Sunday, July 15, 2018

The P2 Centre.


I gather that things are proving difficult for the operators of the events hall located in what used to be the snooker centre in Electricity House, opposite the fish roundabout at 5 Pier Road in Erith. The African church, which illegally changed the use of the building, are in hot water over a number of issues, and not just in relation to several planning violations which are currently ongoing. The attached playgroup / nursery also run by the same people still has no planning permission in place after 4 years, and that the latest application remains undecided by committee members. The events space has regularly been in breach of its licence - the London Fire Brigade prohibition notice only permits a maximum of 60 people to use it at any one time; last Saturday evening, well over 100 people attended a birthday party in the premises which went on until past 1.30 am in the morning - this directly violated the notice. In addition, if one looks at the venue website - which I have to say is a very slick and impressive looking thing, even if the information and photographs contained therein are very misleading indeed. If one navigates to the Our Event Spaces page, you can see a list of options; these include setups for events holding 350 - 450 people, which directly contravenes the terms of the London Fire Brigade prohibition notice limiting any events to a maximum of 60 people. Later the mention of a capacity of up to 600 guests is made - more on this shortly. The owners of the P2 Events Center (they mainly use the US spelling on their website, though occasionally the English spelling is used) also mislead by mostly using photographs of other events centres to illustrate their own, far smaller, shabby and amateurish looking offering. Quite what any visitor to the P2 Center thinks when they see the reality of the location compared to the glamorous presentation on the website is anyone's guess. On their website, the proprietors of the P2 Events Center use flowery language and a stretch of the truth that would make even the most shameless estate agent blush; for example they describe the venue thus:- "The Main Hall was designed in the 1930s and has a unique Deco charm. The property is situated in a prominent retail position within the town centre at the junction of Pier Road and Queens Road (A206) and opposite a large car park. With a Mezzanine level that looks out over Erith Town Centre, the space is flexible and can be adapted to accommodate your needs – whether for a dinner, standing reception, birthday celebration, wedding banquet, seminars, conference or exhibition. Accommodating groups ranging from 80 to 600 in exceptional glamour, our chefs offer exquisite menus to accompany this exceptional event venue. Our dedicated events team is well versed in delivering high-end, unique events and will work with you to create an exceptional experience for your guests". I know that the planning department at Bexley Council, and several local councillors are very much aware as to what has been going on in Electricity House over the last few years, and as I have previously reported, I have been led to understand that their medium to long term plan is to eventually compulsorily purchase the site for subsequent redevelopment. What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or alternatively, Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com. 


