The photo above shows the relatively recently opened “Sam’s 99p Shop” in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Although it has only been in operation for a few weeks, it is clearly doing very well indeed, much better so than the previous Pound Town shop, which had relocated to Crayford. Sam’s 99p shop is a great improvement on its’ predecessor in that it is much better laid out, less cramped, is better lit and ventilated (a particular problem with the old shop – even in cold weather it was claustrophobic and incredibly stuffy – a real deterrent to me) The new shop design is light and airy, and far more welcoming to the passing shopper. The variety of goods stocked by the place is pretty mind boggling, and the fact that everything is priced at 99p or lower is very encouraging to pretty much everyone. I was casually looking around the shop over the bank holiday weekend; I have a new wall clock for my refurbished bathroom, and needed to find something to fix the clock in place, as the supplied hook was unsuitable. I picked up a small compartmentalised box filled with 220 nails and tacks of a number of varieties for a – you guessed it, bargain price of 99p. The store deserves its’ success – reasonable quality goods at a really knock down price. It is nice to be able to report a local business success after the recent disappointments with Blockbuster and HMV closing locally - even though HMV as a company has been rescued, the already closed Bexleyheath branch is very unlikely to re-open.
I am known for my rather distinctive style of footwear. Out of practicality and habit I wear yellow builder’s steel toe capped boots, as seen in the photo above. The are comfortable, practical, inexpensive and have the added advantage of being a useful defensive tool in the event of any unpleasantness from aggressive low lives. I have been wearing these kind of boots for a number of years; I have a method of mildly customising a new pair before they are deemed ready for wear. Firstly I remove the yellow laces supplied with the boots, and replace them with thinner, dark brown laces purchased separately; secondly I spray the porous nubuck material of the boots with a silicone based water repellent coating. Bearing in mind a pair of these boots cost around £25, and last for around a year, they represent very good value for money. Why would I mention this I hear you ask? Well, I was forced to prematurely undertake the new boot preparation ritual somewhat earlier than anticipated on Monday last week. I had undertaken a spring clean of my wardrobe, and had filled five dustbin sacks full of good quality clothes to be donated to a couple of local charity shops. On top of this I had a bag of lower quality garments that I felt were suitable only for recycling. I took this heavy, bulky bag round to the recycling facility in Morrison’s car park. On the way, unbalanced by the heavy load, I stumbled and ended up stepping in a particularly juicy and noisome dug turd. After scraping the worst of it off with a piece of cardboard I found, I ventured home, much annoyed. To avoid soiling the deep pile carpet in the lounge of Pewty Acres, I went round the back and came through the back garden. I spent an age using washing up liquid and water from my garden tap along with an ancient brush in an attempt to clean the sole and sides of the boot to no avail; the welt of the boot was too badly soiled. I consigned the reeking pair of boots into a double wrapped bin liner for safe disposal. Erith is swamped with dog mess – wherever you go in the town, there are turds crapped indiscriminately all over the place. I don’t blame the dogs, but I do blame the owners, who are irresponsible in the extreme. For example, if you go along the riverside walk, or onto Erith Pier itself, there are dedicated bins for the safe disposal of bagged dog mess. In spite of this, the pavement is like a minefield of excrement. There is a significant population of local dog owners who really don’t care where their animal defecates, as long as it is not on their property – from my own observations, most of these people own what I term “weapon dogs” – the kind that were bred to fight, and consist mostly of claws and teeth. As one of my local informants said when I told him of my plight, there is a section of Erith’s residents who seemingly cannot afford to feed themselves and their family properly, yet they own, and sometimes breed aggressive dogs. They don’t train them or nurture them in a responsible manner, but instead let them run semi wild. It turns out that my concerns regarding such dogs are not alone; Doctor Simon Harding of Middlesex University has carried out a study on dangerous dogs and he has concluded that many criminals also use these animals as business assets in drug deals, illegal debt collection, and to foster their gang image. Dr. Harding said "It has become less about whether the dog will fit into family life and more about, 'What will this dog do for me, how much will it make me?'." He added that "through their reputation for aggression or ability to intimidate, bull type breeds are also used in drug deals, gambling debts and loan-sharking, where their owners do not have recourse to law if the money owed is not paid because his business is illegal. The dog says, 'I am here to be taken seriously' - it acts as a 'minder' and a 'heavy' when collecting dues. People believe that possession of an aggressive dog means that the threats posed by such men will be carried out." To my mind it is only a matter of time before we witness a local child being savaged in a similar manner to the stories we have all read in the press. On top of this, all manner of disease causing bacteria are transmitted by contact with canine excrement. Some of these include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Toxocariasis and Ringworm. Many times I have seen toddlers with parents in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre and elsewhere around town. Invariably the toddler will fall over at some stage. It only takes a fall onto a dog turd and the child to put their hands in their mouth or eyes to end up with what can be a crippling disease, all because of some irresponsible dog owner who has not picked up and bagged their dogs’ bowel output. Erith is by far from the only town suffering from this problem, but it does seem to be worse affected than other equivalent areas. Your thoughts / comments on this would be appreciated.
