Sunday, June 13, 2010

Warm rain.

Erith River Festival 2010  978

The hoary old joke goes “You can always tell when it is summer in Britain – the rain gets warmer”. This seems to be true yet again this year. To be honest I am not a person that likes hot weather – anything over 22 -23 degrees Celsius makes me feel very uncomfortable indeed, but the current autumnal weather is just too much. We get half a day of nice weather, then suddenly it becomes overcast and wintery again. So much for global warming. The rain certainly makes the grass grow though - I mowed the lawn whilst the England vs. whoever football game was on last night.

I seem to be cursed when it comes to buying a replacement pair of spectacles; I have been looking around for several months since my last eye test. My current titanium framed spectacles are ancient and falling apart; I have had them longer than any other pair since I started wearing glasses at the age of five. The problem I have is that in addition to having very bad astigmatism, my prescription is pretty strong. This precludes me from choosing quite a wide range of frames – anything rimless or half framed is pretty much out of the question. I went into the opticians yesterday, clutching a recent photo of Apple supremo Steve Jobs, who was wearing a very smart pair of rimless glasses. I asked the assistant if they had this design, or anything vaguely similar. He replied that they get a couple of customers a month asking the same question; he'd done some research, and found out that Mr. Jobs' specs are bespoke and probably cost around $10,000! No luck there then either.

The photo at the top of the page shows a floating crane barge and some tugs moored off Erith last week; the area still has strong maritime connections, and indeed the world class marine engineering company Kort Propulsion has its' headquarters in the town. Not many people know that the old red brick building opposite the Morrison's petrol station is actually their offices. You can see the place on Google street view below. You can click on the image to navigate around, just like you do on the full sized Google Street View. 

View Larger Map

Not for the first time someone has incorrectly assumed that I am the Pub Spy - the anonymous pub critic who writes for the News Shopper. I got collared in the Victoria pub in Upper Belvedere last Saturday night by a regular of the hostelry. Of course, some say, if you were the Pub Spy, of course you would deny it to retain your anonymity. So I cannot win; but I'm not the Pub Spy. Got it?

Almost a year ago to the day, several main roads in Erith were resurfaced with a new road noise reducing layer, which apparently cost the council £1 million per mile for the material alone. It is now already starting to deteriorate. Only this morning some surveying engineers were taking drilled core samples along Manor Road, paying special attention to the bus stops. It would appear that the underlying supporting material has compressed far more than predicted under the weight of the trucks, buses and heavy traffic that uses the road. I talked to one of the surveyors undertaking the measurements; he was of the opinion that the road surface was under some kind of warranty, and that Bexley Council would be putting in a claim with the contractors who laid it. Below is a photo I took of the road being laid this time last year.

Manor Road resurfacing  605

The Americans are about to assault our shores with three restaurant chains new to the U.K, but very common in the USA. Ruby Tuesday, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Taco Bell are opening stores in the UK over the next few months. The first of these is going to be Taco Bell who are hitting the mean streets of Essex, with a restaurant opening at Lakeside this month. You can read more about them from an article in the business section of the Independent here. I wonder if any American readers of the Maggot Sandwich can give me some feedback as to what these three restaurant chains are like? Are they any good? From the limited amount I have been able to surmise from online reviews, Taco Bell is something like a Mexican McDonald's, but Ruby Tuesday and Chipotle are a little more upmarket, more like Harvester. Any ideas? Please leave a comment below, which will be published as soon as it has undergone moderation. As previously mentioned, I get a lot of spam coming through as apparent comments, though genuine feedback gets published within 24 hours of being submitted.

It is well known that I am a fan of Bristol Cars - the exclusive, bespoke (and hideously expensive) motor vehicles for ladies and gentlemen of taste and discretion. Bristol are renown for shunning publicity,  regarding hard hitting marketing as distasteful and vulgar. Opinion in the company seems to have moved somewhat with the times, however. They had a stand at the Canary Wharf Motor Expo last week. I went along for a gawk and regretted not having a camera with me. Before any smart aleck writes in with "Ah, but if you had a mobile phone, you would have been able to take photos with it". True, but every mobile phone photo I have ever seen is terrible. The CCD sensors in phones are so small, the lenses are so poor, and the end results so noisy, they are really not worth bothering with. Anyway, all four Bristol models were on display, and a Blenheim 3 luxury saloon was parked outside for test drives. A salesman was present, dressed in a navy blue blazer and beige slacks with razor sharp creases; his immaculate white shirt was set off nicely with a cravat. He was taking calls on his mobile phone - something of an anachronism, knowing Bristols' traditional old world image - I would have rather expected him to be using a bakelite scrambler field telephone. I can almost guarantee the chap would have answered to "Major" if called. Imagine a younger version of Terry Thomas and you would not be going very far wrong. Any reader of The Chap magazine would be advised to learn more about the company, who Chrysler Cars (the engine suppliers for Bristol) address correspondence to "The last outpost of the British Empire, London". It gets correctly delivered every time.

To give you an idea of their wares, below is a photo courtesy of Paul from the Bristol Owner's Club of a utterly stunning factory restored 1977 Bristol 412 Series 2 Zagato, and a unique one off commission - the only Blenheim 4 GS ever built, finished in blue.

You can see more photos of the Blenheim 4 here. You can see more photos of the immaculately restored 412 S2 Zagato here. All photos are the copyright of Paul Wilson.

I see that the mural originally from the side of the old Erith Swimming Baths that has been restored and relocated to the public space next to Blockbuster has been officially opened; the original artist who created the piece was invited along to the ceremony. You can read all about it on the News Shopper website here.

Now for a bit of fun; I for one never realised what great fans of American funk the North Koreans are. Watch the video below to see them wigging out to some classic funk grooves...


  1. Hugh: The 3 resturants you mentioned in this blog are all 3 better then your typical fast food chains. We have eaten at Ruby Tuesdays and have found the food quite good. When I walk by the Chipotle Mexican Grill located in our neighborhood and see diners eating outside I must say the food does look and smell pretty good. You must try them out when they get established over there.
    Hope this is helpful.
    Bob & Betty

  2. I've never eaten at a Chipotle Mexican Grill (sounds good!), but Ruby Tuesdays are pretty common near me. (I live in SE Michigan)

    They have a varied menu, mostly standard American resturant fare - burgers, BBQ ribs, pasta dishes, etc - most are decent (but not gourmet) and are resonably priced.

    But Taco Bell is my favorite! Not authentic Mexican food by any measure, but better than most fast food choices.

    I don't know if your Taco Bell will feature their 'Fresco' menu choices, but it's worth checking into - they're a little healthier and often better than the standard versions.

    P.S. Love your blog's name! (Monty Python rules!)

  3. Thanks Eric - your feedback is much appreciated. Your website looks great too! I am just reading all of your creative work. Are you OK for me to put a link to your site on the Maggot Sandwich?