Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Quiz.

Last night well over a hundred people turned up to the annual Friends of Christ Church Erith Quiz Night. The evening also marked the launch of the Friends of Christ Christ Church Erith fund raising calendar, which features thirteen artworks from the "Our Erith" art exhibition held in the church earlier in the year. The calendar is now on sale for a very reasonable £3 a copy, and all profits go to the Friends in their work to maintain the historic Grade 2* listed church building. The quiz was tough, and the friendly competition fierce. The winning team was led by local MP Teresa Pearce and her other half Paul - you can see them in the photo below. This is one scoop neither the News Shopper or the Bexley Times are getting!

In the last week Bexley Police rolled out body worn video cameras to all patrolling officers. This is as part of a programme to get all 22,000 serving Metropolitan Police officers to be so equipped. Over the coming months, the cameras will be issued to all thirty two London and other frontline specialist roles, including firearms officers. Police said members of the public will be told as soon as practical that they are being recorded, and when the camera is recording it is highly visible - notable by a flashing red circle in the centre of the camera and a frequent beeping noise when the camera is activated. The trials of body worn video cameras has shown that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know Police have captured the incident on a camera. That then speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly, and most importantly protects potential victims. Last month, a study by the University of Cambridge found a 93 per cent decrease in complaints made against officers clearly wearing body cameras. Video footage is not continuously recorded - officers manually switch on the video recorders when they expect trouble. I have covered this issue in the past; problems occurred during the Bexley Police body worn camera trial back in August of last year. As you may recall, I was contacted by Sky News investigative journalist Gerard Tubb. Sky News discovered that whilst the Police had told the public that the body worn video data was uploaded to secure Police video servers, it was actually being uploaded to an external commercial data storage company with a history of data security breaches. Gerard Tubb had already uncovered this story, but approached me for a copy of the Police announcement to interested parties. He had been assured by the Home Office that the document had never been published, but he suspected that it had. I was able to confirm that the document had indeed been published, and I supplied him with a copy, along with the associated Email trail, thus giving him the "smoking gun" proving the veracity of the story. I am hopeful that after the story made the headlines on Sky News that the Metropolitan Police have improved their data security practices now that the camera footage is going to be collected by all Police officers who deal with the public. A Metropolitan Police document on body worn cameras states:- "Why use BWV at all? 
 BWV provides an additional option for officers to gather evidence at incidents.  BWV cameras have already been used in the MPS and in other forces to good effect. The cameras can capture evidence of criminal behaviour and can help to ‘set the scene’ for the court at a later date.  By capturing this evidence, officers can spend less time writing statements and completing paperwork at the station. This allows them to spend more time patrolling and responding to incidents in the community.  The use of BWV in other countries has been shown to moderate the behaviour of people present at incidents, resulting in less of force by officers and reduced complaints against police. It is hoped this will help to ensure public confidence in police actions.  Evidence from other forces in the UK has shown that, where BWV is key evidence, guilty pleas at the first opportunity at court rise significantly - this means reduced burdens across the Criminal Justice System, not just in policing. When will officers be using the BWV? Will it be ‘always on?’  No - the use of BWV will be ‘incident specific’ - officers will switch on the camera when they would ordinarily be considering recording an incident or interaction by conventional means - for example, a statement or notebook entry - or if they feel that there would be evidential value in recording the incident. Officers will, when practicable, tell those present when they are recording and when they are about to switch off the camera. They will usually only switch the camera off when the incident has concluded or where there is no further evidential value to be had in continued recording.  To have the cameras ‘always on’ may result in private or confidential interactions with the public being recorded and also may represent a significant intrusion into the privacy of those who might be caught on camera. As well as this, continual recording will result in massive amounts of data being retained and stored by the police, which would result in increased logistical problems in back office functions. What about rights to privacy? It is understandable that some people may be concerned about officer’s recording their interactions with the public at incidents. They may be worried that footage concerning them may be held on police data servers. This is a key reason why officers will not indiscriminately record all interactions and activity. This is to ensure that any intrusion into private lives is kept to the minimum level necessary. All footage recorded on BWV in the MPS is subject to legal safeguards and guidance set by the Information Commissioner’s office and the Home Office. Footage that is not likely to be of evidential value will be removed from the system within a very short time - the current guidance is within 31 days. Footage that is retained is subject to regular review and, if no longer required or likely to be required as evidence, will again be weeded. People who have been recorded have the right to see footage of them that has been retained by the MPS. See our website - for details on how to obtain this footage". Overall I think this move to recording is a good idea; I just have reservations about the potential for a bad cop to switch the recording off midway through an encounter if they thought it might go badly for them if the footage was filmed and later reviewed. What do you think? Either leave a comment below, or drop me a line to

