Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rico. Oh dear.

A photo taken a couple of years ago of the Cross Keys pub, with a small group of remarkably "fresh faced" drinkers by the door. As I wrote last week, the building was put up for auction last Wednesday by a company called Network Auctions, after its' enforced closure after the landlord was unable to maintain an orderly house. Shortly before the sale was due to begin, the vendors suddenly pulled the pub from the sale. I do not know the circumstances behind the withdrawal, but it does rather sound as if a buyer had stepped in from behind the scenes. I just hope that it is not Tesco, hoping to open a Metro style shop in the building. On reflection I don't think this is very likely, as the giant Erith Morrison's is literally just around the corner. Mystery surrounds the status of the building at present; as soon as new details become available, I will post an update.

I am a civil libertarian; I do however like to see people obey rules. This does not contradict my personal philosophy of “do what you like, just as long as it does not harm others”. Most rules and laws are put in place primarily to prevent harm to others (okay, there are a lot of exceptions to this, and many barmy laws, but the principle is there). What I find difficult to have understand or accept is the ruling that it is illegal to smoke tobacco or drink alcohol on public transport, or at train stations, including the open air parts of the buildings. OK. The law is there, but it is just not enforced. Daily I see people smoking on the platforms of railway stations, and I could not begin to count the number of people drinking strong lager whilst on the bus or train. If you enact a law, you should enforce it. If you cannot or will not enforce the law, it is worthless and should be repealed. As a non smoker, I find cigarette smoke repulsive, and have found the smoking ban to be a boon; having said that, I feel that a balance needs to be made to avoid alienating smokers (who, after all seem to have a well developed sense of civic duty – contributing heavily to the Exchequer, and then being so considerate as to die early and avoid bed blocking in a hospital or nursing home). As for drinking on buses and trains - there is a paradox. It is technically illegal, yet if you travel on a Virgin Pendolino train within the boundaries of Greater London, their hostess trollies sell cans of lager and cider.

Walking through Bexleyheath town centre yesterday, I noticed that the long gestation of the Caribbean Kitchen has finally ended, and the venue has finally opened. I was sceptical that it would ever open – beset as it has with delays and vandalism. It is apparent that the venture is being run on a shoestring. When I sauntered past the place late on Saturday morning, the venue was empty save for a lone woman behind the bar, polishing glasses. The Caribbean Kitchen serves Afro Caribbean dishes based on BBQ chicken, rice and vegetables. Directly opposite their enterprise is a brand new Nando's with a slick, tasteful restaurant serving Afro style grilled chicken, rice and vegetables. Whilst I normally always support independent local businesses, I think that only one of these places will be open in six months – and I don't see the Nando's closing. At 11.30am it was already nearly half full of diners. I don't think the backers of the Caribbean Kitchen have done much in the way of market research. It is a pity, but it is already dead on its' feet.

Erith is undergoing a bit of a siege by con merchants, swindlers and fraudsters. The guy featured in the CCTV photo above knocked on my front door on Thursday evening, posing as a deaf door to door salesman, hawking poor quality art prints. None of the charities who campaign for the deaf condone or support such actions - which are carried out by hearing people masquerading as being deaf. After I slammed the door in his face, I re - opened it as he walked back up the garden path. With his back to me, I whistled - immediately he turned around to look at me. His fraudulent game was up. You can see more about the issue on the Erith Watch website here.

A new small business has opened in Belmont Road, Northumberland Heath. It is an independent specialist sweet shop called Candelicious. Their website is very professionally produced, and although I doubt I will ever be a customer (I don't eat any kind of sweet other than the very occasional sugar free mint) I sincerely wish them well. You can visit their website by clicking here.

Did you know work carried out in Erith was vital to the Allied victory in World War II? PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean) was primarily constructed at Callendar's Cables (later BICC) in Erith. Much of the construction work on the Mulberry Harbours was also carried out on the River Thames between Lower Belvedere and Erith. Few locally are aware of this, even though Mulberry Way was so named because of the proximity of the road to the historic construction site.

