How do I persuade my sons to vote?

My sons do not want to exercise their constitutional rights at the next election, and nothing I have said so far has changed that view. They both have views on politics, understand that it affects their lives, follow current affairs and have a reasonable grasp of the battle for universal suffrage. They both say that their reluctance to vote is not about apathy; they point to the Scottish Independence referendum and say that, if they really thought their vote would change something then they, like young people North of the border, would vote.

Their reasons differ in places, overlap in others.

One of them feels ill-equipped to vote. He is concerned that he does not know enough about politics and economics. He is worried that he might vote for the *wrong* person or party, and that, in doing so he might be responsible for the *wrong* person or party gaining power and somehow, personally be responsible for all the ills the country suffers as a consequence. This seems to me to be a fundamental failure to understand maths and statistics, or to grasp the principle of a collective voice. He merges the kind of magical thinking which allows people to play the lottery, combined with a lack of confidence in his own judgement.

Is that my fault? Recently he raised with me the letter sent to Muslim leaders in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. He wondered why any politician would think that was a useful or right thing to do. “It isn’t,” I explained. “It’s dog-whistle politics.” He looked confused. “The letter was addressed to Muslim leaders, but the message was meant to be heard by UKIP supporters and possibly the Jewish community. Those are the votes the letter was chasing. If you really wanted support from Muslim leaders on tackling radicalisation, that is not the way to get it”. Have I made it all seem too difficult and sly?

I remember as a teenager feeling excluded and ignorant when I didn’t get the in-jokes and references in Private Eye. But there was a counter-balance to that; I learned about politics from music and programmes like Spitting Image and Not the Nine O’Clock News. It was accessible, funny and illuminating; clever, without being “clever, clever” or smug. Last week’s Rory Bremner show was the first time I have heard someone impersonate David Cameron. Ever. Which other PM can you say that about? Perhaps his lack of confidence isn’t all my fault.

There are issues he cares about and does understand. Those are the issues he should focus on when deciding who to vote for. If it is important to him, then by making them his deciding factor he moves them up the political agenda in a small, personal way. I point him toward the grey vote, who do vote and so have power. Look at the difference between the ending of universal child benefit and the preservation of winter fuel benefit, I say. And not voting does not absolve him of responsibility for the future of his country. Not voting still has an impact and can still change political outcomes.

His brother, by contrast, believes that the system is corrupt to its core and that everyone should refuse to vote, swiftly followed by  revolution, where, think, he would like Anonymous to take charge of everything, everywhere. He speaks of broken promises – university tuition fees; of corporate lobbyists and the power of money – the banks, HSBC and the privatisation of the NHS; of the cost of housing, low pay and inequality. And he seems resigned to the idea that this is how it is and always will be.

He doesn’t want to hear that the 5 pillars of the welfare state were political creations, within his grandfather’s lifetime. Politics can change things. No-one has given him a vision, a positive ideal he wants to vote for. A couple of years ago my sons told me that, apart from them and a neighbour’s daughter, all of their childhood friends were either in university or in prison. And yes, they recognised that the student fees marches and the Summer riots had skewed the picture somewhat, but still this represents a massive political failure.

There is a passion and a force to his views which I think can be harnessed, for cynicism only comes from broken idealism.

I am not against direct action, but my son cannot tell me what he sees coming after the revolution. If you reject democracy, you are left with a dictatorship. I point him towards Tony Benn’s 5 questions for people with power:

What power do you have?

Where did you get it from?

In whose interests do you use it?

To whom are you accountable?

How do we get rid of you?

And he has no answer, he doesn’t want to think about the question, because all he sees is the entrenched power governing his life today.

I put the question out on Twitter and here are some of the crowd-sourced replies I’ve received.

@brokenbarnet supported direct action “get hold of them by the scruff of the neck & march them to the polling station, under maternal supervision, backed up by threats”. But also “ask them if they want to help people suffering under the current regime.” and “point out that people who say they don’t do politics have politics done to them.”

@sophiewarnes said “I vote partly out of respect for those who died for it and partly because (and it took me a long while to realise it) the political is personal, and politics governs everything you value.”

& @adamnieman said “Maybe tell them: not turning up says to politicians: do whatever you want. Spoiling your slip says: none of you are good enough.”

Feel free to offer more advice here, or knock on the door & canvass them.


Tales from the Sales



DSale day started bright and early, well early anyway, if not bright, with a tweet from the first person in the queue at 7.15 am, from outside Passobello in the cold and dark. And, although he was frozen, I hope it was worth it as John snagged the star card by Axel Scheffler. Well spotted sir; I hope you enjoy it and I’m only sorry I couldn’t give you that cup of tea you were after.


I’m pleased to say that the card donated by Mr Scheffler’s PA, whom I bumped into in at the postcard-making event in Boyden’s Kitchen, also sold.

Rob Biddulph’s card also went in the first 10 minutes…Scan-001And so did Mari I’Anson’s, proving that the early buyers really knew what they were looking for.


