Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bexley College on the brink.

Jane and Cliff Murphy of the Bexley Brewery, accompanied by their son Cameron, were guests of local MP David Evennett at the House of Commons on Wednesday. Their excellent BOB (Bexley's Own Beer) is now being sold in the Strangers Bar in the Palace of Westminster. Bearing in mind that Bexley Brewery only opened in September 2014, they have come a hell of a long way in a very short time. They have won multiple awards for the quality of their ales, and were also recognised as the best new business in Bexley last year.  Contact details for the brewery are above. I can heartily recommend them; you can usually find me visiting the brewery shop on a Friday lunchtime.

If you don't already read The Thamesmead Grump, then I would strongly advise you to do so. Richard produces some very interesting posts, and the quality of his photography is second to none. This week Richard covers the threat posed to the Crossness Nature Reserve, which is now under threat of being virtually wiped out by a massive development proposed by Cory Environmental on part of the brownfield site next to the reserve. If this were to go ahead, it would completely overwhelm the designated nature reserve and destroy most of the last remaining grazing marshes in South East London. Richard writes: "As part of a campaign against this proposal, there is going to be photoshoot at the nature reserve at 10:30am on Friday 1st April (this is not a hoax) where we hope to get as many people as possible for a group photograph that can be used for press release. There will be banners and Skylark kites for protesters to wave so please do come along if you can and bring your friends and family too. You can find directions easily by Googling Crossness Nature Reserve". I fully support both Richard, and the campaign to protect and preserve the nature reserve. If you get the chance, please do go along to support this worthwhile cause.

You may recall that a while ago I wrote an extensive piece on the rogue biker gang Bike Life TV UK, and how they had been causing all kinds of mayhem in Lower Belvedere, Abbey Wood and Thamesmead. I knew that the Police were well aware of the illegal activities of the gang, and had plans to take action against them. On Thursday morning Bexley police released the following statement “An operation was carried out on 28th February utilising approximately 40 officers from various specialist units across the Metropolitan Police Service. This included officers from the Roads and Transport Policing Command, the Territorial Support Group and local officers from Bexley. A group of 20 motor cycles were identified early by unmarked Police vehicles travelling to the area. The group were stopped dealt with by Police resulting in a large number of vehicle seizures for offences such as no insurance and no MOT. A large number of fixed penalty notices were also issued and several riders were reported and summonsed for court for various traffic offences. 4 arrests were also made for offences such as Burglary, Possession of drugs and driving under the influence of drugs.  Of note one of the main organisers of the activity, who was disqualified from driving, had been identified as being involved in activity the previous week on Sunday 21st February. He was arrested early on the Sunday morning and later charged and remanded to court the next morning. He appeared at Bexley Magistrates Court on Monday 29th February and received a 12 week custodial sentence. Police have continued with the same plans for the past two weeks deploying large numbers of officers to the area. We are pleased to report that there have been no incidents involving motor cycle related Anti-Social behaviour for three weeks running. The tactics will continue moving forward and robust action taken against anyone found engaging in such activity in the future". This is all excellent news; I know of many honest, law abiding bikers who were severely ticked off by the activities of the illegal bikers, which reflected badly on the honest ones. Hopefully the members of Bike Life TV UK will realise that their activities will not be tolerated. They are a menace to both the general public and themselves.

A very strange story broke earlier this week, and it seems to have grabbed the attention of a lot of local people. A two year old girl from Greenhithe made the local news after losing her soft toy rabbit outside of the National Westminster Bank in Townley Road, Bexleyheath. An eyewitness believes he saw the toy – called Bunny, being carried away by a woman five minutes after the discovery was made - but nobody else was able to verify this.  After a public appeal, the News Shopper published the story on their website, and it quickly became the most read subject. The toy bunny was later found abandoned in Erith – whoever had taken it had then decided to dump the stolen property. Fortunately the little girl was reunited with the toy, and the story has a happy ending.

In a notification letter dated March 10, American Express warned  cardholders that their account information might well have been exposed after a third-party service provider suffered a data breach. They sent an email to card owners which said "Account information of some of our Card Members, including some of your account information, may have been involved. It is important to note that American Express owned or controlled systems were not compromised by this incident,"  The third-party provider, which isn't named, is engaged by several merchants. Cardholders should expect that their account number, name, and other card details were compromised. The interesting aspect of this notification is that the incident being referenced by American Express happened on Saturday, December 7, 2013. It isn't clear why the there was such a delay. American Express says the notification is just a precaution. The fact that two and half years have elapsed since the security breach was detected and the announcement was made is extremely worrying. Any damage will have been long done – it really makes me wonder what security notification policies a large financial services organisation such as American Express have in place.

