have a safe dedicated cycleway. This cannot be achieved overnight, but the first step is to identify the key sites that generate journeys, then work out some sort of schedule of priorities. We need to look for a few quick wins.

My suggestion would be to transform the old, disused Mill Hill the Hale to Edgware railway into a dedicated cycleway. This would provide a safe cycling route between Edgware Station/Shopping centre and Mill Hill Broadway. We believe it should also be possible to link the route to Edgware Hospital. This would make a statement that Barnet is serious about cycling. It would link two major transport hubs, a housing estate and a hospital. We'd also like to see a Boris Bike scheme rolled out for Mill Hill Broadway, The RAF Museum, Colindale Station, Hendon Station and Middlesex University. If this could be integrated with a rollout of safe cycle lanes, then even better.

There are all sorts of other improvements that have been made in central London, with changes to traffic light configurations and timings. One of the biggest risks to cyclists are motorists opening doors in front of them. It has been suggested that part of the Highway code and driving test should be to always open the drivers door with the wrong hand (in the UK the left hand). This may sound strange but it forces you to look around.

We find it rather strange that recently we had the sad case of a cyclist hitting a pedestrian and all manner of calls for legislation. I've lost count of the number of cyclist killed or maimed by HGV's but there is never any call for changes to the law. I believe that technology is available to massively reduce the risks to cyclists of HGV's but the road transport lobby have done a wonderful job of closing down such debates.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 15/10/2017

Here we are again, our most popular weekly feature! What have our local twits been up to?

1. We'll start with what I think is a lovely picture from the Nepali community Diwali celebrations in Burnt Oak.

2.And another slightly older Burnt Oak institution was also celebrating this week.

3. 2nD Edgware Scouts out on their first ever hike! Lets give all the group leaders, helpers and volunteers a big shout out for organising such great community activities

4.Nice shot of the Phoenix from Finchley Mums

5. Good work from Barnet Police volunteer specials

6. Mr Reasonable thinks this sign at Chipping Library needs some TLC, we agree!

7. We rather like this tweet!

8. We always like a great historic Tweet and this one fits the bill

9.Bee Keepers never sleep! Great Tweet from Finchley Horticultural society

10. And lest hear it for a special volunteer at Stephens House

That's all folks!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Saturday List #150 - My Top Ten Saturday Lists!

Today is a big day for Saturday Lists! It is the 150th Edition! I never thought the series would make it to 150. I didn't realise that there were so many things that I could make a list about. To celebrate reaching 99 lists, I made a complete list of my lists, so if you want to pick and choose your top ten from the first 99, it's quite easy.

The Saturday List #99 - The complete list of Saturday Lists

I always enjoy putting the lists together (well not always true, sometimes if I have a hangover I'd rather not bother).

I was pondering what my top ten lists were for this edition. Here is my pick, in no particular order.

1 - The Saturday list #83 - My ten favourite tasty snacks in London

A good list makes the reader think and ask the question "what would mine be". I think this one works really well on that level.

2 - The Saturday List #39 - Ten Great Protest Songs

It's always good to put a list of great songs together. This is a good one. I love a good protest song.

3 - The Saturday List #12 - Ten shops win Mill Hill Broadway which I really miss

Always good to have a bit of nostalgia!

4 - The Saturday List #22 - How I will spend my lottery winnings

We've all made this one!

This one attracted a few comments from friends!

This one always makes me chuckle

This one was fun and got a few comments

I love  a bit of pontification!

The secret of my success!

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Friday Joke 13/10/2017

A group of Barnet politicians recently attended a session on sexual health and wellbeing. The rather charismatic course leader said 
"The first thing we always do is a little icebreaker, to try and work out what the group is like and what their interests in the subject are. So we will start with a little question for all of you.  According to a survey we just completed, ninety percent of all people masturbate in the shower. Interestingly, the ten percent  that don't sing a particular song by The Beatles"
The group sat back in thought. 
The therapist shook her head course leader then said "So can any of Barnet's finest tell me what song they sing?"
The group all scratched their heads and one by one exclaimed "No."
The course leader then said, "I didn't think so."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Can someone explain to Matthew Offord MP what an MP's job is supposed to be

There is a marvellous website where you can find out all about your MP. I have just used it to look up my MP -

All you need to do is put in your postcode and you can find out who your representative in Parliament is.  MP's are elected to represent you. There is all sorts of interesting information on this site, such as who has been giving donations to local MP's and their local parties. Sometimes it is quite interesting. Sometimes it is banal, here are some recent examples of donations to Mr Offord and his party. I am sure a few local residents will find some of these mildly interesting.

Register of Members’ Interests

Last updated: 11 Sep 2017.
2. (a) Support linked to an MP but received by a local party organisation or indirectly via a central party organisation
Name of donor: Mr Daniel Green
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £5,000
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

Name of donor: Mr Andrew Reid
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £700
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

2. (b) Any other support not included in Category 2(a)
Name of donor: Bestway Wholesale Ltd
Address of donor: 2 Abbey Road, Park Royal, London NW10 7BW
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £2,000
Date received: 10 May 2017
Date accepted: 10 May 2017
Donor status: company, registration 01207120
(Registered 04 July 2017)

Name of donor: Mr Andrew Reid
Address of donor: private
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £3,000
Date received: 11 May 2017
Date accepted: 2 June 2017
Donor status: individual
(Registered 04 July 2017)

I personally think it is rather touching that people think Mr Offord is doing a good job and feel inclined to donate cash towards the expenses he has incurred running his campaigns. There are more historical donations here -

Sadly for Mr Offord, not everyone in the Borough is quite so impressed with his efforts. I was alerted to one such person by none other than Brian Coleman, formerly a local Tory bigwig, until he rather blotted his copybook. Brian posted the following tweet yesterday.

I was intrigued. A few months ago, Local Mill Hill Councillor Val Duschinsky had told me that "there was a person with mental issues who had launched a malicious complaint against Mr Offord". I had sympathised with Val, as clearly people in public life and MP's especially are at risk, as the the tragic Jo Cox case demonstrated. In light of this I was intrigued and clicked through to the article.

