Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Limp.

Tramway House, a residential block on the corner of Stonewood Road and West Street, opposite the Erith Riverside Gardens and overlooking the River Thames. The block was built seven years ago to offer subsidised housing to essential workers such as nurses and fire fighters. When it was being constructed it was rather ugly, and for a while looked like a bunch of Portacabins all piled on top of one another. Once it was glazed and externally clad, the view changed, and I think it now looks rather nice. It is certainly convenient for pretty much everything in Erith - although being in close proximity to the chav infested hell hole that is West Street must be a bit of a burden. I took the photo above during last weeks' bout of excellent weather - click on the photo for a larger version.

Erith received a group of foreign tourists on Wednesday afternoon; I was queuing to pay for some purchases in Morrison's when I noticed that a very well dressed family in front of me were having some communication difficulties with the checkout lady. They were, I think from Denmark, and their daughter of about twelve years old was consulting with a phrase book. This somewhat surprised me; people from the Scandinavian countries normally speak better English that most UK residents - and when it comes to the average resident of Erith, well, you can work it out for yourselves. Anyway, their issue was soon resolved and they went happily on their way. The thought occurred to me. What were an evidently affluent and cultured Danish family doing in Erith? Were they anthropologists or something? Answers on a post card please.

One of the most widely known companies to have a historic association with Erith was Callender's Cables, formerly known as The Callender Bitumen, Telegraph and Waterproof co. Originally the company was primarily concerned with the production of bitumen and waterproof damp course material for the building trade, with cable making little more than a side line. The rapid growth in telecommunications in the late Victorian era led to cables becoming the company's main product, and in 1896 the firm was reorganised as the Callender Cable and Construction co, which was later changed to British Insulated Callenders Cables, or BICC. By 1965 the Erith based factory was the principal manufacturing facility for the world's largest cable group - the production area covered some 65 acres and provided employment for 1,300 local workers. Callenders were one of the main manufacturers of PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean). Callenders also contributed much to the area of culture and the arts; Callenders Band, which was started in 1890 as a Salvation Army band. Some members wanted to play a wider variety of music, so the band was relaunched as a temperance promoting popular music band. They became popular around the country and gave many public performances, and had a regular feature on pioneering radio station 2LO during 1922. They continued with much popular support until the outbreak of World War 2, when the group was disbanded. It did reform briefly at the end of the war, but it did not achieve its' earlier success, and was disbanded for good in 1948.

I am currently reading "The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised Biography of MI5" a scholarly 1,044 page, densely written history of Britain's internal security service from its' inception to today. The book is academic and a touch dry, but it is supremely interesting. During the late 1930's Callenders Cables was strongly suspected of being a hot bed of communist activity, much of which later was discovered to have been fermented and controlled for Moscow by Melita Norwood (see the photo above); a well known communist who was at the time Britain's longest publicly undiscovered traitor - though MI5 knew about her for years, and chose to do nothing. I recall back in 1999, when she was first uncovered in the press, I was bemused to discover she lived only a few doors away from a very close friends' parents in Bexleyheath. What a small world we inhabit.  The Communist Party of Great Britain is still around today, although it now seems a rather pathetic and internally divided handful of isolated social inadequates. They seem to spend their time worrying as to how they will pay their bills, and arguing extensively amongst their own tiny and deluded remaining membership. You can see their website here and judge for yourself. I somehow doubt MI5 have many concerns about them nowadays.

By the time you read this entry, I anticipate that the Maggot Sandwich will have reached its' 55,000th unique individual page view. Thanks to one and all - wherever on this strange old planet you are on. It is most flattering.

