Sunday, August 25, 2013


On Tuesday last week there was a fairly serious bus crash at the junction with Nathan Way and Eastern Way in Thamesmead. The News Shopper reports that eleven people were taken to hospital with suspected neck and back injuries. More of this later. I too was involved in a bus crash almost two years ago; it happened only a couple of hundred metres from the crash last week, at the junction of Tom Cribb Road and Pettman Crescent, very close to the location of Plumstead Bus Garage. I was a passenger on a 380 single decker bus, making my way back from my then daily visits to my Dad, who was then resident in the Gallion’s View nursing home. The bus was packed; if I had not been in a hurry to get home, I would have waited for the next one to turn up (the 380 is a fairly regular service).  I was standing almost next to the drivers’ compartment in adjacent to the windscreen. The driver got the bus  to the junction of Tom Cribb Road, where it met Pettman Crescent. At the junction there was a silver BMW 318i waiting for the traffic flow to stop. The bus driver slowed as one would have expected, but then suddenly accelerated hard into the back of the BMW. I saw what was about to happen, and “braced for impact” managing to grab a pole as I did so, but lots of people were thrown over – I almost ended up going out through the windscreen as it was – had I not been holding on as hard as I did, I could have ended up in a nasty mess. The back of the BMW was trashed, and the front of the bus had partially disintegrated too. I yelled at the driver, who looked back at me blankly – plainly in shock, and I then asked if anyone was hurt, when there was no obvious serious injuries, I got off the bus and ran round the corner to the bus halt in the main road and grabbed the duty inspector – he came round and I then gave a statement, saying I had been a witness as well as a victim and it was completely the drivers fault – I suggested that the Police check him for both drink and drugs as soon as possible. The Police came, took my details and then let me go on my way. That was the last I ever heard of the issue, and I don’t recall any local paper or news service picking up on the story.  Going back to last Tuesday’s crash, and the large number of people reporting back and neck pains, I may be cynical, but I wonder how many were thinking of juicy compensation claims from ambulance chasing claim handling companies? I read a report in the Times earlier this week that fraudulent whiplash claims are now so prevalent that it is alleged whole buses are filled with volunteer fraudulent claimers; the buses are then deliberately crashed on public roads in a set up manner to enable mass claims for non – existent injury – a case is currently going through Court, where the fraudsters were caught out by a few genuine passengers unwittingly caught up in the scam. I am in no way saying that this was the case in last weeks’ case, but any case coming to light involving crash related injuries does bring some understandable doubts to mind.  Apart from those paying for car insurance, who get on average a £90 per year increase in their premiums to cover the cost of spurious whiplash claims, the biggest other loser is the person who is genuinely injured in a motor accident, as many people automatically assume that anyone claiming for an injury obtained whilst motoring must be a con artist.
This high quality, glossy and expensive flyer came through my door a couple of days ago. The Redeemed Christian Church of God are an absolutely immense Nigerian based Pentecostal Church. I have written a little about them in the past, but it is only now when I have been able to carry out some research into them that some serious questions spring to my mind. Their presence in Erith is relatively low key – they have converted what used to be a car tyre warehouse opposite the hideous fish sculpture into a church and children’s crèche, and they attract pretty substantial congregations during their regular services. They have a slick and professional website – unsurprising when one considers that they are the fastest growing church in the world. When one begins digging around online, their slick and corporate image starts to get a little tarnished to say the least; a search on YouTube finds videos of their pastors making homophobic and intolerant statements that really have no place in a modern and civilised society. They also are actively involved in soliciting large amounts of cash from their members – an old style “the more you give, the more you receive in God’s blessings”. Nothing new there then – the Catholic Church were selling indulgences back in Medieval times. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that whilst their congregation turn up in a motley assortment of well used and very worn vehicles, the pastor and his wife seem to have the latest Mercedes Benz models, year in year out. Much more to be discovered on this matter, I feel.
This week brings yet another anniversary; it is the 30th birthday of the launch of the Acorn Electron computer. Not heard of the Electron? Not that surprising really, as it was basically a cut down version of the BBC Micro, that was designed to compete on price and performance with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The Electron was introduced a year too late, and was too little, too late - people wanted more performance for the price, not less. It was markedly slower than the £399 BBC Micro, and despite the assertion that it would run all BBC software, in reality it did not - some applications ran, albeit very slowly, but many did not, most tellingly Elite - the reason many BBC Micros got purchased in the first place. The Acorn was a major sales failure, and almost caused the end of Acorn Computers. The are very lucky in that at this point they created the revolutionary ARM processor which effectively saved the company.

At some point this morning, the Maggot Sandwich received its' 300,000th unique page view - many thanks to all of those who have read and contributed to the blog.