What greeted me was not what I expected at all given the headline and quite interesting. The headline in Mr Coleman's tweet implied that Mr Offord had been cleared of all bad behaviour. On reading the article, the detail painted a slightly different picture. The commissioner had said that the complaint was outside their remit. This is a completely different to being cleared. I was intrigued. I looked up the name of the complainant and found they were on Twitter. Not only that, they were a University Lecturer. As a blogger, it struck me that there may be a story. So I pinged the person a message and asked if they would talk about it. In light of Vals comments, I was a tad surprised to find out that the reply I got was sane and rational. I enquired what she wanted to discuss with Offord in general terms. The reply "Some issues with our street, some issues about local business development, and his voting record - particularly related to welfare reductions."

 It all sounded very run of the mill, I couldn't for the life of me see why Offord and his staff had become so difficult. And how did the Times hear about the complaint? This is answered by the complainant in a comment. 
"I contacted the Times as I was hoping that as a local paper they would be interested in the refusal of Mr Offord to respond to requests for a meeting, or to give details about his surgery hours. I am university lecturer (having worked at Middlesex University for a long time), a mother of a small child how goes to School in the local area, and a long-time resident of Hendon. When I contacted Mr Offord's office I said that I did not want to share my concerns over email, but would rather meet personally. I was never told that this was the issue preventing Mr Offord from giving me details about this surgery hours - and I have emailed this morning (12.10.17) giving three specific reasons why I would like to meet with him. This should calm Mr Offord's fears about his personal safety. All Hendon residents should be concerned about the lack of communication from Mr Offord about a simple request for surgery hours. They should be more concerned that the parliamentary complaints commission CANNOT follow up on MPs who refuse to respond to or engage with their constituents. Finally, I will be contacting the IPSO if the title of the article is not changed - as to suggest Mr Offord is 'vindicated' is misleading."
So it seems that the matter was as simple as a constituent trying to contact an MP, not getting a satisfactory response and making a complaint in frustration. The Times clearly realised that the original text was misleading and changed the text & title, giving Dr Sanders-McDonagh her correct title and removing all reference to Mr Offord being vindicated.

I do hope that Matthew Offord now makes the effort to meet his constituent. The reason the information portal for finding info on MP's is called "TheyWorkForYou" because they do. It took me five minutes to find out that Dr Sanders-McDonagh is a well respected University lecturer. I would have thought this is just the type of person Mr Offord should be chatting to. Given his staff stated they had declined the request on the grounds she is dangerous, surely this is now not a sustainable argument.

Back in 2008, I requested a meeting with my then MP, Andrew Dismore. I had decided to quit the Labour Party and I wanted to discuss the reasons with Mr Dismore. There were many issues, with him, with the constituency and with the Labour Party that had disillusioned me. I wrote to him, explained my issues and requested a meeting. It was a very difficult meeting for Dismore, at the end of which I informed him I was leaving the Labour Party. It is fair to say that we did not part on good terms. Despite all of that, I still respected him as he had made the time and bothered to listen. In short, he did his job and explained in detail his actions.

Mr Offord should learn from the example of Dismore, who has never ducked out of difficult meetings, hid behind staff or misused police guidance to avoid difficult conversations with clever academics. He should do his job and if someone who is much cleverer than he is, gives him a hard time, he should embrace the opportunity to learn something. After seven years it is sad that Mr Offord still doesn't seem to really understand what his job should be.

Thameslink update

Siemens 700 stock at Blackfriars
For many people in the Borough, the Thameslink Railway is a daily experience. The service is reaching the end of a massive programme of investment. This started in the early 1980's. Prior to 1988, trains on what was formerly called the BedPan line ran between Bedford and London (St Pancras and Moorgate). A disused link was opened between Farringdon and Blackfriars, allowing trains to cross through London. City Thameslink Station was opened in 1990, allowing the closure and redevelopment of Holborn Viaduct Station.  A new station was built under St Pancras, in 2007 replacing the old Kings Cross Thameslink Station. Both of these new stations were built to accommodate 12 car trains, and over the next few years, various other stations on the network were upgraded to accommodate 12 car trains as well. Only three stations on the route were not upgraded, two of these were in the London Borough of Barnet (Hendon and Cricklewood). Over the last year, the new trains have finally arrived. Over the last year, the 30 year old 319 stock has been replaced by the new Siemens 700 stock. The 700 series stock is formed of trains of 8 and 12 coaches. It is worth noting that if you board a train to Hendon, you have to be on the front 7 coaches to get off. For Cricklewood and Kentish Town, you need to be on the first 8 coaches. Sadly like many infrastructure projects in the UK, there are gaps that result in hassles and difficulties for passengers.

Local commuters are now familiar with these new trains. It is probably fair to say that for many, the jury is still out. The biggest immediate issue are the issues with air conditioning. This selection of tweets shows the ordeal being endured.

This has resulted in a Twitter account being set up called @ToastedbyThameslink dedicated to putting pressure on Thameslink to fix the problems. If you are affected, I suggest you follow this account. Their account profile says "The campaign to get to actually fix the not-fit-for-purpose air conditioning on Class 700 trains."

Then there is the issue of performance. This remains poor. Thameslink provide various stats on their website, including daily and monthly statistics. The latest daily statistics at time of writing showed that only 67% of trains were running on time (Tuesday 10th). There is also a link to more detailed monthly reports on this page.

Another issue is that the new trains, in 8 car formations have less seating than the old 319 stock. There is more space, but this is for standing passengers. The seats are also largely arranged in "airline style' arrangements, allowing far less leg room. The general view is also that the seating is less comfortable, being harder than the seats on the old 319 stock.

