Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Tap.


The photos above were taken by me on Wednesday afternoon in the Riverside Gardens in Erith. A couple of workers were digging a trench using a mini excavator. I went over to have a chat with the two blokes, who were very open and friendly. They explained that they were laying a water pipe to connect with the mains supply in the road; it was going to run into the Riverside Gardens and would terminate in a tap for watering the plants in the garden. I think they were a little surprised and taken aback when I gave my hearty thanks and appreciation for the work they were carrying out. They were not aware of the strength of local feeling regarding the gardens, and did not know that something in the region of ninety percent of the bushes planted in the gardens last year had died through a lack of water. FORGE - the Friends of Riverside Gardens Erith - of which I am a member, had volunteered to water the newly planted bushes, but there was no tap or water source located in the gardens. It seems that someone in Bexley Council has just for once listened, and water will now be available. I just hope that the council's gardening contractor replaces the dead bushes as they are legally obliged to do. Once this has been done, and we get into the Spring, the Riverside Gardens will once again be one of the nicest places to visit in Erith


Regular readers may recall that back in my Christmas Eve update, I wrote extensively about Jennings Musical Industries and their Vox line of products, which were made in factories in both Dartford and Erith in the 1960's. Well another very well known manufacturing company in the field of music also has local roots, and it has arguably had an even greater influence on modern music that Vox. Yet very few people will have ever heard of the company, even though their products are widely used around the world. The company is called RotoSound, and until fairly recently they were based in Bexleyheath. RotoSound are the largest manufacturer and distributor of musical instrument strings in the world. The company has been existence since 1952; it was established by an engineer and amateur inventor called James Howe. Howe had seen the spy thriller "The Third Man"and had been impressed by the evocative music in the film, which was played on a Zither by a master musician by the name of Anton Karas. So impressed was James Howe by this that he determined to learn how to play the zither, and ended up studying for two years to perfect his playing technique. Zithers are not exactly common in the UK nowadays, and back in the early 1950's they were almost unheard of. James, over the two years he spent learning the instrument, had amassed a collection of something like three hundred zithers of varying designs. His greatest challenge was getting strings for the instruments, which were totally unavailable in austerity Britain. James tried violin and cut down piano strings on his collection of zithers, but they just did not sound authentic. James Howe at last ran out of Zither strings and using his ingenuity as an engineer and musician quickly designed a winding machine and invaded the South East area of Singer Sewing Machine Shops for vast quantities of nylon yarn, and electrical stores for vast quantities of fuse wires. James Howe developed the technique and took over three years before he completed a 10 foot long machine of extraordinary proportions. This machine was made lovingly from stainless steel, black ebony, with ivory fittings, and would produce any string from violin, viola, cello, double bass, clavichord, harpsichord, piano strings, cymbalum, hurdy-gurdy, zither strings from Prim zithers, concert zithers, Elege zithers, Lyon zithers, Mandolin zithers and the many many ranges of zithers. This machine would make strings quickly and furthering his interest was to become the instrument by which over a period of the next 10 years, the various original and authentic designs was to be formulated based upon James Howe’s knowledge of the workings of a music string which took into consideration the pitch strain, breaking strain, amplitude, nodal sequence, harmonic frequency, and the harmonic sequence. These are some of the features that are included in making good strings. James soon diversified into making strings for pianos and clavichords, and not too long after, they started making electric guitar strings. In 1959 he started up in business employing some six people, including his brother Ronald and sister Joan. Among the first clients were The Shadows, Beatles, Rolling