Halloween seems to be taking over as the main winter festival from Guy Fawkes Night. Halloween was originally created in pretty much its’ current form by 18th century Irish people, the word is a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve. Irish immigrants to America took the tradition there, and it was exported back across the Atlantic in the early 1980’s. Although Halloween was celebrated before this time, it was a far lower key and less involved affair. I am convinced that the increase in popularity of the Americanised version of the festival can at least partly be laid at the feet of Stephen Spielberg and his movie “ET – The Extra Terrestrial”. The film carries strong Halloween themes such as dressing up and “Trick or Treating” which prior to the opening of the film had been relatively uncommon in the UK. The massive popularity of the film exposed may children of the time to take on the American aspects of the Halloween festival; many of those children now have children of their own, and the festival thus now has an amplified resonance not previously seen. Personally I am not struck with the whole thing, which basically encourages small children to demand goods with menaces, but I am probably in a minority.

Something very strange has been happening to the demographics of the readership of the Maggot Sandwich, and it is something that I would like some help with from you, the readers. Blogger uses Google Analytics to generate statistics on each blog it hosts. I can see how many people are reading the Maggot Sandwich, divided up by what web browser they are using, what country they come from, and lots of other diverse criteria. If you look at the screen capture above, which shows activity on the website since last Sunday, you can see that by far my highest readership is located in the USA. Bear in mind that each blog update normally is written in stages across the week before it is published on Sunday afternoons, and this part was written on Friday evening, the total number of readers at the time of writing was 17,460 - well on the way to the average of 22,000 unique page views I have once the week is fully complete. I am rather mystified as to why so many people in America are reading this blog - after all, nearly all of the stories that I cover are very much about the area around Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green - not exactly the most attention grabbing subjects, unless you happen to be a local resident. I cannot believe that there are that number of expatriates in America who now follow the blog on a regular basis. I am aware that the Maggot Sandwich does have a legitimate world - wide following. I am aware of readers in Melbourne Australia, Tasmania, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Washington DC. Quite why so many Americans regularly read this blog is very much a source of bemusement to me. I am also aware that the Maggot Sandwich is banned in China, though I have absolutely no idea why. I have never said anything remotely negative about the country or its citizens, so I am at somewhat of a loss. Quite why the maggot Sandwich is blocked by The Great Firewall of China is a mystery. The hits marked as coming from China on the graphic above are quite possibly coming from Hong Kong - where the Chinese firewall rules are somewhat more relaxed; although officially a part of China, Hong Kong has a fierce independence and the Chinese government seem to cut them quite a lot of slack. One of my readers used to regularly commute from mainland China to Hong Kong, and he was the one that told me about the different levels of online filtering dependent on geographical location.

Still, having ticked off the World’s second largest power, I could stop, or I could dig myself even deeper. I think most regular readers will know which way this is going. There have been some interesting comments over the last couple of weeks regarding the nomenclature of Nuxley Road in Upper Belvedere (by the way, Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian), which some people misguidedly refer to as “Nuxley Village”. The origin of the names of the  places in the local area, and some of the surrounding landmarks dates back to the early fifteenth century, and the name Belvedere even earlier. The area of Bedonwell gets its name from the Bedon stream, which runs through what is now known as Streamway; the Bedon is a minor tributary of the River Thames, which is now run though an underground drain for much of its length. A fifteenth century form of the name was Beton Well, meaning “praying well”. The exact origin is lost in the mists of time, though the old English word “bydan” meaning a shallow valley may have something to do with it. On the South side of the stream was a further area of open heath land, called Nuxley or Little Heath, which occupied an area around what was later Belmont Primary School (and is now a Doctor’s surgery and private flats). The name Nuxley was sometimes spelled Naxley, which in turn is a corruption of Knocksley, meaning a small hill. Nuxley Road was originally named Bexley Road, until March 1939 when it was renamed as Nuxley Road, which it remains to date. There is no record of Upper Belvedere ever having been named Nuxley Village, and parish records for the area date back to 1235 AD, and survived the reformation, when ownership of the parish was transferred from Lesnes Abbey to the owners of Parsonage Farm (on what is now Parsonage Manor Way). During the late 19th century, Parsonage Farm was owned by the Vinson family, who were at the time rich and powerful enough to issue their own trade tokens (a kind of informal local currency). There are records that beer houses such as the Fox, and full pubs such as The Eardley Arms took trade tokens for payment for food and drink until sometime around 1900. The farm buildings, which were  constructed in the Middle Ages (principally to provide food and drink for Abbot and Monks at Lesnes Abbey) lasted until the end of WWII, when it was used to house an auxiliary fire station. After the war the building was so derelict it was demolished. Thus, the name “Nuxley Village” is a construct – a fictional creation of local estate agents who have no knowledge of the history of the area. Upper Belvedere has been so called for at least the last 781 years, and the thoughtless action of a handful of ignorant house peddlers from outside of the area is not going to change facts any time soon.