Next year, the program will finish, there will be a new timetable. You can check how it affects your journey. There will be more trains from Mill Hill to St Pancras, here is the morning rush hour peak.
Click for a more readable version
So it seems that things will improve, at least in terms of service frequency. We will continue to monitor the progress of Thameslink.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

North Finchley Regeneration Update - Consensus at the council

Oktoberfest at the Bohemia, North Finchley This Saturday
Last week, we generated a huge amount of interest about the proposed North Finchley regeneration project, which was up for discussion at Council last night. As previously mentioned, I put a series of five questions in and also requested to address the session. I was one of five members of the public who asked to address the meeting and there were also numerous questions. Also being discussed was Barnets transport strategy, but we won't cover that here. Two members of the public from local residents associations, along with Helen Michael, from the North Finchley Traders. The residents had a whole set of concerns about the impact of the plans on residents. Traffic, disruption, overcrowding and overdevelopment were key themes. Helen Michael was worried about the impact on local businesses of construction and loss of parking. Various councillors asked questions. It emerged that there was a cross party consensus that the previous attempt at North Finchley regeneration and the Town Team was seen as a failure that had failed to deliver real improvements, despite a huge grant from the Mayor of London. My address was to request that papers for such meetings are put on the Council website earlier. There was only three days between the publication of the papers and the closure date for questions. With so much in the reports, it is simply not feasable to read everything properly. Councillor Cornelius, council leader, agreed that this was something that could be looked at. I stated that I did not oppose the plans, I wanted the job done properly.

This scheme, backed by the developers of Brent Cross is a step change. There will be huge changes, including new building, a multi story car park in Lodge Lane, a new traffic layout, parking changes and lots of new residents. All parties agreed that North Finchley needs improving. No one stated that this scheme was bad. The questions were around the detail. Blogger Mr Reasonable asked where the social housing tenants of Barbara Langstone house would go. Councillor Cornelius admitted he didn't know. He suggested that it wasn't a nice place to live. Mr Reasonable stated that for the tenants it was the only choice and if it was going, the issue had to be addressed. There was discussion around the bus garage. Where would the buses live if the aspiration of closing the garage was achieved. Conservative Councillor Tony Finn suggested that the selection of shops in North Finchley was pretty good. There was much good humoured mirth at his comment that there was a very good "specialist shoe shop". His colleague Tom Davey suggested that the only way to improve town centres was either more parking or lots of rich residents. He worried that the scheme wasn't viable. His Boss, Councillor Cornelius "shot him down from the right" by saying that the developers knew what they were doing and wouldn't spend cash if there was no business case.

Labour Councillors, some of whom were ward councillors were generally supportive. They wanted more detail. It emerged that a transport survey had not been done. Cllr Houston suggested that this was vital to properly understand the scheme. This seemed to have been adopted. Cllr Houston also suggested that the six weeks consultation seemed short. There was some discussion and the reason was to complete it before a meeting in February. No one asked if the meeting could be moved back a month. It was agreed that six weeks would be initially set as the period, with a 'pragmatic' approach and an extension if local interest warranted it. Councillor Schneiderman was worried that existing traders would be forced out. It was suggested that the developer may wish to come up with some ideas to prevent this.

The committee unanimously agreed to take the proposal forward to the next stage. My overall view is that there is recognition that the area needs improvement. There is consensus that the concept of the scheme is good. It is at a very early stage and the detail is far from clear. We will follow this and when the consultation starts, will ensure that readers of this blog are kept fully informed.

One final comment. I must congratulate Cllr Cornelius on how he chaired the meeting. Public comment and questions went overtime by ten minutes. Unlike some committee chairs, he recognised that this was useful. He treated all of the questioners with due respect and courtesy. The committee also debated the issues with a far greater degree of common sense than many debates I've seen. I was pleased to hear that Cllr Finn had bothered to go and have a look around. Even some rather strange comments by Cllr Davey were treated with good humour and respect by the Labour Councillors. When he got too excited, Councillor Cornelius gently brought him back to reality. I am not sure whether it is the election looming or a more general recognition that the "Coleman era rudeness" to residents and taxpayers has been counter productive, but it very much seems to me that the regime in Barnet has adopted a far more sensible approach to such meetings of late. Lets hope that this conversion survives the next election, whoever wins.

Monday, 9 October 2017

There is no community without community spaces

I had a walk around the other side of Mill Hill at the weekend. I live just off Mill Hill Broadway, so I thought I'd have a mosey around Millbrook Park, the huge development on the site of the former Inglis Barracks. This was where the Royal Engineers were based. What struck me was the lack of infrastructure to support The community. In the Broadway, we have all manner of facilities. The scheme is building 2,200 new homes. On the Linden homes website, it lists local amenities (strangely showing an airport on Lawrence St). What is alarming is the total lack of amenities on the site. No shops, pubs, secondary schools, non faith schools, medical centres, restaurants, leisure facilities, or restaurants.

This has two big downsides. Firstly how will a local community ever develop? Without communal activity there can be no sense of belonging. Secondly everyone will need a car to do anything. Compare and contrast with The Watling Estate, built with 4032 homes in the 1930's. It came with shops, schools, youth centres, pubs, restaurants, churches with church halls, a new tube line, football fields. To compliment the main Watling shops, there were smaller parades such as Deanesbrook.

In short, the planners in 1920's understood the concept of community. How on earth can Barnet planners allow such a desert of cultural activity to have been built. The nearest pub, the railway engineer has been allowed to shut. The nearest tube station, Mill Hill East has had its direct service to London decimated. The one school on site is a CofE faith school.

There is a big problem for new residents. The roads are not adopted by the council. This means you pay Council tax, but they don't maintain your road. This is just not fair or equitable.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Tweets of The Week in The London Borough of Barnet - 08/10/2017

It's that time of the week again, so here's our pick of the best from our little corner of paradise!

Don't forget to follow any tweeters who tickle your fancy.

