Sunday, November 03, 2013

The chippy.

I am always suspicious of anyone who uses more than one exclamation mark in a sentence or announcement. To me it smacks of desperation, as in “look at me!” A prime example of this was for many years displayed outside of the Manor Fish Bar (which, somewhat unsurprisingly, is located at the Western end of Manor Road, Erith). Under the main name board on the front of the shop, there was the phrase “Freshly Prepared Fish!!!” The three exclamation marks would jump out at me every time I walked past the place - as you can clearly see in the photo above - click on it for a larger view. I am in that sense happy to say that the source of my irritation has now ended. The Manor Fish Bar has changed hands and is currently being gutted (fish bar – gutted – oh why do I bother?) I am unsure who the new owners are, or what they plan for the shop; the previous owners were ineffective. They ran the place down into the ground – it was grubby, dingy and the fish was very expensive. The place only rated a one out of five star rating on “Scores on the Doors” and I think that star was being rather generous. When I first moved to Erith in 1996 the fish bar was run by an Iranian couple who had recently purchased the shop. They were excellent – the fish was immaculately cooked, reasonably priced, very tasty and served in large portions. On occasion I would go into the shop not long before it was due to close; rather than giving me a piece of fish from the warming cabinet, they would always insist on cooking it for me from fresh. The wife spoke very little English, but when I saw her in the street, or shopping in Morrison’s, she would always smile and say “hello”. They were by far the best proprietors of the shop in my experience. The photo below was taken during their tenure – it shows the 1950’s vintage marble effect Formica that lined the shop. It was kept immaculately clean and tidy. I had a gut feeling that if I did not take the photo when I did (September 2005) it would not be around for much longer. I was correct; only a couple of months later, the Iranian couple sold up and moved on. Since then the shop has changed hands a number of times, progressively getting shabbier and less welcoming with each passing owner. The last proprietors ripped out much of the classic Formica and opened the back of the shop up. They also started selling pizza and kebabs – and the cleanliness and hygiene of the place slid further downhill. Being just a hundred metres from a large KFC drive through and a similar McDonald’s drive through cannot help – although the Manor Fish Bar did tend to attract more custom from local residents, than passing traffic. I just hope that whoever has now taken the place on can put it back to where it once was. I don’t know what the new owner intends for the shop – my local contacts have thus far drawn a blank.
Erith has a long and varied past, and has been home to many enterprises and industries. One that you may well not be aware of, is that Erith was the home of one if the UK’s top land based pirate radio station for some years. The station is apparently on hiatus at present, although they do still broadcast online - you can listen here, but one never knows if it will come back on air again. West and North Kent Radio (WNKR) originally started broadcasts on the FM band from the roof of the old Norvic House on the Larner Road housing estate back in August 1987. They later moved to Shortwave, where they had listeners all around Europe and beyond. They also broadcast on Medium Wave to South East London and North Kent on 1476kHz until a couple of years ago, when they decided to take a break. I stumbled across this audio only documentary on YouTube which is a fascinating and at times hilarious account of the history of the local radio station during their early years.  Give it a listen and see what you think.

