Sunday, November 08, 2009

Poppies and the Phoenix.

Priff Sticks  812

I had a bit of a journey into the recent past yesterday evening; Ian's new band,  (pictured above) played their first gig with him as frontman / vocalist at the Phoenix pub in Dartford. I ended up with my clothes, hair and skin reeking of tobacco smoke - something that I thought was now a relic of the past. The pub, which is a hotbed of neo Nazi followers if the conversations I overheard were anything to go by, is also the home to a fairly large number of apparently infirm and ancient bikers. The landlady positively encourages smokers within the premises - despite this being completely illegal under current anti smoking laws. The venue was a haze of cigarette smoke and the memory of the disgusting, unhealthy and criminal stench clings to me still. The band played well, under very uncomfortable circumstances, and were enthusiastically received by the crowd composed of a variety of geriatric neanderthals, along with a smattering of relatively normal people, who I guess had turned up specifically to see the band. The band had to set up their equipment in front of the entrance to both the male and female toilets; during their set, a number of women had to make their way onto the "stage" in order to gain access to the loo. Strangely the same was not the case with the straggly haired, portly and  extensively tattooed male population of the cesspit of a hostelry; I later discovered they were venturing outside in order to urinate up one of the pubs' external walls. Enchanting. The Phoenix should be nuked from space; it is most definitely the dirtiest, scruffiest, smelliest establishment that houses a well past their sell by date biker gang, who would mainly be advised to hang up their sweaty and grime encrusted leathers and take to a bath chair. One of the side rooms in the noxious hostelry housed a rusty Kawasaki motorbike in its' final death throes; it appeared to be being broken for spares. Inside a pub. Yup.

Priff Sticks  809

Erith has been sounding like the outskirts of Basra for the last few nights, as the fireworks have been let loose for yet another year. Teeming rain, wind and other meteorological nasties do not seem to deter the revellers. It seems strange that all these years on from the events of the gunpowder plot, we still commemorate what could conceivably have become Britain's' first case  of suicide bombing.

It sometimes seems that every person over the age of 55 is almost automatically issued with a mobility scooter if they live locally. These mini vehicles are a boon to those who would otherwise be confined  to a wheelchair, or otherwise stuck indoors with limited contact with the outside world. I have to counter this with the observation that a small but significant minority use these vehicles as devices of terror; I have been forced to jump from the pavement out of the way and into the oncoming traffic twice in the last week due to the inconsiderate actions of demon scooterists. I know of one chap only in his mid 30's who rides a mobility scooter around Erith town centre who is actually fully able bodied, but just does not like to walk – I have seen him running around the Riverside Gardens, playing football with his two young sons on several occasions. Most locals think he is genuinely disabled, not realising he is really just a bone idle waster.  Mobility scooters seem to vary in size and capability from something little more than a deluxe motorised bar stool with a pair of handle bars, to a vehicle almost worthy of the title of an electric car. I think the way they interact with pedestrians and the regulations that pertain to their use could do with a bit of a makeover.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of The Wall by Pink Floyd. I recall clearly as a child when my dad brought the double album home, and we sat in near darkness to listen to it.  I also recall listening to Tommy Vance on the Radio 1 Friday Rock Show, when he first played “Comfortably Numb” - he let the music fade to silence, and said “There are insufficient superlatives in the English language to describe that track”.

On a different note, I should be taking delivery of my two pieces of abstract art from up and coming London based artist, David Zimmer.  I will be posting photos of my two acquisitions on line shortly.

The humble Maggot Sandwich is now being read by several local councillors and an aspiring MP; read through some of the recent comments and you will see their input.

This years' Poppy appeal seems to have inspired the public to be especially generous – the current situation in Afghanistan notwithstanding.  Personally I would pay a premium for a small metal poppy badge, in preference to the usual plastic and paper poppy; not many blokes wear jackets with button holes nowadays, and fixing the current poppy design does not lend itself to mobility between clothing forms. I got my poppy at the earliest opportunity, with a substantial donation. I fixed it to my brown tweed jacket and have worn it with pride; As the week has gone on, and the weather has become more wintry, I have swapped to  heavier coat – with no lapels. I have been walking past poppy sellers, inexplicably feeling guilty, as it looks like I have not contributed towards the charity appeal, even though I have. Normally I am not a person who gives much consideration to what others think, but for some reason I get a guilty feeling whenever I walk past a poppy seller when I have not been wearing one.