1. We kick off with some acorns in Burnt Oak. I've always had a fascination with Acorns. Never quite figured out why!

2. A little bit of rather sad history from Edgware. Many of us remember the White Lion and Edgware Town's ground with very fond memories

3. Once again, thanks and appreciation to the brave lads and lasses of the fire brigade, keeping us safe and putting their necks on the line, rescuing people in Colindale fire.

4.Good luck to Layla, a budding football star from Hendon, with her England trial today!

5. Sad to see that the curse of fly tipping continues

6. The Mayor of London has a approved another mega-housing scheme in Mill Hill. Where are the schools?

7. Today is a notably anniversary in local history. This is a great picture. Not how most of us remember Lady T.

8. This is probably the picture of the week! An amazing view of the Bald Faced Stag in Finchley.

9.The Scaffolding is down at Stephens House!

10.Did you know that Mill Hill is the home to one of Londons most famous recording studios?

That's all folks!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Saturday List #149 - My Seven most embarrassing moments (that I'm willing to share)

We've all been there, haven't we? You know that awful feeling when you just want the world to swallow you up, because you've managed to make yourself look like a prize fool. Well I thought I'd share my top ten with you. So here we go!

1. Cricklewood Hotel, Sat 30th November 1985.
This was the night of an infamous Falde Dots gig. This was a big gig for us. We had just returned from Belgium and were on a bit of a high. The venue was packed. What could possibly go wrong? Well unfortunately for me, the stage was made from beer crates. Half way through a guitar solo, it collapsed beneath me and I was left looking like a prize berk. Even worse, I broke my guitar. Fortunately, I had a spare, but no one let me forget it.

2. SPL International offices May 1984.
I was working for an IT company called SPL International. My job was as the computer system manager. They developed software and I often used to nip in to do maintenance jobs at the weekend, that I couldn't do during the week. My ex girlfriend accompanied me on one occasion. The office was always deserted at the weekend. I had the run of the place. My girlfriend had managed to spill something on her skirt. I suggested that she wash the stain out and dry the skirt on the radiator. I assured her no one would come in. She did this and was sitting there in her knickers, when my boss happened to walk in. He was suitably amused, but she was not!

3. Cromwells Bazaar, Burnt Oak, 12 May 1983.
You may wonder how I remember the date so well? It was my Ex girlfriends birthday. I offered to buy her some new Levi's jeans. She wanted to go to Brent Cross to choose some, but I persuaded her that Cromwells Bazaar in Burnt Oak had a better selection (the fact it was cheaper played no part in the equation). She found a pair of Levi's she liked the look of. She went to the changing room, came back and asked the question every man fears "does my bum lookbig in these?". I said "no", but clearly there was a slight inflection in my voice and I received the look forged in the fires of Hades, that women give you when you know they have taken a slight. I realised that she was not going to be giving me a birthday treat later. But how much worse could it get? Well much worse. When she went back to the changing room to try another pair, she found that the zip was stuck. The Jeans could not be removed. It turned out that the Levi's were manufactured to the highest quality. No amount encouragement could budge the zip or prize them off. Eventually, the manager of the shop had to nip down the road to a hardware store, to purchase a Stanley knife, to chop her out. Not only was it highly embarrassing, but I knew that there would be a heavy price to pay!

4. The Washington Square Hotel, New York City, October 1991
I arrived at the Washington Square Hotel, straight from a flight. I checked in, then went out for some refreshments. I found a rather unfriendly Irish Bar, where the barman hated the British. I always refer to him as Mr Plastic Mc Paddy, when I retell the story. He was extremely rude to me. At first I couldn't work out why, so I asked him if I'd offended him. He replied that "all Brits offend me". I realised that this poor soul, who had never set foot in Ireland, personally blamed me for the centuries of British persecution of the Irish. At this I became indignant. My family has strong republican credentials. So I said "For your information, I'm probably more Irish than you and my grandfathers cousin was Kevin Barry". Events took a turn for the worse, when, to my complete surprise, Mr Plastic replied "who the f.... is Kevin Barry". At this, a gentleman who was sitting at the bar and it transpired was something to do with the local IRA went ballistic at him for insulting a republican martyr. After that I was treated like a celebrity and drank free Guinness all night long at the barman's expense. I staggered back to the hotel, stripped off and fell asleep. Later on, awaking and being drunk and disorientated, I  staggered to what I thought was the bathroom. As I steppred in and the door slammed behind me, I realised my mistake. I was standing naked on the landing of the Washington Square Hotel. I had no key and no choice but to go to reception and get them to let me back in.

5. Centrefile, Aldgate, January 1992.
This one was a slow burn. I was interviewed for a job as a freelance IT Consultant. At the interview, the chap interviewing said "I see you used to work for BACS Ltd, what sort of things did you do there". I proceeded to explain how I'd taken some software that was really badly designed and used to take 23 hours to run and managed to fine tune it to run in four minutes. I assumed the interview went very well as I was offered the post. About six weeks later, I was in the pub with my new colleagues and one started to say "tell him John, go on" to the chap who interviewed me. After much sniggering, I was informed that he was the guy who designed the software I'd spent ten minutes rubbishing. I felt awful.

6. SPL International. March 1984.
At the time, the company was based in Windmill St, W1, just off Tottenham Court Road. We used to play five a side football on a Tuesday. We'd being our kit in and change in the office, then walk up to the pitches, which were behind Warren St. My colleagues were amused by the fact I didn't have a sports bag. I just used to pop my kit into a Budgens carrier bag. On this particular occasions, I went to get changed and found that I'd made a slight mistake. When my ex girlfriend had got up, she'd put the kitchen waste, which was also in a Budgens bag, by the front door. I'd brought this in to work. My colleagues found this hilarious.

