Sunday, November 13, 2011

The lumpy Thames.

I took the photo above a couple of weeks ago, on the day of the Alexander Selkirk festival. It shows Erith Pier, the longest river mounted structure anywhere on the Thames, and a really nice place to be on a warm and sunny day. Do give the pier a visit if the weather is clement and you are in the area. Incidentally, I have decided to drop my copyright challenge against the Bexley Times; it turns out that the individual responsible for the infringement is seriously ill, and I feel that pursuing the case further would be inappropriate under the present circumstances.

I have been doing more reading and research on the history of Erith; this week I am mainly covering the impact of the Crossness Sewage Works. In the 1860's day trippers started coming to Erith on the then newly invented paddle steamers from London. The area in what is now the Riverside Gardens was a popular destination, and for a while the town had a good reputation as a "watering place" - though in reality I think a lot more beer and tea got consumed. Many local people were concerned that the opening of the Crossness Sewage Works would be deleterious to Erith's tourist image, as raw, untreated sewage would be forcibly pumped downstream past Erith on the falling tide. Crossness was the brain child of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, Engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works, as part of a £5 million sewerage scheme to bring sanitation to 69 square miles of London, from Putney to Crossness. The works were officially opened on the 4th April 1875 by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. The buildings, in the then fashionable Italian style were built on what was then a ground breaking cast concrete platform, at a cost in excess of £750,000. The site covered an area of 37 acres, which included housing for fifty workers and their families on site. A thousand foot deep artesian well was dug to supply them with fresh water, whilst they processed 70 million gallons of London's sewage each day - that's a hell of a lot of poo. The fears of Erith residents about the increase in bad smells and consequent lumpy Thames water were fully justified; there was considerable local agitation for several years following the opening of the works, and it was only after a popular local campaign run by a Mr. Charles Beadle and a small group of activists, that improvements were made to the filtering system, and a deodorising unit was established, which ended up life somewhat more pleasant for those living down wind.  Having said that, there are plenty of times, usually when it is hot and windy, where the turdy whiff of Crossness can be smelled in the local area to this day.

It is not very often that I give any kind of consumer advice, but this is going to be one of those occasions. As you may be aware, I was recently housebound for a couple of weeks, following a nasty bout of Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. Fortunately I am now well on the mend, and back working in the office,  rather than from home, as had been the case. Whilst I was working from home, I stocked up on a few snack like comestibles to make my lunch a bit nicer. One thing that stood out from the shelves in Erith Morrison's was some soup in a cup. I absolutely love mushrooms in all of their forms - they are one of my absolute favourite things to eat. Naturally I thought I would buy some mushroom soup - and I saw a range promoted by TV chef and celebrity buffoon Ainsley Harriott. It claimed to be made from a hand picked selection of wild mushrooms, and with his celebrity endorsement, I thought that I was on to a winner. How wrong can one be? The soup turned out to be salty, sugary, lacking almost totally in any mushroom flavour whatsoever, and also lumpy - what ever one did to stir it, the mug still ended up with a powdery and lumpy sludge at the bottom. Utterly disgusting. I checked the ingredients list, to find out that the so called "wild mushroom" soup was packed to the gills with additives - and the largest single ingredient was glucose syrup powder. I am a person who is loathe to throw out food, but I have to admit the rest of the sachets in the packet had their contents emptied down the sink - the paper and card packaging then went straight round to the recycling centre at the back of Morrison's car park. Avoid. On a more positive note, here is a much nicer recipe for proper mushroom soup from YouTube cult chef and nutter - Titli Nihaan:

Cash Generator has now opened in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. From the look of the place, they have had to import much of their second hand stock from other stores round the region. There are a suspiciously large number of very recent second hand LED and Plasma televisions offered for sale in the place. I just wonder how many of these possibly came onto the market courtesy of the late summer riots? Just a thought. Any business that can (somehow) legally get away with charging an exploitative 1733.5% interest on a loan has got to be suspect - check their terms and conditions of you don't believe me. Personally I would ban them from trading in any shape or form. In my opinion, they only exist to increase suffering to the already vulnerable.

For the first in a very long time, I am writing this sitting in my favourite corner of the Robin Hood and Little John pub, accompanied by my Acer Aspire One netbook, running Mint Linux, and fuelled by a cool pint of Late Red – the excellent autumn seasonal ale made by Kent brewery Shepherd Neame. It is one of my favourite real ales – truly nectar of the Gods - see the image below this paragraph. The pub has an excellent menu of home cooked food - no microwaved rubbish. You can download a PDF of their excellent menu by clicking here. I am glad to be in such a pleasant and calming environment after a somewhat trying bus ride to get here. I was under the erroneous impression that now I am no longer having to make a daily nursing home visit, and am thus using the bus system less, that my semi regular encounters with the undesirable elements of South East London would be reduced. I was wrong. I got on the 99 towards Bexleyheath, and only three stops later a middle aged woman with six children aged from (at a guess) about thirteen to about four years of age got on.. I used to see the same family group on the 99 bus from Plumstead to Erith when returning from Dad visiting in the past. Most of the kids appear to have OCD / ADD / Hyperactivity – either that, or they are all irredeemably and continuously naughty. I actually felt sorry for her – her brood were swinging around the poles on the lower deck – screaming and shouting, jumping around and generally making the lives of the other passengers hell. I was grinding my teeth in frustration – the woman has absolutely no control over the kids. She tells them off, but they ignore her, and carry on with their passenger annoying behaviour – none of the brood seemingly aware of how to behave in the presence of strangers – it is as if other people are simply not there.