When I was at school my tastes in music were very rigidly defined; I liked certain bands and detested pretty much everything else. If it had been on “Top of the Pops” I would automatically detest it without consideration; I liked album rock from bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and early Genesis and to hell with anything else. To be fair, when you were a kid in the 80’s, music was very compartmented and tribal – the heavy metal fans hated the new romantics, the indie fans hated pop fans, and everybody hated the Goths. Nowadays my musical tastes are far more diverse; I listen to pretty much every genre of music, with one notable exception. I, like many others, utterly detest Country and Western music. I find it maudlin, sentimental, clichéd and treacly. Its’ followers appear to consist mainly of the under educated and over fed. Anyway, I have found myself on the horns of a dilemma with the news that Erith singer / songwriter Wayne Jacobs has achieved a number one hit single in America with his song “I want my daddy” – a song based on a true life story of a Kentucky fire-fighter saved by his wife after a serious car crash, which has topped the chart on Nashville’s Wild Horse Country Radio. Wayne is also doing well with another track – “Smiley face” on TV talent show “Britain does Variety”. If his run of success continues, he will be featured on the final of the show, which will be transmitted live from the O2 Arena by Sky One. I really don’t want to promote Country and Western music – on the grounds that if we ignore it for long enough, it might go away, but at the same time, with my personal libertarian philosophy of “if it works for you” I feel that I should offer Wayne my full support – after all, he’s out, making a new career in show business – and Erith’s only other showbiz personality of note was the late comedienne Linda Smith, who said of the town “Erith isn’t twinned with anywhere. It does however have a mutual suicide pact with Dagenham”! Quite. Good luck Wayne; I hope you continue to do well.
Local Police have been very active of late; on the 27th March they carried out the final phase of Operation Hawk, an operation designed to arrest criminals, disrupt and stop organised crime and to put a major dent in the illegal drugs trade in the London Borough of Bexley. Bexley Safer Neighbourhoods Policing team, alongside the CID, the Crime Squad and the Territorial Support Group (what in the 80’s was known as the SPG) raided thirteen locations around the Borough. Seven of the premises were in Thamesmead, whilst the remaining six raids were carried out in Erith, Barnehurst, Sidcup and Crayford. During the raids, the Police closed down an established cannabis factory, made three arrests for possession of drugs with an intent to supply, recovered twenty small bags of cannabis made ready for sale, along with a carrier bag full of the illegal drug. They also seized over £1000, which is thought to be the proceeds of criminal activity, as well as equipment for the growing of cannabis plants. At one address in Thamesmead where drug trafficking was being carried out, the Police discovered a total of thirty one dogs – as I wrote earlier, this just goes to show that the criminal scumbag underclass keep aggressive dogs as weapons, in this case to guard the address when they weren’t around. Yet more reasons why dog licencing and compulsory micro chipping ought to be brought in – not that the crooks would pay any attention to the law, just like the same people allow their animals to void their bowels on the pavement. I am pretty convinced that the kind of person who acts anti socially with a dog in public is more likely than not also involved in nefarious affairs, as has already proven to be the case with illegal scrap dealers – if you carry out one criminal activity, you are very likely to be involved in others.