Here is a bit of home computing history that I had a direct involvement with; it was 33 years ago last week that the revolutionary Atari ST range of computers was launched in the UK. As you may know, in my youth, I worked for what was then the largest stockist and distributor of Atari products in Europe, the Hatherley Road, Sidcup based Silica Shop. The Atari 520ST had been available from February in the U.S, but their by far biggest market was in Europe - specifically in the UK, France and Germany. It was the first true 16 bit computer designed for home use to be put in sale in the UK, some time before the soon to become incredibly popular Commodore Amiga was put on sale. Incidentally the rivalry between Commodore and Atari was set to turn into a series of legal actions over various patents and intellectual property rights. It all started when the boss of Commodore - a man called Jack Tramiel (whom I met twice - he was not a nice man in my personal experience) got fired by the Commodore board of Directors. In revenge, he decided to set up a rival organisation. Instead he managed to purchase part of Atari, who were in a real financial state, due to the 1983 video game crash in the USA, which left them very much out of pocket. Atari’s owner, Warner Communications, was looking to shed what it saw was “dead weight” in the form of Atari’s consumer products division. Tramiel saw an opportunity to leverage Atari’s manufacturing infrastructure and made a deal to acquire the division in exchange for stock in his new company. Jack Tramiel renamed Tramiel Technology to Atari Corporation, shut down most of Atari’s offices, liquidated its existing stock and fired its staff, replacing them with former Commodore employees. Surviving on its remaining video-game inventory, the new company went to work developing Tramiel’s new 16-bit computer. Based on the same Motorola 68000 processor used in the Apple Macintosh, the Atari ST (the ST apparently standing for “sixteen/thirty-two” - a reference to the 68000 processor address bus configuration, although some have speculated it stood for “Sam Tramiel” after Jack’s son), was designed to be attractive to a wide variety of computer users. Like the Commodore 64, the ST could be plugged into a television for casual video-gaming (initially via an add - on TV modulator, which was built in to later models) , but additionally it could use a colour or monochrome monitor – the latter of which featuring a higher resolution than the Macintosh, an appeal to those in the then-emerging world of desktop publishing. It also came standard with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports for controlling synthesisers, making it attractive to musicians. Meanwhile, Atari and Commodore were suing and counter-suing each other: Commodore alleged Tramiel had stolen the technology behind the ST, and Tramiel moved to prevent Commodore from acquiring the Amiga, which had been originally promised to Atari. In the end, neither amounted to much, and Atari announced the 520 ST at the 1985 Consumer Electronics Show. It was soon nicknamed the “Jackintosh”. I was present at a question and answer session for Silica Shop staff on the evening prior to the London based Computer and Video Games show at Olympia, where the UK launch of the Atari 520 ST took place. Staff were able to ask questions of Jack Tramiel, and I mentioned the unofficial name of "Jackintosh" and asked what he though of it; in hindsight this was a very bad move indeed - if looks could kill.... Unfortunately I bumped into him in the gents toilets at the show the very next day - but he either chose to ignore me, or had forgotten the interaction the day before. Either way I was very relieved - in both senses. While the Atari ST’s specifications were impressive for the time, what really stole the show was its graphical user interface, GEM. Jack Tramiel licensed GEM (short for Graphics Environment Manager) from Digital Research, who had initially developed it for their CP/M operating system and later ported it to MS-DOS. Tramiel wanted to give his new computer a user-interface layer similar to the Macintosh, but for a much lower price, and GEM fit the bill nicely, especially since Digital Research had no interest in 68000-based computers, it being fully focussed on the Intel 80286 processor. Like the Macintosh, the ST used a mouse for much of its user interaction. It had icons that represented disk drives (represented as drawers from filing cabinets), applications (although not customisable as they were on the Macintosh), documents and the Trash (a particularly egregious theft from Apple’s Finder.) GEM had a menu at the top of the screen, a “Desk” menu extremely similar to the Macintosh’sApple” menu – it’s no surprise Apple was unimpressed with GEM. Apple sued Digital Research, but not because they were concerned about competition from Atari – the ST appealed to a much different market than the Macintosh. No, Apple was afraid of GEM becoming widely available on the PC, which was beginning to approach the Macintosh in terms of hardware capabilities, and could become a serious threat if combined with decent graphical operating system. Digital Research ended up agreeing to change many elements of GEM on the PC in order to satisfy Apple (and Microsoft would be made wary not to borrow too much from the Macintosh for their Windows software), but the Atari version would remain untouched, allowing Atari to continue to unofficially market the ST as a “budget Macintosh”. The ST would save Atari – close to bankruptcy by the time of its launch – and go on to commercial success, sharing the home computer market with the Commodore Amiga for a number of years. A large amount of the ST’s success can be attributed to business software developers, who very quickly recognised the computers potential for productivity applications, including WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) word processing and desktop publishing. Indeed, paired with its companion high-resolution monochrome monitor, the ST would become popular with small business owners and not-for-profit organisations who could not justify the cost of a Macintosh, but wanted to create more professional-looking documents than what could be produced on an older and less powerful 8-bit computer system. As part of my research for this article, I was perusing the Wikipedia entry on the Atari ST range of computers during the week, and I noticed a couple of things that prompted my attention. The entry refers to the Computers' advertising tag line "Power without the price" and infers that this was a central Atari theme; I can say for certain that this was not the case. The slogan was dreamed up by Silica Shop in Sidcup, not Atari. The second, and to me the most telling point is the mention of the fix recommended in the official Atari engineering manual as to how to remedy an ST that when fired up, did not come to life as expected, but instead showed a brown screen of death. Wikipedia terms it thus:- "Early 520ST owners became accustomed to the "Atari Twist" and the "Atari Drop" service procedures. "Atari Twist" seemed to help discharge built-up static electricity (Atari soldered-down the metal shielding to fix the problem) while the "Atari Drop" appeared to help re-seat chips which may have become partially unseated over time, due to vibration and other external factors. Actually, the Atari Drop was a procedure that more often than not fixed the brown screen of death issue - which was caused by a couple of ROM chips coming loose in their housings. The short drop of the computer onto a hard surface would knock them back into position, fixing the problem". I know, as it was me that (accidentally) came up with the fix. I had a number of customers with brand new 520 ST machines that would not start up on first boot. On one occasion I turned the computer over to check the serial number, ready to fill in a warranty return form. On turning it back over, I accidentally dropped it onto the wooden counter top, at which point the computer burst into life. I tried this with several other machines that were exhibiting the same problem, and all but one of them was similarly fixed. After talking to Atari Engineering UK, based in Slough, the "Atari drop" became an official remedy, and described in the engineering service manual. One of my minor and very anorakky claims to fame. It is ironic that I never actually owned an ST myself; they were always far too expensive for my pocket, even allowing for a substantial staff discount at the time.


