Tuesday 18 May 2010

Fear and Loathing in West Finchley

Fear first, then.

What do I have to be fearful of now that the terrible Smith family has moved out? Not much.

Only the prospect of another terrible family moving in.

For the last couple of weeks we have enjoyed the unusual luxury of being able to live normally in our home: sleeping in a bed, sitting quietly reading, watching tv, wandering around the garden, walking up to your own front door, or going out, without having to check first who is outside in the street. All very boring and unremarkable for most people: a flipping novelty for us, though. It hasn't been easy, readjusting to the idea that at any hour of the night or day the silence won't be punctuated by the terrifying sound of Tracey Smith screaming 'I DON'T FUCKING CARE IF YOU GO INTO FUCKING CARE' at her sons, or wondering if you look out whether you will be greeted by the sight the sight of some dope smoking dosser hanging around next door, or listening out for the sound of Troy Smith and his chums partying at one, two, three, and four in the morning.

I'd almost got used to the peace and quiet - almost - when one ominous day last week, members of the family who own the neighbouring property turned up, and spent a long time inside, no doubt inspecting the damage as, despite the abuse they gave us when we tried to tell them what a terrible effect their tenants were inflicting on our life, incredibly, towards the end of the tenancy, the landlords allegedly refused to repay the deposit, and decided to demand compensation from the council for the tenants' treatment of the house!

When I saw the two brothers arrive at the house, my heart stopped, and I felt a rising tide of panic: the last time I had seen Tony had been when he and his odious sister Sophia had banged on our door demanding to know why we were daring to complain about their tenants, and Sophia had started yelling insults at us again. After a visit from the police, Sophia agreed not to repeat this behaviour, and significantly she has not shown her face here since, thank God, but with this family, you just never know what they will do next. Just before we were due to go out on Saturday night I caught sight of Tony standing outside, staring in this direction with a particularly unpleasant expression and had to wait until they had gone before venturing out. This week we have been reduced to the same sort of behaviour. Just ridiculous that we should be forced to live like this, but that is how things are. Since then, the brothers and Tina have been visiting the house, arguing amongst themselves as usual. They have not bothered to change the locks of the house. despite the type of people who were living there, and have brought in some workmen who have been banging about in the house all day, which is why we are beginning to get very worried again: we had hoped that the house would be put up for sale, but are terrified at the prospect that they might be getting more tenants. As mentioned before, Barnet have, incredibly, refused to bar the owners from having further Homechoice tenants from their housing waiting list, despite all the evidence of their complete failure to act as repsonsible landlords, not to mention the state of the property. Of course, should Barnet dare to provide further tenants, they will be facing a legal challenge from us and whatever other action we may find appropriate.

But it's hard to explain how this makes me feel. More worry, more trouble. If more tenants arrive, we will be forced out of our home. We don't want to move, but what else can we do?

Now loathing.

There seems to be a lot of it about, at the moment.

I have been wondering, quite a lot recently, what sort of person actually campaigned for Mike Freer to become our parliamentary representative, and now I have some idea.

As listed in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere, Mike has a supporters' blog named 'The Friends of Mike Freer' which I urge you to visit, should you be short of entertainment, or wish to know more about the Conservative party in Finchley and Golders Green. There appears to be only one friend of Mike Freer, sadly, the blogger herself, the self styled 'Mrs T', as well as, or perhaps the same person as, the only follower, the mysterious 'Amanda' who occasionally sallies forth on the comments listing of our local Times group newspapers. This Amanda must be the same person who commented once that she didn't see why I was so nasty about the marvellous Mr Freer, and why was I so angry, which apparently is a Bad Thing, and why did I not take my problem to Mike himself? Oh dear: luckily another commenter pointed her in the direction of this blog and she fell silent.

'Mrs T' describes herself as a housewife in Finchley (wait til Mrs Angry catches you behind the fruit and veg counter in Waitrose, darling) and fond of music, wine and sex in the City: sorry, Sex in the City. Well, I'm with you there, Mrs T, maybe hold back on the wine a bit though, in future, before you write the blog.

In her restarted blog on Monday, apart from the rather unexpected 'Mike Freer's fitness tip of the day - yes, really - yesterday it was something about doing pottery classes) Mrs T, flushed with post electoral satisfaction, brags about the legacy of her man, Mr Mike Freer. She tells us that Barnet Council, when he took over, was 'a largely ignored sleepy backwater' which Mike singlehandedly (sorry Rog, should that be one handedly?) transformed into a 'dynamic organisation'. And she asks, 'Do the people of Barnet like it? You bet!' 'Mike has shown he's got the guts to make tough decisions, the skills to implement them and the charisma to take the people with him' (Yes, Mike Freer and charisma in the same sentence). 'Mike's council legacy will be seen for generations in Barnet'. Well, that I can't disagree with, nor can 27 million pounds worth of our money now sitting in Iceland until the end of time.

In fact, this devoted friend of Mike Freer was mysteriously silent during the election campaign but has now decided to come out, or, should I say, crawl out, of the woodwork once more.

The other day, Barnet Eye blogger Roger Tichborne wrote a very sensitive and rather touching blog about dyslexia, and the emotional effect such a difficulty has on people who suffer from this problem. He describes the lasting damage caused by the frustration of this condition, and the humiliation and bullying that he experienced as a child struggling with an unsympathetic educational system.

For some reason, 'Mrs T' decided to post a comment on this particular blog in which she said:

'Hey thickhead, how did you get on in the council elections?'