Ten percent of the cigarettes smoked in the London Borough of Bexley are illegal. This figure has been researched and compiled by the South East London Illegal Tobacco Cluster (which sounds like a criminal gang, but is actually a Quango). Overall they have discovered that the black market for cigarettes is worth £22 million a year in the London and South East region alone. This is basic economics – people discover that they can buy a products that is identical to that they find in the shops, but at a fraction of the price, then of course many will take this option. The Government argument that you cannot tell what is in the illicit fags, as they have not been through any quality control – the buyers counter this with “they are the same as you would buy over the counter in any European city”. Many large, organised criminal gangs have been moving from smuggling Class A and B hard drugs to tobacco – the market is larger, so the smaller profits are spread over a larger consumer base, keeping up cash flow, and additionally the penalties for tobacco smuggling are currently much lower and mainly classed as a financial crime, due to the loss of tax income to Revenue and Customs.  I am not, and never have been a smoker, so the whole appeal of cigarettes is a mystery to me; personally I cannot abide the acrid smell of burning cigarettes, and do my best to avoid it wherever possible. This has become somewhat easier in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre, as following the comment posted here a couple of weeks ago, there has been a crackdown on illegal smoking in the centre, and things have improved markedly. The security guards employed by the centre have been visible and active in discouraging illegal behaviour, as the centre management have taken the matter seriously and acted accordingly.  It looks like we can chalk this one down as a win for the Maggot Sandwich readers.

Metal thefts appear to have subsided a little over the last couple of months. I think that this may in part be due to the slight drop in commercial  scrap metal prices, due mainly to a slowdown in construction  in China. The Chinese have been the prime reason for the scrap metal boom over the last few years, and inadvertently have encouraged metal theft because of the high prices the boom engendered. They have had a massive campaign of construction, as they turn their economy from being a primarily agrarian based one to a modern production based economy. This has caused all sorts of problems of a kind that only a centrally controlled society can effectively deal with – the huge amount of construction carried out all over agricultural parts of the country has caused conflict between farmers and property developers, and there have been a number of well publicised cases where developers have speculatively built entire towns, only to find that almost nobody moves into them – the properties having been purchased by wealthy property speculators to effectively “land bank” the property in a hope that over a relatively short period of time it will increase in value. My Chinese contact told me that not long ago his own apartment was lit at night by the reflected light from sparks from welders building a skyscraper across the road – the workers don’t stop; construction is a twenty four hour process on many sites. Having said all this, nobody seems to have told a bunch of feckless chavs who got collared by the Police in Manor Road on Sunday night. They were caught red – handed by the Police helicopter, which was followed up by officers on the ground. The three men were arrested after a load of copper power cable was found in their van, the origin of which they could not say. Most unfortunately the men were released without charge, as the original owner of the cable could not be chased. It strikes me as unusual, as two of the three scrotes did a runner, and the helicopter had to follow them using its’ night vision cameras, before they were eventually captured. The fact that they ran off surely indicates guilt? If they were innocent , they would have no reason to run off. I suppose the evidence was not strong enough to secure a successful conviction. I would imagine the officers involved must have felt very frustrated.
It is now a year since construction work started on the Erith Wind Turbine, which has become an important local landmark in this relatively short period of time. The turbine is located on an industrial park near the junction of Manor Road and Slade Green Road is one of the largest in London; it reaches 288 feet above sea (or in this case, River Thames) level, and is certainly impressively imposing. When the turbine was commissioned last September, a chap from Slade Green was vociferous in his opposition, and he secured some quite extensive coverage in the local press. I found this quite surprising, as after checking the location of his house on Google Maps, I discovered that Pewty Acres was substantially closer to the wind turbine site than his own place. The dire warnings the man gave about the wind turbine causing noise and disturbance have been wholly unfounded – the turbine is almost silent, even when a very strong wind is blowing. There was a lot of bluster and noise from the usual suspects on the News Shopper website at the time, but absolutely nothing since. It seems to me that a small but vociferous group of malcontents stirring up trouble, rather than a concerted attempt at changing the situation.  It was also evident at the time that the chap in the story must have had his eyes closed when walking locally (presupposing he is not one of those people who goes everywhere by car). Bexley Council put planning application notices on lamp posts all over the area surrounding the proposed site of the wind turbine, and I am led to believe no objections were lodged. As I wrote at the time, anyone who lives in that part of town does so for one major reason – the relatively affordable house prices. The reason for the low prices is partly due to the proximity of the industrial estate and the attendant heavy traffic that transits the locality, plus the foreknowledge that new warehouses and other industrial structures have a likelihood of being built. It kinds of goes with the territory, if, like me you live in proximity to such things. Personally I find it a functional and far preferable piece of industrial sculpture than the horrendous “so bad that it is good” fish sculpture that guards the entrance to Erith Town Centre. 

