Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Maggot Sandwich in exile.

The mystery surrounding the long empty Cross Keys pub in Erith High Street has been solved after some intense investigation by yours truly. After a couple of year of it being boarded up after the landlord lost his licence after repeatedly running a rowdy house. The story of groups of travellers riding horses in and out of the pub made the national news and did very little for the reputation of Erith. It is about to open as the London headquarters for an Anglo American management consultancy firm called Aleff Group. They have been based in Limehouse in Docklands for the last few years, but are moving to the Cross Keys to expand. As well as offices, the internal layout of the former pub will have a board room and training rooms for up to fifty delegates. It all looks pretty impressive, and a far better outcome than being converted into yet more unwanted and un-lettable private flats. The Aleff Group are due to open their new HQ imminently. Once they have opened for business, I will be contacting them to ask for a guided tour of the newly converted building - it does not hurt to ask, after all.

Please excuse any typos or inconsistencies more serious that one would normally encounter on this weeks' Maggot Sandwich update. I am effectively "in exile" this week, as my BT Infinity fibre optic broadband failed at precisely five minutes to seven last night. After some investigation, it has been determined that it is a physical line failure - probably some chavs nicking the cable to the junction box, thinking it is copper, rather than glass fibre. I have a BT engineer booked for Wednesday morning, but until then I am effectively offline. I have completed this update at my Mum's house.

Regular blog reader and occasional commenter Scotty made an interesting and pertinent observation on my recent unfavourable comments about the Arabfly Dangleway. He noted that if the QEII does come to the River Thames to become a giant floating hotel, as its’ backers and indeed Boris would like, then visitors will need a way to get across the river that is close to the location of the ship. The cable car would seem to fulfill that role admirably, and I concede that this was a point that I had not considered. I suppose that the deciding factor is how long the refit of the QEII will take, and what the projected date of opening is. If it is too long, the plug may be pulled on the cable car in the meantime. Currently it is not just losing money hand over fist, it is very visibly being seen to do so; something that I am sure that principal backer Emirates Airlines are very unhappy about. I would think that there may be some kind of toss – up going on. Damage to brand and reputation caused by pulling the plug, versus damage to brand and reputation by not pulling the plug and continuing to run a service that is largely perceived as being a white elephant. I would not like to be involved in that decision making process.  Time will tell.

Whenever Erith has an extreme of weather, a small minority of the local population take it upon themselves to make a nuisance. In summer it can be as simple as the normally hoodie clad low lives taking the opportunity to strip to the waist to expose their pasty and scrawny torsos to the novelty of sunlight. I reckon the percentage of un-tattoed skin around the area is probably lower than pretty much anywhere else in the country. The distasteful sight of so much exposed flesh is fortunately relatively short lived, mainly due to their non – use of sun block; I suspect that spending a few quid on some sun lotion would not sit well with them, as it would reduce their normal drugs budget. Anyway the result of this is when the sun comes out and the temperatures climb, Erith has a temporary display of skin, which after three or four days get covered over again – only now they are a strange shade of salmon pink and wincing with sun burn. The winter brings an entirely different set of behaviours. Generally speaking, the chavs don’t like the winter months. They tend to stay out of the cold and play on their Xboxes indoors.  The only thing that gets them out into the cold is snow. For some reason the feckless scrotes have a still childlike fascination whenever the area experiences a downfall of snow. They rush outside to throw snowballs at each other, and once they get bored of that, they start throwing snowballs at passing vehicles. This incredibly stupid and dangerous activity has been reported in multiple sites around Erith over the last few days of inclement weather. One of my contacts was driving from Northumberland Heath, and his car was hit by snowballs on four occasions in a journey of little more than a mile. Obviously anything that could distract a driver, or cause them to swerve suddenly is to be frowned upon. I heard an amusing account from another local contact. On Sunday night, a group of scumbags was lurking on Manor Road, pelting snowballs at passing traffic. They had just targeted a Transit type van when it screeched to a stop, and several members of the travelling community emerged at speed, chasing off the snow balling menaces, and no doubt inflicting some natural justice. Nothing has been seen of the Manor Road snow ball posse since...
My discourse about the demise of Blockbuster has brought some interesting feedback concerning independent local video hire shops. It turns out that there still is one open and apparently thriving in the locality. It is Gazelle Video at the Pantiles (photo above – click for a larger view). The video store has been in operation since the 1980’s and is apparently still in rude health. I have read several online reviews of the shop, and they are very complimentary. As you may know, I am always keen to both promote and use independent local businesses.

