Sunday, October 28, 2012

T.W Records.

The photo above shows some anglers, fishing off Erith Pier recently. Erith Pier is the longest pier structure on the River Thames; it was built as a commercial pier which took the giant rolls of newsprint from the Scandinavian paper mills that used to be shipped over to Erith, then stored in a large warehouse on the Europa Industrial Estate in Fraser Road, before they were taken by lorry up to what used to be Fleet Street for use by the newspaper industry. Nowadays that has all ended, and the pier was refurbished as part of the building of Erith Morrison's - it has won a couple of civic awards, and is now a popular place to walk on a nice day. The fishermen always seem to be present, whatever the weather or time of day. You can sometimes see their tilley lamps at night - many have small tents, portable gas stoves and all the home comforts - it can get bitterly cold in the middle of the night. Rather them than me!

Channel 4 and E4 series Misfits starts its' fourth season this evening at 10pm - the superhero comedy drama is really not very much to write home about in my opinion (not that I am in the target audience). It is filmed in and around Tavy Bridge in Thamesmead, although I doubt that this will be the case for much longer - most of the older parts of Thamesmead are currently being demolished to make way for new developments. The whole dystopian "Clockwork Orange" look and feel of Misfits will soon be no more - what this will mean to the development of the show I do not know.

I was sitting in my home office (where the Maggot Sandwich updates get born every Sunday afternoon) when I heard a soft “pop” and the light above me went out. It was a “long life” domestic energy saver fluorescent bulb. It certainly was not long life, lasting for approximately 1,200 hours, instead of the 8,000 hours it was rated for. It was meant to have the light output of a conventional 100W bulb, but struggled to rival an asthmatic glow worm. It also needed a written application before powering up. Clearly the fluorescent energy saving bulb is not the solution to power reduction that it was touted as – the technology is pretty feeble by any decent benchmark. I have had enough of them – I am going to bite the bullet and invest in some high output LED lights. I already have them in the kitchen, and I am very happy indeed with the results. The LED lights come on to full power instantly, they have a very blue / white light with almost no heat, and they have a guaranteed working life of ten years. They also consume less power than fluorescent bulbs – around 9 watts for the equivalent lighting to a standard 100W bulb. At present they are a fair bit more expensive than other bulb technologies, but the extended bulb life counters this – all in all they should work out a lot cheaper in the long run, and save a fair amount of electricity to boot.

There is a fascinating and complimentary article on the Bexley Times website regarding long established independent record dealer Cruisin’ Records in Welling. I recall visiting the shop in the 1980’s – it held a bewildering variety of stock, from pretty much every musical genre; at the time it leaned towards jazz funk and soul, and I can recall hearing adverts for the shop on several dance themed pirate radio stations at the time. Erith used to have an independent record shop, which was part of a small chain – T.W Records was located on the site of the cab office on the junction of Pier Road and Cross Street. It was a strange place, managed by a person of (to me anyway) indeterminate gender. I never really worked out whether they were he or she, or perhaps somewhere in between. They were not exactly unfriendly, more distant and uninterested – well, that was my impression anyway. The shop was on split levels, with most chart singles and albums on the lower tier, and the more obscure genres, along with a couple of slot machines, and the cash desk were on the upper tier. What anyone who ever visited the place always recalls is the ceiling, which was remarkable – giant purple plaster stalactites hung down, almost reaching head height when you were on the upper tier – they had been there for as long as I could recall. Who put them there and why, was beyond me, until I received the following Email from fellow local archivist and photographer Dave on Wednesday morning:- " It's me in the photo (see above - click for a larger view), one of a series of photos taken around Erith (my hometown) for my then band Speedy Needle and the Acid Drops. It was taken just a few months before we discovered punk - by the summer of 77 the flares and hair had gone and I had formed a new band R21. TW records was a regular hangout on a Saturday and we new the staff really well they ordered in the punk singles as well as what was then some fairly obscure reggae that we were into (Culture, Prince Far I, Dillinger etc). The purple stalactites were a hang over from when the shop was a trendy mens boutique - which was opened by the then Chelsea football team. I can't remember what it was called but I am sure it will come back to me!" T.W records also had a shop in Bexleyheath, near the clock tower, where the Furze Wren is now located, as well as a third in Plumstead High Street, though I never visited that branch. The Bexleyheath shop also housed a small cafe, that constantly seemed busy, though I reckon some of their customers nursed a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie for hours. It was a much more conventional looking shop, but both the Erith and Bexleyheath stores had one thing in common – it was widely known that they were both chart return shops. They had special tills that monitored record sales that fed into the weekly record chart. It was meant to be secret, but pretty much everyone including the record company sales reps knew which shops were chart return, and always made sure that rarities, picture disks and other items desirable to collectors would make their way to those outlets. I recall that the Erith branch would often have large promotional displays in the window, which were left lit up at night, the glow from these would reflect off the purple stalactites to give an eerie atmosphere – very surreal stuff. A pity that the shops are long gone – but at least Cruisin’ Records are carrying on the tradition. Here is a clip from a musician who would have most definitely been stocked by T.W Records, had he been around during their heyday - Joe Bonamassa, blues prodigy and cited by some as "the new Eric Clapton". See what you think.

