Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Pop - In Parlour.

The photograph above was taken by me a while ago; it shows the pub sign outside of the Royal Alfred in Manor Road, opposite the excellent Londis mini supermarket and corner shop. I have been getting my daily copy of The Times in the shop for many years now. The Royal Alfred is boarded up and unused as a public house, though the two floors of accommodation above the bar area are currently being rented out for housing.  I published the photo because I want to highlight a country - wide problem that seems to have hit the whole of South East London harder than most. The closure of local pubs, and the impact this has on their communities. I can think of pubs just in central Erith that have gone in the last ten years or so. The Trafalgar in West Street was one of the first in the area to close and be converted into flats. I visited the place on a couple of occasions before its' demise, and it was a depressing and scruffy hole of a pub, and to be honest probably serves the residents better as apartments than it ever did as a run down and threadbare boozer. Both the Stile and Winch, and the Harrow on North End Road closed within a year of each other, one to be converted into a Tesco Metro (the Stile and Winch) and the Harrow demolished to make way for  flats. The much featured Cross Keys pub, the centre of much controversy over the last couple of years is still closed and boarded up. No details of its' current ownership status are known to me. I get the strong feeling that over the next few years, pubs are going to be either part of a huge chain, selling discount beer and cheap microwaved food, as per the the business model used by Wetherspoons and their kin, or they are going to be high class, quality establishments selling superb real ales and home cooked food, like the Robin Hood and Little John. Unfortunately I don't see a future for the local back street "boozer". They are being priced out of the market by cheap supermarket beer deals, and the punitive level of excise duty and general taxation.

The (still copyright infringing) Bexley Times are reporting that the former Age UK single-storey building "Pop - in Parlour" (click on the photo above for a larger version) opposite the Baptist Church in Queen Street, Erith, owned by Bexley Council, is due to go for auction on the 12th December. You can read the original story by clicking here. The auctioneers are estimating the guide price for the building to be in the range of £35,000 to £45,000. Not a lot of cash for the size of plot. The current building is in a poor state of repair, as you can see from my photo above. The building conceivably could be refurbished and re-opened for the areas pensioners to use as before, but somehow I don't see an appetite for this. I just hope that the plot does not get demolished for yet another block of flats - like the area needs more of them. Without a detailed structural survey and search into what the building could legally be used for, the whole thing is a bit of an enigma. It would make an interesting bungalow for a private dwelling, though in such close proximity to Queen's Road, with its' 24 hour traffic, it would need some substantial sound proofing to make living in it a viable concept; still, it is surrounded by private houses and their owners don't seem to mind. I wonder who will put in a bid for it, and what it will become? Answers on a postcard after the 12th December. A Google Street View scene, showing the pop in parlour shortly before it had to close is embedded below:

View Larger Map

I walked out of the main entrance to Chatham Railway Station on Wednesday; it was approaching  9.30 in the morning. The sun was shining, and it was chilly but clear. I stopped momentarily to get my bearings, when I heard a gruff voice behind me; as I turned, a voice  said "Do you know where Chatham Magistrates' Court is?" It came from a tattooed and skin headed individual of indeterminate origin - possibly half chav / half gorilla. He rather reminded me of a somewhat less cultured version of the hit man Donald "Red" Grant played by Robert Shaw in "From Russia with Love". I replied that I was not that familiar with the town, and that he would probably be better off taking a cab from the rank we were standing next to. He shrugged and replied "It's just I thought you might have been going there too"(!) Quite what brought him to come up with the notion that I would be attending court utterly escapes me. All I can think of is that he thought I was either a Police officer or a Magistrate. My attire and bearing would not have given rise to any thoughts that I might be of the criminal fraternity. Bemusing. Anyway, he loped off - he was polite enough in his own way, and he gave  me the impression that he would quite happily stop passing juggernauts with his head if you asked him nicely.

One of my local informants has told me that Erith Morrison's will be opening between 7am and 11pm six days per week from the 1st December until the 23rd December inclusive. He tells me that the staff were not consulted, and many are unhappy - quite a proportion of staff are not local and are concerned about late night travel on public transport. I have spoken to the local Police and they were also not aware - apparently they opposed the original licence application that Morrison's made to permanently increase their opening hours a few months ago. I am concerned that this temporary increase in opening hours may be a nefarious "back door" way to getting the change of hours made permanent. More as I find out.

I detest 3D movies and 3D televisions. I just don't see the point in giving yourself a headache and eye strain just to satisfy the self seeking folly of some Hollywood director. You can read more about the 3D process and the effects it can have on the human body by clicking here. I think it is a fad that will die out in the next couple of years, and a good thing too.