An interesting story has come to light this week, with a result that I must admit did somewhat surprise me. The survey results on the Transport for London proposals for the East of London river crossings have now been published. Consultation on the proposals, which closed last month, showed that 88 per cent of people who responded support a new crossing linking Thamesmead and Beckton, or Belvedere to Rainham. Around 3,500 (77 per cent) support new crossings at both locations, which TfL says would cater for public transport and road users and help secure London’s future success. Bearing in mind the anti-river crossing campaigns run by both Bexley Council and the campaign group Bexley Against River Crossings (BARC), the results are pretty conclusive. It would seem to me that after open consultation, both Bexley Council and BARC have demonstrably shown that they don’t have a mandate on the matter. BARC in particular seem to have positioned themselves against mainstream public opinion with their policy to keep Bexley isolated from the rest of London in order to “preserve its character”. In an interview with the Bexley Times, as spokesperson for BARC was quoted as saying "Overall the consultation was inadequate and certainly not fit for purpose. More than two million people will suffer because of the crossings - 4500 respondents is hardly representative. Further, the consultation was flawed and gave the misleading impression that the road crossings would reduce congestion; it is clear that many people responded on that basis. There is overwhelming evidence that this kind of road capacity always increases congestion and destroys communities, yet the consultation did not tell people that, nor did it point out the dangers posed by the increased pollution and decimation of housing that will result from the crossings.” Personally I understand and can sympathise with the sentiments, but it would seem that the public have sent a very strong message that they want more crossings. Getting 4500 responses is actually very high; these kind of consultations tend to have very low levels of response, as most people don't care enough to bother giving feedback, or they don't find out about the survey until they read the results. I think BARC overestimate the level of resident engagement. As if this was not enough, rent a gob champagne socialist Russell Brand has got involved. A third river crossing has been mooted to join East Thurrock and Eastern Gravesend. Brand made the following statement on Wednesday “To build this new crossing they’re going to have mess with green belt land, dig up green belt land, destroy some new homes that were built for people, those people are going to have to be jogged on from their homes, even though they’ve just moved in. And the thing that touches me most - is there’s a school called Treetops which helps kids with Asperger’s, autism and mild learning difficulties of all varieties - they were going to expand that school that school had won its dream for expansion but now not only is the expansion scrapped that school is going to be subsumed in fumes and pollution unless we do something to stop it. Now this was the birthplace of the peasant revolution Thurrock, that’s where Wat Taylor who led the peasants - and I’m not making any comparison - that’s where he came from”. The points made about Treetops School are very valid, and would normally deserve serious debate and examination. The problem is the person who has raised them. Brand would have been better off encouraging another public personality with better credibility taking on the campaign. For me, and many others Russell Brand is like Chris Evans – an instant turn – off; if I catch him on the TV or radio I immediately switch channels. He removes credibility from any argument against a road crossing East of the QEII bridge. It is not like he has any recent connections with the area around Thurrock nowadays – he famously moved out as soon as he was able. Nowadays his main residence is in the Hollywood Hills in California. I occasionally see Russell Brand on the London bound platform at Greenwich Station – when I then studiously ignore the blatant self-publicist. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

I have received some rather worrying news from one of my confidential sources. I have been informed that Bexley College is in dire financial straits, and that things are so bad the college may be forced into a hostile takeover by Bromley College, who are already taking over the failing and bankrupt Greenwich Community College. My contact tells me that the information about the terrible state of the finances of Bexley College is virtually unknown outside of college senior management, and a few people in Bexley Council. I have been shown meeting minutes from 6th July 2015 , which show Bexley College predicted a deficit of £689,000 for 2015/16 (college financial years are August to July) and a cash loss of £660,000,  and with £2 million in reserves, it would leave a cash balance of just £1.34m. However, it then said by the end of July 2017 it would be down to £500,000. A predicted loss of £840,000 is forecast in 2016/17. The “smoking gun” can be seen here – the takeover is being sold to Councillors as a “merger” but my source tells me that this is for political and face – saving reasons. I also understand that the final decision is being made on Monday evening during an extraordinary meeting of the governors of Bexley College. “Bromley College seems to be on a bid for world domination” was something told to me by another of my very well – placed and reliable informants. I hope to have more on this story next week.

