Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tarmac crumble, no custard.

A rather more tranquil and dignified view taken by me recently on Erith Pier; it reflects a rather more pleasant aspect to the area than the picture I showed of the impromptu shrine last week. Anglers use the pier daily, and some hardy souls even camp overnight whilst trying to catch various sea fish. Locals stroll along it, and when the weather is clement, it can be a lovely, peaceful way to while away time. Erith Pier is the longest such structure on the River Thames, and is certainly one of the things that the area can be justly proud of. It would be nice to see the Council publicise and promote the pier to the residents of Bexley, as many people are entirely unaware of its' existence. On a complimentary note, there is going to be a clean up of the River Thames day organised by Thames 21, London's leading river based environmental charity. Local people can volunteer to help clear rubbish and maintain the river in a clean and environmentally friendly way. The event is scheduled to take place on Sunday 27th March; meet at Erith Riverside Gardens at 11am. The event is co-organised with local campaign group FORGE (Friends of Riverside Gardens Erith). Further details in the panel below, for your information.

I noticed in the week that a large sign has been erected close to the relatively recently opened McDonald's 24 hour drive through in Pettman Crescent, Plumstead, advertising that a new branch of Nice Floor / Nice Beds was shortly going to open there. Bearing in mind the company only opened their Erith store in the old Woolworth's building on the 27th December, that is quite an ambitious expansion. I hope things go well for them as a relatively new local business.

Whilst typing this weeks' entry to the Maggot Sandwich, I have had the radio on, and I have been listening to the excellent broadcasts from Laser Hot Hits on short wave. If you have a radio that can receive any of the short wave bands, do give them a listen - details here.

The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath has now opened for the 2011 visitor season. The house, built by William Morris, founder of the arts & crafts movement was completed in 1860. It is now owned by The National Trust. You can view its' website here. Conveniently it is only a couple of minutes' walk from the nearby Robin Hood & Little John.

Bexley Council Highways Department must have red faces; they spent several million pounds on having the length of Manor Road resurfaced in late May 2009, complete with a revolutionary new sound reducing top surface. You may recall I took some photos of the work, as it was carried out overnight. You can view the photo set on Flickr here. The expensive and time consuming work appears to have been for naught, as the surface has completely disintegrated in places, mostly adjacent to the bus stops on the road, as you can see in the photo above, that I took earlier this afternoon. My guess is that when the resurfacing was initially planned, the buses using the road were the relatively light single deck old 469 route. Not long afterwards, along came the route changes and the much heavier double deck 99's started using the road on their revised route and timetable. On top of this, all day, every weekday, Manor Road is subject to incessant use by innumerable heavy goods vehicles, which must give the road surface a real hammering. 

The photo above is a bit of a blast from the past. It was taken by me back in September 2005; it shows the interior of the Manor Fish Bar in Manor Road, scant months before the business was sold, and the classic 1950'a style mock marble and stainless steel interior was ripped out and the serving area extended - it may have been old, but it was meticulously maintained, and scrupulously clean. I had a gut feeling the place was shortly to change, and thought that I would take a few photos of the place for posterity. Back when the photo was taken, the place was excellent, serving huge, very fresh portions of fish and chips at very reasonable rates; the friendly owners would always ask me if I could wait a few minutes, which generally I could. They would then batter and fry a fresh piece of fish for me, cooked to order. Outstanding traditional British food (ironic, as the family were Iraqi refugees). I was sorry to see them sell the place and move on. The people who subsequently took the place over have taken the shop into a different direction; it mainly sells kebabs, burgers, chips and pizzas, with fried fish and individual pies as an after thought. The quality has suffered commensurately in my opinion, which is a real pity.

Metal thefts are increasing all around the country, nowhere more so than in and around Erith. I read in the News Shopper this week that some criminals were recently prosecuted for stealing cast iron drain covers in the borough. The thieving scumbags were prosecuted at Woolwich Crown Court. It is gratifying that the Police in Erith and North End are cracking down on the huge number of illegal and unlicenced scrap dealers, many of whom are outright criminals. On some days, around one in three vehicles in Erith seems to be a scrap lorry. The Police apparently stopped 100 scrap vehicles in a local crack down, and of those, 36 were prosecuted for metal theft, not having a scrap licence, driving whilst using a sodding mobile phone, and various drugs possession offences - which would seem to back up my theory. You cannot tell me that the authorities would grant licences to all of them - especially when you see the micro browed Visigoths in the cab, who generally look like they have stepped straight out of a Police ID line up. The news story here details how these parasites are being tracked, stopped and are having their collars felt. I just checked the Metropolitan Police Crime Mapping website, and currently Erith only rates an "Average" for reported crime - see the map below for the details (click for a larger view).