Fans of the long running BBC radio series "Test Match Special" and members of Middle England are very soon going to be saying "It is the end of the world as we know it!". BBC Radio 4 may shortly cease transmissions on 198kHz Long Wave. The reason cited is that their stock of bespoke high power transmitter valves (tubes to our cousins in the colonies) is running out. The gigantic transmitter will fall silent when the last of these highly specialised components fails. I think this reason is utter tosh. The Beeb want to close down the Long Wave channel and force listeners onto the DAB feed instead. Whilst no British company is currently capable of remanufacturing these highly specialised, metre high electronic components, the Russians retain excellent high power thermionic valve production facilities. It is something of a techie legend that one of the criteria that the Royal Navy SSBN fleet have to check to see if Britain has been hit by a thermonuclear attack is to check if the BBC Radio 4 service is still operating on Long Wave. I get the feeling that this may have to change. You can read a detailed report on the situation by clicking here.

The much vaunted iPad 2 has had its' security broken in around five seconds. With no need for any technical knowledge, it is possible to crack a locked iPad 2 running iOS 5 - watch the video below to see just how ridiculously easy this is.

There was a recent article in the Guardian Online called "Leftover Crossover" which described the way one could cross cultures and cuisines by mixing leftover food to make interesting, tasty and original dishes - one prime example was serving curry with pasta or noodles (something I do regularly - after all the Malaysians serve their curries with egg noodles all of the time).  There have been the odd weekend occasion when I have made things like a chilli con carne toastie sandwich for breakfast, or baked beans with a dash of chilli sauce and turmeric, served on toasted wholemeal bread, spread with a little unsalted butter, with a poached egg and fried mushrooms on the side is my idea of an occasional weekend breakfast treat heaven. I have to say that in the normal scheme of things I don't eat breakfast, as I rarely feel hungry before lunch time, but there are the odd exceptions.

The remaining members of Pink Floyd are releasing a new "best of" compilation in time for Christmas. A Foot In The Door - The Best Of Pink Floyd, with a track listing chosen by David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason.
The track listing is:

7) Time
Personally I think they are an excellent selection of tracks - with the glaring omission of "Echoes" - one of their finest works. But I fail to see the point. Pink Floyd were an albums band; their albums are designed to be listened to from start to finish, preferably when laying in a darkened room lit only by a single candle, whilst your brain slowly leaked out of your ears. To give you an idea the amount of regard my family has for  Pink Floyd, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond parts I - V" was the final piece of music played at my Dad's funeral a few weeks ago. 

On a rather more sober note, I hear that a an attempted abduction of a small child happened in Riverdale Road, Erith on the 18th of October. You can read more about the disturbing story by clicking here.

If you are wondering where the title for this weeks' blog entry derives from, it is actually quite simple. I have been practically housebound since last Saturday; I have been suffering from a particularly painful and unpleasant condition called Plantar Fasciitis - an inflammation of the connective tissue on the underside of my right foot. I had it once before, about six years ago, and I developed another case of it whilst working in London last Saturday. The condition can be brought on by standing around for long periods, which, due to the nature of the work I was undertaking (the physical upgrade of some electronic equipment in my company's head office building, which could only be undertaken outside of normal business hours).  Anyway, my right heel started to get very sore and painful, and by the time I had finished and was heading home, meant that I was unable to put any pressure on the heel at all - I was walking in a very strange "tip toe" gait on my right foot. It progressively got worse on Sunday. Knowing the only treatment was rest and an anti inflammatory pain killer such as low dose Ibuprofen, I arranged to work from home all of this week; It is fortunate that much of my job does not require me to be present in person - most tasks can be carried out remotely using my excellent, work supplied Lenovo X201 mini laptop and my secure VPN connection over my fibre optic Internet line. I am hobbling still, though now some of this is probably due to a secondary inflammation of the tendons on the upper side of my right foot - no doubt brought on by the strange gait I had to employ, in order to keep my super sensitive heel from touching the ground. I'm using my Dad's old telescopic aluminium walking stick, which is quite a help right now. With effort, I can hobble as far as Morrison's and back, but at present that is about the limit.