Stones, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, all strings for the famous JMI / Vox Company, and all of the strings for the famous Burns Guitar Company. John Entwistle of The Who (considered by many rock music critics as the greatest bass player of all time) became both a technical consultant and a product promoter for RotoSound in 1966. In an interview some years later, John Entwistle said:-"It was in 1966 and I was looking for that Danelectro sound again. I tried everybody’s strings but the E and the A’s just didn’t work. It was the same with Rotosound but there was something about them that was almost there but not quite. To solve the problem I got in touch with James How and told him his D and G strings were great but the E and A didn’t vibrate properly. He told me to take my bass along to Rotosound and have some strings made until they got it right. After a couple of hours, we realised that the problem wasn’t in the wire winding, but in the core of the string. You could see that the strings vibrated in a big circle and that was wrong; the core needed to be thicker. We also made the overall gauges a bit heavier and they sent me away with 12 sets to use. A couple of days later they called and asked if I objected to them putting my name to the strings and selling them commercially. I told them I didn’t mind as long as they kept me supplied with free strings! But then we had to do the same with medium and short scale strings because I had loads of different basses by then. Those strings, the RS66 sets, were the first that vibrated properly.”As more and more professional people sought the use of these strings the James Howe Company which had then grown to some 40 people with a production area of some 3,000 sq. ft., started to expand the company still further but on more professional lines. They created the brand name of RotoSound, which is still in use today. The company also diversified into the manufacture of sterile, stainless steel wire for use in medical procedures such as certain types of catheterisation. These wires were very similar to the banjo strings, and the samples that James How supplied were to be the first of over 20,000 wires in different types to be produced for this medical operation. These wires were distributed by Portex of Smith Industries. The company was formed and a brand image selected for the new medical company and it was called the Selflex Company Limited. It was to provide guide wires for many famous surgeons and doctors throughout the world for heart surgery, cardiac installation and lung procedures. By the late 1970's RotoSound strings were being used by The Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Sham 69, Siouxsie and the the Banshees, The Buzzcocks and The Jam. The American market had by this time opened up, and The UK factory based in Bexleyheath at this time was working night shifts to keep up with demand. Some time later in 1994, James Howe died, and the company was taken over by James’s two sons Martyn and Jason How. In 2010 a connection between Vox and RotoSound that had been dormant since the late 1960's was revived. An email from a gentleman in Arizona, USA sparked off interest in a dormant product that James How had only sold as prototypes back in the late 1960’s. The RotoSound fuzz pedal was originally manufactured to James How’s specifications back in 1967. As James was good friends with Dick Denny (who he was in the RAF with during the war) and Tom Jennings, who was the Managing Director of JMI / Vox at that time. James had Vox build the original prototypes, today only a few still exist, probably no more than a dozen. Some of these early pedals got into some famous hands – Jimmy Page for one was captured on film in France with Led Zeppelin using one in the early 1970’s. This heritage caused quite a stir  within the company, and also amongst musicians. so it was decided that upon close inspection RotoSound would ‘copy’ the original pedal with only a few small mods to bring it up to date along with a more usable specification. The first unit came off the production line in September 2012. The production run was limited to 2000 units which have all been sold. RotoSound outgrew their Bexleyheath factory, and have now relocated to a bigger factory in Sevenoaks, and the company is still the premier supplier of musical instrument strings for the world, six and a half decades after they first set up shop in Bexleyheath. It would be nearly impossible to name all of the musicians who have used, and continue to use RotoSound strings, but you can see a list by clicking here. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.



