Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas 2014.

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I featured two photos quite similar to the ones above, that had been taken by local resident and Maggot Sandwich reader Rosemary. The mysterious giant barge with the huge steel silos has been moored on Erith Pier a number of times over the past fortnight, and I took the photos above (click on each for a larger view) early on Friday afternoon. I was under the impression that they would soon have been installed in the industrial facility in Dagenham, but for some reason they are still hanging round in Erith. I would imagine the local river fishing community must be upset, as most of the pier facing out into the Thames is blocked by the vessel with its' outsized cargo. I am very surprised that local paper The News Shopper have not picked up on the story. I have sent them some details along with some photos, so I suppose that we will just have to wait and see.

A quick message - some of my readers may have been expecting Christmas cards from me; As I have written in the past, I do not send them - I view then as archaic and no longer relevant. In the age of instant communication and "always on" internet access I find that physical cards - a relic of the Victorian age when they were often the only form of communication from year to year - are really something we should pass by. They use up vast amounts of material and huge amounts of energy in both their creation and transportation around the planet, all of which use finite resources that could be put to more productive use. Please don't feel offended if you think I have not sent you a card; it is just that I am of the opinion that they have had their day. If you would still like to see a relevant, contemporary theme to a Christmas card, then click here for some recycled electrons. Long term readers may recall the theme.

Over the last few months I have heard several people express dissatisfaction with the standard of the security guards employed in the Erith branch of Morrison’s supermarket. I have heard reports of the single guard turning a blind eye when gangs of kids go on shoplifting sprees – the older kids providing a diversion whilst the younger ones steal items and conceal them in the pockets of their inevitable hoodies. If this was not bad enough, this week I had an Email from a lady who prefers to remain anonymous; suffice to say that she is a pillar of the local community. These are her own words:- I thought I'd let you know of my 'dies horrilibis' when shopping at Morrison's today when I was accused of shoplifting as I tried to fight my way through the doors pushing the empty trolley, pulling my own and trying not to hit anybody. I do not like being in there and wasn't feeling too good, just wanted to finish and go home at the same time trying not to forget that I needed to call in at Argos to pick up an ink cartridge on order. I was asked to accompany the security guard where he accused me of hiding under the newspaper the things which were in my cool bag. I always place everything on the top in the best order to put most things in my trolley and the dairy type things, which I toss back into the trolley, with the newspaper last. His accusation was that I had left the cool things in the trolley and that the newspaper was covering them and had then put them in the cool bag. He obviously wasn't very observant. I was terribly upset and angry and my he made me accept his apology offering me flowers, sweets or a fiver. I said no to the flowers, don't eat sweets and did I look like I needed five pounds. They were trying to get me out of their little interrogation room telling me it was hot in there. I told them I felt cold! He walked me to the lift outside Matalan’s. I have sent a comment to HO on their sorry site and phoned the manager who apologised telling me security doesn't belong to Morrison's”. What a horrible story; yet I cannot say that I am surprised. The quality of security contactor that Morrison’s have been hiring has been on the decline for quite some time. When the store first opened, back in 1999, there were two burly, ex-army guards who were located at the main entrances to the shop – and there was also an undercover store detective who used to roam the aisles looking for thieves. Over the years, the calibre of the security staff has dropped; the current, lone guard at the front of the store is about five foot five tall, and seven stone wet. The only reason his too – big uniform cap does not sink down to cover his eyes is because his enormous jug ears stop it. He looks like a poorly animated wing nut. I suspect that Morrison’s re – negotiated the security contract with cheaper and ever less capable manned guarding companies – I suspect that it is just a “box ticking” exercise in order to satisfy Morrison’s insurers, rather than any genuine efforts to discourage theft and anti-social behaviour in the store. The response from Morrison’s in regards to the security staff not being employed by the store may be technically correct, but the security company employing the guard who illegally detained the lady do have a duty of care to both Morrison’s as their client, and to the lady who was detained by the guard. Personally I would have taken the matter further, but I can understand that the lady was shaken up by the whole experience, and would rather put the matter behind her. It is a salutary tale, and worth bearing in mind if you ever shop at the Erith branch. I have little option, as it is located literally around the corner from Pewty Acres. Whilst I do carry out some grocery shopping in Waitrose in Canary Wharf (my “day job” involves me working mainly in a large corporate office right opposite the giant store). It is not much fun carrying shopping bags home on the train during rush hour, so I do end up making most food purchases locally. I feel that if I was confronted by a third rate store security guard and wrongly accused of theft, the outcome would be somewhat different from that the unfortunate anonymous lady experienced. If you have had any issues with security guards, good or bad, do let me know by dropping me a line to