The emergency backup generator at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup was sabotaged in the early hours of the morning on November the 11th. Scumbags dug up and ripped out the emergency power cables from the generator room to the main building in order to steal their copper. This potentially put the lives of hundreds of vulnerable people at risk. Metal thefts are on the rise, as I have written many times before, and seem to be even more of an issue in and around Bexley Borough. The laws over recycling and sale of metals really need to be toughened up. The Government has been making some encouraging noises about the currently intolerable situation, and the Local Government Association (who actually see that these statutes get enforced) are calling for compulsory annual registration for all scrap dealers, a ban on all cash transactions, number plate recognition CCTV cameras at all scrap yards by law, and legally enforceable recording of all transactions, ensuring a complete audit trail. The Government estimate that £770 million worth of metal was stolen and illegally resold last year; personally I think this figure is somewhat on the low side. They also say that there have been approximately 700 incidents of power cable theft alone in the last month! I have previously written about the utter filth who steal the bronze and brass plaques from war memorials - my contempt for such individuals will no doubt be of no surprise. The only fact in this sorry situation is the fact that six of the metal thieves have died in the last year whilst cutting into power cables - a pity more of them did not get fried - it is what the scum deserve. 

I have been asked to give an additional plug to the campaign to recruit new Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators - details below - please click on the image to enlarge for reading. You can see the Erith Watch website by clicking here

I was doing some research into the famous Red House at Bexleyheath, the former home of writer, designer and artist William Morris, when I came across something completely different - Bexleyheath's own independent record label - Talking Elephant Records. They specialise in folk and progressive rock - especially the pastoral sub genre of the Canterbury Scene. They represent a wide variety of artists, both current and historical. You can check out their website and online shop by clicking here.

I am extremely glad to see that the EDSAC rebuild project at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park has got the green light, and that £250,000 has been raised to rebuild this ground breaking early computer - work is now under way on the project, that I initially reported back in January. Much of the credit has to go to computer scientist Herman Hauser, one of the fathers of the BBC Micro in the 1980's. EDSAC was a very early computer, using valves and mercury delay lines to store data. It led to the very first commercial computer, LEO - which was an acronym for Lyons Electronic Office, which ran stock control, payroll and many other "modern" functions, way back in the mid 1950's. If it had not been for some poor management and business decisions, Silicon Valley might well have been in the UK rather than California. There was an extensive and fascinating article about LEO in the Daily Telegraph this week, as it is the 60th anniversary of the first LEO computer going live. Unfortunately I missed the story, but one of my invaluable (and anonymous) sources brought it to my attention - along with the photo of the story you can read below - do click on the scan to enlarge it for easier reading. You can also visit the Leo Computer Society website by clicking here.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury. BBC Radio 4 transmitted a half hour documentary about his life on Saturday morning. If you are in the UK you should be able to click here to listen to it online. It will only be available for a week.

Free radio station Laser Hot Hits are now streaming on the Internet, as well as broadcasting on shortwave. You can read all about this excellent station by clicking here for more.

As predicted, the ill planned Caribbean Kitchen restaurant / bar in Bexleyheath Broadway has gone bankrupt. I originally wrote about it back in April - which you can re-read by clicking here. I was walking past the place on Saturday morning, and saw a bailiff's official letter posted in the doorway - it informed the owners that the locks had been changed, and that it was an offence for them to now try and gain entry to the place. The building and all its' contents were repossessed only the day previously, on Friday morning, due to failure to pay bills. I am not in any way surprised. The place took over a year to open from the originally announced date, in which time a Nando's restaurant opened directly opposite, on the other side of the road. When the Caribbean Kitchen finally did open its' doors, it looked like an amateurish and half hearted effort, offering a very similar menu to Nando's, but at greater cost, and not so well cooked, in a venue full of second hand, worn old furniture. It was doomed to failure from the outset, as I have written in the past.

Following my feature of the "guilty pleasure" TV show "Man Vs Food" that I discussed last week, I have had several Emails from anonymous Maggot Sandwich readers who all agree that the programme is "must see" television. To this end, I have embedded another part episode as the end video for this week - it would appear that many people love the show - however off putting the initial premise might have initially appeared to have been. Adam Richman seems to be onto a winner with this one.

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