Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bright Steps to Foxtrot.

The photo above shows a couple of very slick and glossy promotional flyers that came through my letter box earlier in the week. One is for the African church (The Redeemed Christian Church of God)  that is based in the old tyre warehouse building in Bexley Road, opposite the council offices, and close to the hideous fish sculpture (more of which later). The other is for a relatively recent crèche. If you look closely you will notice that they both share the same address – the crèche has been set up in another part of the converted warehouse building. I have done some research, and the Bright Steps Nursery and Day Care centre is properly set up and Ofsted registered – you can see all of their details here. It does seem a bit strange having the church and crèche on the same site, but then I don’t think it is exactly uncommon for nursery groups to hire church halls – which is pretty much in the same ball park.

If you care to scroll down the page to the photo at the head of last weeks’ update, you will see the Erith Cyber Khazi, and behind that, the residential block that lies opposite Erith Health Centre in Pier Road. The apartments in the block are all occupied, but the retail units at the ground floor level have laid empty since they were built. An application for a cafe and children’s play area was submitted a couple of years ago, but nothing ever materialised. I have on several occasions written about the site, and the shameful waste of the space. No company seems to want to take one or more of the empty units – which would be ideal for a restaurant. I have given much thought to this – a little Indian or Italian restaurant would be lovely, but realistically I cannot see it happening. The cost of installing all of the necessary flues and extraction equipment would be prohibitive. What I could see making a success of the location would be something altogether closer to home. What about a traditional pie and mash shop? You would need only a relatively simple and cheap flu system, as pie and mash preparation does not require any stir frying (the cause of much of the smell in a commercial kitchen) and it is something likely to appeal to a wide local customer base. I somehow don’t see the retail units being occupied any time soon – I understand that the rents are still just too high.

Whilst researching this weeks’ Maggot Sandwich update, I stumbled across the following website:- The Institute for Alcoholic Experimentation. It is basically a drinks review website, specialising in spirits and cocktails. It is certainly very comprehensive, and refreshingly lacking in the pretention that so many similar sites exhibit. Worth a look, even if only to satisfy your curiosity.

Cable thieves have struck again this week; residents in Hatherley Road, Sidcup were without land line phones or broadband internet access for three days, due to copper cables having been dug up and stolen. Cable theft has become such a major problem that British Telecom are now rolling out a new system called RABiT, which acts as an intelligent burglar alarm; if a BT copper cable is cut by a thief, a warning is flagged to the system operator. RABiT can tell where the cable has been cut, enabling police to be called to the location within minutes. The system was first piloted in March, and since then BT have recovered 240 tonnes of stolen copper, thanks both to RABiT and a series of co-ordinated raids on scrap dealers and targeted Police operations; a total of 480 people have been arrested in connection with BT cable theft in the last eleven months. Smart water technology and the formation of the National Police Metal Theft Task Force should make life much harder for the thieving scumbags who steal cables. I have heard of several occasions when dim witted thieves have cut through fibre optic data cables, not realising that they contained no metal. The damage is done, and people and businesses have still lost their broadband connectivity. BT have been forced to offer rewards of up to £1,000 to anyone who can point the finger at metal thieves. Hopefully a few prosecutions will reinforce the message that you will get nicked if you steal cable.

As you probably know, I work for a large blue chip international professional services company; even though they are huge, they have been hit by the global recession, just like everyone else. There was a round of redundancies a little while back, and I was fortunate to be overlooked for the chop – for now, at least. Back in the heady days prior to the recession, we used to get to go on quite a few company funded “jollies” – one particularly memorable lunch was at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship , three Michelin star Royal Hospital Road restaurant in Chelsea, where I sat on a table next to Indian film star Madhuri Dixit. Occasional blog commenter "Scotty" was there too, and I seem to recall he threatened to ask for the ketchup, just to annoy the chef! Nowadays things are a little less extravagant – on Tuesday I went for a team lunch to Jamie’s Italian in Canary Wharf. I had heard some pretty mixed reviews on this relatively new chain of restaurants; in fact some of the opinions expressed on the quality of food and service were pretty scathing, so I went with some degree of trepidation. I should not have been worried, it was actually very enjoyable. I had a starter of wild mushrooms sauteed in garlic butter served on a slice of toasted brioche bread, scattered with fresh tarragon and thinly sliced red chilli. It was outstanding, and well worth the £8.95 my company paid for it. The main course was slightly less satisfying, not through any oversight in the kitchen – it was just a bit on the bland side – Risotto with grated truffle and Parmesan shavings. Technically it was faultless, but I have to say I can cook a more interesting risotto myself. Overall the dining experience was one I would be happy to repeat; service was prompt and attentive, the food was served in decent portion sizes – it was also piping hot, something that is not always the case in this kind of place. Certainly worth a visit, but consult the menu first.

