I see that the newly formed Bexley Metal Theft Task Force already have their work cut out for them. The News Shopper have reported that thieving scrotes tried to steal telephone cable from an underground pipe located under the bridle way that separates Lesnes Abbey Woods from Kingswood Avenue in Belvedere. Around two thousand residents currently have no land line telephone because of the criminal actions of a couple of individuals. What is even more annoying, in many of these cable theft cases, the cable is fibre optic, rather than copper, and thus worth nothing to the criminals. The need for new laws covering scrap dealers (banning of cash transactions / traders having to register with a specific dealer – stuff I have outlined in the recent past) is becoming more pressing than ever. Update - since I typed this piece earlier, the Government have announced that they are banning the sale of scrap metal for cash, along with a number of other stringent measures aimed at combatting scrap metal theft. You can read all of the details by clicking here. Good news for us all, with the exception of the thieving criminal scumbags.
The News Shopper is also reporting that there is a strong chance that the Larner Road Estate in Erith is in line to be used as a location for a couple of Hollywood films, before it is demolished in 2013. I think that this announcement is a bit on the optimistic side; the reporter does put an interesting spin on the story - actually the main concrete part of it is that the estate has been placed on a register of potential movie locations. It will become less red - tape bound to film there as the flats get emptied as the residents get re - housed or sent to prison. It is probably the roughest estate in the whole of Bexley Borough, but still the home to some decent people who deserve to live somewhere other than what has become a hellhole of a sink estate.
One of my local sources informs me that the RAF flew Eurofighter Typhoons over Erith a number of times last Saturday night as part of the rehearsals for security cover during the forthcoming Olympics. It is a pity that they could not have used the opportunity to drop a few bombs in the direction of Potion Bar (which their ignorant website still refers to as laughably being in South West London - what a bunch of Muppets). The place continues to be a hive of scum and villainy, and seems to only be able to keep hold of its’ licence by the skin if its’ teeth. I sincerely hope that 2012 sees the reformation, or better still, the closure of the seedy and disreputable dive of a place.
There has been a lot of hot air and bluster from the groups both for and against the construction of a new airport in the South East, on the Thames corridor. A new (and somewhat novel) argument has been put up by the anti airport camp. They say that there is a danger that nearby aircraft could detonate the WW2 freighter, the SS Richard Montgomery, which sank in the Thames Estuary in 1944. The vessel is still to this day loaded with around 1,400 tons of rather unstable high explosives. According to a BBC news report in 1970, it was determined that if the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery exploded, it would throw a 1,000-foot (300 m) wide column of water and debris nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in the air and generate a wave 16 feet (5 m) high. Almost every window in Sheerness would be broken and buildings would be damaged by the blast. Back in the days when I was working for Radio Caroline, we would often make tender runs from Strood on the River Medway, out into the Southern North Sea, and the South Falls Head, where the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge was moored, outside British territorial waters, and thus outside of the law. These trips were invariably made at the dead of night, navigating by radar and from navigational buoy to navigational buoy using good old fashioned charts and a compass. On one occasion I was at the wheel of the thirty foot fishing cruiser we were using as a covert supply vessel; we had to time our trips precisely; at that time, the Olau ferry company operated a couple of very large passenger ferries out of Sheerness. The skipper of the Olau Britannia was a great friend to Caroline, and would often go out of his way to help us. One way he gave us practical help was by allowing us to exit the Thames Estuary in the huge vessels’ radar shadow, thus hiding our activities from the authorities. I was concentrating on staying in formation with the giant car ferry, when I suddenly noticed a series of warning buoys dead ahead – I was steering the vessel straight into the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery! Needless to say, I came around hard to Starboard, to the consternation of the skipper and the rest of the crew, who were thrown around by my sudden course changes, and we narrowly avoided a collision. I reckon if we had have hit the wreck, we would probably have been the first fishing cruiser in orbit! More on Radio Caroline later, with a rare bit of vintage footage uncovered by Ian as the ending video this week.