You may have seen in the local press recently that Greenwich Council are proposing to sell off the old Covered Market in Woolwich as part of the redevelopment of the Spray Street quarter. Greenwich Council wants to see the area transformed with housing, a new covered market space, shops, cafes, restaurants and a cinema. I must admit that my normal reaction to such a project would be to question the need to demolish an old building, but I have to admit that in this case I think it is probably a wise move. The covered market has been a run – down eyesore for many years. Woolwich already has an overland train station and a DLR station; in 2018 it will also have a Crossrail station, making it a real hub of public transport connectivity. Woolwich is becoming progressively redeveloped to reflect this increase in status. One can only look at the Royal Arsenal housing development to see how a new breed of Woolwich resident is moving into the area. The covered market and the Victorian buildings that surround it, are to be honest knackered and no longer fit for purpose. Back in 2010, I was passing through Woolwich town centre on a daily basis, whilst on my way to visit my late Dad in the excellent Gallion’s View nursing home. I saw how run down the covered market was, but at that time I did not think that any developer would be interested in the building, as the country was still at possibly the worst point in the recent recession. I wrote the following letter to the planning department of Greenwich Council suggesting a possible way of regenerating the covered market with minimal cash investment. You can read what I wrote here:- Hi Greenwich Council, I have some constructive suggestions as to ways to refurbish and breathe new life into Woolwich Covered Market, which should cost minimal amounts of money if implemented correctly. Currently the Covered Market is extremely run down, and suffers from a lack of use. It is a prime retail location if managed sensitively, and could add much to the local area. My suggestion would be to clear out the unoccupied pitches, consolidate the remaining units into one side of the market building, and then use people serving on community service orders to give the place a deep clean and a couple of coats of paint. The electrics and plumbing would need professional attention. Once this was completed, the market could be re - branded with local publicity as a Saturday farmers' market and artisan craft sales centre. Collectible record stalls and designer clothes outlets and similar could be encouraged. Directly opposite the Woolwich Covered Market you have a large and currently untapped consumer base of wealthy middle class professionals living in the Woolwich Royal Arsenal Development - the ideal customers for artisan foods and goods from a farmers' market. Currently few of the Royal Arsenal Development residents ever venture into Woolwich town centre, as it is widely perceived to be rife with crime, anti-social behaviour and hard drug use. Something that would appeal to the well - heeled residents might act as a bit of positive public relations for the whole town, and maybe encourage them to spend time in the town centre - and spend their money there. Currently all they do is order goods online from the likes of Ocado (Waitrose online) and avoid the town centre altogether - it might also encourage local companies to invest in the area. Blackheath farmers' market does well, and a lively version in Woolwich could encourage customers to travel from around South East London - and Woolwich is a close enough proximity to London Bridge that visitors to Borough Market might take the short rail journey to Woolwich to sample it too. I think that the whole project could be trialled for between £5 and £10K, if offenders on community service were used for the cleaning and repainting works. The pitch fees would need to initially be minimal in order to encourage traders to try the venue, but I think within a few months the venture could easily become self-sustaining. The biggest cost would be advertising and publicity, although many local publications would almost certainly cover this for free. Apologies if I have contacted the incorrect department - if so, could you please redirect my Email to the correct recipient? Your thoughts and feedback would be greatly appreciated. I never got a response. Nevertheless it would appear that others with money are intensely interested in the site, and plans are now afoot to make something rather more aesthetically pleasing and functional than the current scruffy and underused structure. What do you think? Should the existing covered market be kept, or is redevelopment the way forward.? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

This week I am very fortunate to have a guest writer with some absolutely fascinating recollections. You may recall that last week I featured a photograph of Erith based piper Chic Mackie, who played at the Erith Christmas Tree Festival - above you can see Chic at the Erith Fun Day, back in the summer - accompanied by our local MP Teresa Pearce. Well, Chic is a guest writer on the Maggot Sandwich for the next couple of weeks. Here is the first part of his story:-

From Black Watch to Erith a long …..long….. march.

