Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Fresh Format" in Morrison's.

Anybody who has made a trip to the large Morrison’s supermarket in Erith over the last month or so will have noticed major layout changes. Builders are carrying out some pretty significant construction within the store; most of their labours are carried out over night when the shop is shut, and they have been very efficient in concealing much of their work from the public. Earlier this week the off – licence part of the shop was transformed overnight – the old metal shelves and racking have been replaced with rustic looking, bare wood shelving - somewhat reminiscent of a garden centre. The effect is pleasing, and looks far more classy than that which it replaced. It strikes me that Morrison’s are consciously trying to move their corporate image upmarket. Their old, bluff Northern grocer image was obviously no longer indicative of their status as the number four national supermarket chain. From the changes to the layout and the design of the new fittings, it is apparent that Morrison’s are trying to “do a Waitrose” with their new look and feel. The London Evening Standard reported on Thursday afternoon that the Erith branch of Morrison's will be introducing its' new "Fresh Format" which offers 30% more fresh food lines than its' conventional stores. Displays will include produce on flat beds which are cooled by dry ice, keeping produce in top condition for longer. Morrison's currently has 475 shops - it has already introduced its' "Fresh Format" to 15 stores, and are planning to accelerate this to 50 stores by the end of this summer. Morrison's is growing the fastest in London and the South East; currently it is hugely under represented compared with the other "big four" supermarket chains, with just 28 outlets within the M25 border at present. Morrison's chief executive Dalton Philips recently said "We have growth across the country, but you can see the difference with London and the South East; this is why we have strong growth plans for this part of the country." To my knowledge, for the first time since they opened in Erith back in 1999, Morrison’s will be closed on a normal working day on Monday 19th March, for the final phase of building work to be completed. Flyers like the one above are being handed out by staff, which include special discount offers only available at the Erith store for a week after the special closure.

I see from the News Shopper article on the subject that local MP David Evennett is encouraging local sixteen year olds to apply to join the National Citizen Service. I applaud the sentiment, but once again the misnomer grates on me like a misused apostrophe. Britons are not citizens. To be a citizen you need to live in a republic, which we do not. We live in a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The concept of civil national service is an interesting one. The scheme offers three weeks of team-building and outdoors activities, participants then spend 30 hours helping to improve the community. The problem is that the people it is mainly aimed at – disaffected youths with little connection with society are the least likely to get involved. Instead I would not be at all surprised if the service is used by the sharp elbowed, pushy parents of middle class kids keen to add something constructive to their CV before going off to university. I would like to be proved wrong, but somehow I doubt it.

The Bexley Times have recently reported that Slade Green has been granted a £1 million windfall to be spent on community improvements, starting up training and employment schemes, tackling anti-social behaviour, or providing more activities for young people. This sounds like an excellent endeavour, but when you read the details it turns out to be rather less exciting. The million quid is to be spent over a period of ten years - £100K per year; still a nice sum, but not the game changing amount the award intimated. The upside is that it may provide employment for a small number of people, which can only be a good thing. Any sums of money, however modest can only be a benefit to Slade Green; it is an area that has more than its’ fair share of deprivation, yet does not usually receive the attention that other more high profile needy areas receive.

The Seventh Bexley Beer Festival is taking place from the 12th to the 14th of April at Sidcup Rugby Club, Crescent Farm, Sydney Road, Sidcup. Both Ian and I have been pretty much every year since it began; it is an excellent, medium sized beer festival in a very fine location on the outskirts of Sidcup. I note that for the first time this year, there will be no live music. Normally I am a strong supporter of live music in all its’ forms, but I have to say I detest music at beer festivals. Quite often people meet at beer festivals, and want to catch up on news and the typical conversation that you might otherwise have in the pub. I also notice that the kind of bands that tend to play are invariably fulfilling a clichĂ© “finger in the ear” folkies, or over amplified covers bands with more enthusiasm than musical talent. No great loss in my opinion, and apparently that of the members of Bexley Camra. My only other minor gripe about the event is that for the last couple of years, the rugby club management have not permitted the festival attendees to use the excellent club toilets; instead the ale fans are relegated to using a clutch of dark and smelly Turdises adjacent to the club car park. Once it gets dark, users take their life in their hands when needing to pump the bilges – a frequent occurrence when considering the volumes of real ale consumed. I think more consideration should be given to the humble ale fan, especially when one considers the amount of money they are siphoning (for want of a more apposite term) into the rugby club.

