Sunday, October 02, 2011


The photo above shows some tugs moored on Erith Pier recently. It does rather remind me of Mum, Dad and Baby tug on a day out. The Pier gets extensive use, both by commercial river traffic and people taking their leisure. It is a popular destination for local anglers keen to catch sea fish, who venture up river to spawn. Dabs, Lemon Sole and Eels are all found in the water.

This weeks' blog title is pretty self explanatory. At some time yesterday afternoon, the Maggot Sandwich received its' 50,000th unique individual page view. My blog gets hits from all over the world; in the last week it has had visitors from The USA, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Germany, Canada and Italy. Thanks to one and all for continuing to read my rants and musings. I just hope that I can continue to keep all of you informed and amused.

There is something rather strange going on at Erith Railway Station. A group of site buildings have been set up in the car park (half a dozen sea shipping containers converted into offices and workshops), and areas have been marked out at the extreme ends of the platforms. After making some enquiries, I have discovered that Southeastern Trains plan on extending the platforms to allow longer trains to use the station. What baffles me is that they are spending thousands of pounds to extend the station platforms, yet have completely refused to install a passenger lift when they are legally obliged to do so under the terms of the Disability Rights Act, saying that they don't have any money. On top of that, they are planning on closing the ticket office, yet a whole raft of tickets and services are completely unavailable from the ticket machines - and unstaffed stations have a much higher level of crime of all types. Southeastern Trains are a complete bunch of money grabbing, irresponsible scumbags. The collectively deserve to have their heads flushed down the loo.

Metal theft - an issue that is high on the local agenda has been featured on the BBC News website this week. I think the crux of the issue is that all scrap dealers should be properly licenced and controlled, and that no cash transactions with suppliers should be permitted. If someone comes in with a pile of scrap, they should be registered with the dealer, the scrap (and the person bringing it in) should be photographed, and the money then credited to their business bank account. This would also stop the "under the counter" transactions that notoriously go on in the scrap business - most dealers pay little if any tax or VAT because of it. Illegal scrap dealing should be made a criminal, rather than a civil offence as it now is. It is a pity that such changes to the law are required - we need scrap reprocessing and management more than ever. It makes economic and environmental sense to do so. It is just that the scrap business in its' current form attracts criminals and scum like a steaming turd attracts flies. There are honest and ethical scrap dealers, but unfortunately they seem very much to be in the minority.

Erith based marine engineering company Kort Propulsion have recently relocated from their old office in Pier Road opposite Morrison's, to their new home in the Boathouse Building overlooking the river front. You can see their website here. They are a very prestigious and world renowned company, and it is good to see them staying in the local area.

Coincidentally (and who says I don't plan these things?) Erith Pier will be featured heavily in the forthcoming Alexander Selkirk Day, where the return to Britain after a historic shipwreck and of the man who inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe will be commemorated from 12 noon on Saturday the 15th of October, in Erith Riverside Gardens, and on the Pier. You can read more about what is going to be happening on the day by clicking here to read all about it. Thanks to local resident Robyn Drummond for bringing this to my attention.

A friend with strong connections to the BBC tells me that the current season of Doctor Who is absolutely tanking in the ratings – it is a lot worse than has been publicly admitted. The viewing figures the BBC are releasing for this season are the amalgamated live viewing numbers with those who record it to watch later, and those who watch it on iPlayer combined. Previous seasons viewing statistics have been solely of the live viewing figures. In reality the show has lost over half its’ audience. My contact has spoken to people working on the show, and apparently talks are under way to get Russell T Davies back to write / direct at least a couple of future episodes. Apparently the producers are acutely aware of the negative feedback, and are prepared to be quite ruthless to get the show back on track. The BBC would have pulled the plug already, had it been almost any other show, but they cannot afford to lose the revenue stream generated my the toys and memorabilia. BBC Worldwide, who control the international Doctor Who franchise, use the money to supplement the BBC licence fee in order to finance the UK operation. I have stopped watching both Doctor Who and Torchwood - not an action that I have taken lightly, but for me, both programmes have become unwatchable soap operas, and an embarrassing parody of their former selves. Fortunately the BBC seem to have realised this, and are prepared to take drastic action to get both shows back on track.

Thanks to the kind people at Laser Hot Hits for their recent kind comments about my Dad. You can listen to them by tuning your shortwave radio to 4.015 or 6.970 Mhz, or by listening online by clicking here.

