Sunday, April 29, 2012

Give three piece a chance.

There has been much shipping activity on Erith Pier over the last few weeks; the photo above shows a couple of Dutch bulk freighters that regularly use the pier as a mooring. I don't know how much inconvenience this causes the people who fish off the pier, but it certainly helps with international relations.

Iceland have not let the grass grow under their feet; the discount frozen food retailer have snapped up the double store unit in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre from the previous tenant clothing retailer Peacocks, who recently and very publicly went bust. The remaining Peacocks stock was bought up for a song by Morrison’s, who are now selling clothing in their larger stores – including the recently refurbished Erith shop. To add insult to injury, they have not even removed any Peacocks branding – the clothes hangers all have Peacocks logos, as if Morrison’s don’t care about confusing their branding. The swift take up of the old Peacocks store must have been quite a feat; it normally takes months of legal wrangling and endless paperwork to get the retail change of use processed. I get the feeling that the council have been moving heaven and earth to get the planning permission passed and get the shop open and taking money. The location at the top of the escalators in the main drag of the shopping centre is a prime location, and will no doubt have a premium rent attached to it. I think just about the only people who will not be glad to see Iceland open in the centre will be the owners of Farm Foods, located next to the Erith Police Office in the old Co-Op building. Farm Foods and Iceland vie for the same section of the market, and I see local competition being fierce. This can only be good for the consumer, though as to whether two discount frozen food stores can succeed in a fairly small market like Erith, only time will tell. One thing that is rather contentious about the Iceland opening is that they have applied for a licence to sell alcohol until 11pm six days per week; there is no other shop retailing alcohol in the Riverside Shopping Centre, and the main shopping arcade is locked closed after normal retail hours - after all the centre is also a residential area, with many flats located over the retail part of the building. I presume that some other access will be granted - otherwise there would be nothing to stop yobs running riot around the shopping centre until late in the night - which has been the main reason for having the large gates locked at night to keep trouble out. This policy has mainly been a great success; last years wannabe rioters did not get further than breaking one of the glass doors at Blockbusters, before the local Police had collared the miscreants, and got them sent down as they deserved.

Google scored a double first last Monday, when they published a Google Doodle of St George for St. George’s Day. The spin was, as the day was also the 30th anniversary of the launch of the seminal Sinclair ZX Spectrum – the computer that did most to encourage kids to learn programming. The Speccy was limited even in its’ time; the hardware was not much to write home about when compared to the BBC Micro, Atari 800XL and the Commodore 64, but in many ways this simplicity and lack of frills attracted the cleverest and most cunning programmers, who needed to use the most subtle and intelligent coding to coax every last cycle out of the 8-bit Z80 processor. I feel that if the same level of skill and attention were lavished on modern computers, with their huge excess of power and resources, the end results would be astonishing. The trouble is, there is no incentive to optimise programming code to squeeze the very last drops of performance out of a modern computer, as they are so powerful that even relatively lazy coding can give superficially impressive results. The forthcoming (much delayed) Raspberry Pi computers will be a partial return to simple, easy to use and learn computers; in spirit very similar to the original ZX Spectrum, although in reality many magnitudes more powerful. It has been commented that the Raspberry Pi is actually more powerful that the Cray 1 Supercomputer, which, in 1976 was the most powerful computer on the planet. And you can purchase a Raspberry Pi for under £30 including postage, delivered to your door. After many delays, none the fault of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the first Raspberry Pi computers have now been delivered to lucky early adopters. Unfortunately I seem to be a way down the delivery list; although I tried registering my interest with both UK vendors the moment the websites went live, I along with thousands of unlucky others was unable to do anything, as the websites both crashed due to the huge load. Apparently there have already been well in excess of 100,000 orders for the tiny £25 computer. As customers are receiving their machines, some are choosing to upload videos to YouTube showing them un-boxing and setting up their new technological marvel. I get the feeling that a lot of the early adopters – people who are buying the development version which is not supplied with a case are people like me, who as children were the first generation to own a home computer such as a BBC Micro, Commodore 64 or Sinclair ZX Spectrum. We see the similarities between the Raspberry Pi and the early home systems, and want to recreate the experience of dabbling with a new and mysterious piece of kit. I think the intended target market – school children who wish to learn how computers actually work, and how to learn to program them will come along when the final, cased version is launched later this year. The level of interest and anticipation of this midget sized, ARM processor based computer has been absolutely staggering. I reckon by the time the production version goes on sale to school kids in the autumn, it could well be featured on the national curriculum for computing, in the same way that the BBC Micro did in the 1980’s. The video below shows someone running Arch Linux on a Raspberry Pi. The video is nearly twenty minutes long, and will not appeal to all - but have a quick peek - you never know - it may awaken your inner geek....
The traveller cob ponies are back in the piece of wasteland behind Morrison's Car park and the recycling centre, and the River Thames path. The ponies in question are not the same ones that were resident last year, but they are very similar. They first reappeared on Wednesday, some time in the day; a couple of witnesses saw a horse box, and a couple of shifty and suspicious looking individuals on the site. I checked the ponies out on Thursday evening, whilst on my way to a meeting in Erith Town Centre. The ponies would appear to be in fairly good condition (though far be it from me to be a horse expert - quite the opposite!) Locals have already twigged that there were new animals in the impromptu enclosure, and some have taken to feeding them with vegetables bought around the corner in Morrison's. If I recall, half the problem with the previous equine encumbants was they they got over fed and ended up somewhat over weight due to the excess feeding by local well wishers. I had a word with someone who knows a lot more about horses than I do; apparently it is a really bad idea to feed them too many carrots, as ponies can easily get liver damage from an overdose of Vitamin K (which is present in carrots). I am trying to find out who the animals actually belong to, and how long they will be housed on the site. From my research with the last two ponies, it would appear to be some travellers, though precisely who I know not. When I spoke to the Police about it, they said that there was little they could do as long as the animals were well looked after and had adequate food and water. The land owners (whoever they might be) evidently don't seem very bothered. I did also raise the matter with the Security officer in Morrison's - who told me the land actually did not belong to the supermarket, but he was not sure who did own it. Unless somebody complains or kicks up a stink, I seriously doubt that anything will happen in respect of the situation. 
The picture above shows Avenue Road in Erith at around the beginning of the 20th Century, by the looks of the clothing. None of the buildings are still in place.