After a huge amount of marketing, millions of dollars spent in advertising, and investments my movie studios and television broadcasters, it would appear that 3D both in cinema and TV has turned out to be a  turkey. Cinema audiences for 3D versions of films have been dropping steadily for the last couple of years; the only really successful movie that took more at the box office in 3D than in its’ 2D version was James Cameron’s “Avatar” (popularly known as “Dances with Smurfs”) but generally audiences balk at the increased admission fee for the 3D version. On top of this, whilst sales of 3D capable TV’s are steady, the actual use of the 3D functionality is very low. It would appear that consumers are buying the TV’s despite the 3D features, not because of them. My suspicions regarding this were confirmed recently when I had a detailed conversation with the senior A/V installation engineer from local electronics retailer Wellington’s and he confirmed my suspicions. He said that people buy smart TV’s mainly for applications such as BBC iPlayer and other streaming “catch up” services – the other smart functions are generally regarded as a novelty – as is 3D. This novelty soon wears off. I have to say that this mirrors my own experiences – I have a Samsung 46 ES8000 LED 3D smart TV, and I have found the same thing. I have also heard that Sky may be dropping their dedicated 3D content channel, as the very low number of subscribers cannot justify its’ continuation. It occupies a channel that could be better used for content that would generate more revenue. The aforementioned James Cameron has announced that all his future movies will be made in 3D. He’s probably only one of a handful of movie moguls who could get away with it – the Avatar sequels will apparently all be filmed exclusively in 3D, though whether movie goers will continue to buy into this is debatable – since the original Avatar was released in 2009, the numbers prepared to sit through what a significant proportion of people find to be a headache inducing, eye strain causing ordeal will be instructive to see. Personally I can get on with 3D for about twenty minutes at a time. I would most certainly not be able to sit through a full length movie without feeling distinctly unwell. I gather that the way that the 3D processing works relies on the viewer having perfect unassisted 20/20 vision – the overlapping dual images that are displayed on screen and filtered by the stroboscopic (in the case of active 3D) or polarising (in the case of the cheaper and less effective passive system) glasses are not interpreted correctly by the brains’ visual cortex if vision is anything less than perfect – this is why problems with watching 3D content are more common with people who wear prescription spectacles like myself.

I am no  fan of social media. Sharing ones’ every movement and activity is not something that interests me. I know that FaceBook is an integral part of a lot of people’s day, and that many people would find it hard to do without. One of the legion of problems of any widely used social media service is that gossip and rumour can rapidly become reported as fact, and the phenomenon of Chinese Whispers can cause what begin as relatively innocuous conversations but that soon turn into horror stories. There was a rumour posted on FaceBook that I was alerted to earlier this week; the story went that a group of black youths had assaulted a wheelchair bound man in Erith, and that when he had reported the incident, the disabled man was arrested instead of the youths. This follows a previous story doing the rounds a few weeks’ back where several people reported a group of Romanians kidnapping small children from shopping centres in the region. When investigated, no substance whatsoever was found behind the story. What is instructive is that both these stories involve minorities threatening white British people, and the victim ends up getting into trouble, rather than the protagonist. I am of the opinion that these nasty little rumours are being propagated by some racist group like the EDF or BNP to try and stir up ethnic tensions. The trouble is, a significant number of people think that just because something is in print (or online) that it must be true – which is most certainly not the case. Generally speaking, if something genuine has happened locally, both the Bexley Times and News Shopper will have picked it up – they are very good in this respect. If you have seen no mention of an incident reported on social media within around twenty four hours, the chances are the story was concocted by someone for nefarious reasons. The local papers check the veracity of stories, and don’t often tend to print unfounded rumours. Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Association occasionally alert Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators like myself with information relating to local safety and security matters; they also provide alerts relating to social media propagated rumours – which invariably turn out to be utter rubbish. Any genuine issues will be published on the Erith Watch website without delay.
I need to offer an apology and a correction for something  I wrote last week in my piece about famous, fabulously wealthy  former Erith resident Hiram Maxim. I said that he had carried out the first heavier than air flight in Danson Park, nearly nine years before the Wright Brothers. Long time Maggot Sandwich reader Dave Martin posted the following:- "Hugh, with reference to Hiram Maxim I believe you meant Baldwin’s Park rather than Danson Park". Dave – you are completely right; I do believe that some earlier experiments were undertaken in Danson Park, and some sources have previously claimed that the flight itself took place there (the Science Museum even perpetrated this myth until they were corrected a few years ago). I think that there was a degree of confusion which has not been helped by the passage of time. The fact remains that a local hero is seriously under appreciated. Maxim was by many accounts not an easy man to get on with, but his inventions, engineering skills and legacy should be more celebrated. The fact that he flew in 1894 should not be overlooked – the achievement of the Wright brothers in 1903 was important, and led to the development of proper production aircraft, whereas the Maxim flyer (see the photo above - click for a larger view)was pretty much a design dead – end design, as it has no means of controlling itself in the air, but it did show the way for the other aviation pioneers.

Blues Brothers tribute band The Blues Brothers Experience played at TribFest last week; here is a promo video of the event. Do watch, and feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Thank you for posting our video of Tribfest. It's had 7,000+ views in just under a week!
    Keep up the good work.

  2. That church isn't alone in SE London for spreading homophobic abuse, nor other dangerous beliefs such as witchcraft and possession. Some churches are quite open with those beliefs on websites and literature - some less so but a bit of digging reveals worrying beliefs. I've seen strong and extreme anti-muslim literature as well from one. Whilst extreme views at mosques are heavily reported in the media (rightfully so) extreme messages in fundamentalist churches are covered much less. Other dangerous messages of some churches claim worship is better than medical treatment, with the obvious dangers that can cause. There have been headlines regarding the more serious cases but lower key ones are just as worrying.

    Many are proponents of the 'prosperity gospel' which is basically saying give the leaders more money to get greater rewards from God.