Sunday, January 16, 2011


As you will see from the screen capture above, the story about the ice damage and repeated neglect of Erith station has been picked up by the News Shopper. You can read the original article in full if you click here. Contrary to the claims by the rail authorities in the article, no works have been undertaken to date - the place is still falling apart, and covered by metal fences and warning tape. In an allied article, the News Shopper also highlights something I have long suspected. Oyster card users are being systematically overcharged for using the system. Up to £60 million may have been wrongly charged to  Greater London travellers in the year 2010 alone. You can read more about the scandalous situation here.

I have spent a fair portion of this week huddled indoors, wearing multiple layers of clothing whilst waiting for a series of heating engineers to turn up. My three month old, top of the range Worcester Bosch 25Si central heating boiler committed hari kiri some time on Monday afternoon. I got home from Dad visiting, ready to remotely log on to the office network for my evenings' work. The house was cold and quiet - the boiler wasn't doing its' thing. I checked the electrics and the service manual that came with the kit, and it immediately became apparent that it was very ill indeed. I called Swale Heating, who got an engineer out on site pretty quickly. After a few minutes prodding it and sucking through his teeth (in the way all really experienced engineers do - not because it helps, but more because the punters expect it) he pronounced that he was unable to do anything, as it appeared to be an electrical fault. He arranged for an electrician to call the next day; fortunately my office were very understanding, and I was able to work from home, which was a mixed bag, as Pewty Acres became bitterly cold. All in all, it took four engineer visits over the course of three miserable and stressful days before the problem was finally solved by a visit from a specialist from the manufacturer. It turned out that the circuit breaker that fed electricity to the boiler had gone bad, sending way too much current into the boilers' control circuitry. An internal fuse in the boiler did blow, but not before the logic board on the main burner fan had fried, effectively killing the boiler. All now fixed.

I see that the old Time FM studios on Basildon Road, just off Bostall Hill have now been taken over by a Londis mini market; the building had been empty and unused since the local radio station closed down in April 2009. It was a pity that it had to go, but to be honest it was a pretty shambolic affair. Presenters crashed the vocals on tracks with tedious regularity, left the mike open during records so that studio sounds could be heard, and generally ran the outfit in an unprofessional manner. I am also glad to note that the Alice Cooper breakfast show on Planet Rock is now no more; to be honest, I have no particular gripe with Mr. Furnier as a radio presenter; the problem was that the show was syndicated to radio stations around the world, and as such had to avoid specific references that might tie the show to a particular city, or indeed country. This made the shows bland and to my mind rather anodyne.

The trailer below is for a relatively obscure and little known sitcom produced by BBC Scotland. It is called Gary: Tank Commander and follows the exploits of the eponymous Gary and his mates in the fictional 104th tank regiment, both at their home base in Scotland, and on deployment in Afghanistan. It is only viewable in England via BBC iPlayer, or by scrolling through the BBC regions on Sky, and hunting out the Scottish content. Basically Gary: Tank Commander is a bit like an updated version of "Carry On Sergeant" for the YouTube generation, and is just as camp and silly. The skilful use of real army bases and equipment stretches the budget of at least £3.50 an episode. It is definitely worth a try, though it will not suit all tastes. You can also catch the latest episode by clicking here.

Troubled Erith bar Potion has been closed all weekend; a sign on the door states that they will open again as normal on Monday, but it seems very strange that a venture that is patently struggling should then close during potentially its' busiest time of the week. It was not as if the place was being privately hired for a wedding or other event. The building was locked and dark. The owners of Potion have still not complied with the planning regulations, after having blatantly flouted the law when they ripped out the old Victorian frontage of the building and replaced it with modern plate glass - all within a legally designated conservation area. I also note that their website has not been updated since the 1st December 2009, when the place first opened. Could this be the last we see of the enterprise?

I don't often use the Maggot Sandwich as a forum to heap praise on a person or organisation, but there is a clear reason for me to do so this time. The recent building and improvement work carried out on Pewty Acres was project managed and undertaken by Northumberland Heath based company PJ Plastics. They were absolutely fantastic; my requirements, including a bespoke replacement for my unusual mini conservatory that links my kitchen and living room were something a couple of companies baulked at quoting for, as the work was difficult and time consuming. Not so PJ Plastics. Here is a direct quotation from an Email I sent their works manager earlier this week. I think it pretty much says it all:

Hi Phil,
Just a quick note to let you know a cheque for the outstanding balance was posted to you this morning. I would like to say that I am extremely impressed with your company and the quality of your service.
The installers were brilliant. They were polite, helpful and worked like Trojans through some really horrible weather. Each day they only stopped for 15 minutes for lunch and then carried on. Their attention to detail, cleanliness and efficiency was well "over and above the call of duty".
Due to the terrible weather, the installation overran onto Saturday. Unfortunately I had to go to work, but the guys let themselves in, finished the work to a very high standard, and left the house immaculately clean when they were done.
I cannot overstate how highly I rate your service. Please feel free to use my comments in any future advertising you run.

Building work continues apace at Plumstead railway station, but to date I have been unable to discover exactly what is going on. I will ask at the ticket office tomorrow, if I get the chance. I recently posted a query on a well respected Plumstead community forum here.

I am extremely glad to see that the EDSAC rebuild project at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park has got the green light, and that £250,000 has been raised to rebuild this ground breaking early computer. Much of the credit has to go to computer scientist Herman Hauser, one of the fathers of the BBC Micro in the 1980's. He's portrayed in the clip from the recent BBC historical comedy drama "Micro Men" (see above) as the chap in the roll necked sweater who knows where exactly his fork is. EDSAC was a very early computer, using valves and mercury delay lines to store data. It led to the very first commercial computer, LEO - which was an acronym for Lyons Electronic Office, which ran stock control, payroll and many other "modern" functions, way back in the mid 1950's. If it had not been for some poor management and business decisions, Silicon Valley might well have been in the UK rather than California.

Here is an Easter Egg.

The final clip this week is a tutored beer tasting with James May at the Fuller's brewery tap; here he is sampling my own all - time favourite brew - Fuller's ESB special bitter. Nectar in a glass. My own "death row meal" would be an extra spicy Chicken Tikka Dhansak, Mushroom Rice and Garlic Naan, washed down with a few pints of ESB. Enough said. Please feel free to leave comments below, as always.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing Gary: Tank Commander to my Comedy table. Not a stunning program but still better than most of the BBC comedy output recently (Come Fly With Me?, anyone watching it? Nope didn't think so). Anyway I've managed to record some episodes and even downloaded the App' which is quite amusing (recipe for making toast, a huge soundboard and a magic ball thingy).