Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Laser Razor.

The photo above shows one of the well - kept ponies located on the piece of riverside waste ground at the far end of James Watt Way, behind Erith Morrison's supermarket. The News Shopper have been covering a story in respect of an abandoned pony on a piece of waste ground in Yarnton Way, Lower Belvedere that has been rescued by a sharp - eyed member of the public. The lady, who chose to remain unnamed said in an interview with the News Shopper "On Tuesday morning, I was driving to work and out of the corner of my eye I saw a horse at a gate, just off Yarnton Way. I immediately stopped and went to the animal - she was very affectionate and wanted all the attention that she could get. I was stroking her while crying my eyes out and she was so skinny that I had to help her. I went to the nearest shop to buy some bread, carrots and bottles of water.  She was scoffing the food down and drank the water so quickly. f I had the money to re-home her, I would. She is the most beautiful and loving horse I’ve ever met – I named her Star. What scares me is that if I hadn’t seen her, a few days later, she could’ve died". The practice of “fly-grazing” has become increasingly common both in the local area, and also around the country. Thousands of horses and ponies are being abandoned by their erstwhile owners as irresponsible breeding, spiralling bills and sale prices which have reached rock bottom take their toll. A pony can fetch as little as £5 at auction – if it sells at all, whilst stable costs, feed and vets bills can amount to around £100 per week per animal. The six main horse welfare charities have come together to compile a report on the situation; it would also appear that the European appetite for horse meat may be fuelling the situation – a £5 pony can turn into a £230 carcass on the European meat market. It may be that ponies are actually being farmed for live export to France, Belgium and Italy. The RSPCA have called for legislation that will enable them to more quickly identify owners and punish them with fines and the seizure of animals for fly-grazing. They also want a review of agreements allowing the free movement of horses not intended for slaughter between Britain, Ireland and France. The British horse population is thought to be just under one million animals in size. The vast majority are owned privately for leisure – a sector which, unlike the horse racing industry, has not historically been tightly regulated.  A new bill was brought into law a couple of months ago which hopefully may go far to changing this situation. The Control of Horses Act 2015 makes changes to the law to deter people from illegally grazing or simply abandoning horses on public and private land, which is known as ‘fly-grazing’. As many as 3,000 horses are thought to be illegally fly-grazing across the country. The changes mean horse owners who fly-graze their animals without permission can now be dealt with more quickly and effectively. These changes to the law will give rural communities greater powers to deal with thousands of horses that are left to graze illegally without the land owners’ permission. Horses that are left to fly-graze can now be rehomed much more quickly and effectively, improving the welfare of these animals and preventing disruption to communities. By allowing abandoned horses to be rehomed much more quickly, this act will encourage owners to pay proper attention to their animals’ welfare and ensure communities are no longer blighted by the illegal practice of fly-grazing. Under the previous Animals Act 1971 an abandoned horse could only be disposed of after 14 days through sale at market or public auction. The new Act means fly-grazing horses have to be reported to police within 24 hours, and owners now have four days to claim their animals. Previously, an abandoned horse could only be disposed of through sale at market or public auction. The new law extends the options for dealing with abandoned horses, which now include private sale, gifting and rehoming. Hopefully this will go some way into resolving the long standing problem.