7. Mill Hill, August 1979 .
This was meant to be a key moment in The False Dot's career. We were being interviewed by Baj from XPert I Punk fanzine. We were due to support the UK Subs in Derby. The interview was all set up. He'd come and watch us rehearse and then have a chat. What could possibly go wrong. Everything. Two days before the interview, Dave  Edwards, our drummer was attacked in Mill Hill Broadway. He was thrown through the window of WH Smiths and severed a tendon. There was no way we could perform the gig and no way we could perform at the rehearsal. I said to Pete Conway that we should cancel Baj's visitm, but he said "no, we'll play him some tapes and have a chat. It's a better story". On the day of the interview, Pete turned up late and drunk. Baj was already in a foul mood because he'd come to see a rehearsal for a band playing in Derby and that wasn't happening. He asked Dave why he was thrown through the window. He replied that he'd been mistaken for Pete Conway. At that Pete walked in and started to misbehave. After five minutes Baj left. The interview was published. We'd played him a badly recorded cassette. He suggested that 'their music is as immature as their behaviour". A week later we split up. If anyone has a copy of the mag, I'd love to see it again!

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Friday Joke - 05/10/2017 - Suspended due to essential maintenance at local Libraries

If you've never met me and only read my blogs, I suspect that you will be a tad surprised, should you ever have the misfortune to spend some time with me. I try my hardest to be polite and nice to people, to put people at ease and to genuinely try and give them the benefit of the doubt. I am well known for enjoying the craic as they say where my Grandad was born. I try my hardest to present a cheerful demeanour to the world and to make people smile. I always enjoy putting together the Friday Joke. It is a bit of light relief and I hope that the readers of the blog enjoy it.

I am, therefore always highly fed up when I have to miss printing one, unless it is to promote a gig, or some other great local event. I believe that we should strive to make life joyous and a celebration. Once in a while, however, my sunny demeanour is disturbed and I feel a joke is not appropriate. Today is one such occasion. The source of my ire? A completely dishonest tweet from the Barnet Conservatives, in response to a Tweet from the Save Barnet Libraries campaign.
When you give evidence in court, you are asked to give three things. The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. If you do not do this a Judge, Jury or Magistrate will deem you to be untrustworthy. Your evidence is likely to be discounted and you may well find yourself in trouble for perjury.

So how does the @BarnetTories tweet stand in this respect. Well if you apply this test to the statement, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the Barnet Tories have done a marvellously good job as the custodians of the jewels that comprise Barnet's library service. But does the tweet tell the whole truth? Would M'Lud conclude that they are reliable, honest and decent witnesses? Or would he conclude that they are a tad shifty?

Lets present the evidence.

They state that unlike Brent, which is run by Labour,  no libraries have shut on their watch. But they are playing fast and loose with the truth. Lets take a look at Mill Hill Library. As a toddler, my mum would take me there and I'd select Thomas The Tank Engine books from the marvellous childrens library section on the left had side. Mum would bring these home and read them to me. This cycle was repeated with my own children. It is not in my nature to boast, but I believe that this is a critical factor in the incredible academic success of my children. The children's library had been refurbished and was a very child friendly place where youngsters could enjoy books while mums socialised. There are many reasons why you don't really want children and toddlers sharing a space with adult
library users. Hopefully I don't really need to spell these out.

Sadly, the childrens library in Mill Hill has shut. It has been taken over by the Mill Hill Hub. This provides all sorts of marvellous things, such as hot desking facilites for business people, a cafe and a space for performances. In many ways it is a good thing. But it is not a proper childrens library. There is still a library, in Mill Hill. It is 50% of the size of the previous library. Some libraries have had their size cut by far more. If you cut a library's size down by 50-75%, that means that there are a half or a quarter as many books. It means that more people are crammed in and the environment is less conducive to work. Now that is bad enough, but if you sack the librarian and let untrained volunteers run the show, it ceases to be a library. I have shelves of books in my house and I know what they all are. But is my house a library? Of course it isn't.

Now I have a degree of sympathy for our local Conservative administration. The government has put them in an impossible position with budget cuts. Whilst I believe that they are misguided to cut library provision, I can see why they have made such a decision. If they were honest and said "We would love to keep our local library service, but the government has cut our budgets to the point where it is unsustainable", I would applaud them for their honesty, if nothing else. But they can't do that because they know it would make the local Tory MP's, all with wafer thin majorities, even more vulnerable. So what do they do?

They do something which is despicable and dishonest. They put out leaflets which are misleading and dishonest. They have only "not closed libraries" if you think that children don't matter and that a room with a few books in it and a few people hanging around to tidy up is a library. To run a library, you need to be qualified, as in study and have exams. This means that when members of the public come in, you can answer their queries.

And then there is the opening hours. In 2012 these were the opening hours
Click for a more readable version
And what are they like today?
Click for a more readable version

So there are two different models of cuts, both of which I believe are short sighted, bad for our communities and unfair on residents who use libraries (typically, the elderly, young families and those with financial difficulties). The Brent model where you close half of the libraries, but keep a decent service at the rest or the Barnet model where you close half of the space, get rid of the staff and provide a service run by untrained amateurs (who are clearly decent and publicly minded people).

Not only that but many Barnet libraries are self service. These are closed to children and minors. In Barnet, children don't really seem to matter at all to our Conservative councillors, which may well be why OFSTED issued such a damning report of childrens services.  Despite the prosperity in Barnet, many live in poverty and many students and young people use the libraries as a quiet space for study and revision. I used to myself when revising for exams. There is no telly, no distractions. If the space is not open, it is shut. As you can see, your local library is shut far more regularly.

There is an ancillary matter as well to consider. They say they've spent £7 million on refurbishment and "new techs". None of this has been spent on libraries, it has been spent on making the space suitable for other purposes. So is this statement "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

So when the Tories say "Thanks for drawing attention to our £7m investment in new tech & refurbs to keep all libraries open! @BrentLabour closed 1/2 theirs instead. ", is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". I'll let you, the jury decide in May next year

God bless the child, but not in Barnet. Here we bless vested interests. I can't lift your mood with a joke today with a joke, I apologise. But here is some truly awesome music that sums up how I feel and how I worry for our community. May God bless you!


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Top Ten songs for the Tory Conference

It seems that the Tories have upset a whole host of artists by using their music at conference without permission. I thought I'd be helpful and put together a playlist for them.