Whenever a festival or celebration involves open flames, sooner or later a fire results. This turned out to be the case midweek when a house was severely damaged by fire in Riverdale Road, Erith. Investigators deduced that the root of the conflagration was a number of candles lit to celebrate Diwali. Quite often people light candles near curtains – any movement in the curtains due to air currents can cause them to catch fire – and bingo, in a matter of moments, the whole place is ablaze. I don’t think that you will ever completely stop this kind of thing happening.

The fourth series of superhero comedy drama “Misfits” is currently being filmed in and around Southmere Community Centre in Thamesmead; film company “Film Fixer” have named the area as “Film Location of the Month” – what ever that signifies. It does seem that whenever a location manager or film director needs somewhere bleak and dystopian, the Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead is a favourite choice for them. This is a bit of a left handed compliment for the town – Thamesmead is now so large and architecturally diverse that I can understand the attraction to film makers; the irony is that the original 1960’s brutalist tower blocks and concrete walkways so loved by Stanley Kubrick when he filmed “A Clockwork Orange” there are now either being demolished, or are planned for demolition over the next couple of years. The unique identity of the town as a “concrete jungle” will be lost – which in my opinion will be a small price to pay. Other parts of Thamesmead are far more leafy and welcoming – bringing the stark, brutal look of the oldest parts of the town up to date will be a net benefit.

There are thousands of old, out of support Apple Macs out in wild, which were based on the old IBM PowerPC processor family. Apple dropped this architecture in 2006, as IBM could not offer the processing speed increases that it originally promised, the chips also ran incredibly hot, as anyone with a PowerPC Macbook laptop could confirm - rather more than seasonal toasted nuts!. Apple soon thereafter ceased providing OS X updates to the old PowerPC machines; the latest past version of OS X available for them is 10.5. Most modern software for Macs does not support this architecture, or the now several iterations out of date operating system. This is a real pain the backside for owners of Macs that are still working fine despite old age. A group of developers has done something about this state of affairs, and have launched a brand new web browser that has been specially optimised for old Mac hardware. It is called TenFourFox, and is a version of the excellent free and open source Firefox browser that has been rewritten for OS X 10.4 and 10.5.8 - the last PPC available OS X version - hence the slightly convoluted name. you can visit the TenFourFox website for more details and a free download of the web browser here.

Rumours are circulating that the 2013 Bexley Beer Festival will be hosted in a new venue; for the last seven years, Sidcup Sports Club has been the location of the event, but to be honest, I feel that it has outgrown the venue; the main hall at the sports centre is not really big enough for the crowds that descend on it – especially if the weather is poor (which has been the case for a majority of years). If the weather is nice, the grounds of the sports centre are a fine place to hang out – but if, as in most years, it is cold and teeming down with rain, there are a very limited number of locations one can go. Two years ago the group I went with managed to commandeer the cricket referee’s office, which had been left unlocked, but this was an exception. In the past, the excellent bathrooms and toilets used by Sidcup Rugby Club have been available for beer festival attendees when they felt the (regular) need to pump their bilges, but as of last year, the khasis were declared off limits, and instead an unsightly row of portable toilets, amusingly nick named “Turdises” were installed in the car park; apart from the inconvenience (oh what a pun...) the portaloos were unlit, which can be a real issue when the car park is in almost pitch darkness, especially if you are wearing suede shoes or boots – I felt last year that it was an accident waiting to happen. Hopefully a change of venue will mean that these concerns will be fully addressed. I for one resent paying good money for a once a year event that I then end up having to use a smelly and unhygienic chemical toilet – goodness sake, it is Sidcup, not the Glastonbury Festival!