I have banged on at some length about how Smart Meters are a lot less of a good idea than the utility companies would have you believe. My concerns are mainly about the cost savings made by switching to a Smart Meter being far lower than has been publicised; but my main concern is to do with their almost total lack of security. Only this week was a report published into "Internet of Things" (IOT) devices, and how easy they are to compromise. On average, an IoT device is infected with malware and will launch an attack within six minutes of being exposed to the internet. IoT devices are probed for vulnerabilities 800 times per hour by attackers from across the globe. Every day there are an average of over 400 login attempts per device, an average of one attempt every five minutes and 66 per cent of them on average are successful, according to the report. The Blaster and Sasser worm of 2003 and 2004, respectively, was brought to heel after Microsoft enable a firewall technology with Windows XP SP2. On Friday there was a massive Denial Of Service attack on several popular websites including Twitter, Reddit and Spotify, which was undertaken using "Smart" devices as the attack vector. Basically at present, so called "Smart" devices are complex enough to be hijacked by bad people, but but not sophisticated enough to detect that they are being criminally manipulated. Things will only get worse before they get better. To add to this, Vodafone have just announced a new dedicated mobile network especially designed to work with smart meters and “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices. The roll – out will initially be in mainland Europe, but may well come to the UK sooner rather than later. It is an aggressive timetable but probably not unrealistic. For most of its networks, Vodafone has said that the rollout will require just a software upgrade (i.e. no site visit would be required). From its trials in Spain and elsewhere, Vodafone is also clearly satisfied with the performance of the technology. The issues it faces now are probably as much commercial (e.g. agreeing the licencing terms) as they are technical. Other rival mobile “Internet of Things” communication technologies exist, and at this point it is unclear as to which will win out. It would seem that the telecommunications industry may be about to have a Betamax versus VHS battle on its hands in respect of the technology and data format that smart devices will use to communicate with each other and their service provider. As previously mentioned, I am cynical about Smart Meters, which may well not save the user anything like as much money as the utility companies are saying; different energy suppliers use different types of incompatible meters, which makes switching companies more difficult, as the meter will have to be changed – usually at the home owners expense. On top of this, as I have explained before, the Smart Meters have little if any effective encryption on their communications, which makes them a very big target for malicious exploitation, as was seen on Friday. The only sector than really benefits from the deployment of Smart Meters are the utility companies themselves – as they have no need to employ staff to read meters. The energy companies are promoting Smart Meter as if they will be a boon to users, whereas in reality they will only actually benefit themselves.

A pilot scheme to deter people from littering started this week. Bexley Council published the poster you can see above - more on which a little later. The scheme will see uniformed enforcement officers patrolling the Borough, from 24 October, issuing fixed penalty notices, of up to a maximum of £400, to people seen committing environmental offences such as littering. Cabinet member, Cllr Peter Craske said, “Bexley is one of the best places to live in London and I know from talking to residents that they are fed up with the tiny minority who leave litter and mess in their wake.‘It also costs thousands and thousands of pounds of taxpayers money to clear this up, and I have had many people contact me welcoming this new initiative." Following a period of training, up to five uniformed enforcement officers, will patrol areas in the Borough which are hotspots for litter offenders. On the spot fines will be issued to those seen committing the offence of littering, allowing their dog to foul in public areas or fly tipping. The level of fines will be £80 for littering, £50 for dog fouling and a maximum of £400 for fly tipping. Full payment of the fine will be required in all cases - with no reduction for early payment. The aim is to recover the cost of running the service through the issue of fixed penalty notices. During the pilot, young offenders will have their details recorded and a warning letter will be sent to their parents or school. At the end of November, posters using the headline ‘Don’t be a Tosser’, along with a picture showing some examples of litter offences, will appear throughout the Borough. These will also feature the campaign hashtag #cleanerBexley. The campaign is designed to attract attention and get people thinking and talking about the problem of litter. It was originally used in a Keep Britain Tidy campaign and has already proved to be a successful anti-litter message in other parts of the UK, including Essex and Suffolk. If the enforcement service proves effective and financially sustainable, a decision will be made next summer on whether to make it permanent". I see problems for Bexley Council with the anti littering poster shown above; firstly it is crass and subtle as a brick, secondly it uses copyright material which is the property of Coca Cola - the crushed soft drinks can in the picture is meant to be a generic can of soft drink, but the poster designer has made two errors - first they have used the exact PanTone red colour (484C for the initiated) as the famous brand, and they have also used the Coca Cola font on the can - which is copyrighted. I would imagine that Coca Cola's lawyers would take an extremely dim view of the whole thing. We shall see. Once again the law of unintended consequences comes into play.