I have a YouTube channel, mainly as a result of an experiment I carried out in DVD ripping and encoding a couple of years back; I don’t really use YouTube for much other than looking for interesting things to embed in each weeks’ blog update, and the casual scoot around that most people do from time to time. One thing I have noticed is a craze for people to upload video of themselves eating ridiculously hot chilli peppers, most notoriously the Naga Bhut Jolokia and Dorset Naga variety. The willing participants generally do well for the first thirty seconds or so – most Naga chilli varieties start off as slow burners, but soon their intense spice kicks in. Chilli “heat” is measured using a unit of measurement called the Scoville Scale. Tabasco red pepper sauce gets a Scoville rating of 2,500 – 5,000, whereas the Dorset Naga comes in at nearly 1.6 Million on the scale – that is the difference between a bonfire night bottle rocket and a Trident ballistic missile! Why people are not only masochistic enough to subject themselves to the sheer agony of such foolishness is beyond me; to then film their discomfort and upload it for the world to see is yet a further mystery to me. For some reason the worst offenders are the Brits and the Americans – it seems a uniquely Anglo American matter. You can see some of the most discomforting footage here. Personally I have tried Naga chilli paste – Tony in the Robin Hood and Little John is a fellow pepper head, and he purchased some online from India. I tried it on a recent lunchtime visit to the pub. I took a tiny smear of the paste on a piece of buttered bread. Yes, the sauce was incredibly hot, but it also had a fruity, spicy, complex flavour – it is possible to enjoy such peppers as long as you use caution and only use a tiny amount – too much and you would figuratively blow your head off. Just why the YouTube wallies do what they do is utterly beyond me. Despite extreme chilli silliness, the Robin Hood and Little John offer a superb and varied selection of home cooked "proper pub food" - you can see their excellent menu by clicking here.

Bluewater shopping centre markets itself as a slice of the West End in North Kent, and to be honest, when it first opened, it did feel rather special. I visited Bluewater last Saturday afternoon, and the atmosphere feels subtly different. For a start there are a surprisingly large number of vacant shop units – all skilfully covered by brightly decorated hoardings, but empty nevertheless. Secondly the store population has shifted. When the place opened, Bluewater boasted that never again would a man accompanying a woman on a shopping trip be bored as the woman tried on garments in a number of clothing outlets, as the shop distribution was planned so that next to every shop primarily designed to attract women would be a shop of more interest to a man. The thinking being that the woman would go into one shop, and the bloke would go next door to look around and wait for his other half to finish her retail therapy. This is now no longer the case. There are now vast swathes of clothing and shoe shops, cheek by jowl with each other, and actually very few male oriented shops at all. I would imagine that market forces have been at work admittedly my observations were rather unscientific, but I did notice that there were approximately two women for every bloke visiting during my time on the premises. Saturday afternoon during the football season may be not the best time to conduct demographic research on the behaviour of shoppers, but since Saturday is the most busy day for retail, it may be telling. I detest large crowds, and quickly found Bluewater going from somewhere vaguely irritating to somewhere to be actively avoided. I have no idea if the same thing applies in Lakeside, as I have not been there for a number of years; I used to find that Lakeside was generally a better shopping experience though.

