Monday, December 27, 2010

Like buses...

The Maggot Sandwich normally only gets updated just once per week, but for a change, here is a second round of musings from me. It is a bit like waiting for a bus; you wait ages, then two turn up at once.

As you can see from the photograph above, the main entrance to Erith Station is both surrounded and blocked by prefabricated metal fencing. The only way in and out of the station is through the side entrance, next to the cab office on the left side of the building as you face it. This has been the situation for something over three weeks now. The cause of this is masonry and rotten wood falling from the soffit area under the roof line. Apparently there were several near misses where lumps of material dropped down and almost hit passing travellers.

You can see some of the damage in the photo below:

My guess is that the decoration and maintenance carried out to the station building a while back was merely cosmetic; the condition of the soffit looks completely rotten - this can only be described as deliberate and calculated long term neglect - it just would not have occurred in a few months since the decoration was done. My guess is the contractors just painted over the rot, hoped for the best, and collected a fat cheque at the end of it. It would seem that water has managed to make ingress into the wood and brick, where it has then expanded as it has frozen, causing the damage you can see in the photo above (click for a larger view).

I am always keen to publicise and promote new businesses when they start up in Erith; the latest newcomer to Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is NiceFloor / NiceBeds, which opened today in the old Woolworth's shop building next to Erith Health Centre. I went along early in the afternoon, in order to take a few photos on their opening day, and before the natural light started fading. I had taken a few exterior shots with my Nikon D300 when a well dressed chap came out of the shop - I think he might have thought I was from the local press, as my camera is a professional one of the type the paparazzi often use. I explained about the Maggot Sandwich, and my self appointed role as Erith's local online diarist. He could not have been nicer or more welcoming. I was invited into the shop to take a few photos, most of which you can see on my Flickr site here.  They are a small company with a branch inside the Morrison's supermarket in Thamesmead, and nearly all of the staff are local. Looking round, their range of carpets and beds seems great, and the prices looked competitive. I hope that they do well; they will certainly be top of my list  for a quotation when I come to replace the knackered floor coverings in my kitchen and bathroom, early in the New Year.

I was told that the shop sign background had suffered because of the recent spell of bad weather - apparently the painter did not realise you should not be applying black gloss enamel over the old red Woolworth's sign when the temperature was minus five degrees, and heavy snow was falling. I gather it will be re-done once the weather improves.

Incidentally, you might not be aware, but this blog is officially part of the current Governments' "big society" project, although I am completely apolitical and unaligned with any party or pressure group. The Maggot Sandwich is a member of the Government sponsored Openly Local web directory, as well as being part of Networked Neighbourhoods and also work in collaboration with The Plumstead Integration Project, as another local website.

I have not had a really good whinge for what seems like an age. So here comes one. MoneyGram money transfer. What a Medieval way to send money around the planet, and seems to be operated by a bunch of half crazed Visigoths. The system is out of date, clunky, expensive and potentially subject to serious misuse and money laundering. I had occasion this morning to need to send a substantial amount of cash quickly and securely out of Europe. The method suggested was by MoneyGram money transfer. The problem being that when one goes onto the MoneyGram website to try and perform a transfer, you can only use their secure servers to send money from a named bank account or debit card if you are a citizen of the USA. Any other nationalities get to fill in the online form, only to get a message upon completion stating that the online service is unavailable out side of the U.S. Being thus thwarted, I got the bus down to the Nisa superstore opposite the old Nordenfeldt pub building  at the other end of Erith, as they were listed as a MoneyGram agent. Problem - the shop has recently changed hands, and the extremely helpful and efficient manager told me that they had applied for a change in agency details with Moneygram at the beginning of October; it is now almost January and the change has not taken place, despite him chasing them repeatedly. He phoned the Moneygram support line and got me the details of a couple of other local agents, despite making nothing for himself - what a nice man he was. I then hoofed it around to West Street and an African internet cafe that is also a money transfer agency. What a strange experience I had, as soon as I set my steel toecapped boots in the place. The chap on the reception desk was friendly, but when I asked about sending money, two rather dodgy looking blokes came out of a back room and looked me over; there was then an exchange in some African language between them, and they disappeared back from whence they came. I asked the receptionist what they two had been saying. He grinned and told me that they thought I was either an undercover cop for the Fraud Squad, or that I was an agent from Revenue & Customs. He then said that they had asked him to ask me for my debit card details (as if I would let those out!) and that they would see what they could do. At this point I did what News of the World journalists apparently do, and made my excuses and left. In desperation I then trudged past Erith Riverside Gardens towards Morrison's. I was not expecting Erith Post Office to be open, as it is a bank holiday, but open it was, and also a MoneyGram agency. I went in and spoke to the guy behind the counter. I then was dropped a bombshell. MoneyGram only accept cold, hard cash. No credit or debit cards, and no direct bank to bank transfers. It was like something from the 1950's! Nevertheless I managed to extract the rather large wad of cash from the hole in the wall at Morrison's, and then returned to the Post Office, where I then had to fill in a huge paper form, complete with carbon copies. The teller then entered the information into a terminal that looked something similar to a teletype machine from the mid 70's. A lot of electronic grinding and farting noises then were generated, and it spat out a piece of paper that looked like it should have accompanied a Sinclair ZX thermal printer circa 1982. The transfer was complete. The system is archaic,  obscure, inefficient, expensive and badly run. Granted, it is relatively secure, requiring a three element key to redeem the money at the recipients' end - A form of ID (driving licence or passport), the unique 8 number transaction reference number, and a one - off password. The latter two parts of the key have to be given by the sender to the recipient, and there is always the danger of a "man in the middle" intercept. If the whole thing was properly web enabled over a 256 bit SSL / TLS encrypted transport, it would make the procedure cheaper and more secure, no doubt leading to greater profits led by greater confidence.

The video this time around is another plug for another independent local business - the Pet Care Veterinary Surgery. I don't take a penny for this - it is all just for the benefit of Erith locals.


  1. Sad the maintenance to Erith Station has been sub standard - but be glad your original building still exists! Ours at Abbey wood was rebuilt - totally out of keeping with its surroundings - and the Crossrail station will probably look even more out of place (not that anyone around here - apart from estate agents perhaps - wants Crossrail anyway)

  2. Hi Nearbytree, thanks very much for your comments and feedback. You are of course completely correct - nevertheless I am raising the matter with Linda Piper of the News Shopper - she may be able to do some digging concerning the state of Erith Station.

    On a separate matter, I looked at your profile and I note that you are a Carer. I run an organisation to support carers - our website is available on the link below - do feel free to join up!