I have complained at length in the past about the cost of wet shaving razor blades when purchased from any of the UK supermarket chains. The cartridges made by the well-known brands generally cost about 5p - 10p to manufacture, but shoppers are charged as much as £3.49 per cartridge. So what’s the deal? They charge that much because they can. Gillette and Wilkinson Sword spend quite a bit of money conniving people that they are the only ones supplying good razors. With a cartridge costing only 10p to manufacture, they have a lot of budget left for marketing; and that’s what you are paying for. With their duopoly secured by marketing, they are free to charge higher prices, at times, raising them by 20 percent. If you use Gillette’s Mach 3 razor, you were a victim of that sudden price increase, but you probably didn’t notice. Gillette sneaked the price increase in by not directly increasing the price, but by removing one of the cartridges. Instead of five cartridges, you now only get four for the same price – effectively the same as increasing prices by 20 percent. Even if you did notice, where else are you going to get your razors? Unless you want to use disposable razors, there isn’t a lot of choice. Because of the huge cost of razor blades from the established manufacturers, others have investigated alternative solutions. One scheme is clever; it involves cutting out the high street retailer (and their huge profit margins on such consumable items) and selling directly to the public. This has been tried before, but it has never historically been successful, as the blade manufacturers inevitable supply other products to the large supermarket chains, and inevitably pressure is put on the manufacturers to not supply the rival companies. One start up seems to have found a way past this virtual monopoly by sourcing their blades from an independent company in Germany, one that cannot be put under pressure from the supermarket buyers. I have not tried The Bearded Colonel, but their business model and retail proposal sounds intriguing You can read more about them by clicking here. This may be only a first step in freeing up the shaving market, as a brand new product has just been announced. It is only in prototype form at present, but if it can be produced in a reliable and affordable form, it could literally turn the razor market on its head. A new company based in California called Skarp has been established by a former medical device engineer specialising in hair removal by the name of Morgan Gustavsson. His invention is a laser razor. The razor is powered by a small laser, which cuts through hair for a shave which is closer than using a blade and doesn’t suffer from irritation, razor burn, cuts or ingrown hairs. The AAA battery should last about a month and the device about 50,000 hours. It’s waterproof and can be used in the shower, but it does not require a lather. Founder Morgan invented IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) in 1989, which is a preferred method of hair removal and dermatology treatments to this day. A major challenge was finding a laser frequency which could cut any colour of hair, a requirement which makes the device quite expensive. The mass market for cheap lasers comes from Blu-ray players and needing a special frequency reduces the availability. After years of research and development, they discovered a chromophore in the hair which can be cut when hit with a particular light wavelength. Chromophores are particles that absorb certain wavelengths (colours) of light. The chromophore they identified is shared by every human, regardless of age, gender or race. Skarp claims it is safe: “The wavelength we're using doesn't emit UV. The power of the laser is too low to cause damage. But more importantly, the laser doesn't enter the skin, it only enters the hair. So there is absolutely no risk of developing any complications or damage.” The name Skarp comes from the Swedish word for “sharp”, as Gustavsson was brought up in Sweden. The razor is currently the subject of a Kickstarter project, which has vastly exceeded its goal. There are no pictures of a working prototype yet, but Kickstarter’s terms and conditions require that prototypes do exist. This sounds like a very interesting project, and one that I would be keen to try if it makes it to market. What do you think? Drop me a line to

You may recall I have mentioned in the past how so many of the most important inventions of the last century were developed in and around Erith. The reality was in most cases, other inventors got a commercial product launched first, or the local inventor gave up just before making a significant breakthrough – a case in point would be Edward Butler – the inventor of the internal combustion engine motor car, named the Butler Petrol Cycle (see the photo above which was taken in Erith in May 1889, courtesy of Garry "Tadge" Taylor who supplied the photo some time ago), which pootled around Erith at speeds potentially up to fifteen miles per hour, back in 1884 – a full two years before Karl Benz in Germany would come up with what is popularly considered to be the first automobile. The big problem faced by anyone experimenting with self powered vehicles at that time was the 1865 Red Flag Act, which forced all self powered vehicles to travel at a speed of no more than two miles per hour in built up areas, and no more than four miles per hour in rural areas. On top of this, the vehicle had to be accompanied by three people, one of whom had to walk in front, waving a red flag to warn other road users. Bearing in mind the 15 mph and 40 mpg capability of the Butler Petrol Cycle, the act seriously impacted the testing and development of the vehicle. Edward Butler said at the time” "The authorities do not countenance its use on the roads, and I have abandoned in consequence any further development of it". He then abandoned the project as unworkable under the regulations of the time. Edward Butler broke up the machine in 1896, and sold the metal as scrap. Karl Benz was not so hindered by traffic laws, and was free to develop his automobile in peace. I can sympathise with Edward Butler, but he does seem to be symptomatic of local ground breaking inventors who get to within what seems to be inches of a truly stunning piece of engineering creation, only to say “sod it, I can’t be bothered to take this any further” and chuck in the metaphorical towel. A new development celebrates Edward Butler - more on this later. 

Fellow local Blogger Malcolm Knight of "Bexley is Bonkers" has noted that the cash vending machines at Asda in Lower Belvedere have been stolen, and not in fact for the first time. You can read his observations on the matter here. It would seem that a gang of organised criminals is at large that are specifically targeting local cash machines. Keep your eyes open.