I received information earlier this week from local resident Dana Whiffen that Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association (BBNWA) Chairman Ray Hudson has been given a civic award by Boris. You can read the press release on the occasion below:

First Annual Team London Achievement Awards-Improving Community Safety Category

Ray Hudson had heard that he had been short listed into the last 3 for the above award a couple of weeks ago and he was asked to go to the awards ceremony on Thursday 1st March 2012 at County Hall, he was pleased to win the above prestigious award which on the day was handed to him by London's Mayor Boris Johnson. Ray has been a volunteer in many different roles and is currently Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch a role which he has held since 2004. He has led BBNWA and with all our volunteers they have helped to make Bexley one of the safest boroughs in London. At the moment BBNWA is attempting to expand in the Borough with an aim to cover 50% of residential homes in the next 2 years. In addition they have formed Plot Watch to prevent theft from Allotments, Faith Watch to try and halt the theft from churches as well as lead from church roofs, and also Horse Watch as the theft of saddlery from stables has increased over the last few months. Ray was also a Magistrate from 1975 to 2011 and is a School Governor, he is also currently a member of the management committee of The Bexley Community Policing Engagement Group,(BCPEG)  as well a member of The Rochester Diocese Church Parish Council. His award is well deserved and applauded by his team at BBNWA.

Boris visited Crayford on Tuesday; ostensibly his visit was to open the new home of the Europa Gym Centre, who have recently completed their move from their old home in an old, converted warehouse on the Europa Industrial Estate in Fraser Road, Erith. They are now based in a purpose built £1.2 million facility in Crayford. I understand that the gym hopes to produce some Olympic competitors; at least they will not have too far to travel if they do compete – although the predicted traffic congestion may still make it an arduous journey. Call me a cynic (and many already do) but Boris has been making a number of appearances in the local area recently I nearly bumped into him in Bexleyheath Broadway a while back – he’s quite a bit shorter than I expected. Not for one minute do I believe that this is because he holds a deep and abiding love for the borough of Bexley. I think it has far more to do with him trying to drum up local votes for the forthcoming Mayoral elections. Boris is canny enough to realise that many in Bexley don’t regard themselves as Londoners at all. I am one of those people. I have a Dartford postcode and telephone number, and feel far more affinity with Kent than I do with London. This commonly held feeling is something that Boris feels will not work in his favour, as a low election turnout will give disproportionally more weight to the minority candidates, and further split the vote between the two front runners. For me, London is somewhere I travel to in order to work, rather than somewhere I live.

Talking of London, On Wednesday I had to travel through London up to my employer’s Watford office. Technically I am based in Watford for work, but in practice I only have to journey there a couple of times a month. This is just as well, as the journey takes around two and a half hours on a good day. On a bad day, the sky is the limit. I was making my way up the steps from Euston tube station into the mainline station when a voice called me from behind. A man was pushing a buggy with a very small child in it, and had two other slightly older children in tow. He asked me if I could help him get the buggy up the steps. I was only too happy to assist. Back in the days when I was visiting my Dad in his nursing home, I would get off the train at Plumstead station and have to ascend the steep wooden steps to road level; I would on many occasions help people with buggies, as the station (just like Erith) does not have disabled / buggy access. No big deal I thought as I grabbed the front of the buggy in order to hoist it up the stairs, only to find that the thing must have been stuffed with bowling balls and pig iron – either that or there was a gravitational anomaly in Euston station. I eventually managed to haul the hyper dense baby carriage to the top of the stairs, worried that my rather fragile back might have suffered. I seem to have got away with it; I don’t like refusing to help someone in a similar situation, but I have to say that the experience has given me food for thought.

I don’t know if you ever watch the giant wind turbines down on the Belvedere Marshes, on the banks of the Thames; I find them fascinating. It turns out that two reports on renewable energy have been published in the last week or so; it would appear that as a means of generating electricity, wind turbines are actually en engineering and financial dead end. It turns out that the figures the Department of Energy has used to calculate how long the wind turbines will take to pay for themselves and the amount of carbon they will save were wildly optimistic in the extreme. You can read more about the situation by clicking here. It would seem that the best option for clean energy is still nuclear; personally I think more investment and research needs to be done into nuclear fusion, rather than the relatively low tech fission we currently employ to generate electricity. Fusion does not require poisonous and radioactive Uranium to work, and it generates no dangerous waste products.

Have you ever done a recursive Google search? I mean in the sense where you are looking for some information on a subject, and the results returned include information written by yourself? I had this happen to me in the week; I was doing a search for Silica Shop (the pioneering Sidcup based company that were for several years in the 1980's were the largest independent computer dealer in the UK, and publisher of a series of legendarily verbose press adverts). I worked for Silica Shop, first as a Saturday and holiday job from the age of 15, and then full time for about a year when I left school. I learned more there than almost anything I did before or since. Considering the impact Silica Shop had on the history of British popular computing, there is remarkably little published online. There is an eponymous website for a completely separate company selling discount software, but very little else – in fact the following search result is returned – spooky!

The end video this week is a commercial of a sort; it is to promote the forthcoming "Angry Birds" game, but the presenter and location of the three and a bit minute movie are definitely unusual. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Hugh.

    You might be glad that you live in London and not Kent when you reach bus pass age.

    No riding on the trains, underground and DLR for us unfortunates who have a Bexley address and pay our Council Tax to Dartford!

    There aren't even any orchards left in this part of the Garden of England, they've all been turned into golf courses.

    Roll on Ken getting back in and extending Greater London to the M25. He's got my backing on that one.

    Next time you bump into Boris why not ask him what the chances are of you getting any form of bus pass in his version of the future London?