I was passed the photo of an advertising flyer that is currently being circulated in the local area by a reader earlier in the week; since then the story has been reported by the News Shopper - one of the hazards of the Maggot Sandwich publishing every week on a Sunday. The flyer is fraudulent - the tree surgeon company is a con - the physical address exists - it a a block of flats - but the land line phone number redirects to a mobile phone. Please do not use this company, as you will almost certainly be ripped off.

Two weeks ago I wrote in some length how Bexley Council have launched a public consultation regarding the possible installation of charging points around the borough for electric vehicles. One reader - Miles - has not only responded to the council with his own feedback in respect of what he believes would be best for local residents regarding the provision of electric vehicle charging points, but he has also written a fascinating guest piece for the Maggot Sandwich this week; Miles writes:- "Electric Vehicles are a genuinely controversial and equally fascinating topic, over the last twenty years there has been countless headlines, everything from Top Gear staging an apparent Tesla Roadster supercar breakdown to Elon Musk blasting it's successor into space! For reasons I still to this day can't understand EVs attract highly polarising opinions, On one hand they are supposedly going to cause a country wide black outs whilst barely getting you to the shops and back, right through to the unicorn farting panacea that is perfectly green, vegan, tree-hugging motoring -  both of which are basically nonsense. Whilst EVs may seem new, this couldn't be further from the truth. The very first electric car can be traced all the way back to the late 1800's where France & the UK battled it out to build several prototypes demonstrating the new technology - a legacy we still use today, the London Underground. Early EVs, like today's mainstream cars had vastly more torque and power than their counterpart gasoline vehicles, yet they simply couldn't compete on energy density - simply put Petrol and Diesel were plentiful, cheaper and global warming wasn't a thing. Let's fast forward, if you think Tesla or Nissan are bleeding edge technology what if I told you we're over 20 years behind the curve! Back in the late 90's General Motors in the US produced the very first viable consumer EV - the aptly named GM EV1. This vehicle is fast by today's standards 0-60 was under 8 seconds, the range around 100 miles with a fully digital display!  Who Killed the Electric Car, a film produced in the mid 2000's, paints a tantalising picture of a motor industry that not only had produced a viable electric car, but also wanted to destroy it. GM, despite building a car far beyond it's time, did everything to stop it succeeding - they intentionally dissuaded customers from purchasing the car, remove it from forecourts and wouldn't even allow you to buy it, lease only. The forced lease is the pivot point in the story, GM, having seen how successful the EV1 had become was terrified it would detract from their main profit centres - which not long after required a HUGE bailout from the US gov - they recalled ALL EV1 cars to be crushed. To this day only a handful exist, deactivated, in museums. An extraordinarily sad tale that has pushed back the industry by decades. All was not doom and gloom, a very small footnote can be added - a small startup called Tesla was founded. When I was a child my friends and I would do nothing but talk about the latest super car, the Jaguar XJ220, McLaren F1 - we'd play Top Trumps learning every intimate detail of the Ford Cosworth.  Today is a far different story, insanely expensive fuel, insurance and rampant breeding of speed cameras have significantly doused the excitement of our kids, what's the point one kid told me? How sad I thought to myself, particularly as a motorcyclist - another dying breed (bloody corners). Last week a friend electrified (I'm sorry) my inner 5 year old. After taking his young daughter to school they were absolutely fascinated about the car, his daughter suddenly became the cool kid. A little bird tells me they are busy googling all the latest Jaguars/Teslas/Nissans and they know all the stats - how fantastic". What do you think? Do you have any additional or alternative ideas to these suggested by Miles? Part two of Miles's thoughts will be published next week. Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.


