Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ten years of the Maggot Sandwich.


Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich started this way on a hot and humid Saturday evening back in July 2006. I was bored, and was playing around with various online publication tools when I came across Blogger - at the time a pretty basic content editing and management system that had one major advantage - it was free to use. Every Sunday afternoon for the last ten years I have published my blog, and for some happily unknown reason, a large number of people, both locally and around the world have chosen to read it. The Blog is almost unrecognisable when compared to the start; it has transformed from a rather annoying and shouty rant at life, the universe and everything into what I hope is an entertaining and informative journal with a focus on local events. I must admit that I had absolutely no intention of the Maggot Sandwich turning into what I suppose could be viewed as part of the local online landscape – I suppose that this is mainly due to its longevity – throw enough stuff at the wall, and eventually something will stick. As some have suspected, I feel that I am really a frustrated amateur journalist; since I cannot do the real thing, I play at it online. Some readers have accused me of being a “proper” author, but I hold no such illusions. What amazes me is that I have readers stretching from Tokyo to Hobart, Rio de Janeiro to Melbourne, Washington DC to Ho Chi Minh City. It seems that it is not just expats that read the Maggot Sandwich; for some inexplicable reason a number of people who have never visited Kent or indeed London log in week after week to check the postings relating to possibly the least glamorous and most under reported suburb of South East London - and I have absolutely no idea why. I am glad that readers seem to like what I publish. The blog originally started as a distraction - a way of having a whinge. It has developed into a (very minor) local news and information bureau. Here are a selection of comments from Maggot Sandwich readers:-

Long time reader Matt writes:- "Has it really been 10 years?  I vaguely remember Hugh sitting in my office (oh the days before open plan) sharing with me a germ of an idea to provide some semi-regular on-line comment, about the things that mattered to him and his local community.  At the time I thought he would be aiming at an extremely niche audience: that of real ale swigging, curry eating, amateur radio hams from North Kent . . . but I encouraged him to progress none the less.  Well, a decade on, how the Maggot Sandwich has blossomed and the content expanded. I think Hugh has covered everything from Tech to Tweed and most things in between and whilst not all content is relevant to me, I have lost count of the number of little pearls Hugh has brought to life over the years. I have moved counties several times since the blogs' humble beginnings but still I await the, regular as clockwork, ping from my inbox, advising that this weeks' fix of the goings on south of the River, has arrived to sate my need for a Sunday evening read.  Keep up the good work Capt Tweed, here's to you and the next 10 years".

PCSO Mark Piggott of the North End Safer Neighbourhood Police team writes:- "I was first made aware of the "Sandwich" around 7 years or so ago by a Police colleague. As the DWO PCSO for North End ward which covers part of Erith, it was interesting to find out about local events, news and any wrong doings that may not have necessarily been highlighted to the police for one reason or another. After being a fan for a while I finally met Hugh and realised how much we had in common with regards to outside interests. I soon signed him up to be a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator and not only did this include his own road, it now includes around 7 or 8 other streets nearby making Erith Watch the largest single Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the borough, possible in the Met. The recent award given to Hugh was 100 percent justified as I have seen first hand the newsletter produced by him and his deputy Mark and a lot of effort has been put in by both of them to keep local residents updated with any local news etc. This is as well as the email updates whenever any crime comes to their attention. Hugh himself has made me aware of many radio comedy shows that I was completely unaware of and one day Hugh, I may eventually get the time to listen to all of your recommendations rather than a few episodes here and there! I always look forward to seeing him if we are attending local events/fetes etc and his beer and curry knowledge as well as all things technical cannot be matched. By anyone. Ever. Well done Hugh on 10 years as a blogger and keep up the good work for another 10 years". More on the award mentioned above in a bit. I had not planned to cover that particular story, but it seems that my hand is being forced.

Bexley Brewery chief brewer Cliff Murphy writes:- "We began production in September 2014 and are very proud to be the borough's only brewery, but it was back in June of that year that we started kitting out our brewery. Within weeks Hugh from the Maggot Sandwich discovered our whereabouts and documented our brewery installation during August. Ever since then the Maggot Sandwich has been faithfully following our activities alongside so many other things that happen in and around the borough that just tend to go unnoticed. 10 years on, keep up the good work Hugh, the Maggot Sandwich is working hard and doing a great job at uncovering hidden treasures within Erith and the borough as well as highlighting important activities to the general public. Maybe we should reconsider your idea of laying a hosepipe from the brewery fermenters to Pewty Acres".

