Sunday, July 19, 2015

Erith Fun Day 2015.

A view looking Southeast from the Riverside path into the Riverside Gardens, showing some of the many stalls and Marquees that filled the grassy area. It could not have been a better day to hold the Erith Fun Day - it was bright, sunny and warm, but not too hot as to discourage visitors. Several people said that they thought it was the best turn - out for an event on the Riverside Gardens that they could recall. I think it is safe to say that everyone had a good time.

Erith Drum Club had an impromptu jam session going for much of the day; their gazebo was located in the far Western corner of the Riverside Gardens - last year I think they were a bit too noisy for some of the other nearby stall holders, so their new location was agreeable to all.

Volunteers from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association on their stall at the centre of the Riverside Gardens. They are shortly to make a very interesting announcement regarding the provision of the SmartWater property marking system. I will cover this in the next week or so.

Erith based bagpipe master Chic Mackie leading a mini pipe band through the crowds.

Many visitors took shelter under the shade of the trees in the Riverside Gardens. By 2pm the temperature reached 27 degrees Celsius. The ice cream van, pop - up bar and burger trailer all did a very brisk trade throughout the day. The Running Horses pub, directly opposite had a Hog Roast going, which smelled very appetising, but I had to forgo, as I am Pork Intolerant. The pub garden was full of visitors, and the hostelry was busier than it has been for a very long time.

Our elected representatives were at the Fun Day - (left to right) Councillor Joe Ferreira, Teresa Pearce MP, and Councillor Edward Boateng. Councillor Abena Oppong - Asare was also present, but she was was not around when I took this photo. Ed and I spent quite some time helping out on the Erith Town Forum stand, getting signatures on a petition from visitors to support the forum's campaign to preserve both the Carnegie gifted old Erith Library building, and the historically important former Potion / White Hart pub preserved as public buildings. Quite a staggering number of signatures were collected throughout the day. Fellow local bloggers The Thamesmead Grump and Malcolm Knight of Bexley is Bonkers were on hand - it will be interesting to see their individual takes on the second Erith Fun Day. I enjoyed myself, and met countless Maggot Sandwich readers, even though I was semi - disguised in a wide - brimmed floppy sun hat and sunglasses - both for entirely practical reasons - I get sunburned very easily, and don't like greasy sunscreen creams. My solution is old fashioned, but very effective - I keep as much of my body covered with layers of moleskin or tweed cloth - all of which has a sun protection factor that is way off the scale.

The situation regarding the closure of the Belvedere Splash Park has got worse. The council say that they won't spend any money on refurbishing it, even though it would benefit so many families in the local area. Please mark the weasel words from Councillor Peter Craske - a man who was arrested in June 2012 for alleged misconduct in public office. He said of Bexley Council's plans to close the well - used and much loved Belvedere Splash Park "This isn't an easy decision to take. No one wants to see the Splash Park closed, but we really have little choice.The expert report is clear, the level of costs needed to keep the splash park running are just too high for the council to continue bearing, in this exceptionally challenging financial climate. We're not talking about a 'one off' cost here - we would need to find as much as £300,000 to make the park usable again and then an annual cost to keep it running. We cannot justify spending our council tax payers' money in this way when we are having to make savings on so many other services. We know how that many people love the park and that's why we are giving organisations the chance to put forward a serious business case. They will have to be able to demonstrate to everyone how they plan to run and maintain the park. If the right business and the right plan comes along the park may still have a future." Like so many (but not all) politicians in both national and local government, you can tell they are lying as their lips are moving.