Some news that currently has not been communicated to very many local people. Network Rail have written to some neighbours in Slade Green to say the footbridge over the railway at Peareswood Road will be closed for at least three months. In school times this is used daily by many parents. I have been informed that two primary schools and the Slade Green and Howbury community centre and a nursery will be affected by this closure. A very long walk will be needed to go around via Bridge Road and Newbury Road.

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly an update from Barnehurst ward:- "Another excellent week for the ward again this week with very little crime reported. Sadly though we have had two motor vehicle related offences in Badlow Close DA8. The first being on Wednesday 4th July between 10am and 1.30 pm where a Black Citroen C4 was broken into by unknown suspects smashing the driver side front window and searching the vehicle, nothing was taken on this occasion. The second offence occurred on Monday 9th July between 12.50pm and 1pm, suspects have smashed the passenger side window of a Ford Transit van parked at the location and stolen an iPhone from within. Don’t make it easy for the criminal - Please make sure that any valuables left in your vehicle are not visible. The best advice is to remove any item completely. If you have any information about these or other crimes please call the team in strictest confidence or alternatively call Crime Stopper free and anonymously on 0800 555 111. The team paid a visit to some of our local allotments on Tuesday and offered some crime prevention advice to plot holders. Despite the lack of rain recently most are expecting a good crop of various fruit and veg this year. The team will be at Barnehurst Golf Course on Wednesday 18th July at 1pm. Please pop along to say hi and discuss any local issues that may be of concern". Belvedere ward:- "On Friday 6th July A/PS Ash Green organised four warrants across Bexley, all of which were drug related. The four address were all connected. Ash conducted lots of research before the warrants were executed. Several drugs were seized and at least two people are going to be prosecuted for drug offences. The team conducted school talks to Year 5 pupils at Lesness Heath Primary School on Monday 9th July. We spoke about ASB, public order offences, respect and responsibility. All the classes that we spoke to engaged with us and appeared to take on board what we were saying. All in all a good day. PCSO Jay Worrall has been investigating egg throwing ASB in Albert Road. He has managed to identify the three youths involved. Two have been spoken to with their parents, the third is due a visit shortly. We will be holding our next drop in session on Wednesday 18th July at Belvedere Library, Woolwich Road from 16:00 till 17:00". Bexleyheath ward:- "Below is or brief summary of what has been going on our ward: 01/07/2018 – A push bike was stolen from a secure bike room in a block of flats in Watling Street Bexleyheath 07/07/2018 – A report of a theft from motor vehicle. Suspect had used a van to take property from another van 07/07/2018 – A pushbike was stolen outside shops along the Broadway Bexleyheath 09/07/2018 – Premiere Inn Albion Road A report of criminal damage to property. 10/07/2018 – Mobile phone stolen from behind the shop counter alt Bella Italia Broadway Bexleyheath We are holding our next contact session tomorrow on the 12th July between 10 and 11am at CafĂ© Nero along The Broadway Bexleyheath, you are all welcome to attend if you’re free. We are also continuing high visibility patrols around Martens Grove and surrounding areas including the garages between Grove Road and Braeside Crescent as this is becoming an area for youths to congregate and misbehave. The team had arrested a violent offender who had breached their home detention curfew. Two warrants were executed in relation to the misuse of drugs. Last weekend we had organised along with the Town Centre Management a car show that took place along the Broadway which was a great success. We also had the opportunity to do more bike marking using bike register". Crayford ward:- "Thankfully, not so many crimes reported in the last week in Crayford. On Tuesday 3rd July it was reported that a gully cover had been stolen from Hillside Road. Between 22.30 on 4th July and 5am on 5th July a Nissan Qashqai was broken into at Station Road, a purse containing bank cards and an assortment of gift cards were stolen. The victim was alerted by her bank that there had been a fraudulent use of her card but here was no sign of the vehicle being broken in to. Please do not leave valuables in your vehicle if you can help it. There have been shoplifting offences reported at Tower Retail Park. There have also been a number of domestic incidents reported. Two Ford Transits were stopped in Crayford on 6th July. One had two completely bald tyres, the other was uninsured and the driver did not have a licence. Both drivers were dealt with for the offences. We have been out and about patrolling your local area, especially Dale Road and Ridgeway where there have been several reports of anti-social behaviour and use of nitrous oxide and the associated mess". Northumberland Heath ward:- "We are pleased to announce that we have had no burglaries or motor vehicle crime reported to us over the last week which is excellent news and No new reports of anti-social behaviour. Last Friday morning the team assisted with the execution of several drug warrants. One address was in Northumberland Heath. A male was stopped this week in possession of cannabis and is awaiting prosecution for this offence. The team have attended St. Fidelis school this week to talk to pupils about the dangers of violent crime". Slade Green and North End ward:-