I have to give a huge thank you to a young artist called Ben Wrightson, whose warm and mellow abstract watercolours proved enormously popular. The first of his cards sold within an hour of opening and 3 were gone by 4pm. You can see an example of his work here:


Ben’s father, Dan, is also an artist who currently has a solo show in Lauderdale House. I’m relieved to say that Dan’s lovely painting of Barnet High St finally sold at 4.30pm and will likely be wrapped and sitting under Mr Mustard’s tree this Christmas. I wouldn’t like to cause bruised egos or family strife, although I’m sure that Ben, who is 3 1/2, would have been very gracious. If you want to see Dan’s card (Mr Mustard, look away now) check this link

Contributing artists are often good at spotting the best cards. It is also lovely for me (and sometimes purchasers) to meet them in person.  @AyJayTrashy , a keen supporter and donor of work, last year found the card by Terry Gilliam and this year snagged one by the highly collectable Magnus Irvin. Donald Lyven and Lucy Nowell both donated work which sold did particularly well. Donald purchased a lovely tapestry by Councillor Alison Moore, whilst Lucy cleverly spotted the card by Dame Zandra Rhodes.


It was particularly nice to see returning customers, especially the lovely man who spotted us on Londonist; last year he kindly helped me get the artists list photocopied, as I was rather disorganised. This event is all about the generosity of strangers, as you help to prove.

We took over £1,500 on the day, a bit down from last year, but I hope it will be over £2,000 by the time we finish selling.

A huge thank you to all the artists, customers, staff and volunteers who helped make this happen – especially Lisa, Helen, Lucy, Sian, Katy, Anna, Karin, Anthony, Willemien, Ed, Brian and Aiste and last, but definitely not least, the magnificent Atif, owner of Passobello carpet shop. Not only did Atif let us take over his shop for the day, but he kept everyone well supplied with coffees and cupcakes all day long. An incredibly kind man and a real asset to the East Finchley community.

To the man who wanted to know about the autographed Paul Weller posters I have for sale, please leave a comment on the blog with contact details. I’ll read it but not publish it. I’ll try and get the remaining cards scanned in the next day or so, if anyone would like to buy them.



Age UK Barnet Secret Postcard Sale is on Sat 6 Dec from 10am.

So the festival is all geared up, reindeer are on their way and the postcards are all hung in Passobello 174 High Road East Finchley N2 9AS.

Even better, there is a parking amnesty on, which means free parking on the high road.

All the cards are £20 and, just to remind you, we have cards by Dame Zandra Rhodes, Axel Scheffler, Richard Lumsden, Davina McCall, Magnus Irvin, Louisa Crispin, Simon Roberts, Nadege Meriau, Martin Shovel, Somon Ellinas, Ben Jennings, and many many more.

There is a sneak preview of a small number of the cards here

See you tomorrow.


Flitting through East Finchley – painters from near & far



I wanted to give a little thank you to some artists, some local and some not, who are worth keeping an eye out for. Some are local to the borough, others aren’t.

First up Jacinta Smelt, an artist based in the Netherlands, has been, once again, incredibly generous with her work. Last year her bold, strong paintings, like the butterfly above, literally flew off the shelves. Check out her website here:

Another painter, London but not Barnet-based, to keep an eye out for is Rachael Weitzman. Her paintings are, as this article on Beautiful Decay says, little narratives

Orly Orbach is another narrative artist and her work is wonderful. Her clients include the British Museum, the Southbank Centre and Royal Festival Hall and many others

Closer to home, Finchley resident Mari I’Anson is another artist who is donating for the second time. Her watercolours have a fluidity and lightness of touch that is elegant and her gentle observations make her work utterly charming.

Lisa Takahashi @takahashiprints is a painter and printmaker who lived in Barnet for many years, but has now moved to Bristol. Her subtle use of colour is combined with strong designs. As her website mentions, she has exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition as well locally at the Arts Depot

Two marvellous abstract artists next, both producing work of great richness and warmth.

Polly Rockberger is a Finchley local

Dragica Janketic-Carlin is based in the Mare Street studios in East London

There is a brief interview with her talking about her work here

A couple of local figurative artists deserve a mention. Despina Symeou’s  @despinasym card is just brilliant

Whilst I’m sure Harriet Connides’ @ceeforina pretty and whimsical lady will be snapped up. She is exhibiting at the Arts Depot from Sunday

And finally, I have to mention Alex Tracey @ayjaytrashy who paints the most wonderful, witty miniatures on sugar packets and tea labels from cafes around the borough.

Thank you all

The sale is on 6 Dec in Passobello 174 High Rd East Finchley N2 9AS. All the work is sold anonymously and all for £20, with all the proceeds going to Age UK Barnet.




Axel Scheffler – illustrator of the Gruffalo – donates a postcard


Axel Scheffler is best known for his partnership with children’s author Julia Donaldson. Best known for his illustrations of the Gruffalo, a classic book which has sold 6 million copies and has been translated into 50 languages. The Gruffalo was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal and won the 1999 Smarties Gold Award and the 2000 Blue Peter Award for the best book to read aloud. And we all know that grandparents are the best at reading aloud.

Axel Scheffler has also written and illustrated the Pip and Posy series.