The ongoing situation with extreme right wing racist, homophobe anti-Semite Joshua Bonehill has taken an interesting turn.  Bonehill is almost constantly in the national press because of his extreme Nazi views, which make Adolf Hitler look like a dreamy Tofu munching liberal in comparison.  As you may recall, Bonehill wrote me a threatening Email some time back, which after some consideration I published in full. Since then he has been involved in a number of activities which led to his arrest at the beginning of July for incitement to racial hatred, amongst a number of other charges. He was already on probation for a number of previous offences, and was also waiting to go to court for accusing Tesco of selling fruit and vegetables in the UK that were grown in Africa that were infected with the Ebola virus. Now, after setting up a campaign for the “De – Jewification” of Golders Green, the authorities have finally acted to lock the scumbag up. He was remanded in custody on the 5th of July; he had a court hearing on the 13th of July where it was decided that he would be returned to jail until his next court appearance on September 21st. He is charged with publishing or distributing written material intended to incite racial hatred. He was arrested by officers from Avon and Somerset Police earlier this month after an investigation run by the Metropolitan Police. Bonehill had previously claimed to be one of the organisers of the neo-Nazi rally planned to take place in Golders Green, North-West London, on Saturday, July 4th. Bonehill never seems to learn the lesson that “when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging” – quite the opposite, he seems to be trying to set himself up as an extreme right wing martyr. Ironically prison may be the best place for him to get some treatment for what is likely to be his mental illness. More in the weeks that come.

You may recall that I have written extensively in the past on the subject of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) which are regarded as the “Crack Cocaine of gambling”. These machines are the primary source of income for many betting shops, and it is possible to lose £100 in twenty seconds on such machines. Some authorities have said that the rules regarding the maximum stake to bet should be reduced from £100 per go to £2 per go, which would bring FOBT’s into line will one armed bandits and other gambling machines found in betting shops and elsewhere. This week the government (under intense lobbying pressure from the gambling industry) refused to drop the maximum bet as had been recommended - Bexley's own Peter Craske, who in addition to being a Bexley Councillor who was mentioned earlier in his role to close down the Belvedere Splash Park, is also a professional apologist for the gambling industry as the spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: ‘The number of betting shops has remained constant for the last 10 years at about 8,500. They are a key part of a local high street and play a key role in supporting a local economy.’ Although the ABB did tell a parliamentary select committee that the ‘geographic distribution [of betting shops] has been changing.’ Recently the Campaign for Fairer Gambling employed a research company to investigate the issue of problem gambling, and how FOBT machines fuel gambling addiction. In September 2014, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling commissioned polling company 2CV to conduct interviews with FOBT gamblers, in a bid to obtain effective research into player behaviour and patterns. Conducted in areas known to have issues with FOBTs - Newham, Medway, Manchester and Liverpool - the research conducted face-to-face interviews with gamblers as they  exited betting shops. The research showed that 82 percent of betting shop customers perceive FOBTs as an addictive activity, with 32 percent of these borrowing cash in order to feed their habit. The study also looked into abusive behaviour and found that 72 percent of all betting shop customers have experienced other customers acting violently towards FOBTs. One third of Roulette players have borrowed money in order to play. Peers are the main source relied upon to borrow, with personal credit options and pay day loans / pawn brokers also used. Younger players (18-34), those in the lower social grades, and the most frequent Roulette players are most likely to borrow money to play Roulette. Those borrowing money and investing higher stakes are most likely to show a preoccupation with gambling; over 80 percent have gambled for longer than planned, and over 70 percent need to keep increasing stakes for the same enjoyment. FOBTs are perceived as an addictive activity by all betting shop customers, regardless of engagement with the machines. The potential for loss is high, with only 1 in 10 players regularly ending a session with more cash than they started, and frequently reinvesting any winnings back into the machines. Despite this, FOBT engagement is frequent with over half of players using the machines at least weekly. With higher frequency of play comes higher engagement and cash insertion; those playing weekly or more account for 63 percent of annual session activity and 90 percent of cash inserted, highlighting  evidence of problem gambling behaviour. FOBTs have a negative financial effect on players, with one third of Roulette players spending beyond their means and borrowing money in order to play. Whilst borrowing from a multitude of sources, family and friends are relied upon heavily, indicating the wider social impact of FOBT problem gambling. Those borrowing money and investing higher stakes exhibit stronger problem gambling traits and behaviours than other FOBT players and betting shop customers. These players should benefit the most from  a reduction in maximum bet per spin from £100 to £2, if the change can be enforced –the gambling industry are renowned for their resistance to change – especially where it would affect the bottom line on their spreadsheets, and the government have rolled over and accepted that there will be no change at this time. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Once again the RNLI have been called in to an incident on Erith river front. Last Sunday afternoon a person was seen hanging off the wrong side of the railings by Erith Riverside Gardens. The Gravesend lifeboat was called away from a training exercise they were on, but by the time they arrived in Erith, the Police had arrested the individual and taken them away for questioning. Once gain I feel this highlights the requirement for a lifeboat substation at Erith, possibly housed in the former Port of London Authority building adjacent to the wooden jetty on the riverside by Erith Riverside Gardens (see the photo above - click for a larger version). Erith is roughly halfway between Gravesend and London Bridge, where the two nearest lifeboat stations are located. I know issues of staffing and practicality have been raised in the past, but the sheer frequency of emergency events on the river in and around Erith would surely justify the additional presence – especially when one considers the attempted (and on at least one occasion, sadly successful) suicides from Erith Pier. Sooner or later we are going to have a major incident - we need to be prepared.