Now that I am back working a “normal” day, after spending six years working in the morning, usually in a London office, then visiting my Dad in the early to middle afternoon, then on to work remotely from home until the evening. I have got back a lunch break. I am so used to not eating at lunch time now that I just am just not hungry - my body has got into bad habits. I am working to try and get back into normal behaviour, but it is not easy. I have been going for walks around Canary Wharf, and the large underground shopping centre. It is more upmarket than Bluewater – most of the shops are brands like Gucci, Tiffany, Aquascutum etc. There are lots of jewellers with watches with eye watering prices – I walked past a shop with a Tag Heuer watch on display – price tag £71,500. That is not a mis – print. Most of the watches in the various shops start at about £1750 and I suppose an “average” price is around £23,000. Again – not a mis print. When you consider that many of the people living only a stone’s throw away may only be earning the minimum wage, if working at all, it does strike me as rather tasteless and vulgar to have such conspicuous displays of wealth. The disparity of earnings between the richest and poorest is a worry.

The popular news media have been making inaccurate and poorly researched comments as to how the soon to be released Amazon Kindle Fire will be "an iPad killer". Some of the media are making this out to be a battle between Apple and Amazon, when in reality it is nothing of the sort. They are using diametrically opposed business models and releasing tablets that could hardly be more different. Apple sell iPad hardware at a healthy profit and sell content to support the hardware sales, but Apple don't make much profit from the content. Amazon is selling the Fire at either a very low margin, or possibly at a small loss (rumours say that they will lose $50 US per tablet sold), but will rely on selling content to make the profits. In effect, they're giving away the razor in order to sell the blades, or a more recent example would be giving away the printer in order to sell ink cartridges. The products themselves are totally different. The Fire has half the screen area of an iPad and is stripped down to just the absolute essentials. But the big attraction is that it is half the price of an iPad. iPads represent the quality end of the tablet spectrum, while Fires look like they could dominate the low end of the tablet spectrum. I don't think that Apple will be concerned about the Fire as those who will only spend £200 on a tablet were never going to buy iPads. The people who must be losing sleep tonight are those manufacturers who are hoping to sell other tablets. There are now just two price points for tablets , less than £200 - cheap and cheerful, or more than £500 for a quality one. Google might not be that happy either as the Android operating system is being used in a way that greatly diminishes Google's opportunities to extract money from it. Rivals will now have to make tablets cheaper than £200 and still make a profit, or else match the sophistication of the iPad together with a comprehensive ecosystem and still match the £500 price tag. Either task is quite a formidable challenge. Can the Fire match the iPad? Of course not, but then it was never intended to. It is a different concept aimed at a different type of customer. A pity the popular press could not have made this distinction.

Talking of Google, this week marked their 13th birthday. The screenshot above shows what their home page looked like when it very first went live. When Google started, I was one of their very early users. Their now legendary search capabilities were in those days actually no great shakes - the reason I, and later millions of other people used them as their search engine of choice was that their home page was white, plain and simple - and loaded quickly on a typical 56 KB/Sec dial up modem such as the classic and never bettered model by U.S Robotics. Yahoo, Dogpile and Alltheweb (contemporary search engines to Google) were filled with flash animations and commercials - making them irritatingly slow to load on the then customarily tortoise - like dial up web connections. The die had already been cast for Google - simple and quick was the key to success.

Swiss food company Maggi have recently been promoting their "So Juicy" range of bake in the bag seasonings for meat. The TV commercials look good, and I was intrigued by the concept. It looked like a good way to keep chicken and meat moist, whilst adding a tasty seasoning at the same time. When I investigated, I discovered that the seasoning mix used in all of the "So Juicy" range contains huge amounts of salt - it is actually by far the largest ingredient in the seasoning mix. I would recommend buying some over proof bags, and then mixing your own herb and spice mix from the contents of your store cupboard - healthier and far cheaper too. 

I am hoping to shortly be able to feature the first entry in an occasional series - a sort of sub blog, which is going to be submitted by a diarist with a somewhat unusual background. He originates from Upper Belvedere, has lived in many places around the world, has had a varied, award winning and eventful career in broadcast TV, including time covering the Kosovo, Iraq (see the photo above of him in Baghdad - click for a larger view), and Israel / Lebanon wars, and he now lives and works on the mean streets of Glasgow. A man of many aliases, but the one identity.  He's going to be writing a few articles on what it is like for someone from South East London to have defected to the Scots, and all the trials and tribulations living in that barren, cold and foreign land entails. Keep an eye out in the weeks that come for the first in a series of articles.

Superlative, multiple award winning Bexleyheath pub The Robin Hood & Little John now has its' own website, which you can visit by clicking here. It is simple but effective. Do have a look.

Last week I featured the excellent, fan made documentary "Building Empire". This week the follow up movie "Returning to Jedi" is featured. I strongly suggest that you put aside a couple of hours, maximise the YouTube window to make it full screen, and watch the excellent film, which scene by scene shows how Return of the Jedi was made, along with cut scenes, bloopers and commentaries from the cast and crew. I regard this as essential watching. Please feel free to leave a comment below, as always.

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