Last week an important stepping stone in the regeneration of the former Larner Road Estate was completed. The new Erith Park development hosted a celebration of the history of the area, and marked the naming of new roads on the development. The press release from Orbit Housing Association reads thus:- "On Saturday 26 September, over 60 people, including people living at Erith Park, local residents and partners delivering the large scale regeneration of Erith Park, hosted a community celebration to showcase the history and heritage of the neighbourhood. At the event, guests were able to view the brand new Erith Park Story video, see the unveiling of the new geology board and take part in a Walk the Talk tour. The new street names were announced, with residents, project partners and representatives of the families who have been chosen to have streets and apartment blocks named after them present to mark the occasion. Debbie Williams is the great, great granddaughter of G H Gunning, who Gunning Place was named after. G H Gunning was an Erith builder and philanthropist, and built some of the older houses around Erith Park. He also donated land for the first Erith Hospital. Debbie attended the event and said; “It was a lovely day, a nice tribute to my great, great grandfather and the other families whose relatives have streets named after them. We are so proud to have a lasting tribute to my grandfather and all that he did for Erith.” Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, the Leader of Bexley Borough Council said; “I am very proud to have joined local people in celebrating their move into their new homes, the transformation of their area and the strength of their community. “I really enjoyed hearing about the history of the area and sharing the stories of the families whose names have been given to Erith Park’s new streets and apartment blocks. “Improving the old estate is the result of years of planning, hard work and a real partnership. The project shows just how much can be achieved when everyone works together.” Andy Hobart, Managing Director of Wates Living Space, said; “The street party was a great opportunity for all with a stake in Erith Park’s past, present and future to celebrate how much has been achieved since work started in 2013 transform the former Larner Road Estate. Wates Living Space has worked in partnership with Orbit and local residents at every stage of this development to ensure that it really reflects the community’s rich local history, their needs and ambitions. This has enabled us to create a place where people are proud to call home and we are proud to be a part of Erith’s legacy. I look forward to continuing to visit Erith Park as we enter phase two of the development.” Vivien Knibbs, Executive Director of Orbit South commented: “Erith Park is Orbit’s flagship regeneration scheme and something we’ve been working to deliver since the 1990’s. We are delighted to officially welcome residents into their new homes and to celebrate all that’s unique and interesting about the Erith Park community. After consultation with local people and residents, we found out so much more about the local history and we are proud to now share that with the wider community both today and in the years to come.

The new roads on the Erith Park development have been named after various local historical and social events, as listed below:-

Downton Mews – Not named after the TV programme, but after artist and philosopher John Downton (1906-1991) who was born in Erith.

Beadle Place – The Beadle family were coal merchants in Erith. Fred and Charles Beadle gave a donation to help build Erith Hospital.

Gunning Place – GH Gunning, Erith builder and philanthropist, built some of the older houses around Erith Park and donated land for the first Erith Hospital.

Starkey Place – Named after the family which ran Randal Press Ltd business in Erith from 1902. The company still exists and have relocated to Crayford.

Butler Drive – Edward Butler (1862-1940), born in Erith, invented the first motor car (see my article above for more details). 

Callender Road – Erith’s Callender Cable Works projects include the D Day PLUTO pipeline under the English Channel.

Talbot Place – Is a reminder of Talbot Estates, who ran the Wharf on the riverfront from 1932 – 1957

You may recall that I began my online campaign to improve the levels of cleanliness and hygiene in Bexley’s food outlets after the revelation back in January 2013 that the Pizza Hut takeaway in Northumberland Heath was so dirty that not only was it served with a temporary closure order, but it was featured in national tabloid newspapers, including the Sun. As a result of this revelation, I carried out some research into the levels of hygiene in local food outlets, and I was shocked at the extremely poor results.  What was also a cause for concern was that the Pizza Hut was one of a total of fifty food outlets in the London Borough of Bexley that scored zero out of five points for hygiene. That was just over seven percent of the commercial food retailing in the borough. Bearing in mind the official recommendation that customers should avoid any place that scores less than three out of five stars, and the area had a lot more places scoring one or two stars, it was very worrying. I am pleased to say that in the last two years the hygiene situation has improved dramatically. The latest figures show 94 per cent of the borough's businesses have a rating of three or above, compared to 87 per cent across London and 93 per cent nationally.  An impressive five hundred eating establishments and shops have been rated with the top score of five by the Food Standards Agency.  Just two years ago, a 'Which?' report named Bexley as one of the London boroughs with the highest percentage of very low scores. The turn – around in a relatively short period of time is pretty astonishing, and is a credit to the Environmental Health team from Bexley Council, and the individual food vendors who have markedly improved their performance in respect of hygiene.