I was returning home on the B12 single decker bus (a very under rated bus route in my opinion) on Tuesday evening. It was travelling Southwards along Queen’s Road in Erith when the bus stopped at the traffic lights and Zebra Crossing at the end of Pier Road. Nobody crossed the road. When the lights changed to green for the road traffic, the bus started up – then the driver undertook an emergency stop as a young woman stepped out into the road with no warning. The bus wing mirror clipped the woman’s head and she staggered backwards. The woman had been oblivious to the bus due to the fact that she had been staring intently at the screen of her mobile phone, and could not hear what was going on around her due to her wearing ear buds plugged into the phone. She had been so unconscious of the real world around her that she very nearly ended up being run over by the bus. It was only the very quick actions of the alert driver that prevented what could have well been her death. The woman was shaken, but largely unhurt; the driver pulled over to the side of the road and asked if she was all right –she said that she was – he got her contact details as he had to file a report on the incident, and he also got the details of a couple of witnesses in case of any further action. Fortunately the bus is fitted with a forward – facing dash camera, the footage from which would completely exonerate the driver from any blame in the matter. As many readers know, I have a degree of antipathy towards mobile phones, and the incident just described only reinforces this. Every day I see pedestrians bumbling along, with their heads stuck into the screen of their mobile devices, ears deafened to the outside world by a set of headphones. Even more worryingly, I regularly see cyclists on the road bedecked by Beats style, full – ear coverage headphones. The Royal Marines have a description for this kind of behaviour – they call it “a lack of situational awareness”. I am of the opinion that if cyclists and pedestrians were subject to the same laws as vehicle drivers in respect of the use of mobile devices - and that those laws were properly enforced, then the frequency and severity of road accidents would significantly reduce. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Erith came to the attention of the press for an entirely unwelcome reason in the early hours of last Monday morning. The News Shopper has reported on the story of a serious fight outside of the Ship pub in West Street. The details are somewhat hazy, but it would appear that a group of youths attacked an individual, and then a second group defended the individual – the attackers then apparently ran off in the direction of St. Fidelis Road. Several of those involved required hospital treatment. The Ship does not have a particularly bad reputation as local pubs go – the landlady did get into hot water back in 2010, when the pub got close to losing its licence. This was due to the toilets in the pub indicating positive for traces of Cocaine when they were swabbed by the investigating authorities. After a concerted campaign by locals, the Council agreed to let the Ship keep operating, but with strict new conditions to their licence. These conditions included staff checking the toilets for drugs every half an hour during the time the pub is open. CCTV was also ordered to be installed – this may well have recorded the assault that occurred in the early hours of Monday morning. Currently Erith only has two pubs – the aforementioned Ship, and the Running Horses, neither of which particularly prove attractive. Things have gone rather quiet regarding the possible opening of a Wetherspoons in the town, potentially in the old (and currently unused) Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road. I am cautiously optimistic that the giant pub company will see fit to refurbish the historic public building and re-open it as a pub / restaurant, as I think it would be very successful and well – received. There have been rumours that Wetherspoons are looking at the Post Office building in Erith High Street, but I feel that this is rather unlikely - it is not a suitable structure for conversion into a pub / restaurant, it would do away with the only Post Office in the town - and would thus be very unpopular - and when you have the eminently suitable former library only a couple of hundred metres away, it seems to me to be a no brainer. If you have any information regarding this, then please drop me a line to

The ending video this week is entitled "Memories of Erith". Give it a watch and see what you think.