I just played for a funeral today at Erith Crematorium. I met a couple from Auchendinny, near Edinburgh Scotland. If you have difficulty in pronouncing this, do not worry all you need to know is this. Auchendinny is a small village near Penicuik , Midlothian Bonny Scotland. Being a Scot born in Auchterarder, my parents moved to Leeds to look for work. It just so happened that as a young 18 year old I had made the journey from my parent’s house in Armley, Leeds (Via the Army Recruitment Office) to Glencorse the Scottish Division Training Depot. Little was I to know then, that Auchendinny was to become firmly embedded into my mind after many forced marches in full battle order through that very small village. When I arrived at Glencourse it was a hot summers day. To the buzz of recruits being chastised at every corner. I was I must admit a wee bit scared but I carried on regardless into the unknown. The first few days were easy, Forming Up period, nice and relaxed getting to know my fellow Jocks (that’s a Scottish term, in the Scottish Division it also means you are a private soldier). However as I was to quickly find out it also meant that an Army recruit is the lowest form of life! I formed up with Le Cateau Platoon, named of course you will be surprised at this - after the Battle of Le Cateau! For you history buffs this was fought as a rear guard action by the British Expeditionary Force 26th August 1914. It was within this Platoon that I was to receive the basic training required. I met my first Army Officer, from the Queens Own Highlanders, ex Public School Boy. with such a posh accent; never heard that before. My Section Commander was Cpl Eck McCarthy (Black Watch) who hated me with a vengeance! Little was I to know that as Army time passed Eck and I would have the greatest respect for one another! Sadly Eck McCarthy passed away very recently. He was a giant of a man from Dundee I still have the imprint of his size 11 boots (DMS, I think that means Dunlop Moulded soles) on my backside. He delighted in giving me the machine gun as I was the smallest in the platoon.  My platoon Sergeant was Wee Jimmy, Royal Highland Fusiliers a very hard Glaswegian who would “JUMP ON YOU FROM A GREAT HEIGHT” and he meant what he said! After much fitness training, marching and discipline and solid Army food I quickly managed to take a grasp on Army life. Even though I hated playing football, preferred running. Gave me time to reflect. I think it is called jogging now, but the Army have their own punishing variation. Having completed 16 weeks training I was posted to The Black Watch, the Battalion was serving in Hong Kong. Never flown before I was terrified, even today I cannot see the sense in flying. Although I do understand that flying is a necessary evil….to be avoided at all costs! I was to spend 12 years within the Battalion. The first year I was with Alpha (The Grenadier Company) where it was quickly noticed by the Company Commander that I would be more of use to the Pipes and Drums Platoon. So ‘orft I jolly well went’. One never argued with a Company Commander Major Halford MaCleod, Therefore I was to spend the next few years studying the Great Highland Bagpipe under the watchful eye of Pipe Major James Anderson BEM nicknamed The Big Yin’ roughly translated a rather large fellow built like a wrestler! I was around 19years old then and had never really met hardened veterans, all I can say is what an education of life. The older Soldier never smiled just grimaced and put up with the younger ones they had been through Korea. Kenya, Northern Ireland etc as professional Soldiers I had the greatest respect for them, as a young soldier you had to. I remember walking into the NAAFI bar to order a Bacardi and Coke only to be met with a wall of silence! (Well it was a fashionable drink then). One of the Jocks nicknamed the Beast (A very pleasant fellow I assure you) and his sidekick known as the Bull (Another very pleasant fellow I assure you not!) then gave me the introduction to the HIGHLAND WATER commonly known as Whisky! Ensuring I drank copious amounts for my sin! I was ill for days put me off whisky for life! Well actually to be truthful this was the start of my education to Scotland’s finest drink. I can remember band practice sessions, marching up and down the parade square in Gun Club Barracks. The heat of the day exhausting me to the limit. The treating of sheepskin pipe bags to make them airtight all checked by the Big Yin as everything else was checked by the Big Yin to the punishment of extra duty pipers. Getting up early to play Reveille on the Great Highland bagpipe at 6am every morning. It was a fact once you were deemed for extras (Duty Pipers) you never got off the list (very true). The wakeup call a difficult 2/4 four parted march, called Hey Johnnie Cope, believe me a piper does not want to play this at any time never mind at 6am in the morning! The day of the Duty Piper would begin with reporting to the RSM for inspection at 08.30 hours. A frightening experience RSMs are not meant to be nice people be warned (trust me on this). You will remain dressed in Regimental Number 2 Dress with Kilt and Spats all day. Subject to further inspections by the RSM (oh dear!). To play meal calls at the correct time. Commanding Officers Orders (more RSM!) Fire Call, March the Guard of the Square at the correct tempo and the Correct Company March Past or else! Oh dear more RSM! Play retreat at 1800 hours, Lights out 10PM and reveille at 6.30 am the following morning. Not forgetting to play outside the Officers Mess with Evening Dinner Calls. Oh dear this was absolutely terrifying for the young Piper. I have not even mentioned The Pipe Major as yet aye the Big Yin! Just as a footnote these characters are true to life and I have nothing but the highest respect for them all. Sadly most have passed away RIP the late Eck McCarthy, RSM Bob Ritchie, Pipe Major James Anderson MBE. That's part one of Chic's story - you will have to wait until next week for the concluding part two. 

