Sunday, June 05, 2011


The photo above shows one of the residential tower blocks facing onto the River Thames adjacent to the Erith Riverside Gardens - one of the nicest parts of the town. Click for a larger view.

A campaign to publicise the London Borough of Bexley is under way, with input from both David Evennett (Conservative) and Teresa Pearce (Labour). The idea is to encourage tourists to visit the Borough and to appreciate the amenities in area. Teresa Pearce was interviewed last week in the Bexley Times - she said about Erith:

 “As local historians will know Erith played a part during the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 47). Henry is believed to have spent a night here on his way to France. Part of his naval dockyard was founded at Erith, and his famous warship, Henri Grace à Dieu or ‘Great Harry’, was fitted out here in 1515. “Erith has a rich and varied history that is rarely discussed or celebrated. There is a fascinating history of smuggling in the 17th and 18th century, as well as the more recently uncovered role in the East India Companies trading and I am sure that many people moving to the area do not realise that the reason there are roads around the “pom pom ” area called Friday and Crusoe is because the real life mariner Alexander Selkirk, upon whom Robinson Crusoe was based, came back to UK after his shipwreck arriving at Erith on October 14, 1711".

Some wag has set up a website debating the visual attractiveness of all British members of Parliament. Viewers can vote for the MP they deem to be the best looking. Currently David Evennett is rated as the 527th most attractive MP, and Teresa Pearce scored the 316th on the list. For some strange reason, the Conservatives seem to have a higher proportion of good looking MP's of both sexes, according to the results of the opinion poll. Personally I could not give a stuff what they look like, as long as they do as they are bid, keep their fingers out of the till and don't go bed hopping. You can see the rating website by clicking here.

On another note, I see that the recent fad for 3D films is fading fast; the recent "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" has done over 70% of its' business on the 2D version. People seem to have already grown tired of shelling out extra money to see the 3D version of the film. Many report feeling ill after a few minutes of watching 3D. I think that the current vogue for 3D will go the same way that it did in the 1950's, and be seen as a strange curio in a few years' time. Sales of 3D televisions are poor; Sony reported last month that units shipped had not met their projections. In general, 3D technology is moving into the mainstream about as quickly as a sloth on Valium. If you are thinking about investing in a 3D television, do yourself a favour and wait a few months. You will either change your mind when you see how few other people are embracing it, or you will maintain your delusion and pick up a 3D telly at next to no cost as no-one else wants it. Either way you will be onto a winner. 

Another technology story that has not yet broken in the mainstream media is that 4th generation mobile phones will interfere with Freeview TV reception. Several hundred thousand viewers may need to change to cable or satellite in order to receive their signals, due to a clash in frequencies between 4G and certain Freeview TV channels. You can read a detailed analysis of the situation here.

Mobile phones have made the news again in another context; last week the World Health Organisation announced that the use of mobile phones could possibly be linked to certain types of cancer. The landmark WHO study includes some evidence that those who regularly hold long conversations on handsets are at increased risk of developing potentially fatal brain tumours. Its findings may lead the Government to update its health advice on the safety of mobile phones, which has remained unchanged for four years despite increased usage in Britain particularly among children. It was known that radio frequency radiation emitted by mobile phones is absorbed by the body, much of it by the head when the handset is held to the ear. Of the studies that have been published individually showed increased risk of glioma - the most common type of brain tumour - among those who talked on a mobile for about 30 minutes a day for 10 years. Many who developed the tumours saw them grow on the same side of the head as they held their handsets.Though the scientific debate is heated and far from resolved, there are multiple reports, mostly out of Europe's premier research institutions, of cellular telephone use being linked to "brain ageing," brain damage, early-onset Alz­heimer's, senility, DNA damage, and even sperm die-offs (many men, after all, keep their mobile phones in their trouser pockets or attached at the hip). In September 2007, the European Union's environmental watchdog, the European Environment Agency, warned that mobile phone technology "could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking, and lead in petrol". As I have written before, I think it is likely in the years to come that observers will be as incredulous as to our current use of mobile technology as we now are on those doctors who recommended their patients take up smoking to relieve respiratory complaints in the 1920's and 1930's. Mobile phones are the cigarettes of the 21st century - don't forget that you read it here.

On a more sociological tone, am I the only one that has noticed that when in public, 90% of people are texting, reading stuff on their mobile, or listening to music? It seems that their awareness of the outside world is minimal at best. It is what the Royal Marines call a "lack of situational awareness" I cannot begin to count the number of times I have seen people walk out into the path of an oncoming vehicle because they were transfixed by their phone. If you don't believe me, pick any day and visit Woolwich Arsenal station; stand outside by the road and just watch. I can guarantee that within ten minutes you will see a close call dangerous enough to make your hair stand on end. Additionally there is some evidence that children are less independent and able to think for themselves - at the slightest problem they are able to use their phone to phone home to their parents for advice, or to come and pick them up. It used to be a case of having to think on your feet - which builds character and independence, but no more.

Following last weeks' feature on the Erith Art Trail, here is one of the fixed public exhibits. The photo above (click for a larger view) shows the Earth Core Columns by Gary Drostle and Onya McCausland: This series of five sculptures were inspired by the archaeology and geology of Erith, and in particular the finds discovered during the construction of Bronze Age Way, next to which the art works are sited. The designs featured on each column include words and art-work created by children and young people, snapshots of their personal history as Erith residents and drawings of fossils and finds. Quite. They are relatively inoffensive, though some drivers have complained that they are a safety hazard, as they block the sight lines between Bexley Road and Queen's Road. I think the jury is out on that one.