You may have seen the recent article on Pirate Radio in the London Evening Standard. It describes that following the submission of a Freedom of information request to OFCOM, the regulator has announced that in the last year it has carried out nearly four hundred raids on the sites of illegal transmitters. Nearly a quarter of the raids took place in Haringey, North London, while 90 resulted in equipment being seized. Lambeth, South London, was the next biggest offender, with more than fifty raids on suspected pirates between April 2013 and March this year. I must admit that my views on this have changed over the years; back in the late 1980’s when I was involved with Bexleyheath based pirate station Radio Lumberjack, there was very little to listen to on the FM bands, save the BBC and a handful of heavily regulated independent local stations. If you wanted to hear specialist music, there was very little option but to listen to one of the many pirates operating from in and around London. Radio was the only option; now the web offers a means of transmission around the globe that back then the pirates could only dream of. With mobile apps available to enable streaming content to be sent to all manner of mobile devices – phone, tablet, smartwatch etc. The need to have a transmitter on the top of a tower block seems to be gone. Back in the day we only had one option; nowadays the openings to get your message across are legion – and to be honest a lot more effective. Even a relatively powerful VHF broadcast band transmitter, well located high up on top of a block of flats is unlikely to have a range of more than ten to fifteen miles at best. With an internet connection, you can “broadcast” to the world from your bedroom. Technology has in my opinion changed the nature of broadcasting, just as it has in many other areas. It is easy to romanticise the land based pirates of the 80’s and 90’s, but in reality lugging around car batteries, breaking into the lift motor room on top of a tower block and fitting antennas on the roof whilst keeping an eye out not just for the Police and the DTI, but potential rival station operators was really not much fun for the most part. In my opinion all that has now become redundant. Which brings me on to a piece of information which is pretty ironic, bearing in mind what I have just written. I was recently inducted into The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. I get the feeling that now that the Hall of Fame is already filled by the famous and influential faces in pirate radio, they are now inducting the less well known – they are scrabbling around for the minnows such as me, now all of the big fish have been caught. Still, it is nice to be so recognised. You can see some of my photographs from Radio Caroline here, here and here, and my Caroline Flickr album here.

On Friday I received the following message from Roy Hillman, the Treasurer of the Slade Green Community Forum. Roy wrote:- "For the first time since it was installed in 2012 the plaque at Slade Green station commemorating the bravery of local men on the night of 16th/17th April 1941 has been graffitied ... this turns into a 'good news' story as by the time we held a Slade Green Forum meeting and discussed the problem, staff from the rail companies (best guess Southeastern rather than Railtrack) had successfully cleaned it." I am glad to hear that the plaque was cleaned so efficiently - much of the work to create the plaque can be attributed to former Slade Green Councillor John Eastaugh. What annoys me is that some scumbag would have chosen to deface it in the first place. Hopefully there will have been witnesses to the act of vandalism. I understand that the North End Safer Neighbourhood Police team are aware of the situation. Hopefully the perpetrator can be caught and brought to justice. 