In the realms of "You could not make this up" comes the news that Hollywood are planning to make a biopic of mathematician, codebreaker, pioneering computer scientist and Olympic standard athlete Alan Turing - the man who contributed greatly to the work Bletchley Park did to shorten World War II by an estimated two years. You can read about the plan to make the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio here. I get the feeling the resultant film will have the historical accuracy of U-571. That is, none at all. If you want to see a gripping, historically accurate movie about submarine warfare, you have to see the Director's cut of Das Boot - one of the greatest movies about war ever made. If there is a movie to be made about Turing, it should star someone like Benedict Cumberbatch.

Local rag The Bexley Chronicle is very much in my bad books this week. Just after the Alexander Selkirk Day event, I was contacted by our local MP Teresa Pearce. We are in semi regular contact on a number of matters, so the Email did not surprise me. She asked if it would be OK if she used one of the photos I took of her on the day as an illustration on her website. She was aware of the Creative Commons Licence under which all my photos on Flickr are published, and promised to give me full credit for them. In fact, she went above and beyond this, and put a direct link to my Flickr photos, and a link to the Maggot Sandwich as well. A couple of days after this, Teresa's researcher Emailed me to ask if it would be OK if the photos of the Alexander Selkirk day could be forwarded for publication in several local papers. I said yes, as long as I got proper written credit for anything that was used. My photos are licenced so that anyone can reproduce, modify and republish my photos, so long as 1) It is not for profit, and 2) That I as the content creator get full credit for the work. If you click on the captured image above, you will see that all but one photo (the one taken of shoppers in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre) were actually taken by me - you can see the originals by clicking here. And what is missing? No credit to me, or mention of me as content owner in any form. I am going to be having some very strong words with the editor of The Bexley Chronicle. More next week.

As I have been fond of recounting over the last few months, there are a lot of 30th anniversaries coming up around now; this coming Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of legal CB Radio in the UK. Many of the original CB users - "Breakers" went on to become licenced radio amateurs. I never had a CB radio as a kid, though I sorely wanted one, and I did manage to borrow a couple of rigs on occasion. I recall setting up a mobile CB car antenna on top of an aluminium foil wrapped metal "Quality Street" tin in my bedroom, and wondering why my signal was not getting far past Abbey Wood. Oh the ignorance of youth! Some years later, still absolutely fascinated by radio, and inspired by hours of illicit listening to pirate broadcast stations Alice's Restaurant, and later Rock FM, I joined the team behind Radio Lumberjack - a station that broadcast a surreal mix of left field music, comedy and local community news to large parts of Bexley Borough from a house on the Upper Belvedere / Bexleyheath borders. From thence I joined WHBS radio, got a Saturday job at what was then BBC Radio London (I would race home from the Beeb in order to then present my show on Radio Lumberjack - those were the days). This led on to Radio Caroline, and the rest, as they say is history. Nowadays I hold an advanced class Amateur Radio licence, and have the radio callsign of M1CXN.

The end video is something that I stumbled upon by pure chance. It features an formally untrained and rather geeky keyboard playing musical genius by the name of Ronald Jenkees. He reminds me a little bit of Herbie Hancock, and quite a lot of Rick Wakeman. Here he's playing a improvised composition - amazing stuff. See what you think and feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Hugh, your foot problem can be relieved by purchasing a pair of Orthoheel shoe implants for about £23 from any good chemists. Dont be tempted to go for any cheaper types. They gave me almost instant relief and last forever.

  2. That was really good, sounded like a large band, I will check out his website.

  3. I'm sure that Plantar fasciitis wasn't meant to be the main point in your blog post - but if you have the condition it can't fail to affect your life!

    I used to need regular steroid injections into my heels because of it (Yes - wince!!!) I have also been prescribed jell insoles by the Rheumotolgist which help a lot too. I have to say that I haven't needed injections there for many years now; so if all else fails it is worth a try - G.P's will often do it without going to hospital