Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thames 21 clean up.

The photo above shows two Council workmen with a scrap van on Erith River Front this morning. They were assisting the environmental charity Thames 21 and a number of local volunteers to clear rubbish from the River Thames along Erith Riverside Gardens and along the frontage at West Street. Quite a number of shopping trollies, an empty gas bottle and even a stolen and dumped moped were recovered from the low tide mud of the River Thames. I have to say that the turn out of volunteers was a bit disappointing - not nearly so many people as this time last year; I think some of the reason may be that although there was a fair amount of publicity, it was all rather last minute, and many people either did not find out in time, or had already made arrangements for this Sunday. Personally I found out too late to give the event a plug on the last edition of the Maggot Sandwich. Still, there were enough people present to get some good work done, which is what really counts I suppose. You can see more photographs of the event on my Flickr site here.

Workers have been busy over the last few weeks in the network of roads around Erith Health Centre; they have been digging up the roads and installing new gas piping. The work appears pretty well planned and professionally undertaken. It strikes me as ironic that only a couple of hundred metres away you can see a road where the surface has so deteriorated that it has become a hazard to navigation. Back in May 2009 I reported on how Manor Road had been resurfaced (see the photos here) with a revolutionary sound deadening material which was designed to make the lives of local residents a bit more bearable, as traffic noise and road rumble had been a major concern for years. Bexley Council spent over £1 million on the material alone, and the entire project must have cost considerably more than this. Once it was completed, the road looked very smart, and for a few months local residents noticed a marked reduction in road noise. Then the 99 bus route was redirected to travel down Manor Road. The troubles began shortly thereafter. I really don’t think that the Council engineering planners and the surveyors for the road contractors had taken into account the volume of heavy goods traffic that uses Manor Road on a daily basis. The road surface takes an utter pounding from the heavy goods vehicles, low loaders and vehicles transporting unusually large loads, not to mention a double deck 99 bus in each direction every seven minutes or so. The road surface is breaking down, and this has recently appeared to have begun accelerating. It is noticeable that the worst affected areas are where the 99’s stop to take on and discharge passengers. I have logged calls to the Bexley Council Highways department on more than one occasion to point out the dreadful condition of what is one of the areas’ most heavily used roads. I have to say that thus far I have yet to receive a response. The irony is, that the longer the council ignore the problem, the more it is eventually going to cost to repair. *Update*. I got an Email from the Council Highways Department to say that they were investigating, and lo and behold the worst part of the problem - a very noisy broken manhole cover adjacent to the 99 bus stop by the Frobisher Road Estate, which has been making loud clacking noises every time a vehicle travels over it has been fixed - in a way which I guess must be unique to Bexley - they have slapped a rough patch of tarmac over the manhole, both stopping the banging noise, and also stopping the cover from being lifted. Crude but effective I suppose. Let's see how long it take them to make a permanent repair.

The area is the poorer for the recent death of Upper Belvedere resident Dennis (Den) Turrell. I am extremely pleased to say that the News Shopper gives him a suitably fitting obituary that you can read here. I was acquainted with Den, as he was a friend of my Mum; we would quite often bump into him on the bus to Plumstead, in the period when we were visiting Dad in his nursing home. Den was quite frail, but always laughing and cheerful. He spend a life of service to the local community, and was the recipient of several civic awards, though you would never have guessed it – he was a truly humble and down to earth individual. One of his main passions was the Scout movement, which he was involved with as a volunteer for well over forty years, and was the recipient of Scouting’s highest award the Silver Wolf award in 2005. A nice bloke and sadly missed.

Every so often I publish a recipe on the Maggot Sandwich; it has been a while since I last did this, and by coincidence I came across a hand written recipe given to me by my good friend Debbie rather more years ago than I care to reflect on. I was turning out documents from the paperwork drawer in my old kitchen cupboard at the weekend, when I came across the long lost recipe, which I share here with you. I can promise it makes for an absolutely delicious restaurant style Madras curry.

Debbie’s Chicken Madras.


Diced chicken breast
Large onion
Tin of tomatoes
1 teaspoon chilli powder (more to taste if you like it very hot)
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 inch cube of root ginger
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cloves
2 teaspoons coriander powder
6 green cardamoms (seeds only)
5 cloves garlic
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in ¾ pint of water
2 large pieces of cinnamon bark


Fry the onion in vegetable oil with the garlic, cinnamon bark, cardamom seeds and the cloves until ingredients are soft. Remove from the heat and add to tinned tomatoes then place in a blender and whizz to a smooth consistency. Fry the chicken breast pieces with the finely chopped fresh ginger until it is fully sealed and has turned from pink to white. Then mix the chilli powder, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and coriander powder together with a little water to make a paste. Add the paste mix to the chicken and cook for a couple of minutes to temper the spices. Add the pureed  tomato, onion and spice mix to the chicken in a large pan, and add the ¾ pint of chicken stock. Simmer gently for an hour so that the sauce reduces, then serve with boiled basmati rice. You can also make the dish with lamb or beef, and you can add spinach and / or mushrooms for the last few minutes of cooking if you wish. It really is a recipe that invites experimentation with the ingredients; do let me know what you think if you try it.