Some time ago I mentioned that the long derided technology of Cold Fusion, which was much touted in the late 1980’s as being the future of clean and unlimited energy production, before it was debunked and consigned to the dustbin of history in the early 1990’s. I mentioned that new research was starting to show that maybe after all there was something to the phenomenon. It now looks quite likely that 2013 may well be the year when cold fusion makes good on its’ claims. The process has a new, more technically accurate name now; it is called Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). If the process and the devices currently in development live up to the hype, then  the potential benefits to the whole of humanity are immense.  The whole LENR process can be described as the fusion of Nickel atoms with Hydrogen, which then transmutes into copper, releasing  a huge amount of spare energy. Per atom, the exothermal nuclear process releases more than a million times more energy that the most energetic equivalent chemical process by weight. The Nickel / Hydrogen fusion reaction is something like 200,000  times more powerful than by combusting  the equivalent amount of oil. There are a number of private enterprises currently working on compact reactors which should see the light of day this year. They are capable of running extremely hot – the real constraint is the heat resistance of the materials with which they are constructed. This would mean when connected to a steam turbine, they would operate far more efficiently than any existing technology. There is still a great deal of controversy over the whole field of LENR, with scientists and engineers taking sides as to the efficacy of the new technology. If it does work, it would be a clean and carbon free way of generating almost infinite amounts of energy. I just hope that it does not turn out to be too good to be true. Having said that, there are at least half a dozen companies and venture capitalists investing heavily in LENR technology, with products promised for this year. I suppose that we will have to wait and see.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the 1953 great flood, which swamped large parts of Abbey Wood, Lower Belvedere and Erith. On the evening of 31st January and the early hours of the 1st February 1953, Britain experienced the worst flood in living memory. A combination of high tides and very strong winds breached river defences on the Thames a total of eleven times, and much of the North part of what is now the London Borough of Bexley.  To commemorate the flood, local author and historian Ken Chamberlain has organised an event at Belvedere Community Centre on Saturday the 2nd February between 2pm and 4pm where he will be giving a talk on the flood, and the aftermath – including the subsequent visit of the Queen to Erith to see the flood repairs under way.   A lot of older local residents recall the 1953 flood, but the subsequent flood of 1968 is less well remembered. You can see some early colour photos of Abbey Wood and Lower Belvedere under water by clicking here

I have had my ups and downs with the News Shopper over the years; overall I think they provide an excellent news reporting service for the local area; as you may have previously read, I do have issues with the somewhat “free spirited” approach they exhibit to people posting un-moderated responses on their talkback service. This week they have excelled themselves. I would like to point out that I am not accusing the paper of plagiarism, as one cannot copyright an idea. It does however appear somewhat coincidental that there is an editorial about the consumption of unusual meats that is in tone and content very similar to that which I posted in last weeks’ Maggot Sandwich update. All I can assume is that someone on the News Shopper read my piece and took inspiration from it. See what you think, and feel free to leave a comment below. 