Some residents of Avenue Road and Lesney Park Road in Erith have been in contact with me, as they have discovered that some of the mature trees in the aforementioned roads are scheduled for removal by the council. After some research, it would appear that the fears can be confirmed - a number of trees are indeed scheduled to be cut down, but it has to be said, not without good reason. It seems that following a survey carried out last year, some of the trees in the two roads have become infected with disease; In an Email from Bexley's Tree and Woodland Officer, it is stated that several of the trees are infected with Ganoderma, a fungal condition that causes root and branch decay; others are suffering from Phellinus, whilst others are infected with Cambium Disease. All three conditions cause what is known as Canker in trees - which is generally untreatable. All conditions are very infectious. The only way to preserve the uninfected trees in Avenue Road and Lesney Park Road is to destroy the infected trees and replace them with healthy ones. When questioned about the replacement plans, the council representative wrote that:- "The removal of trees is not something we do lightly, but in all these cases the structural integrity of the tree can no longer be guaranteed and hence their removal. With regards to planting you may be aware due to budgetary constraints the Council has not had a street tree replanting programme for 4 years now, but the good news is that we have fought our cause and managed to get some money back to start re-planting trees. Even with this new budget, it was impossible for us to replant this winter every tree that has been lost in the last four years as well as those we have lost this year, many of these will have to be staggered into future years. But owing to utilities and services as well as other factors we are not always able to re-plant in the same location. I will add these locations onto our resident request list which are locations we will look to prioritise if we can next year but we may not be able to re-plant at all these locations and will have to drip feed them into the coming years". What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Barnehurst Ward has suffered one burglary in Halcot Avenue. This incident occurred sometime over a two week period between 20th December to the 3rd January. Unknown suspects have gained access through a side window that had been left open. Army medals and a frame mounted veterans badge was taken from within the property. Please ensure all windows are locked securely and doors are double locked this means turning the key whilst lifting the handle up. Leaving windows open or partly open is an invite for burglars and doors not being double locked make it very easy for burglars to open. Also this week five people were interviewed regarding drug offences and money laundering after the team carried out a misuse of drugs warrant to an address on the ward just before Christmas. Drugs and a large amount of cash were seized. Enquiries are ongoing with regards to this. Patrols to Martens avenue and to the alley ways that lead to Braeside Crescent have been carried out at various times throughout the shifts. The team have received positive feedback from a local resident who feels the issue with youths loitering has improved over the last few weeks. The next pop in surgery will be held in Barnehurst Golf Club on Tuesday 16th January 2018 at 11.00am, Please join us for a chat or to discuss any burning issues you would like to raise with us". Belvedere ward:- "Whilst on foot patrol on both Erith ward and Belvedere ward, PCSO Worrall dealt with two separate incidents involving dogs that had been seen running loose in Bramblecroft and also Picardy Road. With assistance from concerned residents, both family pets were shortly reunited with their owners. Many thanks to those residents that assisted! PCSO Worrall also visited elderly residents of Lyndon Road that had unfortunately been victims of burglary for the second time in 6 months. Two males entered their home on the evening of Wednesday 3rd January 2018 using the alleyway to the rear of the property from Ambrook Road. Other family members have also been spoken to and offered support and also home security advice. If anyone witnessed this or has any information in relation to this, please contact the team on 0208 721 2050. PCSO Worrall paid a visit to Lessness Heath primary school on Friday 5th January to speak to year 3, 4, and 5 pupils in relation to personal safety and internet/ online safety. The talk was very well received and we are planning to arrange further talks on various subjects at all primary schools within Belvedere in the near future. The team have also been carrying out CCTV enquiries throughout the ward in relation to various offences including shoplifting, burglary and theft. All enquiries are ongoing at this stage. One of these enquiries was in relation to a male that was seen by a resident of Thornton Road carrying two power tools. The male was observed knocking on doors in the street as he was in the process of attempting to remove security tags from the items – it transpired that he had taken the items from B&Q in Lower Road minutes earlier, having made no attempt to pay for them. Again, if there is anyone that has any information they can provide in relation to this offence, please do