Sunday, December 04, 2011

60,000 and counting.

The view looking East from Erith Riverside Shopping Centre towards Morrison's. On the right you have Erith Health Centre, in the middle foreground is the "Robo Turdis" automatic public toilet, which gets hardly any use (many people avail themselves of the bushes out of the photo to the extreme right). Behind the auto loo is a block of apartments that opened around three years ago. Underneath them are four retail units, none of which have ever been occupied. Planning permission for one business was submitted a while back, but nothing seemed to come of it. The current chilly economic climate means that it is very difficult for a small business to raise finance. I think the only way the shop units will get occupied is if large chain stores take them - as has ended up being almost exclusively the case in the shopping centre itself. High rents and punitive taxes have caused the couple of independent shops that did give it a go to fail. Erith is still almost bereft of restaurants, rather than fast food outlets - the honourable exception being the Mambocino coffee shop, which is more of a sit down cafe than just a Starbuck's clone. They seem to serve a fairly wide variety of "knife and fork" meals, and always seem to be pretty busy - I keep meaning to give it a try. I would still like to see a Nandos or Pizza Express in the area, or better still, an Indian restaurant rather than just a takeaway (more of this later); I suppose I can keep hoping.

About an hour after I posted last weeks' Maggot Sandwich update, I checked Blogger's statistical reports to see if anyone had read the most recent entry. It was then I discovered that I had just exceeded 60,000 unique page views. Don't for a minute think this means that the blog has that number of regular readers - far from it. What it means is that 60,000 unique people have hit the blog - Blogger does not measure revisits from the same I.P address - the first time you visit my site, it is recorded, but from then on any additional views are left unrecorded. At a guess I reckon I have a few hundred regular readers, but I really cannot be that certain. I do know I get about 150 hits a day on average, from all over the world. Thank you one and all for continuing to read my ramblings!

I have come to the conclusion that the Post Office are no longer in the primary business of delivering letters and parcels to the inhabitants of this sceptered isle; nowadays their fundamental role seems to be that of advertising agency / marketing bureau. I receive more spam advertising flyers, pizza menus and other junk mail from the postal service than I do from anywhere else. Yesterday alone I had three fast food takeaway leaflets, an advertising flyer from Farm Foods (a place to visit you are too chavvy for Iceland) and a dodgy looking leaflet offering to buy my house, all delivered by the Post Office. All such advertising junk goes into a bag and gets taken around to the recycling facility in Morrison's car park for pulping. What a waste of time and effort. I still have not had anything to rival the take away leaflet posted through my door at 1.30 am last Christmas morning, fortunately. 

A local curry house has been awarded a major prize at the British Curry Awards last Monday night; the event was hosted by celebrity chef James Martin and had guests including London Mayor Boris Johnson and Baroness Warsi, as well as a congratulatory video message from Prime Minister David Cameron. The lucky winner of best suburban Indian Restaurant in the UK went to the Shampan 3 in Falconwood Parade, Welling. You can download a PDF of their very interesting looking menu by clicking here. Back in the 1990's I used to work in the East End of London and would eat curry house made curry two or three times a week. I was a member of the Curry Club, run by chef and author Pat Chapman. I used to write reviews for the Good Curry Guide, and articles for the now defunct Curry Club magazine. I only eat a "proper" Indian restaurant curry a couple of times a year now, though I do cook a fairly mean one from fresh herbs and spices - no sign of a cooking sauce or other shortcut when I make a dish. All this writing about curry is making me hungry - incidentally the Shampan 3 has a special Christmas menu for the month of December - take a look below; it certainly looks very different from most conventional curry house menus.

I have been reading more about the history of Erith; I have always wondered why there is a large chalk outcrop that stands between the Europa Industrial Estate and Erith station; it is a sheer, almost vertical hill surrounded by built up areas. It turns out that the site of the Europa Industrial Estate was the location of Erith loam quarry; The quarry was originally opened by the Wheatley Estate in 1805 to provide stone ballast for sailing ships.  Shortly thereafter a man called John Parish was employed as the quarry general manager. Later, the Wheatley family sold the business to Parish, and for many years the quarry was referred to locally as "Parish's Pit". Once the stone ballast was completely mined out, it was discovered that beneath was a rich seam of loam, a material used extensively in the production of moulds in the metal casting industry. The loam was shipped from Erith as far away as South Shields and elsewhere, and the trade grew steadily. Erith Deep Water Wharf was built in 1842 to service the trade, and at the time of the Crimean War the demand for Erith loam was so great that ships were queuing in the Thames to use the wharf, and the quarry was working 24 hours a day, lit in the dark by giant flares. Once the quarry was finally worked out, it was used for other purposes. The section adjacent to Erith station, that is now the goods marshalling yard for the NiceDay warehouse in the Europa Estate was the site of Erith Cricket Club; a photograph taken in 1870 still exists of the club, with a match in full progress.

Before the First World War Erith possessed extensive brick fields in Manor Road, to the East of the town centre. The deposit of the iron rich brick earth stretched all the way into Slade Green, where a company called Rutter's Brick Works was in operation for many years. The finished bricks were exported by ship from Anchor Bay Wharf, which was connected to the pits and brickworks by a tramway. The semi liquid brick clay was transferred from the more distant pits to the main brickworks in Manor Road by a network of iron pipes; apparently the ovens which fired the bricks were kept working around the clock, and in cold weather it was not uncommon to find tramps and vagrants using the buildings as somewhere warm and dry to spend the night.