"On Friday July 6th at 9.30pm a knifepoint robbery was made at Affishionado’s fish and chip shop in Bridge Road. A male suspect had his face covered in a balaclava under a cycling helmet and took cash from the till while holding a knife". See the image above. "He rode off towards the Shell Garage on Northend Road. Staff were naturally shaken up but fortunately nobody was hurt. Enquiries are ongoing. Our next Surgery is on Thursday July 19th from 11am at Slade Green library where will be sitting and waiting for anyone who wants a chat or to report any local incidents etc. On the 6th July the team found and recovered a stolen white transit van which was found abandoned in Barnett Close Erith, the vehicle had been stolen a few weeks earlier from the Dartford area, the van was full to capacity of wood and waste which may have ended up being fly tipped locally, the vehicle was recovered and the owner was extremely happy to get his van back, enquiry’s continue. Has a vehicle appeared on your road which looks put of place? Has the ignition been damaged? Is it insecure? or is something just not right? If so contact us we can have a look. Your team continue to patrol hot spot areas used by illegal bikers, we’ve received a number of reports of bikers using the rainbow road estate, pulling wheelies, driving on footpath’s and generally causing a nuisance for residents, pedestrians and road users, can you help us identify riders that are concerned in bike ASB, the bikes used are stored somewhere, we need your help to identify where and those responsible, if you have any information please contact your local team or call crime stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglaries - A burglary occurred in a flat in Wolvercote Road, between Wednesday 04/07/18 and Sunday 08/07/18 whilst the resident was away. No signs of forced entry, property to the value of £462.00 was taken. If you’re off on holiday and wish to post anything on social media, make sure your posts aren’t public and that they’re only seen by your friends. Motor Vehicle Crimes - Overnight Saturday 07/07/18 and Sunday 08/07/18 a vehicle locked and secure outside of Oakenholt House Hartslock Drive had the drivers window smashed. Between Friday evening of the 06/07/18 and 8:00 am of Monday 09/07/18 a motor cycle which only had the steering lock engaged was stolen from Lensbury Way; driver’s window of a van securely locked and parked in Sydney Road was smashed, nothing was taken as the vehicle alarm was activated. On Sunday 08/07/18 a vehicle parked in Kale Road had the driver’s window smashed and money taken from the central console. Crime prevention in motor vehicles - Coins for the car park, sunglasses or other items should be put out of sight. Wallets, Handbags, Purses and Credit Cards should never be left in any vehicle over night or otherwise. Have a Say event (Community Contact Session) Friday 20th July between the hours of 1:00pm and 2:00pm. The team will be attending Lakeside Health Centre, Yarnton Way. An opportunity for members of the community who prefer face-to - face contact, to speak with your Dedicated Ward Officer. Good News - While on patrol PC Pruden saw a male riding a jet-ski on Southmere lake, the male seemed to have difficulty trying to get back on the jet ski after falling off. A friend swam to his aid helping him to the shore. Once returned to shore the male was seen in a slumped position against a brick wall. PC Pruden repositioned the male more comfortably. On talking to friends nearby PC Pruden was informed the male had a heart condition for which he was taking medication. The male started having a tingling sensation on his right side, PC Pruden requested for the London Ambulance Service to attend. On examination by paramedics the male was taken to hospital. Partnership working - PC Pruden was informed by a Peabody staff member she had found a large knife, which she disposed of safely. The knife had been purposely hidden in Coralline Walk. PC Pruden completed a crime and intelligence report".

The end video this week is an old promotional film about the then very new Thamesmead development, which has just had its 50th anniversary. I think it is appropriate to say that the great housing experiment did not quite turn out in the way that the developers intended. Please leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.