I have been giving some thought to the matter of Erith Morrison’s, and the reduced number of customers it is currently attracting. I think that there is no one single reason behind the fact that for the last couple of years it has been haemorrhaging customers, but there are a number of complementary factors. Firstly the well documented rise of the very low cost German supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi, and the middle class realisation that low price does not mean low quality when purchasing from these stores, along with the opening of the Asda in Lower Belvedere, on the former site of Erith and Belvedere football ground. There was a great deal of very vociferous opposition to the Asda, as many locals were concerned about the impact of the additional traffic the store might attract to an area already beset by traffic jams, especially on Picardy Road, where the narrow, circuitous and winding road uphill has caused problems for drivers for years. Once the Asda opened, the silence from the former critics was deafening. It seems that everyone loves the new (ish) store; it has certainly hoovered up a portion of former Morrison’s customers. The biggest problem facing Morrison’s in Erith is Morrison’s themselves. The company have become so complacent about their position as the “go to” supermarket for the area that it is alienating their formerly loyal customers. For example, the Erith store stays open to 10pm on Monday to Saturday, but if you go in the shop much after 7.30pm, both the fishmonger and the self service salad bar are closed. In my opinion these should be open until the dot of closing time, and not as seems to be the case at present, open to suit the needs of the staff - a fact I mentioned when I complained to the Manager on Tuesday evening when I went in the store to get a self - service salad at around 7.15pm, only to find the salad bar empty and cleaned ready for the next day, even though the shop had nearly three hours of further opening time still to run. On top of this, whilst many of the staff are efficient and friendly, there are a significant minority who are surly, unhelpful and stand around chatting rather than serving customers. This is not the kind of behaviour I would expect to see in a big name organisation of this type. Unless Morrison’s can pull their metaphorical socks up, they will continue to have customers voting with their feet, and taking their custom elsewhere.

It is a matter of history that the beach ball-sized Sputnik 1 satellite was the first manmade object to orbit the Earth after it was launched by the Soviets in October 1957. It is possible the US managed to put an object into space a few months before that. In 1956, astrophysicist Dr Robert Brownlee was asked by his boss at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to figure out a way to test nuclear weapons underground. The scientists working on “Operation Plumbbob” were concerned about the amount of radiation emitted  out by nuclear warheads during tests above the surface, so Dr Brownlee started experimenting with the idea of blowing up small atom bombs below the surface. "Most of the radiation generated in a blast has a half-life of about four hours," Dr Brownlee, now 91, of Loveland, Colorado, told an interviewer from technical news website The Register. "We figured you could keep everything in but for a few per cent by going underground. But Mother Nature can outwit you in a great variety of ways." In July 1957, for an experiment codenamed Pascal A, the team drilled a borehole 500 feet deep for what was to become the world's first underground nuclear test. Unfortunately, the bomb yield was much greater than anticipated – 50,000 times greater, apparently. Fire shot hundreds of feet into the air from the mouth of the uncapped shaft, in what Dr Brownlee described as "the world's finest Roman candle." The next month, in a test codenamed Pascal B, the team wanted to experiment with reducing the air pressure in the explosives chamber to see how that affected the explosion and radiation spread. A four-inch-thick concrete and armour plate metal cap weighing at least half a ton was placed over a 400ft-deep borehole after the bomb was installed below. The lid was then welded shut to seal in the equipment. Before the experiment, Dr Brownlee had calculated the force that would be exerted on the cap, and knew that it would pop off from the pressure of the detonation. As a result, the team installed a high-speed camera to see exactly what happened to the plug. The camera was set up to record one frame every millisecond. When the nuke blew, the lid was caught in the first frame and then disappeared from view. Judging from the yield and the pressure, Dr Brownlee estimated that it left the ground at more than 60 kilometres per second, or more than five times the escape velocity of our planet. It may not have made it that far, though – in fact the scientist, who retired in 1992, believes it never made it into space, but the legend of Pascal B lives on. "I have no idea what happened to the cap, but I always assumed that it was probably vapourised before it went into space. It is conceivable that it made it into orbit though," Doctor Brownlee told interviewers.