1. Ain't got a clue - The Lurkers
2. The Backstabbers - The O'Jays
3. Crying Eyes - JJ Cale
4. Waiting for The Man - Velvet Underground
5. Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash
6. No woman no cry - Bob Marley and The Wailers
7. I Can't Get No Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
8. Blondes have more fun - Rod Stewart
9. How much longer? - Alternative Television
10. Embarrassment - Madness

What would be your Conference song?

Urgent Appeal - Colindale foodbank collection next weekend in Mill Hill

The first full weekend of every month, there is a collection for Colindale Foodbank in Mill Hill. The Sacred Heart RC Church on the Broadway is the designated collection point. You can just drop a bag of provisions into the narthex (lobby area by doors) or leave it at the Presbertery. The church is the Mill Hill collection point. At this time of year, many regular donors are away. It is also a time when many families have an extra mouth to feed at lunchtimes, when children are not at school, therefore it is vital to make sure that donations are made. Find out more about the foodbank - - which has done fantastic work distributing food to the most needy people in Barnet. This has been supported by people all across the Borough.
Foodbank dates
Mill Hill collection foodbank dates October 7th and 8th.
The following items are needed. 
UHT Milk or powdered
Fruit Juice (long life carton)
Tinned or packet Soup
Sponge Pudding (tinned)
Tomatoes (tinned)
Rice pudding (tinned)
Instant Mash potatoes
Tinned meat and fish
Tinned Vegetables
Tinned fruit
Biscuits or snack bars
There is also a need for toiletries and babies nappies size 3, 4 and 5
Currently they do not need pasta or teabags.

There is also a regular collection point at Waitrose in Mill Hill East, so you can buy a few extra provisions and pop them in. It is a sad fact of life that we need such collections in 2017. Please pop a few provisions in a bag and help a few local families. The provisions are collected and dropped off on a Monday morning and distributed. If you know of any other collection points in the Borough, please post a comment. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Barnet Council Election 2018 - You can make a difference

Next May, all 63 Councillors in the 21 wards of Barnet Council will stand for re-election. The council has been run by the Local Conservatives since 2002. Prior to that it was run by a Labour/Lib Dem coalition. If you think things have been just fine and then the local Tories have done a marvellous job, then clearly you should vote for them. Regular readers of this blog, which started in 2008, will perhaps take a different view. The scandals and cockups have been numerous. Locl democracy has been all but destroyed by the One Barnet outsourcing, giving Capita control of planning. We are now even seeing local developers paying the wages of planners to work on pet projects. Yesterday we described a mega redevelopment of North Finchley by the developers of Brent Cross. After writing the blog, local blogger Mr Reasonable pointed out to us that the developer was paying the people who are meant to be impartial in the planning office.
We think that this is completely unacceptable. Planners are meant to be completely impartial. In recent months we've seen officers (who work for Capita) recommending all manner of completely unacceptable schemes. As there is an election next year, Tory councillors who normally adopt a very bovine stance on such matters, have realised their cushy £10,000 allowance and free parking permits are on the line and voted to reject them. 

Anyone who knows Barnet Council, will know that once they have secured another term, business as usual will resume. Barnet is a Mecca for developers, there are more flats going up here, than anywhere else in Western Europe. Virtually all our out of the price range of local first time buyers. That is why they are being marketed in Hong Kong.

The green belt is under threat like never before. Barnets solution to the backlog of people requiring social housing is to ship people up to Peterborough. This is ripping apart communities. We need a change. We need councillors who don't only care six months before an election. We need local people to be involved. In Mill Hill, I have made a commitment to support the local Lib Dems. I know many are still upset about the coalition, but in the local ward they offer the only realistic chance for a change. Anyone who reads this blog knows I care and I will work hard, 365 days a year. I will take the sticks and stones I will inevitably get. I don't hate the local Conservative councillors, I actually quite like all of them, but they have let us down and are ineffective. We will not be personally rude, we will concentrate on policies. Whether you agree or disagree with me, please get involved. It is too important not to.

Monday, 2 October 2017

North Finchley - The Councils grand redevelopment master plan

Stalinist new brutalism is alive and well in the London Borough of Barnet. It seems that the council has a grand plan for North Finchley! The Council owns a whole series of plots of land around the area and has clearly woken up to the potential to make a killing with a bit of property development.

Next Tuesday, they will debate this grand master plan. Amongst the things that they are planning, we will see a "reconfiguration" of Lodge Lane car Park, with "no fewer spaces'. They are also planning to 'Relocate the weekly market to a more suitable site'.

Here are a few choice statements (my comments in italics)

"Traditional functional shopping roles are changing. The more successful towns are adopting a much greater focus on a genuine mix of uses, where retailing remains important, but leisure, cultural, business, and residential uses all add to a town centre’s diversification and overall “offer”."
(clearly they see a residential element as a way of generating cash for the council)

Main Introduction
"With investment in main town centres such as North Finchley the outcomes can be diverse, distinctive and attractive places which are well connected and where the public realm is well maintained and there is a sustainable mix of retail, leisure, business and residential uses."

Arts Depot and Bus Garage

6.5 The north of the site has potential to become an area of increased leisure led activities with uses such as cafes, restaurants and retail at ground level, potentially including a small in town cinema and residential uses on the upper floors. A new courtyard space should be provided to the west of the site associated with the entrance to the Arts Depot. With buses relocated from the Arts Depot building, additional retail, community and leisure uses could be provided at ground floor and activate the Kingsway and Ballards Lane frontage of the building.
(One can only speculate what will happen to the buses. I am intrigued by idea of a food area. I wonder if the presence of a troublesome cafe owner down the road has had any impact on this strategy, to drag the food offering towards the Arts Depot?).

The Stanhope Road Car Park looks to be under threat
Movement and Parking 
6.40 Car parking provision at Stanhope Road which is outside the SPD area will be retained or reprovided elsewhere in the town centre subject to a car parking strategy for North Finchley. 