It is with enormous gratitude that we received an original card from him. Thank you so much Mr Scheffler, for taking the time to help us.

I’d also like to thank the other illustrators who have donated cards – Louise Andersone @luluandiris and Martin Ursell’s lovely students from Middlesex University: Jack Sephton, Bethany Ward, Charles Johnston, Dervla Mary Leonard, Magdalena Kacalak-Likatnes, Reece Robinson, Casey Ballam, Gaby Giu, Jasmine E Brady, Billy Jackson, Imogen Dale, Alina Grigorjeva, Chloe Askew, Sachiko Oguri, Ammena Qureshi, Vidar Francke, Summer du Plessis, Eva Strasburger, Alexander Harvey, Amy Laker, Molly Howard-Foster, Callum Fenton, Taro Qureshi, Sinead McKeefrey, Pondhorror, and Kate Simpson

And last but not least, Rob Biddulph, currently art director of the Observer magazine, who has just published his first illustrated children’s book, Blown Away

You are all very kind. Thank you.






A pen–to register; a key–
That winds through secret wards
Are well assigned to Memory
By allegoric Bards.

As aptly, also, might be given
A Pencil to her hand;
That, softening objects, sometimes even
Outstrips the heart’s demand;

That smooths foregone distress, the lines
Of lingering care subdues,
Long-vanished happiness refines,
And clothes in brighter hues;

Yet, like a tool of Fancy, works
Those Spectres to dilate
That startle Conscience, as she lurks
Within her lonely seat.

Oh! that our lives, which flee so fast,
In purity were such,
That not an image of the past
Should fear that pencil’s touch!

Retirement then might hourly look
Upon a soothing scene,
Age steal to his allotted nook
Contented and serene;

With heart as calm as lakes that sleep,
In frosty moonlight glistening;
Or mountain rivers, where they creep
Along a channel smooth and deep,
To their own far-off murmurs listening. 

William Wordsworth

If the older people in our families and communities are the archivists of our history, telling us stories about our past, connecting us and giving us a different perspective, then maybe photographs can do that too. Capturing, keeping and holding our past for us; connecting us to it.

For the many older people in our community who live with dementia, photographs have a particularly important role. They can be the trigger for those memories and stories, a place for reminiscence to start. They can remind us of the life the person before us once lived, remind us sometimes that they are a person, something that can sadly forgotten in the face of severe memory problems. A memory box, placed near a bed or by the door to a room in care home, is an important part of care in my view


So it is with great pleasure that I can introduce some of the brilliant photographers who have contributed to Age UK Barnet’s Secret Postcard Sale on 6 Dec in East Finchley.

Simon Roberts is a photographer whose work deals with our relationship to landscape and ideas of identity and belonging. His work includes photographs of England, Russia and of seaside piers, to his work on the Election Project, commissioned by the House of Commons Work of Art Committee. His photographs are held in major public and private collections, including the George Eastman House,  Deutsche Borse Art collection and  the Wilson Centre for Photography.

US based photographer KH Krena’s work is painterly and involving. You can find her blog here

Coming back to Barnet, there are three great photographers who have kindly donated work.

Nadege Meriau is a young photographer with an impressive list of exhibitions and prizes to her name. Her work is stunningly beautiful, visceral and surreal and beautifully crafted.

Debbie Jaye is a landscape photographer and, as a local, many of her lyrical images will be familiar to residents of Barnet

And last, but by no means least, the wonderful Anne-Marie Sanderson, photographer at the Barnet Press, has donated a lovely selection of images. Her work is vibrant and beautifully constructed, with a lovely affectionate eye for her subjects – her website is well worth a few minutes of your time.

All these photographers, and work by others, will be on sale at the East Finchley Christmas Festival, so if you can spot them, you may well pick up a bargain. Head up to the north end of the high street, past the dog show, music and mince pie bake off, and you will find us in Passobello, all day.



If music be the food of love…


Another post about a true artist who has donated to the postcard sale, which, in case you have forgotten, is on 6 Dec in Passobello, 174 High Rd East Finchley N2 9AS.

Richard Lumsden is a man who can, it seems, do anything. An actor, perhaps best known for his role as Robert Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, but also The Avengers, The First of the Summer of Wine, Chalk, Sugar Rush and a host of other films, TV and theatre productions. He is currently appearing in Our Town at the Almeida Theatre.

He is also a writer, with new scripts in production, a composer and a musician.

Find out more about his many talents here

Added to this, he has very kindly drawn a postcard which is utterly charming and very special indeed. The person who finds his card will also receive a CD of a song composed and performed especially for us and completely unique.

I’m jealous. This card is definitely worth hunting down.

Many of Age UK Barnet’s clients are music lovers as well. Our music group meets monthly, driven to  and from our centres by our very kind and dedicated volunteers, to listen to live musicians or recorded music together and discuss their passion. About one third of the members of this group are blind and a fair number of them are skilled musicians in their own right, so they are a tough crowd to please.

Here are some pictures of the lovely cellist Dinah Beamish performing for her equally lovely audience. Dinah’s website is here

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