I have had an absolutely phenomenal response to last weeks’ blog posting; specifically my account of meeting murderer Rod Newall when I was working on the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge, back in the summer of 1992. The blog posting was highlighted and linked to on a number of pirate radio chat rooms and discussion forums. Thanks Dave – much appreciated for the plug! At the time of writing I have had 514 page views for that Halloween special update alone. In case you were wondering, my account is not fictionalised or embellished – everything I wrote did actually happen as described. I had almost completely forgotten about the whole incident, when by complete coincidence there was a dramatised documentary about the whole Newall murder case on Channel 5 the previous Thursday. I had just got in from a Neighbourhood Watch leaders meeting, and switched on the TV to be confronted with a recreation of events that led up to, and resulted from Roderick Newall and his brother bludgeoning their parents to death. I noticed that the documentary was pretty accurate, but missed out on the whole of Rod’s yacht coming to Dover. They said he had gone to France to pick up the vessel – which was not the case. I suppose I should not be too surprised, as to my knowledge, nobody from the Radio Caroline organisation was ever questioned by the Police over the matter. At that time Caroline were beginning the transition from an “outside of the law” organisation and into a more conventional enterprise. Any association with a high profile criminal – however innocently it happened – would have been public relations suicide. It is probably just as well that the Radio Caroline element remained undiscovered for well over two decades. It cannot do any harm for me to have discussed it in my last posting. Talking of Radio Caroline, I have heard the sad news that its’ founder, Ronan O’Rahilly is very ill with an advanced case of Vascular DementiaRonan was the person who changed the face of British radio – before Caroline the BBC only played a few hours of music a week, and were loath to broadcast anything challenging or different. It is probable that many British bands from the 60’s and 70’s would not have had the success they did without the extensive air time Caroline gave them. Ronan was behind the tours of the UK that the Stax and Motown labels undertook – this was when other UK radio stations played no music of black origin. Ronan was one of life’s eccentrics; he would come up with some utterly crackpot idea, but such was the power of his warmth, charm and personality, he would have you believing him – at least until he disappeared. Usually a couple of minutes later, you would get a “hang on a minute” thought, and you would realise how bonkers what you had just been told actually was. Ronan had a soft half Irish / half American accent, and it became a running joke amongst staff that if you heard the “Old Man” start a sentence with “Hey, I’ve got this really great idea!” you knew what followed was going to be challenging, if impractical, dangerous, or downright contrary to the established laws of physics - nevertheless, it would always be interesting. Having lost my own father to dementia (albeit of a different type) I know how challenging caring for someone with the condition can be. My thoughts are with his family in Ireland, who are now looking after the great, inspirational man, and a truly lovely bloke.
As mentioned in some depth two weeks ago, the traffic diversion around the Bexley Road railway bridge has now gone into force. The West bound carriageway is completely out of use for the next couple of months; bearing in mind what a bottleneck the bridge is during rush hours, even when working normally, it will be interesting to see how local traffic copes. The bus diversions are detailed on the poster above (click on it for a larger view). It strikes me that the most popular and heavily used service – the 99 route from Bexleyheath to Woolwich via Erith, is also going to be the most dramatically affected. The 99 normally runs across the rail bridge on both directions of its’ circular journey. Because of the remedial engineering work to the bridge, it will no longer be able to head West along Bexley Road and then turn right into Fraser Road, and in turn Erith Road, where it meets Upper Belvedere. Instead it is being redirected  along the dual carriageway of Bronze Age Way, then onto Lower Road, and finally up Picardy Road (often incorrectly referred to as Picardy Hill) to then join up with Woolwich Road, and resume its’ normal journey. The problem with this is that parts of Picardy Road are very narrow; the existing double decker 401 buses have difficulties on a couple of the bends of the very steep road, which is not helped by a lot of irresponsible motorists parking illegally. This especially true during the school run, when parents park there when taking children to Lessness Heath primary school. The other concern is that the residents of Fraser Road and Erith Road will be without a bus service for the best part of eight weeks. Erith Road especially has a high proportion of pensioners, some of which don’t have cars. Mobility for them during the diversion may well be a headache.

I do my best to bite my tongue, but there are times when I find it very difficult; for example when I hear people saying “them” instead of “those”, as in “them people”, or “we was” instead of “we were” – you know the kind of thing. It is so common locally that it seems to have become almost the norm. I heard a clanger of one the other day whilst in the bakery section of Morrison’s, where a woman wanted a Ciabatta loaf. The bakery assistant took several goes to identify what she wanted, as she had asked for a “Seeabatta” loaf – causing much unintentional confusion. 

I have written in the past about renewed interest in the scientific and engineering community in Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), which used to erroneously be referred to as “Cold Fusion”. The phenomenon, which was widely embraced, then derided as a con back in the heady days of 1989. Since then, a few amateur researchers have continued to plug away, convinced that the process is real, and that it can be harnessed to produce unlimited, almost free power with no nasty nuclear waste to worry about. It would seem that LENR may well have taken a step closer to achieving this goal, a paper has been published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics (a very well respected publication with impeccable academic credentials). The paper states that Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories have successfully replicated an experiment originally carried out by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, where an LENR generator produced energy output far in excess of that which was input to the device. This the first independent, peer reviewed academic journal to record such a success. The fact that multinational industrial giants such as Toyota and Mitsubishi are funding and carrying out research into an area formerly thought of as “crackpot” is instructive; these hard headed corporates would not be spending money on LENR research unless they had a good idea it would not only exist, but be capable of being engineered into a viable power source. This is all very encouraging. People have looked for years to find a cheap, clean, reliable source of pollution free power; there is a distinct possibility that this may be a lot nearer than we previously thought.
The news this week that Blockbuster has gone into administration for a second time in a year really should come as no surprise. The Erith branch closed nearly a year ago now (see the photo above), and it was a constant source of amazement that it stayed open as long as it did. It was scarcely used and had little stock for much of the time. The owners of Blockbuster do not seem to have realised that the age of the hardware media format is now well and truly over. People no longer wish to queue up to hire a DVD or Blu – Ray disk, then have to worry about returning it on time, or risk a fine. The online streaming services such as LoveFilm and Netflix have stolen a march on this business; it surprises me that Blockbuster have not updated their business model to accommodate the dramatic change in their customers’ viewing habits. Online streaming is becoming the norm; I seriously doubt that there will be a physical media storage format to replace Blu-Ray, as the need for such a format will be minimal. Movies and TV series will be streamed over the web onto TV's and tablet devices, and as bandwidth increases, the capacity for ever higher resolutions will be met. 4K high definition television is already with us, albeit with minimal native 4K content. In a nod to the future, the only “proper” 4K content is delivered via streaming, not by Blu-Ray, as it does not support full 4K resolution. Time will tell, but I don’t think physical storage media has very much of a future.