One of the down sides of being a daily user of public transport is the unwanted exposure to the belly button fluff caught in the filter of the UK's gene pool. I was on the aforementioned 99 bus earlier this week when a scruffy looking Chav got on and sat adjacent to me. To use the vernacular, he was "ripped to the tits", probably on Ecstasy. His eyes were like saucers, and he was eager to engage anyone in aimless conversation. I was fortunate to be able to move away to another part of the lower deck. To add to this, I was on the 99 again on Saturday as it drew slowly into Bexleyheath; a dishevelled and creepy looking bloke hammered on the driver's protective shield and demanded to be let off the bus whilst it waited at at the traffic lights; the reason stated was that he only had a few minutes left to sign on at Bexleyheath Police station in order to comply with the terms of his bail. Maybe he should have left home earlier then, or better still, not committed the crime in the first place.

Open warfare with the local scum is something I avoid unless inevitable – and there is not much room to swing a steel toecapped boot on a bus.

After the tribulations I experienced upgrading my Asus EeePC 901 netbook to Ubuntu 9.10 Linux, I ended up doing a clean install, which was far less eventful and much more productive. This entry is being written on the tiny machine, whilst sitting in the Robin Hood and Little John.  The webcam now works again – not that it is something I use very often. An impromptu photo of me at work on this update is below for your edification. Ahem.

Hugh in pub  823

You can catch an excellent performance by virtuoso multi instrumentalist Booker T Jones in a concert he played at this years' Cambridge Festival that was shown earlier in the week on BBC4. It is currently available on the BBC iPlayer here.

One TV show I miss, but can sometimes catch on reruns on channels like Bravo is the original “Make Better” show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. The show originally ran from 2003 – 2007 and I watched it avidly. The makeover idea of five gay guys making over a style needy straight guy did have limited scope, but it was definitely fun whilst it lasted. A fact that not many know is that I applied to be a straight guy candidate for the UK version of the show, but did not get selected.

As I have previously mentioned, I am not an avid early adopter of new technology. For me, it needs to justify itself before I will take the plunge. A typical example of this is Sky and their High Definition TV offering. I am still using a CRT television with a bog standard Sky+ box; I will only upgrade when my current setup turns up its' toes. Personally I am singularly unimpressed with hi def – I don't actually think it is particularly good.The whole hi def standard is shortly to undergo an upgrade to even higher resolution, and consequent greater bandwidth, so a further purchase of new equipment will then be required.

Fellow local photographer Justin Bailey has an exhibition currently showing in the new Erith Library – do get along there to view his work, I think you will find it a worthwhile trip. Go through the main entrance and turn a sharp right, and you will see his work on display.

The video clip this week is an except from Billy Connolly's stage show, where he talks about the preparations he had to make before a medical coloscopy. Not for the squeamish, but very funny.


  1. No Enamel Poppy pins, but other Poppy merchandise that may suit.

  2. I attended the Priff stick’s gig, and although it was a pub unlike one i have been to before, i thought it was brilliant. Why attend a rock gig then slate bikers, were you unaware of the sort of audience that would be attending? ‘A smattering of relatively normal people,’ I assume here you’re referring to yourself?
    It does raise the question though, if you felt this uncomfortable why did you not bring up any of these issues with any of the patrons or the landlady, i think that’s quite an easily answered question myself. :)

  3. Now before I comment on this weeks Blog I have to say we have already spoken about this posting at length and I've made my feelings perfectly clear.

    Obviously it's your Blog and entirely up to you what you post but I feel I've been put in a very bad light and difficult position over your comments about the pub and it's clientele so I want to clear the air.

    All I can say is I thoughly enjoyed the gig (even if I did have a funny turn towards the end! Must get myself more "match fitter!") and found everyone there without a doubt very friendly and welcoming and up for the gig and the party without a hint or wiff of trouble which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of pubs I've played in! It was a great first gig to bust our 1st gig Cherry!

    Yeah it was a bit cramped, yeah I cracked my head and broke a light bulb on the low slung Pool Light when I was pogoing along and yeah "the ladies" had to hop between us to get to the toilet (with women coming and going like that it was like being in Fleetwood Mac! LOL!) but I had a f*cking good time and I hope the crowd did too, they certainly seemed to.

    The Phoenix is exactly what it is, a BIKERS pub!

    I'm glad that in this day and age pubs like that exist and haven't been pushed to the wall or hermoganised, its a proper old boozer for bikers!
    The only thing I'd like to see is a real ale on draught and to move that damn pool light!