For years I have been wracking my brain, trying to recall the name of a children’s TV show that absolutely terrified me back in the day; it was a sci fi series set in contemporary times, rather bizarrely I found a reference to it in the current edition of Practical Classics car magazine earlier this week. The Changes posits a Britain where a sudden enveloping noise emanating from all machinery and technology causes the population to go berserk and destroy them. The resulting upheaval displaces many people and reverts society back to a pre-industrial age where there is a deep suspicion of anyone who may be harbouring machinery. Even the words for technology are taboo. The remnants of modern technology that escape destruction (such as electricity pylons) produce a physical and sometimes violent repulsion among those left in Britain. The Changes are seen through the eyes of teenage schoolgirl Nicky Gore, and the 10-part series, originally broadcast every Monday from 6 January to 10 March 1975, traces Nicky's quest to reunite with her parents and solve the mystery. The serial's theme echoes the adult drama series Survivors, in which a small group of British people attempt to survive the annihilation of the world's population by disease. Looking back on it, the show was not suitable for children under twelve or so. I recall it utterly scared the willies out of me for ages. The Changes has not been repeated on terrestrial TV, and apparently has only had one outing on UK Gold back in the mid nineties.
The excellent E-Shooters Hill blog has a bit of a scoop this week; they have discovered that the beautiful art deco Co-Op building in Woolwich (see the photo above) is being saved; it fell into dereliction some years ago, and has been threatened with demolition on several occasions. I heard an (unsubstantiated) rumour a couple of years’ ago that Bono (of popular beat combo U2)'s hotel company had made enquiries about obtaining the building, but that apparently no agreement could be reached with the owners. Now it is going to be sympathetically converted into a hotel. Just for once something good and constructive is happening in the local area. You can read all the details on E-Shooters Hill here. Thanks to Mike who kindly permitted me to use his photo of the Co-Op you can see above. You can see all of Mike's photos on his Flickr site here.
I don’t think that I am alone in being of the opinion that recorded sound quality nowadays is substantially poorer than of yore. Lossy compression formats like MP3, Ogg Vorbis and WMA don’t offer the rich audio experience of older, but superior formats. OK, the convenience and portability of digital music is a real bonus, but it is a shame that it comes at such a high cost in quality. Even lossless audio codecs like FLAC, whilst a great improvement in quality, do not approach the sound of the “real thing”. I am not going to bang on about the benefits of one of the oldest recording formats – vinyl, as there are plenty of other places where this argument has been expounded. Needless to say, I would not be without my Linn Sondek LP12 turntable.
The current Vodafone TV advert has definitely got me riled. The commercial, set in a suburban sushi bar, shows a bloke with his significant other; he’s got a new mobile telephone and is showing it to his partner. She remonstrates with him, “you’re not going to transfer all your stuff from your old phone now are you?” Before he can respond, Yoda, who is conveniently sat next to them starts using the Force to levitate the phones – he’s going to the transfer the data for the bloke. There are so many things wrong with the commercial that is quite hard to know where to begin. For a start, what the hell is a fictional, dead Star Wars character, in Lucas’s own words from “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” be doing in what was meant to be in contemporary suburban southern Britain? On top of that, one shot shows Yoda sitting in front of a plate containing a piece of Salmon sushi. Anyone who has any knowledge of the Star Wars universe will know that Yoda was vegetarian. It seems that Lucasfilm are now plundering their coffers, selling the use of their characters to all and sundry, just so long as their pockets are deep enough. This follows the woeful Curry’s / PC World commercial starring Darth Vader back in last November. George Lucas owns the rights to the franchise, and if he thinks that raking in the cash by devaluing his creation is what he wants to do, it is entirely his right. I just don’t want to have to watch it. It is not long until he re-hashes the movies into 3D. I will be voting with my feet and staying away from their theatrical release.
This weeks' video is a bit of anorak gold; it shows the preparations for the first legal restricted service licence broadcast from the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge, when she was moored at Dover Eastern dock in the spring of 1992. Only the previous year the ship had been forced to come in from the North Sea, and, whilst fundamentally still mechanically sound, it was looking rather shabby. The volunteer crew were hard at work repainting and refurbishing the vessel prior to the commencement of radio transmissions. If you look carefully at the fifteen minute uncommented film, you will see me (in a red baseball cap and green overalls at around 4 minutes 20 seconds into the clip), Colin (G3VTT) Turner (at the same time) with his trademark moustache, Bongo (in the mess room with the tabloid newspaper), Barry Lewis (next to him in the mess room, with the beard, looking as laid back as always). Little Steve (foul mouthed) Masters pops up from time to time. John the Paint is around, and his Ford Sierra XR4x4 can be seen parked on the jetty next to the ship. I have probably missed lots of people, but it does give you an idea of what was going on at the time. There was a real sense of purpose and community; something we don't see very much of nowadays. I have some very fond memories of the time.