Sunday, September 30, 2012

Erith gets a Wind Turbine.

This is a bit of a scoop - I have beaten the News Shopper and the Bexley Times to a story (again!) The new Erith Wind Turbine was installed on Thursday and Friday this week. The work was carried out by Anglo Dutch firm AGRenewables. The turbine is designed to generate up to 500 Kilowatts of electricity, just by harvesting the energy from the wind. Engineering - wise it is most impressive, but cosmetically perhaps less so; it is much bigger than I had been expecting, and quite a bit closer to the junction of Manor Road and Ray Lamb Way than I had anticipated - it does rather dominate the view of the area. It will be interesting to see what the public reaction to the construction will be like. Click on either photo for a larger version.

On my way to Erith Station in the morning, I take a short cut across Elrick Close (home to the erstwhile Pop – In Parlour, and still boarded up and empty a year after its’ sale), past the staff entrance to Erith Police office, and across the car park adjacent to the shops in Pier Road. Amongst the shops is a branch of Martin the newsagent; each morning I walk past at a couple of minutes to seven. There is always a group of six or seven people waiting for the roller shutter to rise, and the shop to open. What amazes me is that the waiting group are without exception comprised of the same people – all of them obviously retired. They are so familiar with the store that one man pops inside before the shutter is even fully retracted, and grabs the portable sign from inside the door, then positions it on the pavement outside, to save the staff from the job. This little tableaux takes place every morning, rain, snow or shine. I cannot for the life of me understand why these people have to get up so early just to get the paper or a pint of milk – they have all day to do it. I can only assume that they have got into such a rigid routine that the thought of not getting up at the crack of dawn simply does not occur to them. I’m not sure if this behaviour is a common occurrence, or something peculiar to Erith. Do let me know if you have seen something similar elsewhere.

Last week I watched Ridley Scott's new film, "Prometheus". Much had been promised, and I like most of his earlier work, including "Alien" and "Aliens" which are amongst my favourite films. "Prometheus" is a direct prequel to "Alien", and as such I was expecting much - after all, he had set the bar so high with his 1979 low budget sci fi horror movie; he virtually reinvented the genre. I had heard some rather mixed reviews of the new movie, but I watched it with an open mind. To be blunt, "Prometheus" is a total mess. The story makes little sense, the cast telephone in their performances (with one exception, which I will come to later) and the character act in a completely illogical manner. Without giving out any spoilers, the film is a confusing and sometimes contradictory experience. The crew of the Prometheus are at the centre of the story, in a similar manner to the original "Alien" movie. Unlike in Alien, where the crew were basically a group of working class manual labourers - space truckers, if you will, who were forced by circumstance to work together to defeat a common foe; in Prometheus they are a hand picked elite group of scientists and engineers - the best of the best. The problem is that the crew of the Prometheus act like a group of unruly teenagers - they disobey orders, smoke dope, drink copious quantities of booze, and generally act in a shambolic and irresponsible manner. None of this helps the suspension of disbelief; much of the time you are left wondering "just why did that character do that? It makes no sense". It is not like there is a reveal, making the uncharacteristic actions clear. Another thing, when the crew come out of hyper sleep, the ship has just made orbit around the alien world. You would have thought that the first thing they would do would be to survey and map the surface, and check the atmosphere - either directly, or by using robotic drones. But no, they just pile in to land, and guess what? They come up directly on the destination they wanted - the alien base facility. The coincidence is laughable - they had an entire planet to choose from, and they picked the right spot first time. All it would have taken was a crew member to say something like "The survey drones have located some kind of artificial structure - we are going down to take a look". Later, when the crew enter the structure, it becomes clear that they do indeed have semi intelligent mapping drones - why do the humans have to go inside what is clearly a dangerous structure, when the drones can do it all for them? Weak plotting. I could go on, but I don't want to give away what little plot there is. I feel that there is a good film in there somewhere, but it needs some drastic re-editing; still, Scott is renowned for issuing cut after cut of his movies, as anyone who has bought multiple versions of Alien, Aliens and Blade Runner can attest. Normally I can suspend my disbelief during a movei, but with Prometheus I found myself shouting at the screen - with one exception, the characters continually act against their motivation. The exception is the character of David, the robot or "synthetic human". The role is excellently played by actor Michael Fassbender, who manages to impart a understated and subtle menace to the character; there is a very nice nod to the fact that the Alien and Blade Runner universes are one and the same. You will have to look carefully though - look for the scene with David's finger prints in macro close up. Overall I would still recommend you watch the film, if you have not already seen it; the photography is beautiful, and the CGI top notch, even if some of the special effects makeup is surprisingly ropey at times, and the ending of the movie is pretty much ridiculous. I will leave it to your judgement anyway. 4/10.