Upper Belvedere witnessed the inaugural meeting of its' new Women's Institute group on Wednesday afternoon in the hall of All Saint's Church. Around eighty ladies attended the initial get together. The event did cause no small amount of controversy, and a disagreement that has yet to be successfully resolved. A majority voted to name the newly established group as the Nuxley Village Women's Institute. This name was hotly debated, as there is no such place as Nuxley Village, as I have previously documented. Upper Belvedere has been erroneously named Nuxley Village by several local estate agents, but no actual place so named exists. The vote to name the group Nuxley Village Women's Institute was passed by an (ignorant) majority. I hope that this is reviewed shortly.

The election for the position of Mayor of London is almost upon us; I received the information leaflet about each of the candidates through my letter box a few days ago. I must say that the styling and presentation of the thing rather reminded me of a student rag week leaflet, rather than something intended to inform and potentially influence voters. I dutifully read through it, as like most Londoners I knew little about the candidates other than Boris, Ken and Brian. What I read did not fill me with any confidence; all candidates, whatever their political persuasion seem to spout the same bland platitudes about London – improving transport, putting more police on the beat and so on. The trouble is, from previous evidence, whoever ends up getting the job ends up not delivering on their promises. I do get the feeling that the whole mayoral election is a bit of an exercise in futility. As I have previously written, if there was an option to select “none of the above” I would probably choose it. 

There is a story in the News Shopper concerning a chap from Leicestershire who collects pub memorabilia (well, everybody has to have a hobby) he's after a very rare pub drinks tray issued many years ago by the Reffells Brewery which was based in Old Bexley. This got me thinking; I recognised the name of the brewery, as I recall that the Robin Hood and Little John have a set of Reffells beermats, framed and on display on the wall next to their lovely open fireplace. I did a little bit of hunting around, as I am occasionally wont to do, and I discovered that the local area used to have two rival breweries - the aforementioned Bexley based Reffells, and the Plumstead based Beasley's. Reffells opened in 1876 and operated with varying degrees of financial success until it was finally taken over by Courage in 1956. Though no longer making beer, the original brewery buildings off Bourne Road are still in place, and are used as an industrial estate nowadays.   There is a mini website dedicated to the Reffells Brewery which you can visit by clicking here. Beasley's Brewery in comparison was owned until 1939 by renowned anthropologist and pioneer ethnologist Harry Geoffrey Beasley, who lived in Cranmore House in Chislehurst. The brewery was located just off Lakedale Road in Plumstead. Very little documentation regarding their range of ales survives, excepting what I came across here. One thing I do recall is that my Mum's and Dad referred to "Beasley's Beastly Beer" - they did not like their brews at all, complaining that they were watery and gutless.  This may be explained by the fact that my Granddad on my Mum's side was a regular at the (then) Woodman pub in Blackfen - back then a Reffells pub, and unofficial watering hole of the local Home Guard, of which Granddad was a member.

Readers of The Chap magazine got a healthy dose of publicity this week; coverage of their protest at American mass market vendor Abercrombie and Fitch opening a children’s clothing shop in Savile Row garnered world-wide press coverage. Somehow I think that chain stores will end up opening in the prestigious road, famous for its’ elite range of bespoke tailors. To be honest, you don’t actually have to physically be located in the road to be classed as a Savile Row tailor. One of the most prestigious companies of them all, Anderson and Sheppard are actually located around the corner in Old Burlington Street, but nobody would ever say that they were not Savile Row. It is more a mark of supreme exclusivity, long tradition, top grade quality and eye watering prices.


  1. I would like to bring to the attention of persons buying carrots at Morrisons for the ponies that VAT should be paid on carrots not bought for human consumption. Make sure you tell cashier they're for ponies so HMRC get more of your money.

  2. One Beasley;s beer I recall was their 'OBJ" This was supposed to stand for Oh Be Joyful. It was a bit like Newcastle Brown. Another SE London or W Kent Brewery was Lovibonds, but I know no more of them that their name.

  3. In the 1950's my Mother and Father were Manager/Manageress of the Wheatly Arms Hotel Erith.As a 10 yr old I remember the hotel with very fond memories, including Beasleys beers and Ales. John Llewellyn.