The famous Europa Gym, currently based in Fraser Road will shortly be moving to its' new home in Maiden Lane, Crayford in time for the Olympics. Personally I could not give a stuff about the 2012 games, but I do hope the Gym has success in its' new location. You can read more about the story here.

I was standing at the bus stop opposite Woolwich Arsenal Station in Friday afternoon, waiting for a bus to take me to Dad's nursing home. A smartly suited gent was peering at the bus timetable; he had a sheaf of folders under one arm, and a laptop bag hanging from a strap on his shoulder. I caught his eye and said "You need the 244 or 380 bus for Belmarsh prison". He thanked me, then, his curiosity piqued, he asked "How did you know that's where I needed to go?" I pointedly looked at his group of folders with the CPS logo printed on them, and then around the area - he got the hint. It is not normal to see besuited people in Woolwich Town Centre, unless they are either lawyers or the accused - and in the latter case, the suit tends to be a shell suit.

You may recall that last week I wrote about the 30 anniversary of the launch of the Sinclair ZX-81 computer. I reckon someone at the BBC must read the Maggot Sandwich, because I notice that all of a sudden, the BBC News website is saying the same thing, only a week after I published the story. As feared, my venerable Asus EeePC netbook died during the week; the internal hardwired 20Gb SSD drive had a hissy fit and would not boot. I was thinking about purchasing a replacement netbook; something along the lines of the Acer D255 dual core Atom processor  machine. I found a pretty good deal at Argos, the only down side being that it would have come with Windows 7 Starter Edition pre-installed, along with the usual supply of crapware that gets bundled with pretty much all new Windoze PC's these days. It is ironic that it is  cheaper to buy a new machine with 'Doze installed, than it is to buy one with no OS installed at all (if you can even find one nowadays - even the specialist independent outlets have mostly been cowed into submission by the Beast of Redmond). Whatever; I would be hosing Windows completely, and installing Mint Linux for a DRM and malware free computing experience. Before I headed off to Argos with my debit card in tow, I tried using GParted - a Linux based partition editor on a boot CD to have a poke around inside the SSD drive on the old Asus; It became apparent that the Master Boot Record had become corrupted, so I took the second, removable 16 Gb data SSD from its' slot and then ran another open source boot CD called DBan to zap and burn what was left; I will then reinstall Mint and see what happens. A couple of hours work, and a new netbook would only be around three hundred pounds, but the inveterate tinkerer in me wants to get the old beast going again. I don't get much chance to "get my hands dirty" fixing computer hardware at work these days - my role is more IT service management oriented, so a chance to relive the old days is sometimes to be welcomed.

I realised recently that I had not featured a local company for a while, so this week I am now rectifying this. Abbey Car Breakers is one of the largest breakers yards in the region; they have hundreds of vehicles being stripped for spares, which makes both economic and environmental sense. The place is organised like a giant supermarket for used car parts, you can walk around and pick the pre - stripped bits off the shelf; body panels and accessories are available too. Quite often, if you have a fairly common vehicle, they will be able to supply the panel in the correct colour - to match with the rest of the car and remove the need for a respray. They have a website here, though I would advise you to treat the current vehicle stock list with some caution - it looks like it has not been updated for a very long time indeed.

The video this week is interesting; it features the owner of an American engineering company called Lage Manufacturing who have produced a fully working "real" version of the M41-A Pulse Rifle, as used by the Colonial Marines in the classic movie "Aliens". It is not a blank firing film prop, but a proper working weapon. You can see their M41-A web page with additional photographs and some longer and more detailed video clips here. Do leave a comment below, which should get published within 24 hours of your submission - I have to manually moderate comments due to the actions of malicious spammers.

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