Things seem to be hotting up in respect of the campaign to preserve Bexley Local Studies and Archive Service, and prevent it being absorbed into the service run by Bromley Council. It seems not one single person who I have spoken to is in support of the move, which is said would save the council around £41,000 a year. This is a laughably small amount of cash in the greater scheme of things – when you compare this sum with the wage bill of the senior members of Bexley Council, it is a drop in the ocean. Bexley is Bonkers webmaster Malcolm Knight has already written extensively on the subject, which you can read here.  The problems relating to a potential move are multiple. Firstly there is the issue of distance – Bromley library is approximately ten miles from Bexleyheath library, and the journey by public transport is slow and difficult. Even when travelling by car there are problems, due to the parking restrictions which Bromley zealously apply. Much of the physical records stored by Bexley Local Studies and Archive service are very fragile paper – they have not even been captured on microfilm, let alone digitally scanned for web use. Any mass movement of old and brittle documents, some of which date back hundreds of years is bound to cause irreparable damage. I doubt that Bromley will be interested in the archiving of Bexley’s documents – I think it more than likely they will get thrown into a store room and forgotten – after all, Bexley residents don’t pay the wages of Bromley council workers, so there is little or no incentive for them to make any effort whatsoever. It also seems like cruel irony;  we are on the verge of the 100th anniversary of the First World War; children and adults alike are being encouraged to find out more both about that historic conflict and the effect it had locally, along with schools running special events based on WW1. An opportunity for school children to learn will be wasted if the archives are relocated – and the costs of the relocation are likely to exceed the savings made by the move. In my professional life, I manage projects, some of which are markedly similar to a local archive relocation – I can say that a £41K saving is a drop in the ocean when one sees the bigger picture – it strikes me as being a classic “box ticking” exercise . It is clear that Bexley Council care little for the history of the local area; it would not be the first time they have acted in this manner; they closed the beautiful, historic Erith Library and Museum in Walnut Tree Road, scant months after an extensive (and expensive) refurbishment project had been completed. They then moved the library into its’ current airless and charmless shop unit opposite Erith Health Centre – and did away with the museum entirely. It seems to me that certain council members who get to make the decisions are acting like modern day Visigoths – destroying the history and local identity of the borough, with no thought for the legacy of future generations. Thankfully the Bexley Times have picked up on the story, and have published an article that you can read here

House prices in Greater London are again sky rocketing.  Bexley has some of the cheapest house prices anywhere within the M25, and Both Erith and Slade Green are the cheapest of all. It is one of the principal reasons I moved into Erith in the first place; it is just about the cheapest town in which to live within easy commuting distance of Central London. When I first moved into the town in 1996 that was about the only thing to recommend Erith. It was to be honest, a pretty grim place – a grim, brutalist design shopping centre that was filled with broken glass, litter and the constant smell of wee. There was no big supermarket, and little investment in the town, which was still recovering from post industrial gloom – the place was not nearly as geared up as a place that is welcoming to its’ inhabitants than it is now. Overall the last decade and a half have seen big improvements for Erith. The opening of Morrison’s (the first Morrison’s in the South, closely followed by one in Ilford – the rest is history). This led to the redevelopment of the pier – the longest on the entire River Thames, and now a very popular destination for anglers and walkers alike. The Erith Riverside Shopping Centre redevelopment was a substantial improvement on the frankly shockingly bad old town centre, which nobody had a kind word for, even if the new development did take quite a long time to find its’ feet. Erith is now a pretty nice place to live, despite what some naysayers might think.

The ending video this week is surreally bonkers. It is the campaign film created by Brian May and Brian Blessed to end the Badger cull. Whatever your views on the cull, the short film is extremely odd - it features badgers in the role of Hawkmen from the cult film "Flash Gordon", with a reworked sound track from the film by Brian May. Brian Blessed, who would have won an Oscar for his role in "Flash Gordon", had there been an award for scenery chewing, also makes an appearance. Watch and wonder - what were they thinking?


  1. Beside what Toyota publish in a peer-reviewed journal , replicating Mitsubishi work, you should know that teh Swedish R&D consortium of electric utilities publicly confirm LENR reactor works

    beside them there are already many small and big companies preparing for the revolution

    enthusiasming days.

  2. “Seeabatta” loaf - you just couldn't make it up! That really tickled me Hugh! :O)

    A x