Following my account of the mysterious lights I saw flying over the River Thames from West to East at around 8.30pm on Monday the 21st September, I have been surprised by the lack of reports in the local or regional press. I would have thought that such a spectacular aerial display would have been seen by thousands of Londoners, but the silence has been deafening. One lady has contacted me after reading of my experience on the Maggot Sandwich. She sent me her own account:- “We live in New Eltham and our adult son saw the lights first at similar time to yourself. He was in our garden and immediately called my Husband and I to back up his observations. Our house looks out across the Charlton Athletic Training Ground towards Bexley Road which would run parallel to the Thames. The lights (I saw 10) were travelling from London towards Erith and were in the same formation as you mentioned. They were quite a way over from where we live so were almost certainly moving down the river following its course. I am a member of a Facebook Group - Charlton Athletic FC group and whilst we don't like 'non Charlton' posts within the group normally I posted about them in the hope that others had seen them and could identify what they maybe. I had several suggestions - laser spots from a performance at the O2, Military helicopters from a display which had apparently been taking place in London and Chinese lanterns. As you said yourself they moved silently, none of the suggestions offered within the group really seemed to fit what we had seen. I would be very interested to hear if you have any other people confirm the sightings or more especially if anyone can answer our question - 'what were they?'. My Husband commented that possibly they were something we weren't meant to know about. He may be right, but I am now very intrigued especially as until I read your article no one else had admitted seeing them. Hopefully, the mystery will be solved, but meanwhile we still keep looking skyward”. The mystery deepens. Did anyone else see the lights? I would love to know what it was that I saw; surely someone got a photo or took some video footage of the display? Contact me at with any information on the story.

Some users of Yahoo!'s photo-sharing site Flickr have been struggling or unable to upload photos to the site for several weeks. I have been reading the Flickr support forums, which are full of complaints from people – mostly in the UK – who have been unable to upload their snaps to Flickr. The site seems to be constantly timing out when uploads are attempted. The problem has been reported by Windows and OS X users. Discussions between photographers and Flickr staff have been ongoing for several days in the forums, but users in the UK are still reporting problems with the service. I have a Flickr Pro, paid for account, and have not personally come across any problems, but then I don't upload photos very often, unlike many users who are photographic professionals and use the web service as part of their business. One forum member wrote "I have tried all day again and failed to upload my monthly set of photos – disappointing as on the first of each month I publish a blog that links to my latest set of photos on Flickr. I have 31 photos. With a fast broadband link, as I have, they should take say maybe 10 minutes. It seems to have gone wrong maybe since Windows 10. I have tried using Edge, Microsoft Exchange and Google Chrome to upload – none of them work. I have tried the (beta) Flickr Uploader, and it also doesn’t work. I have twice sent off a log of my attempts to use the Windows Uploader (the old copy and paste upload does not work at all), and it looks to me as though there are some Flickr server problems which Flickr is refusing to acknowledge or even consider. I pay for this service but will probably not continue with it as it is at present. What is the point of a Photo Sharing application for which you cannot upload photos?" Some well put points; as I mentioned earlier, I have not come across the uploading problem, but many users have. You can see my own Flickr photo albums by clicking here

Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Association have just made the following announcement in respect of a new initiative that they have launched:- "Working closely with Gallions/Peabody Housing, SNT’s and Bexley Community Safety Partnership we have set up a new scheme called BIKEWATCH, which is aimed at reducing bike crime and bike nuisance in the Borough. Some areas of Bexley have been blighted by the constant noise of youngsters riding around in groups on motorbikes, as well as late night crime committed by similar bike gangs. In an effort to try and target police towards these offenders this new scheme will enable residents to report incidents directly to NW by signing up as members where they will be able to receive updates on offenders and what action has been taken against them. Also being offered is the option of being able to report incidents anonymously by reporting directly to us at Neighbourhood Watch and we will pass this on to the relevant Police Teams (SNT’s). Either way it should see a significant reduction in bike nuisance and crime in the Borough, but it will only work if residents in the areas where recruitment is targeted decide to report all such incidents to us. If you are interested in being part of this scheme or you would like us to pass on information to police teams please contact us directly at: We will email you back or send you membership cards that include an area for information to be included on offenders". Excellent news; hopefully they will also be able to get some information on the crooks that are stealing local cash machines - though it is now too late for the Asda supermarket in Lower Belvedere. 

The end video this week is a short documentary on the invention and manufacture of the Maxim Gun - the first fully automatic machine gun, which was invented by local inventor and businessman Sir Hiram Maxim. The guns were made in two factories locally - one in Crayford, and the other in Fraser Road, Erith. The sound of the Maxim guns being tested on the shooting range behind the Erith arms factory is the reason that even to this day the area is nick - named "The Pom - Pom".