Lodge Lane Area

6.48 It is proposed that the existing weekly market which on market days occupies land in the south eastern corner of the car park, is to be relocated to a more prominent location on the High Road, potentially in the new public space near the Tally Ho pub and along the improved Ballards Lane.
(I personally can't see how this would work, given the loading/unloading requirements)
6.50 The new development should reprovide as a minimum the number of existing car parking spaces on the site. A decked car park up to two levels or another car parking solution which responds to the sensitivities of the site, including neighbouring residential properties and school, should be explored.
(as there will be a large amount of residential units, how many of these will get some of the 'existing number' of parking places. Another issue is where the 323 existing spaces will be located during the rebuilding phase)

Sensitively developed residential units along Lodge Lane and in the western part of the site are anticipated to be deliverable through a more efficient use of decked parking. Other potential uses fronting Lodge Lane include community space, suitable for example for health or similar uses, activating the frontage. (Interesting mention of Health uses, given the underutilised Finchley Memorial hospital down the road)

Parking charges
7.30 The principal means of rebalancing parking provision is through amending the parking tariff structure with higher prices for long stay in car parks and simplification of High Road parking to make better use in terms of turnover and stay duration.
(It seems that higher parking charges are part of the deal)

8.19 However, where there is a compelling case in the public interest, the Council will consider the use of its compulsory purchase powers to assemble sites within the SPD area, especially but not exclusively in the Key Opportunity Sites. 8
(it seems that the council will be seeking to compulsorily purchase sites that don't want to join in)

The Barnet Eye has spoken to Helen Michael who is the leader of the North Finchley Traders. I was astounded (or not) to learn that she was unaware of many aspects of this plan. It will have a huge impact on her business. It seems likely that North Finchley will be transformed into a building site for an extended period. I wonder how this will affect the local businesses. I have many questions. Here are  a few

1. How much does Capita in all it's guises expect to make as a result of this? Will they get gainshare?

2. Will Traders be compensated for loss of business?

3. Has any impact assessment study of the plans on existing local businesses and residents been undertaken?

4. In total how many more/less parking spaces will there be in North Finchley? How does this relate to the number of new residents and how many of these will get existing car parking spaces?

5. Have any discussions taken place to discuss the practicality of proposed new locations for the market and the operability of the site?

The Deadline for public questions is 10am on Thursday 5th October.

This is Silver Week in Barnet, celebrating older citizens
This week is Silver Week in Barnet. The following PRESS RELEASE has been placed on the Barnet Council website

Barnet will celebrate Silver Week with an exciting programme of festivities taking place from Sunday 1 to Saturday 7 October.
Silver Sunday kicks off Silver Week with a free afternoon tea at Woodhouse College, hosted by the council and Barnet Seniors Assembly.
Silver Week will see those over 55 invited to a variety of activities and events, such as: art exhibitions, coffee mornings, well-being workshops, kayaking taster sessions, afternoon teas, relaxing therapy treatments, health walks and much more.
This is the third year Barnet will host a week-long celebration of Silver Sunday, to ensure as many people can take part as possible. The week also includes a showcase event at Brent Cross Shopping Centre, with performances, demonstrations, information and advice on Tuesday 3 October. With more than 45 events taking place in the borough, there’s something for everyone.
Silver Sunday is an annual day of fun and free activities for older people across the UK, led by The Sir Simon Milton Foundation, to combat loneliness and isolation.
Councillor Sachin Rajput, Chairman of the Adults and Safeguarding Committee, said: “We value the contribution older people make to our society, which is why we have come together with partners across Barnet to celebrate with several fun events and activities in the borough. I invite older people to join in with Silver Week. This is a great way to try something new, make new friends and overcome loneliness and isolation, that some may be experiencing.”
Council, with sponsorship from Capita, have worked in partnership with a number of voluntary organisations and local partners to come together to highlight the value and knowledge of older people.
For more information and to view the full timetable of activities throughout Barnet Silver Week, visit local Barnet Libraries or click here. 
To view events on Silver Sunday, click here.


A few things. Firstly the link is wrong for Silver Sunday, it should be Silver Week Activities
does no one at the council check these things. It disappoints me that the council doesn't work with local bloggers to promote these things. I try and keep an eye on their website, but miss things, and I didn't notice this. Silver Sunday was actually yesterday. I know bloggers in Camden, who are equally critical of the council, but they have a better attitude to social media and bloggers are encouraged to work with the council. This means that in Camden, events such as this are supported across the community. Bloggers also get access to interview senior councillors on a regular basis, allowing for a proper dialog. Given that tens of thousands read this blog every month, the council are missing an excellent chance to properly engage.

The logical thing for the council to do would be to develop an app and a noticeboard to allow any blog, newspaper, organisation etc to list local events on their website and be informed of events. Presumably the council want these events to be successful. We certainly do, which is why, even though they haven't asked us to, we are giving it a plug. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Tweets of the week in the London Of Barnet - 1/10/2017

It's that time again. The most popular weekly feature! Don't forget to follow any local Tweeters who tickle your fancy.

1. We start with some more info about a rail scheme that could transform West London, linking Brent Cross to HS2

2.Interested in volunteering? Check this out

3.The Barnet Eye broke the news about this. Now the Brent Green party have picked it up. Residents are objecting to huge aggregates depot in Cricklewood

4.Save the date! East Finchley Arts festival

5.Nice tweet from Barnet Police

6.Great pictures of local flora and fauna from one of our regulars!

7.And a handsome fox in Finchley

8. Great historical picture from Barnet picture library

9.Looks like the Women in Business group had fun at Cafe Buzz this week

10. Many Happy returns to our near neighbours, the iconic Elstree Studios!

That's all, have  a great week!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Saturday List 148 - The top ten bits of wisdom my Dad passed on to me

My Dad passed away thirty years ago, in January 1987. If he'd lived, he'd have been 100 right now. I miss the old fella. Last night I had a rather interesting discussion with a couple of friends about their relationships with their parents. They both have lost a father but have a mother. One has a troubled relationship with his 99 year old mum. The other has a degree of anger at some of his siblings who he feels don't make the effort with his 82 year old mum. Both spoke affectionately about their Dad's.