I was listening to the excellent radio broadcasts of Laser Hot Hits on 4.015 MHz shortwave on Wednesday evening; the presenter, Stewart Ross was talking about once owning a Radio Shack 65 in 1 electronic project kit; I immediately Emailed the station to say that I too used to own a Radio Shack kit, but mine was the top of the range 150 in 1 kit. It was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received from Mum and Dad; I spent endless hours wiring up the various projects, and I have to say that most of them worked very well indeed. I wonder if there is a modern equivalent? I will have to have a look next time I am in a Maplin store, as they are the nearest equivalent to the now defunct Tandy (the British arm of then U.S giant Radio Shack). Incidentally Tandy / Radio Shack were famous for their amazing catalogues - I used to get each one and spend hours reading through it, though at the time I did not have much of a clue as to what some of the devices and electronic components were actually for. Someone has digitised virtually every catalogue the company ever published, and has made them available online. Click here for a look.

Visitors to the Olympic Games this summer are going to be subject to a range of pervasive and some would say draconian laws covering their behaviour. Photography News magazine are reporting that visitors to the Games are going to be banned from publishing their photographs on social networking sites like FaceBook or photo sharing sites like Flickr. The London 2012 conditions state: ‘Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally, and may not exploit images, video and/or sound recordings for commercial purposes under any circumstances, whether on the internet or otherwise, or make them available to third parties for commercial purposes.’ Whoever drafted this rule was clearly utterly ignorant of the nature of social media; there is absolutely no way that the Olympic authorities will be able to control what people do with video and still photographs they take of the events. I am astonished that something of this nature would get beyond a very early draft – one would expect that someone more senior would read it and veto it as being not only unworkable, but potentially both unpopular and liable to cause damage to the Olympic reputation. This follows the previously reported restrictions on companies local (within 500 metres) of any of the Olympic venues. Small companies are banned from showing adverts, or even showing their names during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. All shop signs and advertising must be covered over and rendered illegible for the duration. This is to “protect” the image of the three main sponsors – McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Cadbury’s. How an independent tobacconist or pie and mash shop in Stratford can threaten the commercial operation of a multinational like Coca Cola completely escapes me; it strikes me as corporate bullying of the most brutal and unsubtle kind. Even those keen on the Games are surprised at such behaviour, which does not exactly do much to reflect the Olympic spirit. As if to add insult to injury, Greenwich based blogger The Greenwich Phantom has discovered that hospitality tickets for events taking part in Greenwich are going to be unbelievably expensive - the "entry level" tickets costing from £534 per person, per day. When I checked the hospitality website, I found that most tickets were on the far side of £700. Not exactly encouraging to local young people to get involved in sport - just another corporate expenses bash.

A new IT award has been created to the memory of Tony Sale, the pioneering engineer behind the recreation of the Colossus mark two computer at the National museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Sale died in August last year. The award, is to be granted to a person or group that has made a singular engineering achievement in the area of computer conservation. The Computer Conservation Society (CCS) is behind the award, which is being supported by Google UK. As well as rebuilding Colossus, Tony Sale was involved in the campaign to save Bletchley Park, helped to found The National Museum of Computing and jointly established the Computer Conservation Society. I met him briefly whilst visiting Bletchley Park a couple of years ago; he struck me as a quiet, intelligent and meticulous man. The award sounds like it will definitely aid in the promotion of the campaign to preserve vintage computers – a part of our history.

Something mildly earth shattering; work to extend the platforms at Erith Station has finally been completed, and not before time. The portacabins and storage containers that have occupied the entire car park area outside the station building have all now gone, after over a year on site. I am unsure when / if the car park is going to reopen to the travelling public.

The interior of Pewty Acres somewhat resembles the home of one of the compulsive hoarders that are currently being featured on TV documentaries; the reason for this is that the forty four cardboard boxes containing my new kitchen in flat pack format are taking up much of my lounge, and the space not taken up with these is dominated by my Nordic Earthstone counter tops and the boxes containing cooking utensils, mugs, glasses and the like that have had to be temporarily evacuated from the kitchen whilst the refurbishment work is undertaken. The house is once again closely resembling a building site – probably because it is. The bathroom is almost complete, just awaiting the installation of the glass splash backs that I specified instead of more traditional tiling around the bath and hand basin – the splash backs were hard to source and have quite a long lead time. My builder starts on the kitchen on Monday morning; the first job will be to take down the ceiling – the old one has to be ripped down to make way for the new one, along with embedded LED down lighters, and to accommodate the full height cooker unit which will house a high end Neff fan oven and a separate combination oven. There is around a week of further work before the kitchen will be finished; I am looking forward to getting the house back into some resemblance of normality before very much longer.

The video this week was brought to my attention by Ian. It shows two giant, high voltage Tesla Coils, with a man in a chain-mail electrical protection suit "playing" the resulting electrical arcs. Well I suppose that it beats working for a living, though there is absolutely no way that I would give it a go. Watch and feel free to leave a comment, as always.


  1. Hello Hugh,

    Been reading your blog for little over a year, very good thanks.

    Had to comment on the electronic experiments kit, had something similar years ago, hardboard circuit layout and resistors, led, transistors and the like connect up with little springs.

    Maplin are doing some experiment kits in the range of "Amazing 72+ Educational Experiments..." and a 144+, 288+ one. Noticed them when looking for components to do worksheets for studying the Intermediate Amateur licence.


  2. Just to say that I cooked a chicken madras using Debbie's recipe and it was a resounding success with not a scrap left. So I would heartily recommend for any curry lovers reading the Blog.