Orbit Housing Association Erith Park Project Manager Caroline Field writes:- "Happy Birthday Maggot Sandwich! We enjoy catching up with the Erith gossip every Monday.  We can rely on you to tell us what’s going on – usually before the local papers get a sniff of it. Even though we may not always agree with you, we love that you’re genuinely passionate about Erith and its future".

Reader Martha writes:- "Congratulations to The Maggot Sandwich on its tenth anniversary.  I first heard about the Blog in 2007 when Hugh and I became work colleagues and later good friends, we share many interests from real ale to technology, Star Wars, Star Trek and other TV programmes and films. What I enjoy about The Maggot Sandwich is its eclectic mix of local news and history of Erith with news of crime, development and events, pieces on anniversaries and milestones in technology such as the first Apple Mac, new technology such as the Raspberry Pi, sometimes TV and film reviews and the much loved by me, annual report on the Bexley Beer Festival, usually accompanied by ‘photos.  I find the history of Erith intriguing, especially the story of Maxim. I look forward to my weekly catch-up on all things Erith a place I visit regularly and the weekly musings, stories and technology predictions.  In its honour I will raise a pint of real ale on Sunday as I enjoy my weekly read.  Here’s to the next ten years".

Radio Caroline Station Manager Peter Moore writes:- "Your Maggot Blogger Hugh and I have a long history from our mutual involvement in Radio Caroline, and it was on that subject that we made contact again, when we had an ambition to bring our ship to Erith Pier and Hugh was our man on the ground. It was then that I discovered the Maggot Sandwich and I find it compelling reading even though I live many miles away and so am not affected by the matters covered. In our attempts to get Caroline to Erith, or to Gravesend, we discovered the dead hand of bureaucracy in that nobody wants to make a decision, be in the firing line, or have the buck stop with them. The Port of London Authority blocked us with fears that our presence may harm the habitat of the Tentacled Lagoon Worm. Then they deep dredged a huge channel down river to accommodate even larger ships and decimated the spawning grounds of many species of fish. But the Sandwich continually highlights that Councils and agencies and commercial interests rarely, if ever, tell the unvarnished truth. Developers line their pockets, Councillors protect their positions while looking for advancement and considering their pensions, Police trumpet easy successes, while crime and anti social behaviour continues unchecked. Sometimes the things that Hugh reveals are farcical, but the status quo trundles on regardless. His observations concerning Erith are happening all over. Where I live, the local Supermarket sells alcohol to school kids who drink it and cause havoc at a nearby beauty spot, using aggression and force of numbers when challenged. The shop say that they are not responsible, the Headmaster is in denial saying that his pupils are not involved. The Council have a no tolerance policy for litter, beer cans, broken bottles and other more unsavoury things but that they do not go on to private land. The Police say that no incidents have been reported. The River Trust say that the area the kids use is not owned by them, but by a Farmer and the Farmer says they are mistaken. So in the early mornings when the kids are at home coming down from a high or nursing a vicious hangover and the girls are wondering if they may be pregnant, some locals quietly clear up the mess. It would be so easy to give up, but then the bad guys have triumphed and so I hope Hugh keeps identifying and reporting on the nonsense that surrounds us all.

Brian Silk, occasional Maggot Sandwich contributor, food critic and football pundit writes:-  "The Maggot Sandwich is probably the only way we all know everything that is happening in Erith of any significance. Hugh’s blog fills the gaps left by the local media and he adds his local insight into the town’s news and events. I like the way that Hugh is not afraid to tell things as he sees them, not simply portray a glowing image of Erith all the time (which he does mostly and is great PR for the town) - this gives Hugh’s commentary integrity and leads me trust what he says. I also like the way Hugh gives voice to others -I have appreciated how Hugh has allowed me talk about Bexley Invicta Football Club and my views on Charlton Athletic FC".