contact us. A burglary occurred in Abbey Road on 05/01/2017. At around 18:30 4 white males were seen to get into a white Mercedes with a partial index KW??JUN who had just burgled the address. The males were possibly wearing balaclavas. If anyone has information about this crime or the males please either contact us on 0208 721 2050 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. The team worked closely with officers from other departments, including Roads and Traffic Policing Command regarding reports of motor-vehicle anti-social behaviour in Norman Road, Belvedere. This behaviour was causing issues for many residents and businesses in Belvedere. Several operations were held through Autumn 2017 resulting in numerous people being arrested and vehicles being seized. The investigation remains on-going with many offenders due to appear in court over the coming months, however some participants have been sentenced as a result of the operation. We are keen to act on groups or individuals partaking in such behaviour and will be working with partner agencies and businesses to prevent anti-social behaviour in the future. One male was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment, 5 year driving disqualification and a vehicle destruction order. Another male was sentenced to a £195 fine. A third male was sentenced to 6 penalty points on his license and £220 fine. A fourth male was sentenced to 8 penalty points on his licence and £435. A fifth male was sentenced to 30 day community order, disqualified from driving for 18 months and until extended test passed. Other members of the group are pending court dates. Our next surgery is the 13/01/2018 at Asda 11:00. The second will be at the CO-OP, Nuxley Road at 15:00. We are also pleased to tell you that we are now on Facebook as Belvedere Police. Our page can be found by searching @MPSBelvedere and will be used to give advice in relation to staying safe and crime prevention as well as stories and updates from the Met". Brampton ward:- "Residential Burglary in Bedonwell Road , rear patio window was smashed and entry gained. This occurred on 5th January between 1720 and 1730 hours , a neighbour alerted police that they had seen movement in the home and knew the occupants were away on holiday , on police arrival the suspects had fled but the owner had set off the alarm and saw 4 unknown persons in the house on their mobile phone app, investigation ongoing. We had 2 shoplifters in the Co-Op in Pickford Lane and Long Lane Criminal damage to a wall and front door in Fairfield Road a suspect has been named. The team have this week been looking for a wanted male who failed to appear at court for a criminal damage charge who resides on the ward , we have attending numerous addresses and informed owners we would be returning until the matter has been resolved , the male handed himself into police and at court was informed he had to pay £126.96 pence costs and fined £100, a good result and work from the Brampton team. We have been dealing with 2 neighbour disputes and liaising with all parties as well as working with other agencies, the issues are ongoing. Please contact us with your email addresses and follow us on Twitter @MPSBrampton and Facebook : Brampton Police". Christchurch ward - From Neighbourhood Watch Member - Andrew Davis:- "I returned to my car in Albion Road car park, Bexleyheath on Wednesday at around 2.40pm. I got in and put my bag on the passenger seat. Immediately I did, the passenger door opened and the bag was snatched in a flash. I got out of the car to see a blacked-out black Audi disappearing out of the car park. I just managed to catch the VRM before it went out of sight. Whilst I was trying to borrow a pen from a passerby so I could jot it down, I heard shouts and beeping of a car horn on the adjacent Albion Road and turned to see the same car with a male in the back holding my bag out of the window, shouting, "mate, you can have your bag back - it's mistaken identity, sorry". Obviously I was in two minds as I had visions of two fingers being stuck up and the car making off, however, the car remained there and the traffic behind it was being held up. I shot across and grabbed my bag, asking the driver to pull over, which he did. There were 3 or 4 males in the car. They were profusely apologetic and explained that it was, "mistaken identity and that they expected it to contain a bag of weed." The bag was intact with all items - including laptop and tablet - still in there. Having gone back to the car park, a workman explained that he was sure he had seen that car before and there had been a spate of thefts from the car park recently. A bizarre incident! Details reported with VRM to police. Note to self (and others) - Lock doors IMMEDIATELY car's entered - I was lucky! Also in Christchurch ward:- "A pedal cycle was stolen from outside McDonalds on the 3rd January. This has happened previously so if you, or if you know anyone who frequently visits the Broadway with a pushbike, make sure they are well secured when you are not using the bike. The team is in the process of organising a bike marking event. Once a date is confirmed we will publish it. In the meantime, please have a look at the below websites for additional advice. We have had a few reports of purses being stolen from handbags whilst shopping within the Broadway. I am please to say we have seen