The Bexley Times are reporting that FORGE have upped their campaign to preserve Erith Riverside Gardens, and have co-opted local MP Teresa Pearce to support them. As I have previously written, the Riverside Gardens are just about the best part of Erith, and are the only place in the entire London Borough of Bexley where the public can gain access to the River Thames. The whole concept of a developer wishing to build unwanted and unnecessary tower blocks on the site is an anathema to me and pretty much every person I have spoken to on the subject. I think any Councillor or Politician who was seen to back a development on the site of the Gardens would find themselves voted out of office pretty sharpish. I know that Teresa Pearce is very keen to support FORGE and to oppose the architectural vandalism proposed and apparently supported by Bexley Council.

There are rare times when the Sandwich almost writes itself, and this is one of those. You may recall that I recounted a cautionary tale of my time on board the Radio Caroline ship, the M.V Ross Revenge a couple of weeks ago. I recalled the time I had to cover for the then Breakfast DJ Rico, who on one occasion was over half an hour late for his programme due to his inability to get out of bed. You can read the original account here. Yesterday I received a rather unexpected blog comment from the man Rico himself:-

Hugh you knob, you were an anorak, a fan, not a presenter, thats why you got the late slot so less people would hear you. Don't try and big yourself up now, too many people who were there have computers too.
See you around
Rico the pillock 

Bearing in mind the events that I wryly reported happened almost twenty one years ago, I would have expected from Rico a friendly "yes, I was a bit of an arse back then - we all were; we were no more than kids who did not know any better" or something similar. I am positive I was an equal plank in other ways - it is part of growing up. A lot of time has passed, and most of us have learned and grown in the intervening years. We are a lot older and hopefully wiser. Or not, as it turns out in Rico's case. It is as if the matter only happened last week, from the content of his posting. The reply I got from him has been published in the spirit of free speech and open debate. Now you have read his response, I will now conduct an item by item deconstruction of it (Rico - deconstruction means pulling apart in order to critique - I know it is rather a long word for you; it must be difficult having a sense of self worth that is inversely proportional to your intellect - but please bear with me - all will become clear).

1) Hugh you knob, you were an anorak, a fan, not a presenter - True. I was an anorak through and through, as were about 80% of all the people involved in Caroline at the time. Who else would put up with the long hours, strenuous work, rough seas and hardship for the thrill of presenting free radio to the UK and Europe? I understand that you as a "professional" (as in swanning around, not lending a hand with day to day tasks, not taking your turn presenting the money making religious programmes that we all equally hated, but paid for the fuel to keep the generators running, and generally acting as though you were in some way superior). Not a presenter? Were you trained in radio presentation by John Toogood, the most senior producer in BBC radio during the 1980's, and the man responsible for turning Terry Wogan into the most successful radio presenter in British broadcasting history? I was. Did you have formal technical training as a broadcast engineer / audio editor at the BBC? I did. Prior to Caroline had you any experience of international radio? I had a weekly programme syndicated on BFBS in the late 80's. It was transmitted to the UK, Germany, Cyprus, Belize and Hong Kong. Did you? Spinning a few disks in a seedy Benfleet nightclub hardly counts for much now, does it?

