Sunday, October 03, 2010

New life for Erith Woolworths?

Above is a photo I took of three tugs moored off Erith Pier a few weeks ago. It was taken using my 18-200mm Nikon zoom lens, and the wide angle view makes quite a dramatic image. It was taken very early on a Sunday morning, hence the slightly unusual light.

The Maggot Sandwich has received a record number of hits in the last week; this is almost certainly due to the publicity I received from last weeks' Online Unconference, and the coverage I received from Sarah Hartley of the Guardian. Suffice to say that my Flickr photo site also has been taking quite a hammering. Some of the photos have appeared (under licence) on a few other websites, which is nice. I don't charge for their use, just require that I get a credit for their use. Check out my photos by clicking here.

Other local information websites are Erith Town and Barnehurst Online - do have a look. There is also a very rich source of information of hyper local community websites available at the Openly Local web resource - click here to see more. You can also view the newly created Erith Watch neighbourhood watch website whilst you are at it.

News just in - the old Woolworth's shop site in Erith Town Centre is about to re - open as a carpet warehouse. Nice Floor Ltd have been granted a ten year lease on the building, and the change of business use has been granted by Bexley Council planning department - you can read the details if you click here.

Back when the Woolworth's chain closed after going bankrupt in January 2009, stand up comic musician Mitch Benn recorded a song, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4's topical comedy programme "The Now Show". Some bright spark put some visuals to the audio track and then posted it on YouTube - you can see the results below:

One thing that seems to plague the whole local area, which so far no - one seems to have mentioned is the huge number of unlicenced and illegal scrap dealers that prowl the highways and scavenge for metals. Don't get me wrong - I think the concept of recycling used and surplus to requirement materials is an excellent endeavour that is to be applauded; it is the execution that leaves a lot to be desired. When my new central heating was installed, the existing radiators were the only part of the system not to be replaced with new hardware. The radiators were surveyed and found to be in a good condition, so instead they were refurbished and power cleaned. This meant that the radiator at the lowest level in the house had to be removed from the heating circuit, whilst the connecting pipes were attached to a power flush pump and filter which cleaned out the plumbing and removed several kilos of metal oxides and accumulated grot. The missing radiator was also cleaned and treated with corrosion inhibitor. It was then placed on a large dust sheet under the lounge window in the front garden. Within a period of a little under two hours, SEVEN scrap dealers had tried to take the radiator away, despite the fact is was on private land, and it was patently obvious that heating engineers were working on site. One even got quite shirty when I told him he could not have it. The engineers from Swale Heating told me this was quite a common occurrence - they even said that on occasion, illegal scrap dealers will follow their marked van around, like bluebottles buzzing around a particularly juicy turd. 

The problem with the unlicenced dealers is also that they often are also guilty of fly tipping - a particular problem locally; Appold Street in Erith is a frequent victim; I have seen all manner of builders' rubble, old fridges and worn out car tyres (see the photo above for evidence) dumped there in the past. This is despite a very prominent sign warning of up to £50,000 in fines for anyone caught carrying out this very act. I have been told by a contact in the local Police that it is nigh on impossible to secure a conviction for fly tipping, and the perpetrators know it, hence why they are so bold.

The area is now the home to a really top class professional graphic design and consultancy practice. You would expect such a company to be holed up in some loft conversion in Southwark, or in one of the whizzy office complexes in Soho, but instead they have chosen to set up in the rather less rarified atmosphere of Erith. You can contact Smallcorn Associates by clicking here.

I read recently that classic mid 80's U.S TV series The Equaliser is about to be remade as a big budget Hollywood movie, starring Russell Crowe as former secret agent Robert McCall, who now works as a private eye / vigilante in down town New York city. Did you know that the original series music was written and performed by Stewart Copeland, the former drummer of the Police? He was an appropriate choice, as his father was a former CIA Director, and his Mother worked for British Intelligence during the war. Here is a YouTube video of the opening and closing credits for the show. I think this is one of the best pieces of theme music allied to great visuals for any programme from the period. It is claustrophobic, threatening and very dark. Actor Edward Woodward as the central character Robert McCall was inspired casting - a real hard customer you would not want to meet in a dark alley if you were a bad guy. And he drove a Jaguar XJ-6 Mark III - class.