a reduction in this but can we be mindful of securing them. Their are a number of products to assist with this, i.e. Purse bells, lanyards etc. For further advice please speak to your NHW team or contact us directly. We are very pleased to announce that we are starting to deliver ' Drop in Surgeries'. The first being held on the 31st January – This will be at the Library Townley Road. The times are between 10am and midday, you are all welcome to attend. We are very keen to expand this across the entire ward giving all the community the opportunity to speak to us so you a different location, time, etc then please let us know and we will do our best to make it happen. Over the past 2 months you should have seen an increase Hi Visibility patrols within the ward". Colyers ward:- "Sadly, in the last week, Colyers has gone from no burglaries in the previous week to 3 burglaries this week. The first was in Hurstwood Road overnight Saturday 5th - Sunday 6th January. Victim went to bed around 10.45pm lifting the front door handle but not locking with the key and woke up around 2am to notice the front door open. Suspect had entered through the front door and stolen cash and clothing. There were also two distraction burglaries in Brendon Close on Sunday 7th January between 8 - 8.30pm. Two males have gained entry via an upstairs window of a maisonette. One of the males claimed he was a police officer investigating burglaries and took the elderly occupier to the downstairs flat to speak to that elderly occupier. The male kept all three occupiers in one room while the other male searched both premises stealing cash and jewellery. First male described as IC1, slim to average build wearing a brown woollen hat and an anorak with a badge on. We advise to always check ID of unexpected callers. A motorcycle’s handlebars were damaged in Grasmere Road overnight Wednesday 3rd- Thursday 4th possibly in an attempt to steal it and a vehicles was keyed in Buxton Road Friday 5th into Saturday 6th January. A resident in Courtleet Drive car tyre was stabbed sometime between 1pm Tuesday 2nd – 1030am Wednesday 3rd January whilst on their drive. In other news Colyers and Northend Teams arrested a male from an HMO in Elmgrove this on 9th January for Failing to appear, theft and common assault. And lastly, our next Police surgery will be at CupaCakes in Colyers Lane on Thursday 18th January at 1pm". Crayford ward:- "It has been a very busy week for Crayford Ward this week. Officers including our own PC Murphy and Sgt Glenn Turner attended an address in Iron Mill Lane on 2 January 2018 to ensure the welfare of a vulnerable person believed to be living at the address. Police had reason to enter the premises under section 17 PACE. Once inside it became apparent that the person wasn’t living there and that drugs were being used within the premises and a further search resulted in the arrest of two Males for possession with intent to supply, Class A, Cannabis and Ketamine. This was an excellent result for the Pulse Patrol officers and takes a significant amount of drugs off the streets of Crayford. We’re sorry to say that Crayford has seen a big increase in burglary this week. On 3 January between 14.00-20.30 in Claremont Crescent, burglars forced entry to an upstairs window that had been left on the catch and entered the property. There was an untidy search and a safe was located and broken open. The burglars left by the same window which was above a flat roof. On 5th January between 10.00-12.00 a vehicle parked in the underground car park at Tanners Close was stolen, it was taken away on the back of a tow truck. In Gable Close, number plates on a vehicle were replaced with a similar number plate, one digit different, neither number plate has been used for the purpose of crime and there is no other explanation of how this has occurred. It may just be worth casting an eye over your vehicle to ensure that your number plate is correct according to all your vehicle’s documents. A motorcycle was stolen from an address in Hillside Road between the 5th and 7th of January, it had not been locked to a stationery point. It was recovered burnt out on Sunday 7th January close to Thames Road, the owner has been notified".Sadly there was a distraction burglary at St Paulinus Court in Manor Road on 4th January. A Male called at the address saying that he needed to check for a leak in the kitchen, he was there for about five minutes before leaving. It later became apparent that £300 had been taken from the property. Please, please, please, ask and check ID closely if anyone comes to your door before letting them in. A genuine person will not mind at all. If you have an elderly family member, neighbour or friend please reaffirm that they do this. Between 22 December 2017 and 2 January 2018 tools were stolen from a locked container on a building site in Crayford Road. There was an attempted burglary in Green Walk in the early hours of 9th January at approx. 