Some very good news this week; even though it only went into production in September, Erith based Bexley Brewery has been nominated for two Bexley for Business awards – the Best New Business and the Made in Bexley categories. Fingers crossed that they do well – Cliff and Jane Murphy have put a lot of effort into setting up the micro-brewery on the Manford Industrial Estate on Manor Road, and their work deserves to be recognised. The Bexley Brewery is the first proper, production brewery in the London Borough of Bexley since the closure of the Reffells brewery in 1956. they make some crackingly good beers. I would recommend that you give them a try.

Every so often a story gets published by the mainstream press that has originated from a local blogger; this has proved to be the case this week; On Tuesday Darryl Chamberlain, the author of the excellent 853 Blog – which covers news stories in the Charlton, Greenwich and Woolwich area broke an exclusive story which by Thursday had been picked up by the London Metro free paper. Metro is a bit of a rag, but it gets read by a lot of commuters when they have got nothing better to do.  The story covered the Emirates Air Line cable car, and how, following a Freedom of Information Act request,  Darryl had discovered that absolutely no commuters were using the cable car to cross the River Thames, despite claims by Boris Johnson that it would form an integral part of London’s transport infrastructure. It has also come to light that the operators of the service have now ceased all pretence of the cable car being run to serve commuters; the average journey time during “rush hour” is now timed at slightly over ten minutes, instead of the commuter friendly five minutes it used to take. The reason for this would appear to be that The Snowman and Snow Dog promotion that is being run on video screens inside each cable car – an edited version of the 22 minute short film is shown, complete with sound track. The Emirates Air Line cable car (popularly known as the Arabfly Dangleway) operators have heeded observations about the number of empty cars and have removed a substantial number from the group circuiting over the Thames. Even so the operators regularly assign different groups to individual cars to make them look more used. The whole project has been a gigantic white elephant; I understand that it would be cheaper to shut it down than to keep it running (even allowing for the times when nobody is actually on the cable car service and historically the system has been temporarily switched off to save electricity until a punter turns up). As has been noted by many observers, the cable car goes from nowhere to nowhere and the journey overflies a scrap yard, a commercial lorry park and a gaggle of old factories – not exactly a scene – stealing experience. The whole thing was built in the wrong place. Anyone wanting to travel quickly across the River Thames at the Greenwich Peninsula will use the Jubilee Line tube, which is a pretty efficient way to go, albeit without the view of the scrapyard and other eyesores one can see from the cable car. Darryl also reports that The cable car cost £60m to build, with Emirates paying £36 million in annual instalments for naming rights. A further £8m came from EU funds, with the rest coming from London’s rail services budget. That is a huge pile of cash for what is little more than a vanity project for Boris. The rumblings as to what the fate of the cable car will be once Boris’s term of office has come to an end have already begun. Some London Assembly members favour the cable car being relocated to another site; suggestions have ranged from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe, and Waterloo to the City of London. I am unsurprised that several comments have covered a concern that I wrote about on several occasions in the past. Currently the cable car is located very close to London City Airport, and any aircraft encountering difficulties upon takeoff or landing would risk collision with the structure. Do you have any thoughts on the matter? What do you think should happen to the cable car? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The ending video is a suitably festive piece from NORAD - the joint USA / Canadian venture which monitors the skies for unwelcome hostile intruders. The short film below shows how they operate over the Christmas period - all good fun. Do feel free to leave a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment