Residents in Manor Road, Erith got a letter from Bexley Council Highways Department through their letter boxes this week. Residents have been complaining about the crumbling state of the road surface, which was only relaid back in May 2009; you can see photos of the work back then by clicking here. The road surface was designed to have noise deadening properties due to its' special composition. The noise was indeed substantially reduced, but the surface proved not to be robust; within a year of it being laid, it began to crumble, as can be seen in the photo above. The Council letter was to let local people know that Manor Road is being closed to all traffic between 7pm and 2am on Tuesday night, so that the damaged sections of roadway can be cut out and replaced.
The Pound Town shop unit in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre has been vacated and empty for a surprisingly short amount of time; you may recall a scant few weeks ago that I was bemoaning the moving out of Pound Town – not because they could not pay the rent, but because the shop had been so stunningly successful that they needed to relocate to larger premises in Crayford, in what used to the old Peacock's store. I felt that it was going to be extremely difficult to get another tenant for the former Wise Furnishings furniture warehouse building. I am extremely glad to find that I was wrong. Whilst walking past the shop unit last week, I noticed light and activity through the whitewashed windows. Workers were refurbishing the shop. A day or so later when I passed the place, a large red and white sign above the store announced “The 99p Shop”. Well, it is a penny down on the last incumbent. I had vainly hoped that the place might have been converted into a sit down curry house or little Italian bistro, but these dreams were never going to be realistic. The cost of fitting kitchen equipment and cooker flues / filters would have been prohibitive, which is a pity. A 99p store is way better than leaving the place empty, and it the previous Pound Town obviously filled a local demand. I just hope that the new owners do something about the ventilation in the shop, as even in the depths of winter the old place was stiflingly hot and stuffy. Time will tell; I hope to be on hand to cover the grand opening of the shop.
Buying online is so easy and convenient nowadays – even my mother is a fan of Amazon; she feels safer shopping with them than she does when she goes in person to Bexleyheath Broadway. Sending credit card information over an encrypted HTTPS connection is a very secure thing to do. Many websites, wary of keyboard logging malware get you to “type” on a screen based virtual keyboard using mouse movements and clicks. This clever technique is also secure – but not if you are using Internet Explorer. There is a fundamental fault in Internet Explorer versions 6 to the current version 10 which means that by injecting just twelve lines of programming code into a web page, your cursor and key presses can be monitored and recorded by a third party anywhere in the world. You can read details of the fault (which at the time of writing, Microsoft say that they have no plans to patch) I have been critical of Internet Explorer on many occasions – it is slow, clunky, does not render web standard compliant pages correctly, it is a memory hog and even now does not handle tabs in the most intuitive of manners. This serious vulnerability really takes the biscuit – especially as Microsoft seem indifferent about fixing it. Personally I use Google’s Chrome browser, and Firefox is also excellent. The Opera browser has its’ fans, though personally I find it too quirky for me. The bottom line is that there are a number of alternatives to Internet Explorer out there – if you have not already done so, I would recommend you try them and find out which one works best for you.
The crackdown on local metal theft has stepped up a gear; a 34 year old man was arrested last week by Bexley Police for handling stolen goods. The man was found to have over two hundred assorted gas bottles stored in a shipping container in his yard. Just what would have happened had there been a fire is worrying; I recall some years ago, Erith Construction had a large yard and offices on the Slade Green Industrial Estate on Wallhouse Road. They had a fire in the yard back in 2006, and a number of propane and acetylene gas cylinders exploded, utterly destroying their offices and their IT infrastructure. Erith Construction were one of the very early adopters of Google Docs for Enterprise (now named Google Drive), which uses a web based office software suite, and cloud based document and data storage. Because of this (at the time) far sighted approach, the office workers were able to use anywhere where they could access a WiFi signal (such as McDonald’s in James Watt Way) to log into their documents and carry on working as if nothing had happened. The chap with the stolen gas cylinders would not have been so lucky; he would have probably ended up being the first human in orbit without the need for a rocket! The bill marking into law changes in the way scrap dealers operate was passed by Parliament, and has now come into effect. Scrap dealers are now forbidden in paying cash for scrap brought in to their yards. Now they must pay by cheque or direct credit – a step in the right direction, but I feel the measures may need to be stiffened still further, as the dodgy dealers will no doubt find a way around the restrictions. Thefts of copper power cables from the railways have got even worse over the recent months; this has given South Eastern Trains some legitimate excuse for delays and cancellations – not that they need much to disrupt their services – only last week when we had the merest sprinkle of snow, the Dartford via Greenwich rail line was thrown into disarray. On Tuesday morning the reason was cited as a broken down train between Lee and Hither Green, which affected all London bound trains from around 8am. It would appear that South Eastern have been taking it seriously in the neck; they have a twitter feed, which had collected over three hundred tweets in the space of no more than an hour. At least commuters have a way of contacting the rail company in real time to make their displeasure known, and to their credit, South Eastern have undertaken to answer each tweet individually. The trouble is, the weather has been chilly, but the level of snow really has been no more than a sprinkle. What will happen if (when?) we have a heavy fall is anyone’s guess. I am fortunate that I can very easily work from home; I have a very fast fibre optic internet connection, an office phone that I can remotely divert to my home phone, and a job which for much of the time does not require me to be physically present in the office. If heavy snow threatens, I can batten down the hatches in Pewty Acres and wait out the disruption; many are not so lucky.
Continuing with the travel theme this week, I undertook the last parts of my journey home from visiting Watford on Tuesday afternoon; for a change I decided to get off the Jubilee Line tube train from Euston at Bank, rather than carrying on to London Bridge to pick up the overland train to Erith. The reason for this was 1) the trains in and around London Bridge were still playing up from an earlier broken down train, and B) I wanted to explore the Docklands Light Railway link from Bank through to Woolwich Arsenal, where if the overland trains were still not running, I then had the option of picking up the 99 bus from Woolwich to sunny Erith. I must admit that the journey from Bank through the East End, Canary Wharf and past London City Airport is an instructive one. You travel through areas of both extreme wealth and extreme need in the space of only a few hundred metres on some occasions. The view of Canary Wharf from Poplar station is stunning at night – the office buildings are lit up like gigantic architectural Christmas trees. The approach to London City Airport is unusual – the first sense you are near jet aeroplanes is the smell of aviation fuel – Kerosene, which has a smell very similar to its’ hydrocarbon cousin, Paraffin. Only after this aroma permeates the DLR carriage do the airport and planes come into view. I would like to visit the airport in daylight with my camera and a couple of lenses, as it looks like it might be a very photogenic location. Going onwards, the DLR goes right underneath the Arabfly Dangleway. At the time of my trip I could see at least half a dozen cable car carriages in the air over the River Thames – and every single one of them was empty. The whole sorry shebang smacks strongly of being one of Boris’s vanity projects. Not long after this you descend into a tunnel under the Thames which ends up in Woolwich, and journey’s end. An interesting trip I would recommend if you are unfamiliar as I was with that less visited part of the capital.
Erith to a tee; the bus shelter even looks passingly similar to one almost opposite Pewty Acres. As many readers may already know, I don't send Christmas cards, for a number of reasons, mainly as I think them redundant now that the Western world is now online, and via social networking, Email, Twitter and a host of other services, people keep in contact all year round, not just via a once a year bit of printed card. Cards use a huge amount of natural resources, both in their production and transportation, and generally get shredded or dumped after the annual festivities. I think we really need to move on from them. Think of this as my virtual season's greetings.
I know many regard me as a grumpy old curmudgeon when it comes to the Christmas festivities; and I suppose I am to an extent. I suppose having no children does mean that I don’t see the holiday from their perspective. For the most part it is a period for me to endure, rather than enjoy. I am not saying that the festival is a complete anathema, but it sometimes feels that way. One thing I really detest is the journey home from work on the couple of weeks’ before the Christmas break. One invariably encounters “amateur drinkers” who have been on a boozy Christmas lunch; not able to hold their drink (or to know when to stop before the effects impaired their actions) they generally make the lives of their fellow commuters insufferable, even if it is just by sitting close by and breathing alcohol fumes over their fellows; I have to say that when in the office, either in Canary Wharf or Watford, my habit is to start early and finish early. In doing this I avoid the worst excesses of those suffering from a Yuletide surfeit of Dizzyade. I feel sorry for fellow commuters that have to travel later in the evening – I have been there in years past, and it is not pretty!
I periodically have a spring clean of my work laptop bag; I have an annoying habit of accruing all sorts of junk in the bag, which is my mobile office. Because my work role is peripatetic (and yes, I know you can get ointment for it nowadays) I don’t have a desk or cabinet to store all my bits and pieces. Back in the day when I was based in an office in Southwark, I used to enjoy a whole walk in store room to myself – I had entire desktop computers, spare hard drives, all sorts of cabling, tools, a couple of digital multi testers, and even a bath towel* squirreled away. Now I just have my bag. Whilst I was clearing out the bag, I thought that it was a good opportunity to do the same with my wallet, as that also is somewhat guilty of attracting all sorts of detritus – people’s business cards are a case in point. What I came across were a number of shop gift vouchers and cards, almost all of which were well past their redemption date. I reckon I had at least £50 in unusable credit sitting in my wallet. Bearing this in mind, I wonder exactly how much cash is tied up around the country with unused gift vouchers and the like? I reckon there must be millions, if not billions of pounds sitting in drawers and wallets around the UK. The winner of course are the companies that sell the vouchers in the first place. I have done some research with the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (of whose existence I previously was unaware) and they estimate that there is at any one time approximately £250 million unspent and expired gift voucher credit on total sales of £2.1 billion a year. This would be enough to build and equip a major regional teaching hospital – it is in no way small change. I think the problem is compounded by the fact that the vouchers expire after two years – something most people are unaware of.
*Bath towel – read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the reasons why a bath towel is the single most important item a person can ever own. Douglas Adams wrote: "A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a brush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with." The ending video this week is the full length 2005 movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Many fans feel the movie was weaker than the 1981 television series, but for a newbie to the whole Guide phenomenon, it is a pretty good place to start. So here is all one hour and fifty minutes of the film, in high definition - click the icon for full screen presentation, should you so wish. Comments below, as always.