3am. Thankfully the night latch was on and the burglar did not gain entry, this was an extremely distressing incident for the young lady living there with her Mother. In the early hours of 9th January 2018 there was a burglary and attempted burglary in School Crescent. The burglary occurred overnight, time not known and entry was made via the front door which was forced. A work bag was stolen. The resident has changed locks on their home and vehicle. The attempted burglary was at 3.12, the dog raised the alarm and the occupants banged on the upstairs window scaring the burglar away". North End ward:- "Unfortunately we have had another robbery at one of our shops. It happened at 1850 hours on Monday 08/01 in the TK Best One Shop in Lincoln Road. This is the 4th similar offence in as many weeks in our ward. We have visited all our shopkeepers and given lots of crime prevention advice. We will be carrying out more visits to our shops and patrolling the surrounding roads at it is very likely this is all being carried out by the same person. In better news, both our police officers have carried out arrests this past week. James arrested a male for threatening behaviour in Frobisher Road and Mark arrested a male for common assault, theft and failing to appear, this was on Colyers ward but after Mark was stopped by a female in Erith after the assault and he attended the location where it happened. One other crime to make you aware of was criminal damage in Fairview which is just off of Boundary Street. The family there had been away for 3 weeks over the Christmas period and came home to find the outer pane of their front room window with big crack marks in it. Our vehicle crime numbers have dropped considerably over the last week and both PCs will continue to be proactive in their patrolling as well as the borough Pulse bus patrolling our crime and ASB hotspots where necessary. We have a surgery this coming Sunday 14 Jan from 6pm in our office at Pier Road, Erith". Northumberland Heath ward:- "A fairly quiet start to the New Year on the ward with one burglary reported to us in Plaxtol Road. Unfortunately the victim is currently in hospital, l and a member of the family discovered the rear double glazed door to the property had been smashed between Tuesday January 2nd and Thursday January 4th. An untidy search was conducted by the suspect but it is not clear at this stage exactly what was stolen. A garage was set fire to deliberately this week in Collindale Avenue. The incident took place on Sunday January 7th just before 5pm. The victim discovered a vent had been removed and something was pushed inside it to start a fire. It is not known an accelerant was used. The victim had a number of power tools, leisure and camping equipment damaged by the fire. The victim saw several youths running away after the incident. One theft of a car stolen in Northumberland Park overnight on Wednesday January 10th. The team are continuing to focus on anti-social behaviour on the ward and another home visit has been conducting to a youth riding his pushbike recklessly and doing wheelies in Bexley Road. We are also beginning our school talks again this term and are visiting St. Fidelis Primary School this week to talk about keeping safe and the role of a Police Officer". Thamesmead East ward:- "A big warm welcome to our new Supervisor, PS Young. Unfortunately the ward was hit with three burglaries during the early hours of Thursday 4th January at the following locations, Walsham Close, victim woke up to discover her UPVC front door open, no signs of damage. Bank cards stolen. Manordene Road, Victim discovered UPVC porch door open, no signs of damage, however entry not gained to house. Coats from porch area taken. Fleming Way, Suspect appear to have been disturbed by family dog at around 1am. Entry not gained to property, despite damage to lock of UPVC front door. CCTV enquires conducted showed three figures, no better description, walking nearby the victims address. Enquiries on going. High Visibility patrols have been conducted by the team. Please get in touch, if you have seen any suspicious activity recently, especially around the roads mentioned above. Also make sure you lock UPVC doors from inside, and not just pull the handle up. On Wednesday 3rd January, a motor vehicle was damaged, (Four tyres punctured) Templar Drive. PC Moore arrested a male who was wanted by Medway Magistrates Court, for a number of theft offences. He will be sentenced in March. On the 8th January, PC Pruden issued a male with a warning, after being seen in possession of cannabis, Lime Row. PC Nana has recently been investigating a neighbour dispute, which will be resulted in harassment warning letters being served. Register your property for free and improve your chances of getting it back if it is lost or stolen and help reduce property crime, register at: https://www.immobilise.com. We are always interested in recruiting new Neighbourhood watch co-ordinators for the ward. Please ask your family and friends if they would like to set up a Neighbourhood watch in their road. Please spread the word to any family and friends in the Borough - they can contact us on 020 8721 2049 or Thamesmead.SNT@met.police.uk for more information".

The end video this week harks back to the warm days of last summer; it is a time lapse video showing the construction of the temporary Erith Lighthouse structure in the Riverside Gardens over a period of four days. If you attended the Christ Church Erith Christmas Tree Festival, you would have also seen the Lighthouse erected in the grounds of the church. I am sure we will see more of this unique construction over the year to come. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or alternatively you can Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.