  4. Anonymous - I don't normally respond to comments on my blog, but just for once I will.

    I have visited many bikers' pubs over the years; generally I have found them to be friendly, well organised places with a great crowd - I speak as a former regular of the Ruskin Arms, so I do know what I am talking about. Just because a pub welcomes bikers does not give them the right to blatantly flout the law, not just on smoking (I am a non smoker, but opposed the smoking ban on the basis of personal liberty). I personally witnessed class A drugs being sold and on three occasions two girls of around 13 years old being sold alcoholic drinks by the landlady and the barman. The law is the law, and being a bikers' pub does not exempt you from anything.

    Secondly, the place is a hotbed of extreme neo Nazi activity. Everything my grandparents and many others fought WW2 for is being mocked by the utter scumbags that support the likes of the League of St. George (who I understand think the BNP are too liberal). Try searching YouTube for RAC + music and you will find several videos of banned Nazi acts playing in the Phoenix.

    Please bear in mind I self censored my original posting for legal reasons; No doubt you will discover why in due course.

  5. Hugh, don't quite know what you’re trying to achieve by writing such spiteful things on your blog about the Phoenix and the people that were there. I guess the ‘smattering of relatively normal people’ you refer to were band friends and my wife and children....thanks!
    Personally I'm offended by what you've written as I feel it was totally unnesesary and unwarranted as we like yourself were warmly accepted.

    You didn’t have to stay in the venue if it upset you so much, and you didn’t have to pour scorn on people there whilst at the same time eagerly accepting drinks from them during the night!

    If you’re on self-destruct mate get on with it but don't associate us with any of your bullshit! It’s not helpful to us as a band taking our first steps, I personally would appreciate it if you remove all mention of The Priff Sticks from your blog and get on with your own life and deal with your own consequences.

    Pissed off band member!

  6. I'm John. the lead guitarist of The Priff Sticks and I have to echo the feelings stated by my fellow band members, what you have written is a load of crap! As far as I was aware, you attended our gig in the capacity of a photographer and Ian's mate. If for one moment I thought it would lead to all this I would have requested your non-attendance. By all means say what you want on your pathetic little site but please DO NOT associate yourself with The Priff Sticks as we wholly reject your views on the venue and the people therein so it would be appreciated if you would remove any links to the band from your site. As a band struggling to get onto the local music scene we certainly do not need our name splattered all over a piece of claptrap such as your blogsite, especially as it appears on the first page when entering the band's name on a google search. What are you trying to do, ruin us before we've even started? I suggest you think about what you write in future. On a personal note, I take great offence to your slurs on bikers. You see, I haven't just frequented biker venues, I AM a biker and as such, take your comments as a direct insult to me and my brothers. Its time you got your head out of your backside, sunshine and accept that you do not have a future in online journalism. In the meantime, REMOVE THE LINKS TO MY BAND!!!"

  7. Hi John, Thanks for posting your feedback; apologies that your posting took a while to go live. Unfortunately a post from back in May has been getting targetted by Chinese spammers and I have been forced to activate comment moderation to filter out the automated advertising scripts run on the earlier page.

    I am surprised that you associate bikers with the Phoenix; in my experience bikers on the whole have generous spirits and kind hearts - they don't associate with the likes of the Neo Nazi thugs that run the Phoenix. If you don't condemn such vile behaviour, you surely condone it.

    Yes, I know the pub was raided and nothing was found. Not such a surprise after all, I know they were tipped off. Do you think I posted all the photos I took on the night? Thought not. Hard evidence.

    Did you read any negative comments in my piece on the band? No. There were none. You played a tight set and deservedly got a fantastic reception.

    Did I make negative comments on the venue? Yes. With factual backup. Do you think I am going to remove my posting? No - everything I wrote is factually accurate and can be backed up with hard evidence - my Blog is read by well in excess of 1,000 people a week around the world, including the local Police, the editors of the News Shopper, and members of both Bexley and Dartford Council, not to mention an editorial member of Sky News, and also Staff on BBC's Watchdog. The fact you could Google it so easily confirms this.

    My editorial on the Phoenix is factually accurate, and would stand up in court - think again if you consider I would remove the posting. It is called freedom of the press - something the BNP and other Nazi groups would deprive us of, given the chance. Go on - take me to court for defamation - I dare you to. Make my day.

    Please feel free to Email me privately at

    No further public feedback or comments will now be accepted on this topic, though private Emails are welcomed - this is not turning into a public discussion forum.