One of the big local stories this week has been over the issue of Morrison's bidding to extend their opening hours from 8am - 10pm to 7am - 11pm. Local residents, the Police, and even the staff of the supermarket are absolutely resolute in their opposition to the change. The issue was summarised very succinctly in an article in the News Shopper earlier this week; here is an extract from that piece:

SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons looks unlikely to get planning permission to extend the opening hours of its Erith superstore. Bexley Council’s planning committee is set to refuse the company’s planning application at its next meeting, after deciding it would cause too much disturbance to people living nearest the store, off Erith High Street. The company wanted to open in the morning at 7am instead of 8am and close at 11pm instead of 10pm, six days a week. People living in nearby Crescent Road, Erith, sent a petition to the committee opposing the change and claiming the noise and would disturb their sleep, especially as customers would be arriving before the store opened at 7am and leaving after it closed at 11pm. They said the proposed new closing time would encourage anti-social behaviour late into the evening, and that the existing opening hours already affected their peace and quiet.

What the article does not mention is that most of the staff are opposed to the changes too - many of them have to rely on public transport to get to and from work, and if they have to get a bus or train at around 11.30pm, the local services are near to close down for the night - it only takes one cancelled bus or train to mean that they would be stranded. The issue of violence and late night crime also causes many to worry. The Council have not announced a final decision on the matter at the time of writing. I will provide an update when the information becomes available.

Oyin's Nigerian takeaway in Pier Road has been closed for refurbishment for the last few weeks; notices on the outside now indicate that an application has been made for the place to be converted into a proper sit down restaurant, and an application for a drinks licence has been made. I think it will be a good thing to get a few amenities that open in the evening in Erith. The place is a bit of a dormitory town; once the clock hits 5.30, most residents go indoors and that's it for the night. Apart from the drive through takeaways and Morrison's, everything else then shuts. I have said on numerous previous occasions that a proper restaurant would be a good thing for the area. All Oyin's now need to do is to widen its' appeal to those other than the local Nigerian community. Press adverts, a published menu, flyers and a discount opening week might then encourage others to try their fare. This is the approach that was taken in the 1960's by the Bangladeshi community that opened "Indian" restaurants that soon became enormously popular with British customers. The owners realised that in order to make decent money, they would have to appeal to those outside of their own community. I think this may well hold true for the African restaurants that are appearing in and around London. Come on Oyin's - invite the whole of Erith to try Nigerian cooking - you might end up making a pile of money, and gaining a whole new customer base.

One aspect of my past that many are not aware of is that I used to be a keen (and pretty good) full bore pistol shooter; before the 1997 total hand gun ban (which I am not about to debate here - it is now ancient history, and anyway has had absolutely no effect on the number of firearms crimes being committed in the UK - something for another time; suffice to say that no broad and well informed public debate was ever undertaken). Anyway, between 1993 and 1997 I was the proud owner of a Glock 17 9mm semi automatic pistol, along side my Class One Firearms Certificate. I was a keen member of a pistol shooting club based at  the (then) Stone Lodge Ranges close to the Dartford Tunnel. The photo below shows me at target practice. You can see that the guns' slide is fully retracted on the rail for a few milliseconds, as I had just fired a round - you can see the brass case flying through the air, just above my wrist, frozen in motion by the camera. To the observer, the cycling of the slide was almost impossible to see, as it happened so very quickly. I was shooting at paper targets 10 meters away. You might think I was being a bit of a wimp, wearing ear defenders. Most people have only seen guns in Hollywood movies, and their preconceptions are based on this. 1) hand guns are LOUD. I mean painfully deafening in close quarters. 2) Car doors are proof against incoming rounds. NO. The only parts of a car which will give you any protection from incoming fire are the engine block and the brake disks - even a low powered .22 bullet will go straight through a car door and out the other site, barely slowing. 3) Hand guns are easy to use - NO - at least, not at first. It takes quite a few training sessions to get someone to be able to shoot with a degree of consistency, and to ensure that a full understanding of range and firearm safety procedures. Forget Hollywood, and their misleading depiction of firearms. You can see a detailed photo of a Glock 17 pistol by clicking here. You can read an explanation of the UK political position relating to firearms by clicking here.

The popular press have been writing much about the forthcoming new computer operating system to be released by Google, called Google Chrome OS. I have been using an early version of the operating system on an old netbook computer for some time, and it is pretty impressive. You do however need to have an "always on" WiFi connection, as all the applications are web based, and your data is stored on the cloud. Don't for one minute think that Google have created a new computer OS from scratch - far from it. What they have done is take the kernel of the tried and tested Linux operating system, then bound their Chrome web browser on top of it, with some pretty nifty coding to knit everything together. You can watch an explanatory video about it below.


  1. Hey Hugh, didnt know you used shoot at Stone, used to go there with my dad, he only really shoots muzzel loaders now and i very active at Bisley.

  2. Massive flashbacks - the Stone Lodge photos are of the day Hugh & I went shooting (I have the ones of me here somehwere). We were even taking on 10-pin skittles!

    Also good memories of the Crossed Keys - we sat in the garden with a scanner drinking beer and listening to the funniest things in the world. I would buy it just for the memories - if I had £300k! Great stuff Arthur P. Steve

  3. Ahhhh salad days at Stone Lodge. I shot with the Waltham Forest Pistol Club full bore section once a month there before the pistol ban. We treated the day there as a special treat. The range had it's eccentrics, just as Bisley does and was a great day out for all. Because many different clubs used the ranges, it provided a fine way for shooters to network.