Reader Alan writes:- I was first introduced to Hugh's blog three or so years ago, sometime after my eldest son decided to emigrate. Why he looked in on Hugh's prose is anyone's guess. Maybe it helped him establish his own successful blog down under (250beers.com) maybe, I'm assuming here, that it helped with his bouts of homesickness? Whatever the reason, I'm glad my lad introduced me to "Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich". It is refreshing reading, seeing, and noting that Hugh not only writes topical stuff about OUR Erith, he actively gets involved with things he sees going on. Where most of us just see the wool. I particularly like the nostalgic photo's that are included from time to time, seeing Erith, Bexleyheath, Abbeywood etc, how it used to look when I was a boy. There is very little left now, but Hugh's there fighting to keep what little we have left. I think we might be fortunate in keeping what old buildings we have, as it is very topical at the moment with Contractors tearing down listed buildings, only to be told they have got to rebuild, brick for brick. Hugh leaves me dumbfounded when he talks about his favourite electronic gadget The Mobile Phone, ha ha ha, only joking H! It's computers that are Hugh's passion, I think? That or CB radios, it doesn't matter though, there is content every week that I find interesting. Just before I finish, I would like to say that I have asked for Hugh's opinion on a couple of occasions in the past, & he has never let me down. I thank you for that Hugh! One of these days our paths will cross, until then Happy 10th Birthday! Keep up the good work and long may it continue".

Erith Ward Councillor Edward Boateng writes:- "I wish to extend my personal greetings and congratulations to Hugh Neal on the 10th Anniversary of Maggot Sandwich. Erith and the surrounding areas are lucky to have this blog which fills the vacuum created by few Local Newspapers. He has managed to cover stories which are of historical interest to Erith, and current ongoing issues of vast interest to the area. He has risked his personal life to unearth criminal activities and damages caused by individuals in the society. I have greatly benefited from issues he has raised which need the attention of Politicians and other Law Enforcement Agencies, and I wish the Maggot Sandwich a Happy Anniversary".

The Thamesmead Grump author Richard writes:- "The 10th anniversary of Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich – it seems like only last week we were celebrating the 9th; how time flies. I'm trying to recall how I first came across this site and really can't remember. Trawling through my rapidly fading memory, desperately trying to fathom why I would have called up the unlikely names of either Arthur Pewty or Maggot Sandwich, I am at a total loss. Sadly, this is often the case now. It may well have been a link from another blog site but I'm only guessing. Whatever the reason, it was a happy happenstance as it has given me something to look forward to on an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon, providing, as it does, a generous mixture of interesting local tit-bits mixed in with its usual eclectic assortment of stories from whatever is on Arthur's mind at the time. His ability to come up with something new every week is a remarkable achievement and I can say this from personal experience. Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich was the inspiration for me to start my own blog and I have found it next to impossible to find anything interesting to publish at the rate he manages to achieve; perhaps he is just more driven. Whatever the reason, I am looking forward to the next ten years of news and features. Long may Arthur reign.

Reader Christine writes:- "Congratulations Hugh on ten years of dedicated hard work, putting Erith out there, on the worldwide web for all to read.  I was introduced to your blog, perhaps 4 or 5 years ago, by my husband who was just randomly searching the internet for anything relating to Erith, and he came across your weekly blog.   From your photograph he recognised you as being someone he had seen on the train sometimes, when doing the daily commute from Erith to London, so he started to read it each week, and put me onto it too.  On occasions when you have reported on something which I thought would be of particular interest to certain friends and family members who have moved away, I have forwarded the link to them.  So I wouldn't be surprised if they tune in each week now too!   Well done Hugh and keep up the good work, which is much appreciated".

Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association Chairman Dana Whiffen writes:- "Well what can we say Maggot Sandwich is 10 years old, is it that long when we were first introduced to the Blog, how time flies and how much good has the blog done for Erith? I expect that it is not measurable in a similar way in that it is difficult to measure how much crime Neighbourhood Watch prevents, what the blog does do though is to increase the profile of Erith highlighting the positive areas and places and pointing out any negative areas such as fly tipping and other crime that can harm the lifestyles of its residents it is always on the case for Erith residents whether it’s to get onto SE trains about their poor service or to remind the Council or Police of their obligations if it is felt they are not being met . For us at NW it is a highlight offering constructive comments and also often including an historic item which is what I  often find really interesting. It’s superb support of NW is paramount to our work in Erith as we strive to increase our membership and work with police teams to reduce crime. Maggot Sandwich is definitely a name you cannot forget easily for all the right reasons and therefore from all of us at NW we send our wishes and support for all the good work done through the blog and hope it will continue for another 10 years".