The London Borough of Bexley is now officially the top place in Greater London for first time house buyers. Just over sixteen  percent of first time buyers opt for Bexley, mainly due to the relatively affordable accommodation prices compared to the rest of the capital. For some inexplicable reason, the London Evening Standard have reported that Bexley was voted as the best London borough in which to bring up children (this is somewhat surprising, bearing in mind Bexley council’s stance against children as it sells off public spaces, including recreation parks, and most notoriously closing the massively popular and heavily used Belvedere Splash Park, as previously mentioned).  The Standard reported on Wednesday that the most popular town in Bexley Borough for first time buyers was Bexleyheath, I quote “which has great schools, a thriving High Street, and good commuter links. Houses are also affordable compared with the rest of London”. The report goes on to list comparative house prices. It was obvious to me that the author of the piece, journalist Ruth Bloomfield was completely unfamiliar with the London Borough of Bexley – for a start Bexleyheath is one of the last places that first time buyers would look at in the area – it is just too expensive. The Northern parts of the Borough – Lower Belvedere, East Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Erith and Slade Green are the real areas that are attracting first time buyers. As for Bexleyheath Broadway being “thriving” – I beg to differ; there are still far too many vacant retail units and discount retailers – and as I have written before, the Broadway has one sure – fire identifier of a financially struggling area – it is home to a branch of Brighthouse.

As I have previously mentioned, both the long established Oyster card system, and the newer contactless bank debit cards have proved to be as problematic for the end user as I have previously described. Contactless was introduced as a more technologically advanced alternative to Oyster, and deducts each fare direct from the passenger’s bank account. It has been revealed that passengers using contactless bank cards have been penalised by almost £8 million in eight months after failing to touch out at ticket barriers. Of the 58 million journeys using the new technology between September and May, 1.38 million were classed as “incomplete” - with travellers being charged the full fare. About a third of the £8.374 million in excess charges has been reclaimed by passengers, leaving £5.776 million sitting in Transport for London’s bank accounts - alongside about £100 million on dormant and unused Oyster cards. TfL believes some passengers deliberately trigger the excess charge, because it is cheaper than paying the correct rail fare. It insists it is not “sitting on £5.7 million” - saying the bulk of this cash is owed to it in fares. In addition to this, there have been 342,000 contactless “card clash” incidents worth £2 million since September last year - when the wrong card is read by the barrier, due to being in close proximity to another contactless card – something I warned about nearly a year ago. I have found the easiest way to keep my peace of mind has been to stick to the old – fashioned monthly paper travel card – no problems with tapping in or out, no card clash, and no chance of the card being cloned by a crook. Sometimes the old ways are still the best.

Don't forget that next Sunday's Maggot Sandwich update will be a special one; it will be the ninth anniversary of the first edition of the blog - I have never missed a Sunday update in all that time, and the blog now consists of something around sixteen million words! If you have any thoughts, memories or opinions on the whole Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich corner of the interweb, please let me know, as I want to publish as many people as mini "guest writers" as possible for the ninth anniversary edition. You can remain anonymous should you so wish, or have full credit - the choice is entirely yours, as always. Drop any submissions to

The end video this week comes from The Institute For Alcoholic Experimentation. It demonstrates the method of mixing three distinctive cocktails from the 1930's. In the true spirit of the time, the demonstration was filmed in the magnificent Art Deco entrance lobby of Eltham Palace - most certainly the finest piece of architecture in the area. The original owner, the multi millionaire textile magnate Stephen Courtauld used to mix his own cocktails in the lobby, every day at 6pm sharp. 

1 comment:

  1. Of Councillor Craske there are claims that there is a witch hunt. As an outsider who has no special interests one way or another I was disturbed by the Councillor's words posted by Bexley Council and recorded at the meeting discussing Old Farm and the Splash park. When he used his father's death to score a cheap point, suggesting people were laughing, I lost all respect for this man. Perhaps he is grieving and should be forgiven but if this is the case then one must question his competence at this time and wonder if he should be making such momentous decisions which are going to effect the well being, not only of his constituents , but also of generations to come.