Personally I utterly despise reality television and shows such as "Celebrity dancing on ice up the jungle factor" and such - it is lazy and cheap television designed to attract the lowest common denominator and the stupid. I know that I am probably in the minority, and anyway, as I have stated before - "if it works for you". I digress. Len Goodman, the head judge on Strictly Come Dancing is a apparently a big star nowadays. The promotional shtick about him rhapsodises about his "World Famous" dance school and his history of dancing excellence. All of this may well be true, but it does make me smile, when after all the hype, once finds out that the centre of his dancing empire is a studio over a Londis convenience store and a kebab shop in Dartford. It rather deflates the allegedly glamorous image the show cultivates about him in my mind - see the photo below:

I am absolutely fuming. I am more than a little accustomed to the actions of spammers and malicious coders taking a pop at the Maggot Sandwich, especially as the Blog edges ever closer to my 60,000th unique page view; to be honest it has become par for the course. This is the primary reason that I had to enable comment moderation a while back - to stop spam advertising. I have noticed that in the last few weeks the spammers have become more devious, cunning and scurrilous in their actions. I have had a large number of prospective posts that on the face of it offer condolences after the death of my Dad back in September - as you may be aware, I uploaded a very personal obituary to him, and since then I have been inundated with specifically targetted, and very clever marketing messages - generally created to look like genuine messages of condolence, but when examined in detail, they contained poisonous HTML code designed to pollute the Blog with unwanted spam advertising. If I could catch the offenders, I would have them slowly gassed until they stopped twitching. Scum of the utterly worst kind.

It is not long now to the start of Erith Christmas Tree Festival; I am not the kind of person to get involved with such things, but I am sure that many will be interested - you can see their website here.

It is now pretty much widely held knowledge that the Oyster travel card system is corrupt and broken. Darryl, writer of the excellent 853 Blog has covered the topic in the recent past; The news that Oyster users are being overcharged at stations across the underground network won’t come as a surprise to many readers. It was revealed recently that in 2010, Transport for London pocketed a huge £61.8 million from passengers due to broken or open barriers and cards not read or swiped properly. The lack of barriers at some stations meant passengers were being overcharged, but there’s another issue: when stations become overcrowded (as they frequently do, for instance during rush hour), staff open the barriers and use the autocomplete system which touches travellers out of the system automatically. Sensors pick up cards going through the barriers but to avoid a maximum fare the user must touch in again at the same station within three days. This is fine if it’s a station you use frequently, but not quite so convenient if it isn’t. The Docklands Light Railway recently made the news for the same reason and features heavily in the complete list of overcharging stations with a contribution of £3.2m to that £61m total. Transport for London say that maximum fares are not overcharges, which is somewhat surprising, since they appear to be occurring at least partly as a result of a design failure of the Oyster system. This information is courtesy of both the 853 Blog and the Londonist website.

Here is a list of the top 10 stations overcharging Oyster users, and the approximate amount overcharged:
  1. Waterloo National Rail – £2,452,000
  2. London Bridge National Rail – £2,300,000
  3. Liverpool Street National Rail – £1,615,000
  4. Bank London Underground – £1,339,000
  5. King’s Cross London Underground – £1,073,000
  6. Victoria London Underground – £982,000
  7. Stratford – £877,000
  8. Wimbledon – £825,000
  9. Oxford Circus London Underground – £862,000
  10. Liverpool Street London Underground – £670,000
On a similar note, I have become increasingly aware that the editorial power on the News Shopper website has become increasingly eroded over the last year or so; the website uses a news engine similar to many other local newspapers, but the level of control and comment moderation has become minimal at best; some  of the malicious and downright horrible comments made about the recent disappearance of a local 13 year old girl were shocking - I am all too aware that people use their online anonymity to a sometimes vicious end, but the treatment handed out in the News Shopper recently has been unforgivable. I am concerned that the editorial staff may leave themselves open to legal action if they don't keep tighter control over the postings left on their website.

The video clip this week is a bit of a curiosity. It is a "behind the scenes" look a the making of the classic Bond movie "Goldfinger", and not only shows the excellent mock up of the Fort Knox gold repository, not as the original is, in Kentucky, but in a backlot at the Pinewood film studio. You do get a rare insight into the selection and use of Bonds' firearms. Years ago, when I was a licenced pistol shooter, I had the opportunity to try Bond's weapon of choice - the Walther PPK. I thought then as I do now - it was under powered and little better than a spud gun. Unless you got a head or heart hit, its' relatively puny 7.65mm / .32ACP bullet was not going to stop a charging bad guy, who might well be stoked up on drugs. A modern Bond would be far better served with a compact, polymer framed pistol such as a Glock 29 10mm semi auto. Personally, before the 1997 had gun ban, I used to have a Glock 17. A very reliable, accurate, beautifully made weapon. Anyway, watch the clip below, and feel free to post a comment - which will be moderated and published within 24 hours.

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