The 15th and 16th of October will mark the 25th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987. I am unsure as to what commemorations are planned locally, as the storm hit the London Borough of Bexley particularly hard. Something approaching 20% of the mature trees in the borough were uprooted or seriously damaged by the exceptionally high winds. I recall walking along the Woolwich Road in Upper Belvedere the morning after, and seeing a number of the large trees in recreation park down across the road – the fire brigade were cutting them up with chainsaws requisitioned from the plant hire shop in Nuxley Road. One of the very impressive Georgian houses opposite the Eardley Arms was seriously damaged (see the photo above - click for a larger view) – the whole third floor and roof were crushed by a mature sycamore tree that had fallen directly onto it. I recall reading in the local paper that the insurance claim to rebuild the historic house was greater than if they had demolished it and built afresh. Just as well the listed building was lovingly rebuilt, as it is one of the nicest residential properties in the whole of Upper Belvedere. My most vivid memory of the Great Storm was looking out of my bedroom window at the fury of the weather outside; some workmen had been laying a new paved pathway directly outside of my parents house. A pile of large concrete paving slabs had been made ready for the workers to continue laying them the next morning – these I saw flying through the air as if they were pieces of paper. Very worrying, as my parents house was right at the highest point in the area, leaving an unrestricted avenue for the hurricane to attack. The garden shed ended up in a neighbours’ back garden – very much like one of the opening scenes from The Wizard of Oz”.

As I have written on a few recent occasions, Erith is not short of takeaway food outlets – even if nearly all of them are of dubious cleanliness and low food hygiene standards. What the area is crying out for is a proper mainstream  “sit down” restaurant. We have Wazobia – the African restaurant in Pier Road; as I have written about in the past, but for some unfathomable reason they don’t make any effort to attract non African customers – a real mistake in my opinion; as I have said before, when Bangladeshis came to the UK in the 1950s and 60’s they consciously attracted UK natives to eat their food. As history has shown, their efforts were so successful that curry is now considered a British staple food. In my view Wazobia (and by extension most African food outlets) are missing a trick. Discounting them from being mainstream, the only other places that you can sit down to eat a meal with a knife and fork are the Mambocino coffee house and Morrison’s cafe. Mambocino is disqualified as it does not open in the evening – once the iron gates to the Riverside Shopping Centre are closed, all business inside ceases. As for Morrison’s cafe  - well, you would not exactly take someone out on a date there, would you? That leaves us with nowhere. All other establishments like McDonald’s and KFC are fast food type outlets. Erith has nothing like a curry house or little Italian restaurant, and I feel that having to get on a 229 bus to Northumberland Heath is not the best solution. We need something on our doorstep. There are a number of retail outlet units that still remain un-let in the block next to the new and unloved Erith Library, opposite the Health Centre. I don’t know what kind of leases are available on them, but bearing in mind they have been empty since they were built, I would think an accommodation could be met.  Suggestions on a postcard, or better still, left as a comment below, would be welcome.

I wrote about Erith tattoo studio Point 2 Point a little while back, and how they had moved to new premises recently; some of their rather less sharp witted and observational customers have seemingly been somewhat put off track by the move. The studio have had to tape notices saying "we have not gone out of business, we are now a couple of units further down the block" on the shutters that cover their old shop front. Personally I cannot understand why someone would want to voluntarily disfigure themselves, but as always, my philosophy of "what works for you" takes precedence.