Radio station Laser Hot Hits DJ and 80's jazz funk and soul music expert Gary Drew writes:- "I think I first heard about the Maggot Sandwich blog in 2008. I remembered where the name came from after seeing repeats of Monty Python on BBC2 some years back. The things I like about the blog are the technical features mostly like old gadgets and computers and the radio  articles as I am a big radio enthusiast. I like to hear about both pirate and legitimate radio stations past and present. I have very little knowledge of Kent and I think I've only been there maybe 15 times in my life and the last time I was there was in the early 90's. It's good to read about a different local area and read some local news to learn about it. I always look for things that would interest me if I fancied a day trip to Erith one day and what I could do to spend my time there. Where could I eat, what type of food, what would entertain me. Are there any decent shops to browse around etc. It is still my intention to go there one day but in the meantime the blog keeps me in the loop with what's happening or what's new. I don't like everything on the blog and some of the local news is not relevant to me as an outsider but I think it does a good job at serving the community and promoting local issues whether good or bad. It also helps to highlight crime and awareness of crime.  It might be a good idea to incorporate an RSS feed for the blog when something really important happens or there's breaking news which really can't wait until the Sunday update. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS The usual weekly email could then be sent with more thorough updates. I appreciate Hugh may not have the time to publish more than the Sunday edition but it's an idea I wanted to share". 

Long time reader Deborah writes:- "All I can say is I look forward to receiving your blog. I read it over a cup of tea. Coming from a heritage background, I like the fact that you include so much about local and social history. It's very community focussed.‎ You give your own time and support to the Church and Neighbourhood Watch and the Carer's Network. You do a fantastic job Hugh. Don't stop! Keep up the good work!"



The photo above shows the small parcel of land that separates Erith Riverside Shopping Centre from Morrison’s car park. The space is currently being used every Wednesday as the location for the revised Erith Market. The lower photo shows the old Erith Market, which used to be based on the site of the current Pier Road car park. The photo dates back to 1980. Last week I visited the new Market, and was shocked to find that it consisted of a mere four stalls. There seemed to be as many stall holders as there were visitors at the time. When the market was restarted earlier this year, many readers who contacted me at the time were very keen for the newly relaunched market to succeed, but they felt that it was being “set up to fail”. The fact that the market is only being held on a Wednesday, and not also on Saturdays was raised as a major restriction on how successful it can be. One concerned reader wrote at the time:-“ I hear are giving Erith Market a trial go. When they know it will fail before they start. They only seem to be catering for the unemployed and the elderly. Because they are the only one that can go to the market. The market should have been bigger and on Wednesdays and Saturdays like it used to be. Saturdays for the people that go to work all week”.  I think the sentiment is to be applauded – the market needs to be accessible to as many people as possible – not just those who are able to attend on what for many people is a working day. Opening on Saturdays would be a bonus for all parties in my opinion, and would also benefit the Riverside Shopping Centre, as shoppers attracted to the market from Morrison’s would quite likely also visit the shopping centre. There is some good news on the horizon though; I understand that Bexley council have submitted a planning application to expand the size of the market up to thirty two stalls. This would return the market to the kind of size it was in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when it was located on the Pier Road car park, and held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was always a very well attended event, and I can recall visiting many times as a child, before making my way across the road to TW Records, the split level shop with the amazing purple plaster stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The shop had most of the chart singles and albums on the lower tier, and the more obscure musical genres –  including punk, reggae and prog rock, along with a couple of slot machines and the cash desk were located  on the upper tier. The surreal purple stalactites could almost be touched when one was upstairs and closer to the ceiling. T.W Records also had a shop in Bexleyheath, near the clock tower, where the Furze Wren is now located, as well as a third in Plumstead High Street, though I never visited that particular branch. The Bexleyheath shop also housed a small cafĂ© at the back, that constantly seemed busy, though I reckon some of their customers nursed a cup of tea and a bacon lettuce and tomato sarnie for hours. It was a much more conventional looking shop, but both the Erith and Bexleyheath stores had one thing in common – it was widely known that they were both chart return shops. They had special tills that monitored record sales that fed into the weekly record chart. It was meant to be secret, but pretty much everyone – including the record company sales reps knew which shops were chart return, and always made sure that rarities, picture disks and other items desirable to collectors would make their way to those outlets. I recall that the Erith branch would often have large promotional displays in the window, which were left lit up at night, the glow from these would reflect off the purple stalactites to give an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere – very surreal stuff. A pity that the shops are now long gone, and the Erith outlet is now a run of the mill mini cab office.