On Friday night I went along to the 8th Bexley Beer Festival. For the last seven years the event has been held at the Sidcup Rugby Club, which is a nice venue, but it is right on the far side of the borough, and a bit of a nightmare to get to and from. On top of that, the club management team have been getting increasingly snooty about the real ale fans who turn up at the event, and for the last couple of years the club toilets were out of bounds. Drinkers instead had to use smelly and unlit portaloos, which was not a pleasant experience. This year a new venue was used; the Old Dartfordians Rugby Club in Bexley Village. The venue was roughly the same size as the one in Sidcup, but had the advantages of being centrally located in the borough, on a couple of major bus routes. It also had a much larger and better equipped kitchen, enabling volunteers to cook up a far wider selections of snacks and main meals for the visitors. On top of all this, it had a decent number of well lit indoor toilets, which was a great relief. (OK - sorry about that one, but you know how it goes...) As always, the event was exceedingly well attended, and there was a range of over seventy real ales, ciders and perries on offer. The crowd were easy going and very well mannered (I have never, ever seen a confrontation, let alone a fight at an event involving real ale - so much for the notion that alcohol causes aggressive behaviour. I think yobs who fuel up on gassy, tasteless and chemical laden lager just use the booze as an excuse for a fight). Anyway, I digress. A very good time was had by all. Bexley CAMRA announced at the event the result of the 2012 pub of the year. No surprises at all that for the umpteenth time running it was The Robin Hood and Little John in Lion Road, Bexleyheath - by far the best pub in the borough. The beer festival was a resounding success. You can see some more photos of the event by clicking here.
Microsoft must be squirming with discomfort right now. They have spent millions promoting their current desktop operating system Windows 8, and a recent independent sales audit indicates that at this point in the product life cycle, Microsoft have sold less copies of Windows 8 than they did of the much derided Windows Vista – which even Microsoft acknowledge was a total sales flop and a technical disaster on a par with the abysmal Windows ME (dubbed the “Mistake Edition”) back in 2000. It would appear that although Windows 8 is stable and pretty quick (it is an update of the excellent Windows 7 – widely regarded as the best version of Windows to date) it has the most inflexible and illogical user interface, which has alienated a lot of potential customers. Microsoft are keen to promote their new interface, which is designed to be common to desktop PC’s, Tablet computers and laptops alike. The resulting look and feel is a real mess – large blocky icons that have been described several times as “looking like they were designed by Fisher Price for a kid’s toy”. This in itself would not be so bad if the user were able to switch back to a conventional Windows Desktop. It is possible for users to use a desktop environment for some applications, but not for others; it is a confusing and irritating mess. Thus far, Microsoft have ignored the pleas from businesses and personal users alike – they refuse to publish an update which disables the Metro interface. First looks at the successor to Windows 8, so far code names Windows Blue do not reassure – the chunky Metro look is still there, although as I mentioned last week, the version intentionally leaked to the public is a very early build, and certainly the finished product will be somewhat different if the experiences of previous pre – release leaks are anything to go by. It seems to me, as someone who works in the field of business computing, that Microsoft are making a very simple, classic mistake – they are not listening to their customers. The fact that the users of Windows 7 are not upgrading to Windows 8 as many view it as a regressive step should have started the alarm bells ringing in the Redmond HQ of Microsoft. Instead their public behaviour is “we know best, and you will have what is good for you” really does not wash in the modern “consumer is king” business environment. As a result, customers are voting with their feet, and thus Windows 8 has been an utter sales flop. Some resellers are going as far as bundling a Windows 7 “downgrade” disk to business customers buying new PC’s with preinstalled Windows 8, as the only way to shift new PC hardware. When a situation like this occurs, you can bet your bottom dollar that something has gone seriously wrong. Normally, when you start digging yourself into a hole, the first step to resolve the problem is to stop digging. Someone needs to explain this to Microsoft.
Finally something I was expecting from the moment that Disney took over Lucasfilm has happend. Lucas Arts gaming division has been closed with immediate effect. This is both a pity and a supreme irony, as it comes almost twenty years to the day of the release of the most iconic and atmospheric game that they ever produced. Star Wars: Rebel Assault was a (for then) ground breaking multi media game for the PC, and later for a couple of consoles. It is largely accepted that the PC version was far superior to the console editions; in fact it was the first PC game to be made available exclusively on compact disk, as it contained a large number of digitised cut scenes, pre - rendered 3D graphics then too complex for the computers of the day to render in real time, and original voice overs. The game also used the full orchestral score of the original Star Wars movies. So good was the game that I know of one friend who stumped up over a thousand pounds for a 486 DX2-66 based PC just to play the game. Rebel Assault was to PC gaming at the time what Elite had been to the BBC Micro a few years previously - if you had the computer, you just had to buy the game. Nowadays the graphics look chunky and dated, but the atmosphere of the game still remains. The video below shows the game loading and beginning and the first few minutes of the training sessions. I know one Glasgow based Maggot Sandwich reader who will definitely wallow in nostalgia in seeing this. See what you think and leave a comment below.