The main video this week is a bit of a blast from the past; it is the full length pilot episode of Space: 1999” from 1975. It may look laughably dated to contemporary eyes, but when Lew Grade commissioned Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to produce the show, it was the most expensive ever British television series made to date, costing over £3 million to produce. A huge amount of money at the time. In case you have not heard of it, Space: 1999 was a science fiction series set on Moonbase Alpha, where a crew of just over three hundred scientists, engineers and pilots worked, both carrying out scientific research, and also monitoring the huge nuclear waste storage facilities which had been dug deep under the surface of the moon. In this, the first episode the story is set up. A huge explosion in a nuclear waste dump blows the moon out of Earth’s orbit and off into deep space. The series then progresses with the crew encountering all sorts of alien races and strange situations – a bit like Star Trek, but with an entire moon as the vehicle, rather than a starship. For a programme that was intended for a family audience like Doctor Who, Space: 1999 was extremely dark and gritty, especially in the cerebral and brooding first series. Whilst the show went down well in the UK, feedback from the USA was less favourable a target market for the show. Consequently the second series was lighter in tone and more action oriented. Plans were made for a third series, but these were shelved partly because of poor ratings, but also because Lew Grade was seriously out of pocket on his movie Raise the Titanic – one of the biggest box office turkeys of all time. Nevertheless, in most part, Space: 1999 is pretty scientifically accurate (if one ignores the fact that if the moon ever did break orbit with the Earth, it would be the end of all life on the planet – on top of this, any force great enough to blast the moon into deep space would certainly also destroy it). The Eagle spacecraft used in the show are debatably the most credible design for a working spacecraft in any science fiction show, and the stories (in the first season, at least) were well crafted and thought provoking. Whilst Space: 1999 may have gathered dust on the shelves of television stations for many years (it has hardly ever been re – run) it has influenced several modern sci fi series, such as the excellent 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica. Show runner Ronald D Moore admitted that the opening titles for Battlestar Galactica copied those of Space:1999 almost shot for shot; praise indeed from one of the masters of television science fiction. Do make the video full screen and enjoy an hour of “Breakaway” - the pilot episode of Space: 1999.


  1. The behaviour you describe is not unusual. I have seen people queuing outside Tesco in Belvedere waiting for it open at 6am. I also used to work for the Post Office in and around Bromley where we had pensioners waiting outside on most days. In the winter they would be complaining and asking for the doors to be opened early.

  2. It's not a Wind Turbine, its a fan to keep the stench of Essex away!*
    It's not a Wind Turbine to be powered by the Thames breezes, it's been placed there specially to deal with all the hot air from Pewty Acres!
    It's not a Wind Turbine, it's the droids your looking for!
    It's not a Wind Turbine, it's a space station!
    It's not a Wind Turbine, it's a garden ornament on steriods!
    It's not a Wind Turbine, it's a proto-London Eye/baby Martian Tripod!
    Joking aside i do think saying "well we posted notices up in the effected area" and just washing your hand is disapointing behaviour on the part of the council. Okay techincally the populated area is outside the area where they needed to inform people personally but just having signs on lamposts is hardly helpful. Yeah people like you and me may read stuff like that but 90% of Joe Public probably wouldn't even realise they were there, there should have been more consultation. Just because it's in a deprived area (not the term I want to use but technically it is classed as that) doesn't mean people should be dumped on! NIMBY is a perfectly reasonable reaction no matter where you bought or how much your house is!

    So the Great Storm is now a generation behind us.
    Thanks for making me feel so old!
    I remember waking up and thinking "I've been woken by the storm so can I swing it to get the day off school?" and promptly going back to sleep. The devistaion where I lived (up by Bostall Heath) was like a bomb had gone off.

    Your slightly wrong that "Eriff" has no sit down resturants.
    What about The Running Horse's? That has quite a good resturant so I'm told but aprt from that nada, nothing. Unless you count a Kebab on the benches overlooking the Thames…

    I'm a HUGE sci-fi fan but I really can't stand Space 1999. I loved it as a kid and not seen it in 30 odd years but I remember watching an episode and thinking "This makes no sense and is rubbish" and never went back to it. They are trying to get a reboot going ala BSG where its all dark and gritty.
    Google Space 2099.
    Some BRILLAINT posters of the Eagles!

    *- Actually I'm only saying that cos Essex is the other side of the water!