The threatened protests against the Erith Wind Turbine have not materialised; the rather breathless interview with a Slade Green resident which appeared in the News Shopper on the 2nd of October had a typically overly robust talkback thread (once again with no moderation of the comments) but even that petered out on the 11th October. I have some sympathy for the protesters – I actually live closer to the turbine than the NIMBYs, and I don’t have a problem with it at all, though I can understand the surprise that some had when it went up – I am naturally curious, and monitor planning applications on the Bexley Council website – I also read planning notices when they are posted in the street, as it is a good way to keep abreast of what is happening locally. The turbine is located on industrial land on a bend in the River Thames – it is an ideal location for capturing all that free wind energy that would otherwise go to waste. The reason houses are cheap in the area surrounding the Manford Industrial Estate is because there is an industrial estate. If there was no industrial estate, and thus by extension, no wind turbine, the house prices would be higher and some people would have not been able to afford their house in the first place. As previously mentioned, the turbine is whisper quiet, and would seem to be very efficient. How much power it actually puts into the National Grid will be interesting to discover, though I doubt any figures will be available until it has been operational for at least a year. I have heard comments about the appearance of the turbine, and the consensus seems to be that it is an elegant piece of industrial sculpture – and certainly far preferable to the hideous fish sculpture that has now come to represent Erith in the imagination of the outside world.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most important and influential albums in modern music, which has somehow nowadays become rather overlooked. When it was released, John Lennon was said to be a great admirer of it, saying that it contained ideas that he wished the Beatles had used when they wrote Sergeant Pepper. The album I am describing is "Foxtrot" by Genesis, which hit the shelves in the UK during November 1972. It never sold anything like the number of copies of the aforementioned Sergeant Pepper, or its' rival, the Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, which was released shortly thereafter. Yet with hindsight it is a hugely influential piece of work that has inspired groups such as Queen, Muse, Kate Bush, Rush, Radiohead, and most obviously, the early albums of Marillion. "Foxtrot" pretty much defines the whole field of pastoral and symphonic progressive rock, and is renowned for having the track which best showcases the Mellotron (an analogue precursor to a sampling keyboard) on the opening track "The Watcher of the Skies". The whole album is outstandingly good, though quite hard work for the first couple of listens. It rewards revisiting. The whole of the second side of the album consists of a single, 23 minute long piece, considered by many Genesis fans to be their finest work. A dense, thematically complex, seven part rock symphony called "Supper's Ready" - a work so complex (not to say outright bonkers) that it has been the subject of more than one PhD thesis. The ending video here is a complete live account of the track - do give it a watch, it really is very good indeed.

1 comment:

  1. You sure the old tyre place isn't a TARDIS?
    It's not exactly salubrious surrounding though is it? Mind you I really dislike these mainly African based churches that spring up in ex-industrial areas. Just seems wrong to me but then being C of E (ie: atheist) I like my religion understated and in a church not an ex-warehouse!

    The problem of empty shop units is a nationwide situation.
    Recently I've been to Bromley, Bluewater, Bexleyheath and some other places that don’t coincidentally begin with "B" and they all have empty units. The problem with Erith is when the centre was designed and built the main money spinner was the housing not the shops but with rental costs being high no-one can afford to set up business unless they have some major wedge behind them or are a national concern. It's a real shame.
    We'll never get a decent little restaurant in Erith as there's no…ambience mind you Bexleyheath Broadway's as welcoming as Beirut but has some nice places to scoff.

    The Institute Of Alcoholic Experimentation??!
    How do I enrol??

    I have to say Jamie's Bistro's have very mixed reviews. I think its in their (sorta) credit not to be just another big resturant chain but actually having chef's who sometimes seem to have an off day. Gotta say Risotto with truffle and Parmisan? Sounds bland but then I can't stomach truffles, yuk!

    God I hope they move the Bexley Beerfest. The place in Sidcup is okay but its massivly oversubscribed and you cant spill out of the hall as 99.9% of the time its the rainest day of the year! And as for making people uses TURDIS's instaed of letting them use the toilets inside is nothing short of criminal!

    Foxtrot is one of my all time favorite albums. I was listening to this when my mates were listening to U2 and Metallica! Supper Ready is one of the best album tracks ever I think.