If you go down in the woods, today, you're sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods, today, you'd better go in disguise ...
One of Mrs Angry's earliest memories, you know, is of sitting in the faded grandeur of the enormous dining room in the Adelphi Hotel, in Liverpool, having tea, while a palm court orchestra of ancient old ladies played this tune, especially, as the moustachioed conductor, with brilliantined hair, and a manic smile, announced, pointing at her, to her mortification, for that little girl over there ... the infant Mrs Angry slid off her chair, under the table and hid, scarlet faced, but at the same time wondering if she ought to stand on the table, and revel in the attention. Still a question that occurs.
Innocent times. Anyway, a lovely, sweet tune to listen to, readers, while we venture on a stroll through some rather unsavoury topics.
Take Mrs Angry's hand, then, and come with her for a walk in the woods.
Scratchwoods, to be exact, in the rural badlands of the Edgware/Mill Hill borders. A rare remnant of the great forest of Middlesex, now awkwardly stranded between the A1 and the M1, and difficult to get to, although that does little to deter some of its more active admirers, members of the dogging community of Broken Barnet, who like to congregate in the car park - and other nocturnal visitors who, like the naughty teddy bears, get up to all sorts of fun in the woods ...
Beneath the trees where nobody sees, They'll hide and seek as long as they please.
And litter the woods with all sorts of discarded items, unfortunately, for other people to pick up.
In Mrs Angry's childhood, of course, before outdoor sexual activity had become the norm - or rather, before sex had been invented, and people entertained themselves, and sublimated their unnatural urges, with more wholesome pursuits like leafing through Readers' Digest, making airfix kits, knitting, and eyeing up the milkman, people would visit Scratchwood in order to collect conkers, admire the autumn colours of the falling leaves, and, if you were Mrs Angry, to be taken on long, boring, pointless walks in wellies which she hated because they always had dead spiders in them, when you got them out of the dark and dusty cupboard under the stairs.
But things move on, and knitting and airfix kits have lost their appeal, and now Scratchwood open space has become less attractive to walkers out for a ramble, and notorious for all sorts of unfortunate reasons.
This rather louche reputation did not stop our Tory council from trying to put Scratchwood and other parks up for hire, recently, in yet another idiotic and highly unpopular proposal from disgraced councillor Brian Coleman.
Quite what sort of clients they thought would want to hire a dogging venue for a wedding or corporate event, no one was able to explain. Fortunately this idea was knocked on the head. Or so we thought: until rather than dazed and lying on the floor, the plans were revived, by stealth, and are hidden away in a new set of proposals.
This is the new form of faux-consultation in Broken Barnet. Having been in trouble in the High Court for not doing it, now our Tory chums have decided to do it, and then do it again, and again, until they wear the residents down into such a state of torpor that they can get away with anything.
And down in Scratchwood, deep down, nestling amongst the leafmould, and moss, and magic mushrooms, look what we have, just peeping out, with their dear little noses, from the foliage, blinking in the sunlight of an early spring.
Yes! The first pre-election movements of Tory councillors, scuffling about, dazed and confused from their four long years of hibernation, burrowed down in the Burroughs, safe from all predators - except the riders and hounds of the Barnet blogosphere.
Look! Here is a lesser spotted Cllr Hugh Rayner, in his adopted habitat, where he has built himself a little lodge, like an eager beaver, a cafe, which he is keen for everyone to come and see: even Mrs Angry.
Councillor Rayner, getting to grips with things at Scratchwood
A marvellous story here in this weeks local Times tells us that the new cafe is opening in Scratchwood, rather astonishingly named 'Django Unchained', in homage to Quentin Tarantino. No, really.
Certainly life in Broken Barnet often meets the dramatic level of events in a Tarantino movie, but perhaps Reservoir Dogs is more appropriate: Mr Blonde, Mr Blue, Mr Brown, Mr Orange, Mr Pink, and Mr White: Mrs Angry, Mr Reasonable, Mr Mustard, and Mr Tichborne. Hmm.
Here is Hugh, with some new friends at Scratchwood. Hang on: let me check I have the right photo.
Phew. Yes: here we are.
Some interesting comments at the bottom of the story, you will find: such as this endorsement from one enthusiastic resident:
I am glad this cafe is now open, I love a latte and a Digestive biscuit after a good old dogging session ...
Hugh got rather annoyed by Mrs Angry's contribution, which had actually objected to the irrelevant reference to squatters, and alluded to the real problems in the area, and he emailed her to tell her so, clearly rattled that she was spoiling his good news story, and explaining a visit to Scratchwood, I actually went down, he said to, what was it ... to meet the squatters in the cafe. Oh. Good. Hugh also says that, since then, he and his colleagues have been busy in the undergrowth, as well as the infamous car park, shutting off the bottom end.