2) thats why you got the late slot so less people would hear you. Wrong on multiple accounts; understandably so, as you were not privy to much that was going on behind the scenes, as you were merely a "hired hand". The first time you met me, you assumed I was a "newbie", when in fact I had already been involved with the organisation for a couple of years as part of the operational support team, organising tender runs and such like. My principal reason for being on the ship at that time was that I was tasked with co - ordinating the repainting and refurbishment of the exterior. I along with a small group, including Captain Colin of the Phylgela had secured commercial sponsorship from a large commercial contract painting and decorating company - they donated several thousand pounds worth of marine quality rust remover, primer and two pack paint in a number of colours. You may recall a slightly scruffy, balding chap with a walrus moustache who made several visits to the ship - that was John, the CEO of the company, and a multi millionaire. My primary job was to see this valuable material was put to good use. It was agreed from the outset that I would do a night time show, sleep in the early morning then spend the rest of the long daylight hours getting the ship redecorated. Secondly, you really don't understand anything about R.F propagation on Medium Wave. As a Radio Amateur with an advanced class licence, and an inductee into the RSGB, let me explain: For medium wave, the most obvious factor for good long distance reception is the time of day. The D Layer of the ionosphere almost always absorbs medium wave radio signals during the daylight hours. As a result, nearly all medium wave signals received during daylight hours will arrive by ground wave propagation, rather than by sky waves refracted off of the ionosphere. Ground wave propagation makes reception of signals past a few hundred miles away unusual during the day. At night, however, the ionosphere tends to refract these medium wave signals, making it possible for radio stations to be heard at much greater distances. When conditions are just right, you might hear stations as far away as Australia, America, and Asia. This is why you received letters from listeners in Croydon and Southend, and I received letters from listeners in Damascus, Dortmund and Stockholm. I am still in regular contact with one such listener, all these years later, so I must have made a good impression, for all of your bluster. Granted, you were an excellent breakfast DJ - personally I would not have wanted that slot, as my style of presentation was rather more relaxed and considered, more suited to a late night album format than your up tempo approach.

3) Don't try and big yourself up now, too many people who were there have computers too. True, and some of them read this blog on a regular basis. Let's see what they say shall we? There is a classic rule in the management of any kind of conflict - "don't play to your opponents' strengths". You would do well to learn from that.

Enough already. I am sure that I have bored many with the discourse above, so back to the usual business. The space shuttle Atlantis is currently in space undertaking the 135th and final orbital voyage of the space shuttle fleet. The remaining shuttles are being pensioned off to museums and educational establishments. It is a sad day for space flight. The shuttle design was fundamentally flawed, but nevertheless it was a jaw dropping piece of engineering. It will be a long time before we see anything to surpass it. The video below has been put together by an enthusiast. It features a recent launch of the shuttle Discovery, accompanied by one of my favourite pieces of music "Countdown" by Rush.


  1. hi - i have been avidly reading your neatly crafted and hilarious posts for about 6 months now, and whilst never having come forward with a comment, i thought it was about time i checked in. unfortunately it's for an unexciting reason, as i was quite surprised to notice a small typo on your normally perfect copy: "yet of you travel on a Virgin Pendolino". oh well, i figured that a perfectionist like yourself might be pleased to hear about that, hope so. the site i write is littered with bad writing, long sentences, awkward expressions and typos, which is a source of much annoyance. i briefly searched for an email address for you, but couldn't find one. at some point i hope to join in the discussion properly, as your site has given me a much better understanding of erith and the wider bexley area, especially regarding its history.

  2. Oh Rico don't play with fire you may get your fingers burnt!

    As a "minor" figure in Caroline's illustrious past I noted that there tended to be two types of characters involved in Caroline.

    The first was the "look at me ma, I'm a celebrity!" whilst the second was the anorak who, as the Irish so eloquently put it, did it for the crack.

    The second type of person was basically nuts with a little bit of responsibility and a good understanding of "LA"

    These were the types that would muck in and get things done. They also tended to be the type that in an emergency situation on board would do exactly what they were told by the Captain, i.e me, which at times would certainly save various parts of their body or indeed their lives.

    Which type were you Rico...

  3. I remember listening to you, I remember listening to Nelly Gates, Dave Asher, Caroline Martin.....

    ..... Rico??? Did sone web and newsroom research as well at work and there is very little on a 'Rico' even being involved with Caroline. The self-confessed, and clearly venomous, 'Pillock' must have come 'on board' during the later phase of the last days at sea.

    I see no attempt by yourself at 'bigging' yourself up, as you have been accused of doing.