One can always tell when Christmas is on the way - the background music on the Sky Television menu system changes to a really sickening medley of cheesy Christmas tunes. I am switching off the background music in the options list as with immediate effect.

As I have previously written about local metal thefts, I discovered this week that the situation has got so bad that in some parts of the country, the rail companies are having to run overnight, empty save for the driver "ghost" trains in order to patrol their networks to deter cable thieves. A private members' bill is to be put before Parliament to introduce a law banning the purchase of scrap for cash, as has recently been introduced in France. The French have enabled a law which could potentially see a scrap dealer jailed if they were to be found to have bought scrap "under the counter" for cash. All recycling and scrap dealing is heavily policed by the French authorities - whom I feel we could learn a lot from.

The now infamous Cross Keys Pub in Erith is back up for auction on the 7th December by the same company that tried to auction it earlier in the year, when the pub was withdrawn from the sale on the very morning of the auction. The company handling the sale is Network Auctions - have a look at their website, but don't try and download their sales PDF brochure, because the link currently does not work. I will be fascinated to see what happens on the day; I sincerely hope that it finds a new owner who does not want to turn it into river front flats.

I am feeling old; many outlets in the popular press are reporting that the 1st of December was the 30th anniversary of the launch of the BBC Microcomputer. I used them extensively at school, though at the time I was faintly dismissive of them, as they did not have as much memory, or the impressive (for the time) graphics of the Atari 800 I shared with my sister. I was blissfully unaware of the incredibly well designed implementation of the BASIC programming language that was years ahead of any other home / school computer; I did not know that it had a built in firmware assembler / compiler for 6502 machine code - all other contemporary microcomputers had to run a software assembler that ate into the computers' already meagre memory, meaning that any assembly routines were very limited in size; it had the ability to directly interface with floppy drives and (heaven forbid) even hard disk drives - which I had heard about, but never seen - I was still using a cassette drive on my Atari 800 to load and save files - an experience kids today should be glad that they will never have to undergo. The "Beeb" also had a simple form of networking - at the time I could not conceive of a time when computers would talk to each other - that seemed to be in the realms of science fiction to my fourteen year old mind. Still, the BBC Micro has had a massive influence on a whole generation of people who went on into careers in the IT industry - myself included. On top of this, it is one of the first primitive progenitors of the company which went on to become ARM. The biggest corporation you have probably never heard of. Put it this way, if you have a tablet device running Android or iOS, or pretty much any kind of mobile telephone, you own a device that uses a processor chip designed by Cambridge based British company ARM Holdings.

Something that I had been aware of for a while, that has finally made it into the mainstream press is the story that GCHQ have launched a campaign to recruit Britain's amateur code breakers. A bit like the competition run by Bletchley Park at the outbreak of WWII to interview candidates who could successfully complete the Telegraph crossword in under twelve minutes. You can see the special competition website here, though only for a week, until the competition ends. No, I am not interested in trying; the careers offered in GCHQ don't pay nearly enough for the work and dedication involved, and my maths skills are execrable - though my sincere best wishes and good luck for those who give the puzzle a crack. Hint - look for repetition. *Update*. The cipher has been cracked, but not by breaking it - the numb skulled people at the employment agency who created the site on behalf of GCHQ did not bother to hide the "Congratulations - you broke the code!" page from search engines, and a simple Google search can find the answer. You can read all about the stupid mistake by clicking here.

The final video this week is a real treat; there are fan films all over the internet, of variable, and usually pretty poor quality. Then there are the notable exceptions. Star Trek - Phase II - The New Voyages is as close as it could be to being an official continuation of the original three series of Star Trek that originally ran from 1966 - 1969. The concept is that Star Trek continued on to a fourth and fifth series, and it covered the events prior to the movie Star Trek - The Motion Picture. The cast and crew are mostly amateur, but the CGI effects are done by artists who used to be part of of the "real" Voyager and Enterprise graphics teams. The executive producer is Eugene Roddenberry junior - the son of the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry. The scripts are also written by "real" Star Trek writers. The series of web based movies also have featured the actual actors from the series - George Takei (Sulu) appears in one story, Walter Koenig (Chekov) appears in another, and Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar from The Next Generation) guest stars in a two part TV movie, playing her original characters' Grandmother. Paramount, owners of the Star Trek franchise, allow the movies to be made just as long as nobody profits from them. Indeed, there are fans all over the world that donate funds for the productions to continue. The clip below shows an episode, written and directed by the original series writer David Gerrold (the author of "The Trouble with Tribbles). It is a story he wrote and submitted back in the late 1980's for Star Trek - The Next Generation, but which was rejected on the grounds of its' (then) controversial story line. Things have thankfully moved on, and below you can see the first act of "Blood and Fire". Brilliant stuff. For the full episode, more details of the show, and links to freely download the whole series, you can click here. Do leave a comment and let me know what you think.


  1. As a regular reader of your blog I always enjoy hearing about the history of my home town and especially liked the story about the big chalk drop behind Erith Station, something I have always wondere about. Where do you get your stories from? Is it from searching online or from local history books?

  2. My Gods, man! I came here to read about radio and discovered Star Trek!


  3. Just as good as your last post. Do you accept advertisers?