I see that the Yacht pub in Long Lane, Bexleyheath gets a very good review from the News Shopper's Pub Spy. You can read the review by clicking here. I will hopefully be giving it a try in the not too distant future and will report back accordingly. The Yacht used to be a great barn of a place, serving little but over chilled lager and nothing but toasted sandwiches and chips by the way of food. By the sound of things, this has now completely changed - there is an extensive menu of hot food and a number of cask conditioned real ales. I do these things so that you don't have to.

On another pub related note; the Cross Keys in Erith High Street is still closed after losing its' licence recently. I have passed the place on a number of occasions, and the building would still seem to be occupied; at least, lights have been on in the ground floor bar area, though the doors appeared closed and bolted. I surmise that it may be some time before the owners of the building regain possession in order to breathe some new life into what could potentially be a great venue.

I notice that drink and snack dispensing machines are now appearing on the platforms of all the railway stations on the Dartford - Greenwich - London Bridge line. At places like Erith or Plumstead station, where the passengers are either heading to work from home, or vice versa; I really don't see the point. People don't spend time hanging around, changing between trains as part of some longer overall journey. I predict that this small money making enterprise may well bite the operators on the bum. I spend a lot of time at railway stations on this line, and I have yet to see anyone using one of these machines. It is somewhat redolent of a period in the 1980's when British Rail ran a series of fast food outlets called Casey Jones Burgers. The restaurants were located at the major rail stations such as London Bridge and Charing Cross. The burgers were quite indescribably vile; they certainly bore absolutely no resemblance to the paragon of great burger - ness featured in the advert above. They were actually greasy, gristly, cold on the outside, and lava hot in the middle so that molten cheese scalded the roof of your mouth like dairy based napalm (I think they microwaved the burgers). Rumours abounded when the Casey Jones opened at Charing Cross, all of the feral pigeons that plagued the station concourse suddenly disappeared. It was all very coincidental. Fortunately Casey Jones did not last too long, and eventually Burger King took over their station locations.

The closing video is of great interest; it illustrates the blurred line between security and the loss of personal privacy in a novel manner, involving an 8 - foot alien, some city centre CCTV cameras, and some rather bemused Police officers. See what you think, and as always please feel free to post a comment below.


  1. Best video so far Hugh. So at least we now know that when aliens land on the planet the great British bobby will go and nick him.

    And any funny marlarkey and the cops get out their trunctions!

    Makes you feel a lot safer walking the streets at night not having to worry about aliens...

  2. My thoughts exactly! I hope the Chinese lessons are going well too. Great to hear from you by the way.

  3. Hugh, Enjoyed the video about Woolworths. As a kid my Mom used to go into the City on Saturday to get the weekly groceries and we would always stop in F.W. Woolworths, back then it was called a "FIVE & DIME"store as a lot of items were that price. Sorry to hear they are closing up in the U.K., they closed up over here years ago.
    Bob F.

  4. The CCTV is a pointless video that raises more of a question about people being prepared to waste police time than about personal prviacy. Talk about pointing out the bleedin' obvious - bloke in a weird costume wanders round town, somewhat erratically too, in the middle of the night is bound to attract the attention of the police. If he did it outside your house I don't think you'd be happy - but its high japes of course! Seems very inconsistent with your presentation of the dark intro to The Equaliser where ordinary looking blokes (Chavs? They're not allowed to have japes I suppose?) are shown to be incredibly threatening by just walking in the same direction as a woman (all male chavs are rapists??) or folding their arms in a threatening manner!