Ooh, er, Councillor Rayner. There I go, as you say, not doing myself justice. (Did you mean, not doing you justice?) You may have a point.
Hugh is in fact a nice enough bloke, and has perfect manners, a rare thing in a Barnet Tory councillor.
He kindly invited Mrs Angry to meet up and chat about how marvellous the whole place is now, thanks to his strenous efforts.
Mrs Angry has had some interesting invitations, in her time, but an invitation to Scratchwood from a Tory councillor is something new.
She replied thank you, but like contact sport and country dancing, some activities are better performed, than watched. (Being open minded, and short of other offers, Mrs Angry is still thinking about it, Hugh, but it's a bit chilly, and she has a weak chest, you know: so ask again in the spring. After May 22nd).
And please note that he would not answer the question, readers, as to why the Tories have reintroduced the proposals to hire out our parks, having been told quite clearly that residents do not want this scheme.
Our Tory councillors are in something of a dilemma, of course. Three months to go to the elections, and still no manifesto, no policies to put before the electorate - and nothing but a disastrous record of gaffes and blunders over the entire course of last term of office. Instead of learning from the mistakes of the past, they are therefore condemned to repeat the same mistakes, over and over again. Maintaining unpopular policies, or proposals, is a symptom if their dysfunctionality, an indication of their total lack of grip on reality.
From the moment of their re-election, and their shameless act in awarding themselves a massive pay rise, to the Metpro scandal, the uncovering of thousands of non-compliant, wasteful contracts, the non stop gobshitery and atrocious behaviour of Brian Coleman, the policies on parking and parks imposed by Brian Coleman, the silencing of all dissent by residents - and the conspiracy of fools that led to the mass privatisation of our council services, and the handover of democratic control of those services - along with a £16 million handout that was meant to come from them, to Capita: disaster after disaster.
The only recommendation which the Tories can seem to find to present to the voters of Broken Barnet, in fact is what 'Leader' Richard Cornelius has admitted is a 'gesture' - the cutting of council tax by 1% - a gesture that will give most residents the sum of around 40p a week, but will lead directly to a shortfall in the council budget.
As Barnet Alliance activist Barbara Jacobson reports here, the cost of paying this pre-election gesture is exactly matched by the extra sum raised by Barnet's
imposition of the 8.5% council tax on working age claimants of benefit. When asked to justify this toll on the most disadvantaged residents in the borough at this week's Cabinet meeting, she says:
Cornelius replied emphatically that nothing was free, everyone had to understand that and make a contribution.
At the same time as burdening those who can least bear further financial cost, the Tory leader has categorically refused to consider levying any extra revenue from those who can, the many extremely affluent residents who live in privileged circumstances and could easily afford to pay more. In fact Cornelius has declared himself to be anguished by the very thought of asking them to pay their fair share: a mansion tax, for the billionaire residents of Bishops Avenue, or Totteridge Lane? Outrageous. Their lives, he said, would be ruined. Tax is for the poor, tax evasion for the rich.
Back to our Tory councillors, who face an election in May, with nothing but an empty box of tricks to try and charm their constituents into voting for them again.
The fall out from the parking issue alone has been enough to lose the election, and yet, rather than lose face over a humiliating retreat, they have stupidly failed to put it right, and dump the whole scheme. And this will lost them bucketloads of votes from their own natural born Tory voters, residents and high street traders.
There are many Tory seats in Barnet which have become vulnerable to a Labour gain, and serves them right, you might well think.
What has been interesting, in the last few days, is the emergence of these first tentative, and frankly rather comical, attempts by some of the Tory councillors to launch their own charm offensives, in advance of the looming purdah period, when a statutory obligation to be truthful, balanced and accurate in their campaigning will make it rather more difficult, if not impossible, to persuade residents of the benefits of returning their elected representative to power.
And they will need a great deal of persuasion. Look at the figures for Hale Ward, for example:
|Liberal Democrat||James Creighton||1,279|
|Liberal Democrat||Michael Goodman||1,238|
|Liberal Democrat||Geoffrey Jacobs||1,008|
|Residents' Association of Barnet||Derek French||466|
Even at a time when Labour's fortunes were at such a low level, and the Libdem revival was at its peak, the Tories were only slightly ahead. That was then: look at now - the Libdem vote will collapse, and move to Labour. Brian Gordon has seen what is coming, and is standing in a safer ward, but ... goodbye and good riddance, to Tom Davey, the hardhearted housing spokesman, perhaps and then: poor Hugh.
Councillor Rayner's photo opportunity in Scratchwood represents only one of an outbreak of panicked PR tactics, timed for the rapidly shrinking period before purdah: stay tuned ... Mrs Angry will bring you more of the same sort of entertainment in the next post, and no doubt on a regular basis until the election.
In the meanwhile ... torch, binoculars ... rubber gloves ... where are those f*cking wellies?