It got me thinking about my Dad. He was an Australian WWII RAF bomber pilot, a giant of a man, who I have lived my life in awe of. I feel that in some ways he is constantly with me, in other ways I've felt very alone and isolated since his passing. If I ever have a massive dilemma in life, I always mentally ask him for wisdom and guidance. Invariably some quite random thought will pop into my head, giving me a unique insight. Often this 'spiritual advice' is extraordinarily bad but totally in keeping with how he lived. One example was when I was extremely pissed off with one of my brothers. I said 'Dad, what would you do in such circumstances'. The thought immediately materialised 'I'd Smack him', which I was quite pleased to ignore, but it cheered me up no end. Is it guidance from beyond, is it just a mental coping technique? I will leave you to decide. However, I often reflect on the nuggets of advice he passed on whilst alive. I thought I'd take the opportunity to pass on the ten best (these are the real verifyable ones, not the potential figments of my imagination).

1. 'Never eat spaghetti on a first date' - He said that it always slops juice over your shirt and destroying any degree of cool you may have been trying to aspire to.

2. 'If you must carry a weapon, make sure anyone you use it on only sees it when they are dead' - Now this may seem like a shocking statement, but it is actually eminently sensible. A weapon is not for show. You should only ever use one if your life is in mortal danger and then you must use it with devastating effect. If you wave it around to impress people, you are placing yourself in danger. His view was that in a civilised society a weapon should never be carried.

3. 'Early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise' - Interestingly my Dad lay in bed every day till 10am and insisted my mum brought him breakfast in bed. Perhaps that's why he died so young. Sadly I've had to train myself to rise early. Haven't managed the early nights though.

4. 'Women judge you by your shoes' - My Dad believed that no decent woman would ever go out with a man who had bad taste in shoes. His days in the Army and airforce meant that he loved well polished shoes. Funnily enough, the one bit of advice guitar legend Hank Marvin gave me, when his son was in The False Dots was 'Always wear good shoes at gigs, never trainers'. Wisdom indeed.

5. 'We won the war because we didn't gas homosexuals' - My Dad was as macho as it is possible to be. In the 1970's when I was growing up, society was still very homophobic. Gay sex between men had only been legal for less than a decade. In amongst all this, there was a show on TV called 'The naked civil servant' about gay icon Quentin Crisp. My Dad was fascinated by this. I asked him what he thought of gay people. His response was that the Nazi's had gassed them, while Britain had found them useful things to do in the war effort. He said that 'if we'd gassed Turing and Noel Coward, we'd have lost the war for sure'. I hadn't a clue what he meant. I do now.

6. 'Always buy the biggest car you can' - This may seem a very bad piece of advice in the modern day and age. He said there was nothing worse than spending a fortune on a sports car and then finding that you can't fit the stuff you need in it. As with many of his pieces of advice, he flouted this rule and bought himself a racing tuned 3 litre Ford Capri. This was justified as it meant we could drive to my sisters house in Northampton in 25 minutes from Mill Hill. For right or wrong, I've always felt that men who drive small cars are in some way lacking. My Dad, being in the motor trade, was extremely judgemental of people who drove what he considered to be bad cars. I can remember being out with him and he met someone. After chatting, he turned to me and said, in his broad Aussie accent 'That fella is a complete W-Anchor'. I was shocked and asked why? 'He's just bought a Lancia.' In our household to own a Lancia was a crime second to none.

7. 'There is no such thing as guilt and innocence, there is just getting caught and getting away with it' - Again this may seem like dodgy advice. We were discussing the great train robbery, which seemed to obsess the media in the 60's and 70's. My Dad said the villains were idiots because they had meticulously planned the robbery but made no plan at all to get away with the dosh. He had a mate who'd robbed a bank in Germany in 1945 with a tank. He used to sell the Reichmarks to squaddies for a discounted rate. I asked him how he could justify such an act. He said 'Pat had been one of the first British Officers into Belsen and he hated Germans, he felt no guilt at all in robbing their money. He was sensible, he made sure he got away with it'. My brother bought this guys house and found a stack of Reichmarks under the floorboards.

8. 'A good aircraft landing is one you walk away from' - His view of danger, any sort, is that if you walked away from it, it was nothing. I think many of his wartime experiences had actually scarred him, far more deeply than he'd ever have admitted. Throughout the 1960's he was plagued with mystery ailments, that were put down to an ulcer. When my mum got cancer in 1970, they all went away for good. I've long suspected it is what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

9. 'Never settle for a woman who doesn't make you happy' - My Dad used to consider anyone who moaned about their wife as a complete idiot. His view was that you should only be with someone you absolutely worship and that in such a case you should be grateful for what you have. The last time I had a conversation with my Dad, he confided in me that he always believed that if he'd never met my mum, he'd never have been anything. He told me that when she was diagnosed with cancer and he was told she'd be dead in two years, his world completely fell apart. He said that it was her strength that pulled him through and he'd felt ashamed of this (outlived him by 31 years).

10. 'Never give a mug an even break' - This was said in response to an incident when he took one of his staff's entire weeks wages off him in a game of cards. I was quite shocked by his attitude, but he said 'If I'd have deliberately played badly, he'd have thought he could actually win. A truly evil thing would be to take half his wages off him every week. This way he won't play again and might learn something'. My Dad always took the view that you should never gamble if you couldn't stand losing your shirt. I generally don't gamble, because I realised my Dad was a very good gambler and I realised that to be one, you must be completely ruthless and amoral when indulging. He played to win, I don't. I play to enjoy, in most things. But if I have to gamble, I understand the rules and I religiously follow his ethics.

I feel quite emotional having put this together. I think I'll have a Guinness and a Drambuie tonight in his honour.