    I've seen this all before at the lower end of any presentation work, and as you know Hugh, I work with many at the higher end, and the lower too although I have never heard of a 'Rico' since then.

    Whilst opinion is and should always be free, to start with an insult, only shows an empty vessel making a lot of noise.

    Rico signs himself off as 'The Pillock', an interesting choice of word, The Urban Dictionary defines the word as,

    'Noun for an idiot or fool. Originally a slang term for a penis, inoffensive now as this meaning has been forgotten.'

    Very apt, don't you think Rico?

  4. Pubs being sold off?
    All to common I'm afraid. Talking of common I do wonder if The Cross Keys will be left to rot as it's not going to be easy or cheap to refit as flats (if I remember rightly its quite small inside, very narrow stairs but then it is a very old building) and it's no good as a shop or mini mart for the same reason I suppose.

    "a civil libertarian" is that the same as a Chartered Barbarian??! BWHAHA!

    Loved the comeback to Chico.
    I have to wonder why he bothered, I mean it was a looooong time ago and to be honest you were alittle rude (I'd be annoyed at being called a pillock, self absorbed etc but it's your Blog so it's what you want to write) you told a story with some colour. I'm sure I'd grind my teeth a bit if I was in his shoes but if he'd have come back with a story about you then all's fair in loving awareness and rust then fair do. If he'd have moaned about you using his name I could also understand but just to start a slanging match on your Blog seems a bit short sighted.
    Come on Rico, dish the dirt on Pewty!
    Bet there's loads of stories about him not doing his job or acting like a primadonna!... Oh wait a late night slot playing album tracks isn't really the type of slot that lets somebody act like a 80's Commercial radio DJ is it?
    "Tony Palmer's" show was more like a "friend in the corner", a pair of comforty slippers and instead of a pipe a big fat spiff. You know, something you want to listen to, not what someone else wants to force on you or a dreaded playlist or in fact the same cookie cutter show you could get from any other station. In fact the late night slot was the type of show Caroline was best at.
    Mind you I quite enjoyed the God slot...but that’s another story.
    That’s how I got to know Pewty, through listening to his late night slots on both Radio Lumberjack and Caroline. His was one of the only shows playing stuff I wanted to hear.
    Anyway what's' wrong with being an anorak?
    You gotta be one to want to be in radio surely? Otherwise it's just showing off to hear your own voice. All the DJ's worth their salt were/are anoraks: David Jenson, Kenny Everett, Nicky Horne, Chris Evan's the list goes on. It was anoraks that kept the station going and made up most of the listeners when you were on air FFS! Still I suppose it feels good to look down on "the little people" from the lofty heights of being a DJ. Tell me, how is the Wedding party DJ business these days?

  5. Ha ha, Im actually enjoying this. I'll tell you which type I am. I have no trouble with anoraks, am friends with many and actually still keep in contact as they obviously like as much inside information as possible, only 1 who decides to use a blog to mouth off at me for some reason years later. The type I am in answer to your question, I was only there for the experience of what it really stood for, which is why I went after going on the voice of peace. We had many summer dj visitors, but when the winter came they mostly left, which I understand, the weather and regularity of the supply boats made it a tough time. At one stage there was only 2 of us left on the Ross, and in the infamous winter that we were airlifted by helicopter after spending 2 nights without any power ( there were 3 of us, Chris, Caroline & I), i went back the next day with Peter Chicago to ensure the Ross was not salvaged, knowing that There was no shows to be aired. In fact in my last month we only aired 1 day, I only stayed as there was no one else who knew how to run the generators. I am one who feels that it died when the shop went aground on the goodwin sands, friends still do shows on the land based, and i visited the Ross in Southend, for the memories!!! If this bloke and his amazing blog thinks Im a prat why should I care? But I deserve my reply, I was the one who sat through his first shows helping with the equipment, and covered when he was seasick. Anyway, speak again soon!!

  6. I liked Rico's enthusiasm on of my all-time favourite DJs. I do hate to read ex-Caroline crew slagging each other off.