Sunday, December 06, 2009

Four hours from Erith.

Birmingham office  836

If the photo above does not look familiar, do not be concerned - it shows the skyline over Birmingham city centre. I have been spending quite a lot of time in the place over the last few weeks, due to the demands of work. My company is opening a new office building adjacent to the Birmingham Snow Hill railway station, and I have been involved in the development. I have been commuting up to Brum several times a week for the last few weeks - this is quite a feat personally, as in Ian's words, I get a nose bleed if I step outside of the London Borough of Bexley. Generally I do absolutely detest travel, but this is a very interesting, if demanding project that has a defined finish date. I'll be extremely glad when it is all over and I can get back to my normal routine however, as the trip up to the frozen North and back takes me four hours each way by train. I don't like interruptions to my normal routine, besides it means on the days I have to make the trip Northwards from Erith, I am unable to visit my Dad - something that is very important to me.

A problem that has recently been highlighted in the local press is that of Erith's street drinkers, as the local ne-er do wells, tramps and winos are quaintly described. Here is an excerpt from an article written by Linda Piper of the News Shopper:

A SUPERMARKET has been allowed to sell alcohol in an area which residents claim is plagued by anti-social behaviour caused by boozing. But Bexley councillors have added a string of conditions to the licence granted to the Riverside Supermarket in West Street, Erith. The council’s licensing sub-committee heard how problem drinkers had made the nearby Riverside Gardens open space and the gardens below Bosworth House in Erith High Street a no-go area for residents and children from the two tower blocks which overlook it. Stephen West, chairman of Erith Riverside Residents’ Association, told the committee: “Over the past four years we have seen a surge of street drinkers descend on both garden areas.” He added: “We have seen for ourselves the fighting, dog fighting and abusive behaviour of those drinking all day long, together with them openly defecating in full view of our windows and passers-by.” Mr West said: “All along West Street there are signs of other street drinkers.” His comments were re-inforced by a residents’ management company from the Chandlers Wharf development off West Street. One of its directors, Sue Smith, said there was a public green with benches at the entrance to the development which had been colonised by drinkers. She said: “Once they are in residence for the day, this area becomes a no-go zone for residents.” She said they arrived early in the morning and stayed until late at night, using the estate’s bin stores as a toilet and rummaging through rubbish bags. Other residents living in West Street said there were already enough off-licences in the area and claimed adding another would increase the existing problems. Mr West, backed by Bexley police’s licensing officer PC Eddy Boston, said his association had no objection to granting a licence for the Riverside Supermarket but wanted it banned from selling strong ciders and lagers. Granting a licence from 7am until 11pm daily, the sub-committee agreed to the ban on strong ciders and lagers and added 15 other conditions. The sub-committee considers “another off-licence can open in this area only if there are stringent controls to prevent the sale or supply of alcohol to children and other street drinkers”.

Quite. I cannot for one say I have yet witnessed the local winos pooing in public, but I guess that it is only a matter of time. They seem to be spreading from their normal lair around the Riverfront Gardens and Bosworth House into Erith town centre and the surrounding areas; it is like Day of the Dead. Break out the fire axes...

I also note that former Picardy schoolmate, and now disgraced ex deputy London Mayor Ian Clement has been having a touch of the vapours recently; he's now claiming that he was seduced by a Chinese spy when he attended the last Olympic Games - you can read more about his alleged story here. I think he is having a bit of a flight of fancy, and trying to sell the end results to the tabloid press for a few quid; I gather he's reduced to working part time in a local dry cleaners, and could no doubt do with the cash.

Local radio station WNKR have now moved frequency to 1512 KHz on the Medium Wave band to make way for the relaunched Big L as previously mentioned. You can also hear them in stereo, streaming online here.

Birmingham office  851 (1)

An arty photo above of some Birmingham based woodwork that I took on Friday. I hope to have my two paintings by local abstract artist David Zimmer delivered next week; photos of the pieces will be shown online shortly.

I have previously mentioned that there has seemed to be a plague of fake £1 coins flooding the area; in a recent trip to Morrison's supermarket, of the £5 in coins I received in change, two of them were obvious fakes. The cashier changed them immediately upon my observation that the coins were counterfeit, and called her supervisor. I have heard it said that something like one in twenty one pound coins in general circulation is not genuine; if this is indeed the case, the Bank of England have a serious problem indeed. I know the Police take the whole thing very seriously indeed - a local counterfeiting gang have just been caught pretty much red handed, as you can read from the story here.

Bexley Council seem to be a pretty powerless and ineffectual lot in general; okay they keep the street lights lit and the bins emptied (after a fashion, though personally I take my rubbish to the recycling point in Morrison's car park myself each day, and don't trouble the bin men). I wonder if we would be better off returning to a localised monarchy. Did you know that Erith used to be ruled by King Eadbald of Kent? No, I thought not - it was a few years ago, I suppose. It is amazing what you can find online if you look hard enough.

Yule / Christmas is fast approaching; not a festival that I hold in particularly high esteem; personally I would prefer it to pass off as any other day - I cannot stand "fuss" - and the Yule / Christmas holiday is very high on "fuss" in my opinion. I will be spending the day itself as usual - visiting Dad, then having lunch with Mum - and as normal, we are not having Turkey. I cannot stand the dry, bland and unremarkable meat that comes from a Turkey. I think it is massively over rated. We are instead having roast Guinea Fowl with a wild mushroom sauce. On Boxing Day it will be Goose.  (Goose vindaloo, anyone?) The sooner the whole event is over and done with for another year, the happier I will be.

I went for a very pleasant working lunch with a group of my colleagues to St James restaurant in Bushey, Hertfordshire. This is not far from my office in Watford. Now you know why I detest travel. Anyway, the restaurant was very accommodating, and it got me thinking - why do we have no affordable, quality fine dining restaurants in the area? Erith only has fast food outlets like KFC and McDonald's. Bexleyheath and Dartford could probably host something of quality, but the nearest place is probably Chapters in Blackheath - which is not what it used to be, I am sorry to say.

I have recently been listening to an excellent comedy series on BBC Radio 4 called Bleak Expectations; it is a parody of Dickensian period fiction, and is extremely funny. You can hear the most recent episode on the BBC iPlayer website here.

The video clip this week is a real classic taken from Monty Python and the Holy Grail - here is the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch scene. Enjoy.

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