The News Shopper seems to be following the Daily Mail in their style of uncritical sensationalism in respect of any “supernatural” stories that they print. Only last week The news Shopper printed a story about a “ghost” that had been caught on a CCTV system. The story was identical in many ways to a story published by the Daily Mail back in 2012. A couple, concerned that their car was being vandalised on their driveway, installed CCTV cameras, and were then amazed when a "ghost child" appeared to walk over their vehicle. Do you recall the Father Ted episode where Ted was trying to explain to Dougal the difference between big things far away, and small things nearby? As anyone who has worked with CCTV will tell you, arachnids are attracted to the Infra Red LED's that many cameras use to film in the dark - to the extent that several manufacturers actually produce spider repellent sprays to keep the cameras free of the creatures. The so called "Ghost Boy" is nothing more than a spider crawling over the camera lens. Yet another piece of poorly researched sensationalism on the part of the Mail. The News Shopper have now followed suit with a very similar story; looking by the comments left by some readers, there really are people out there who believe what has been caught on video is something supernatural, rather than an easily explained and completely natural phenomenon. The News Shopper seems to be not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Sadly it is nothing like the quality paper it was of yore. Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

Following my coverage of the public consultation regarding the potential regeneration of the Arthur Street Estate, off North End Road last week, Orbit Housing Association published the following announcement:- "Around 100 people attended a public consultation on the future of Arthur Street in Bexley, with a majority welcoming regeneration of the Erith estate. Over 90 per cent of residents from Arthur Street said they would like to leave the estate and welcomed change. Orbit, which owns and manages around 4,600 homes across the borough, held a public consultation event on Saturday 16 July at Peareswood School, Erith. The consultation was the first step in the process and an opportunity to gauge local appetite for possible regeneration. Caroline Field, regeneration project manager, said: “We would like to thank everyone who attended the consultation and shared their thoughts on Arthur Street with the team. The desire for change among the people who live on the estate was overwhelming. For anyone unable to attend the consultation event, all of the information is available on our Facebook page, Arthur Street Future. I encourage everyone to visit the page and join the discussion.” Caroline commented: “We will now take some time to consider all feedback and assess the options available to us, listening to the wants and needs of our residents. Orbit will continue to keep residents and the wider community informed as we now begin detailed discussions with London Borough of Bexley in how we may take this forward.” For further information and to view the feedback from the consultation event, please visit Arthur Street Future on Facebook or contact arthurstreet@orbit.org.uk 



As previously mentioned, I had not planned on featuring this story, but since Mark Piggott did in his guest piece, I suppose I should pass comment. As many of you will know, I am active in the Neighbourhood Watch movement. Last month was the Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association annual general meeting, which was held at the United Reformed Church in Geddes Place, Bexleyheath. I attended the packed meeting - the venue was literally standing room only - the first time I can recall in the time I have been active in the Neighbourhood Watch movement. I was presented with the inaugural Violette Therond award for outstanding contribution to Neighbourhood Watch by Dana Whiffen, Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association Chairman, and James Brokenshire (then Minister for Security and Immigration, now Minister for Northern Ireland and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup). A lady from Thamesmead (who I am embarrassed to say I did not catch the name of) also received the award. It was all a bit overwhelming to be honest. I have a very strong idea of the reason I got the award - it all goes back to a particular incident last year, which is still ongoing, so I am unable to say any more at this point, though several of you will already know about this. Suffice to say I was very flattered to receive the award, which is now sitting on the window sill of my office at Pewty Acres, next to where I am typing this update. Thanks to everyone involved. 

The end video this week is from the official Channel 4 promotional trailer for the Rio 2016 Paralympics - if you have not already seen this, I strongly urge you to watch it below. It is stunning stuff, and extremely well made. More on the 2016 Paralympics in the future. Feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.