Rog, in case you didn't know, recently stood as a Libdem candidate in Mill Hill.

I don't know why anyone would think it is acceptable to address someone who has a learning difficulty as 'thickhead'. I only know that as a parent with children who have related difficulties I find it impossible to believe that anyone would use such a term. Obviously 'Mrs T' seems to think that children with this condition are stupid, and worthy of being laughed at. Isn't that nice?If you have had to spend years encouraging your children to overcome the obstacles that such problems put in their way, 'Mrs T', you would know how easily their fragile sense of self esteem is destroyed by this sort of stupid, insulting comment. Such a remark is indefensible, and if you had any decency, you would instantly apologise, to Roger Tichborne and anyone else you may have offended.

In her blog, this Freer fan mocks Tichborne's attempts to stand, on a point of principle, as a candidate in his local ward and then alleges that there was a 'vicious campaign' targeteted at her pin up boy by 'malcontents and bloggers' and, outrageously she claims that 'the friends of Mike Freer' believe that much of this was, wait for it 'homophobically motivated'. In other words, she feels she is entitled to refer to someone with dyslexia as a 'thickhead', but anyone who dares criticise the political views and career of a man who happens to be gay can be therefore accused of being homophobic: a completely unsubstantiated slur. Absolutely appalling.

If there is anything more repugnant than bigotry and hate crime, whether it is homophobia or antisemitism, or racism of any sort, it is the cynical use of false accusations of such behaviour in an attempt to smear someone's reputation. Apart from the sheer nastiness of such an action it devalues the true horror of genuine mindless intolerance and its consequences. But this is a tactic used by certain other Tories whom we all know and love in this borough, when necessary, to denigrate those who dare to stand up to his bullying. And this, dear residents, is the horrible face of a certain strain of Conservative party activists in our area. Don't know about you, but I feel rather nauseated by the whole damn lot of them. I hope that Mike Freer will disassociate himeself from this blog, and this woman's comments: if not, I think that tells you all you need to know about him, and his supporters, don't you?

Whatever issues I have with Freer are strictly related to his leadership of Barnet council and the impact his policies and actions - or inactions - had on our family over this last year and more. I have not got the slightest interest in his personal life, nor should anyone else. The problem is that a certain type of Daily Mail reading Tory supporter is so used to viewing the world through a veil of preset prejudices that he or she can only imagine that everyone else does the same. They don't, Mrs T.

Someone else who is evidently sickened by the Tory pary, both nationally and locally, is the blogger Don't Call Me Dave, writer of 'Not the Barnet Times'. In fact, he is so revolted by the whole direction of Conservative politics he has resigned from the party and has said he no longer wants to continue the blog. This is a shame: the Tory party need decent, liberally minded members like DCMD: the fact that he feels so alienated from the party is a very worrying sign of something going badly wrong in the Conservative movement, if there is such a thing. It leaves the field open to the lunatic fringe and career opportunists and takes the spirit of genuine political debate out of the democratic process. It's a black day again, here in Broken Barnet.


Rog T said...

Dear Mrs Angry,

Thought you might like to know that Brian Coleman accused me of being homophobic in his defence during the standards case (as well as being antisemitic, which rather puzzled me as Coleman isn't Jewish).

Both accusations provided much amuzement to those close to me. I wish I could say these comments really upset me, but they don't. I've always taken a perverse satisfaction in knowing I've wound people up so much they have to tell porkies about me. Mike Freer is an incredibly thin skinned individual. I will be fascinated to watch his progress in Parliament. As to Coleman. He's altogether a more complex person. He can be incredibly thick skinned in some respects and extremely vulnerable in others. Having read his lengthy witness testimony, I think his biggest weakness is that ultimately he knows he's a ridiculous character and he's scared we'll all realise him and treat him like he was treated in the playground at school. Everything he says and does is a smokescreen to fool us.

As to David's retirement. That is a real shame

Mrs Angry said...

Yes: once people like that go to the trouble of telling scurrilous lies about you, you know that you must be doing something right ... Freer is now in a position where he has to serve the communtity rather than steer a council over Beachy Head, so it will take some powers of transformation to be able to fulfill that role. I hope that he will take every opportunity to work on behalf of the good of the constituency rather than sit back and plot his career path. Let's see. As to our ex mayor, I wish someone would write Brian Coleman, the Opera - plenty of material there, I feel ...
I'm hoping DCMD's retirement will be of the Frank Sinatra type and look forward to a comeback gig in the near future!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Thank you for your support Mrs Angry. I did think long and hard whether to stay in the party and fight from within but, sadly, I concluded that this would have been a losing battle, putting my sanity at risk!

Many party members told me privately they liked my blog and agreed with much of what I wrote, but if I asked them to stand up publicly and say that, they refused. They didn’t want to get involved or be perceived as a trouble maker. As someone has written on my blog today, all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. I can’t fight the revolution on my own and now I know how “old” Labour party members must have felt when Blair hijacked their party from them.

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD: I can understand your decision to leave a party in which you no longer feel at home, and that you felt you could not fight for change within the party itself. But your blog serves a hugely important function: it is true, and always will be, that the majority of people are lazy and lack the courage to speak out when they know something is wrong; that's just human nature, sadly. Writing 'Not the Barnet Times' is probably more important than any other political activity you could undertake at the moment. Any repressive regime flourishes in the absence of dissent and criticism: giving up is giving in - and you're not on your own, the number of people who read your blog must tell you that! Why not have a break and reconsider?