There has been much talk in the local press (both the News Shopper and the Bexley Times) regarding the potential new ferry between Thamesmead and Beckton. Local MP Teresa Pearce has been quoted as saying that “I’m concerned about the new ferry service because I don’t think it will be free. The Mayor’s office haven’t confirmed if it will be and I’m afraid the cost of it might be shifted onto residents.” There is also concern that the opening of a ferry East of Woolwich would mean the end of the historic free ferry service there, and drive heavy traffic through a rather sleepy part of Thamesmead, which is very close to the location of the Gallion’s View nursing home – whose residents in their twilight years do not deserve noisy and polluting traffic going past their door. In reality we could do with a tunnel from Thamesmead under the river to the Essex side, in a similar manner to the Gillingham tunnel on the River Medway, which is a fine piece of engineering. The cost and local disruption mean this option is very unlikely to happen – a ferry is far easier to implement and run economically. I do fear that any new service will be for profit, and the long standing principle of a free ferry will be lost – for the first time since the fourteenth century, although this would require an act of Parliament to happen, and many people / politicians would regard this as a poisoned chalice – local people are likely to have long memories regarding any politician that supports the end of the Woolwich Free Ferry.

It has been reported in the national press that just for once Parliament has had a debate on a subject close to my heart; I have been banging on for as long as I can recall about the utterly exorbitant price of razor blades. An eight pack of razor blade cartridges can now cost in the region of £22 - a huge sum, whatever your benchmark might be. In real terms the price of blades has increased by 1000% in the last three years. There can be no justification for this - other than the manufacturers and the supermarkets are conspiring to rip off the consumer - raw materials and assembly costs cannot have risen so much in the last three years. In any case, the matter has been debated in a parliamentary early day motion raised by members of the Northern Irish DUP party. Whether their efforts will have any benefit remain to be seen.

The video this week is a fascinating piece of local history; a professionally made documentary about the story behind Erith Yacht Club - a real reflection on the history of the whole area, and well worth a watch. Let me know what you think.


  1. Cracking Blog again this week Mr.P'!
    I went through a phase of being into fishing when I was in my mid to late teens. It was good fun especially night fishing but the lure of pubs, girls and music was much stronger. I have to say one experience of night fishing put me off chocolate Hobnobs for life.
    We didn't drive or have mobiles and were dropped off in the middle of nowhere at a lake and realised as our lift drove away that we'd managed to leave our food behind so lived off a packet of Hobnobs each for a day and a half.

    I have to admit to being a fan of Misfits although I think the first series was the best (this is the fourth?). It's getting an American remake but like The Inbetweeners I don’t know if it'll be able to transfer to the US. Being Human is another similar series and again that has an American remake but whereas we tell the story over 6/8 episodes they do it over 18+ (ie: a lot of padding), so much so I lost interest. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't part of Thamesmead listed due to its "architecture"?

    Energy Saving bulbs are a bugbear of mine.
    I always go for the highest wattage as anything below the equivalent of 100 watts might as well be candles. I must admit the new ones I've bought in the past year warm up fine. You don't get the "let there be light!…MURK!" but passable light, I still don't like the colour or sheen of the light though. Still better than having your home lit by fluorescent tubes as a house a couple of doors away from me is. That’s so 70's…and visible from space.
    If I was you I'd try one LED bulb before you fit the house with them. they are very directional, almost spot light like, great for under cupboards but not so good in bigger rooms.

    LOVE the bits on the local old record shops, sadly missed.
    I used to use all the TW records branches, what was the record shop where KFC now is in Bexleyheath? That was brilliant and the one I bought most of my teenage purchases, it was a chart return shop too. Surly service? I think record shop clerks and comic book shop clerks were cut from the same cloth, used to be very intimidating when I was a kid I remember shopping at placed like the Virgin Megastore on Regents Street often and the staff there were the same. I don't really remember the stalactites in the Erith TW Records though. I do remember having a very ropey bacon sandwich on paper thin white bread and a milky coffee in the Bexleyheath branch when I bought a Fish (Marillion) solo album, that was the first time I'd seen Mini-Discs. I also bought my first 2 singles in the Plumstead branch (Bright Eyes and a couple of years later Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden on 7" red clear vinyl).
    I wouldn't say Joe Bonnamassa is the new Clapton though!

    Only you can shoe horn a mention of your second home (The Robin Hood & Little John) into a blog about chillies!
    I quite like mooching round both Bluewater and Lakeside but then I'm obviously in touch with my feminine side.

    I'd be sad to see the Woolwich Ferry go, I don't really use it but have happy memories of it from when I was a kid. I used to go back and forth on it or use the tunnel. The refurbishment of that is a HUGE council blunder, 22 million and it's barely been started…

  2. The Rev: the record shop in bexleyheath where KFC now is was called Cloud 9. I spent most of my time and money there and TW's. Sadly missed.

  3. Hang fire on buying LED lightbulbs...
    How's about a wireless iBulb?