On another culinary note, I have been checking the Scores on the Doors website for updates on Erith food outlets, and surprisingly a couple of new places have appeared, and they do very well. Both the Mambocino coffee house / cafe in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre, and the T-Bone Cafe in Fraser Road get a 4 out of 5 rating, which is pretty impressive. I have not eaten at either place, but the feedback I have heard is good for both. It rather ups the overall average score for Erith, which until now has been pitifully low, with nowhere scoring more than a 2 until now. Some places in and around the town are still unvisited and have no scores. One of these is the Yildiran kebab shop in West Street. It is a very popular takeaway that is often frequented by the Police and other emergency services, not because of trouble in the place, but because they can get an impromptu lunch or evening meal from there. Food – wise it is the standard kebab shop fare, but the ingredients are always fresh, and the portions generous. The only downside is that the waiting area is tiny, and the shop is very popular. You can get rather too close to fellow diners whilst you are waiting for your order to be cooked. I can hear a lot of people mentally tut – tutting  that I should be mentioning kebabs, as there are a lot who regard them as the worst kind of junk food – and I would agree that a poor kebab, especially a doner is a fatty and salty horror. If you deconstruct a kebab you get:- lean marinated then grilled lamb, thinly sliced raw green vegetables including white cabbage, onion and iceberg lettuce, served with tomato and a chilli / tomato chutney on grilled, unleavened bread. If done well it is a healthy and delicious meal. I reckon those who frequent reputable kebab shops after a night on the sauce, then complain the next day of an upset stomach would be better off blaming the multiple pints of gassy and chemical laden lager they had earlier poured down their necks. Unfortunately Erith fares so badly overall in its’ food hygiene scores, and its’ kebab shops are some of the lowest scoring outlets of all that I would hesitate in using any until they either get their act together, or get closed down. The Yildiran has the jury out at present, as it has not been tested; I just hope that when it eventually does, it comes out substantially better than its’ compatriots. It certainly looks clean and tidy, and the general feedback I have had is that it is the only place in town for decent Turkish food.
 It has been two years since the owners of local bar Potion were forced to hire an architect to create new drawings of a proposed replacement frontage for the building. When Potion took over the former White Hart pub, they proceeded to rip out its’ Victorian salt glazed tile and acid etched glass frontage, to be replaced with hideous plate glass. This was bad for two reasons; firstly the White Hart is (and was) a listed building that is located within the Erith High Street conservation area, and secondly the clear plate glass enabled passers by to see the feckless wastrels, drug dealers and other genetic flotsam that frequent the place. One can almost hear the banjos twanging as you walk past the doors. Unsurprisingly the owners of the place have done nothing to rectify the architectural vandalism, other than commission the drawing above. Bearing in mind the news about the Cross Keys, it would be nice to report similarly encouraging news about Potion, its’ close neighbour. The trouble is, I can’t. It would appear that Bexley Council planning department don’t have the teeth that they need to enforce the required changes, and Potion will sit on their hands forever if not forced to act.

The Daily Mail - a paper probably best known for not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, have really excelled themselves this week; they have announced that the next Star Wars movie will be at least partially filmed in the quarry that plays home to the Bluewater Shopping Centre. You can read their take on it here. I think the story is almost certainly utter tosh; Director JJ Abrams will need a location that has guaranteed good weather, is quiet, does not have overflying aircraft or lots of anachronistic stuff like electricity pylons on the horizon, all of which the land around Bluewater has in spades. Whilst these things (arguably apart from the weather) can be removed with CGI, it would be far easier to shoot in Australia or South Africa - the labour rates would be cheaper too.

The ending video this week is of a virtual tribute band. The iGenesis project are a group of talented amateur musicians that meet online to perform tracks from prog giants Genesis. None of the group have ever met in person - all of their collaboration is in cyberspace only. Here you can see them perform the entire Duke suite from the eponymous 1980 album in its' entirety. Watch and feel free to leave a comment below. Hopefully by the time the next Maggot Sandwich update is published, my lack of home broadband will be a thing of the past.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting as usual Hugh especially about the anniversary of the 1953 floods in Belvedere. My uncle owned Ford's Nursery on the Lower Road by Crabtree Manorway when there was a level crossing there. All his greenhouses were underwater. Where exactly is the Belvedere Community Centre?