Much to nobody’s surprise, Southeastern Trains have been named as the worst performing train company in respect of lateness and cancellations. Four Southeastern trains run up to two hours late every day, making up seven per cent of the country's delayed trains, according to Office of Rail and Road statistics. Think of it. One relatively small train operating company that has managed to rack up a whole seven percent of the entire UK’s train delays and cancellations. If there was an award for running a terrible rail service, surely Southeastern would win it . By contrast, Transport for London (TfL) was the best performing operator - only one in every 7,288 trains were significantly delayed, just 11 journeys-a-year. Surely yet another reason for Southeastern to lose their franchise to TfL. What do you think? Would a takeover by TfL be a good thing, or would it be substituting a known for an unknown? Before anyone points out that some of the blame for the delays and cancellations needs to fall at the feet of Network Rail, I agree; however, other rail companies also have to deal with Network Rail, and by and large they make a far better fist of it than Southeastern. As recently said by local MP Teresa Pearce – “I have just one train line running through my constituency, two tracks, three stations, one train rail line, what could go wrong? Well, Southeastern could go wrong. Before Southeastern we had Connex and Connex was terrible and we thought Southeastern would be better and we were wrong. I have a real appreciation of the frustration of the what it’s like to stand on a platform in the certain knowledge of the uncertainty of the train service.” Well said. Connex were indeed terrible, but Southeastern are demonstrably worse in almost every respect – and I speak as a regular commuter. Extensive works both in relation to the rebuilding of London Bridge station and further engineering activities on the Elizabeth Line between Plumstead and Abbey Wood will mean that there will be no trains whatsoever in and out of London over the long weekend. According to the Southeastern engineering works website:-"Planned engineering work will take place. Between Plumstead and Dartford From 04:00, Saturday 19 March 2016 to 02:00, Monday 21 March 2016. All lines will be closed. All services will be revised. Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green will not be served. . A replacement bus service will be in operation between Plumstead and Dartford.” Unlike many other parts of Greater London, there is little in the way of alternative public transport – we don’t have the tube, or even DLR, and to be honest, when the North Kent Line is closed, the only realistic option for travel into London is to get the bus to Woolwich Arsenal, and then pick up the Docklands Light Railway from there. I completely understand the need for line closures when the scale of the engineering work is taken into consideration, it just seems to me that the project managers think that nobody needs to travel into or out of London at weekends, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The Maggot Sandwich has been published every Sunday afternoon for what in July will be ten years; in all that time I have never missed an update – even when I lost my broadband connection at home on one occasion, I headed up to my mother’s house to make sure that an update did indeed get posted. Over all those years, and a total this week of 580 weekly updates, the entry that has had the most visits was a relatively recent one. You may recall that back in August last year I wrote a piece called The “Funky Clock” scam. Well, that piece got picked up by Google and made it onto the front page of for anyone that searched for anything to do with “Funky Clock”. As a result of people curious to find more about the widely publicised online fraud, that one blog update has now has had nearly 30,000 hits. I had Emails from a number of people who had been scammed by the “Funky Clock” website, and some of their stories were heart-breaking. Because of the adverse publicity the “Funky Clock” scam got, the criminals behind it went underground. I think they also got some serious heat from the lawyers employed by the BBC, as their website used the BBC website layout and graphics in an attempt to fool people into thinking it was legitimately from the BBC. For some time the scammers went quiet, but I am afraid that I have to report that they are now back; this time they call themselves “Happy Crocky”, and they still have the colour palette and design of the BBC News website, though they have removed the BBC branded logos. You can see the result in the screen capture above. In case you were unaware of the nature of the “Funky Clock” / “Happy Crocky” scam, it essentially functions thus:  Links can be found on “respectable” websites such as tabloid newspapers and other showbiz and gossip sites; the links lead to a website which appears to be a legitimate news site such as the BBC, where a story claims that a company is “giving away” brand new, current model iPhones for £1. The thing is, the website is actually a “honey trap” designed to fool readers into thinking it is legitimate. In fact it has been created by the scammers to redirect the gullible to their scam website. The second site used to be  called “Funky Clock” and is now “Happy Crocky” which runs “special offers” amongst “skill and speed” competitions, where participants purchase credits to use to play games, the winner of which supposedly wins an iPhone 6. When you sign up for the “free” service, you are prompted to enter your bank details “for verification purposes”. What is only displayed in microscopic text is that the “free” period only lasts for three days, and that after that Funky Clock / Happy Crocky will debit your bank account by £74 a month, from now until the end of time. No cheap iPhones, no deals – the whole thing is a massive scam. The new “Happy Crocky” site even uses the same photos and much of the same text from its predecessor – it is definitely being run by the same shameless bunch of thieving scumbags as before. It would appear that many Internet Service Providers, notably including Virgin have been duped into forwarding “Genuine offer” messages from Funky Clock Happy Crocky to their subscribers, thus giving a veneer of apparent respectability to the confidence trick. This is a classic case of “if it seems too good to be true, it generally is”. Be warned – treat anything that says they are giving away high value items for next to nothing as a con until it can be verifiably proved otherwise (a very fat chance indeed). Unfortunately the criminals will continue such scams for as long as there are vulnerable people to fall prey to them. This was only the first of two scams that have come back out of the woodwork over the last week; a second, much longer running and insidious scam has come to my attention. I have been receiving spam messages that have been successfully filtered out by Google, but every so often I like to sift through the spam, looking for anything of particular interest, prior to permanently deleting them. I came across the message which you can see below from “Chris” – a self-described “Astrologer, Psychic Medium and Parapsychologist” (ahem) the scam involves relieving vulnerable and credulous people of large amounts of their hard earned cash. The composition of the Email graphic is very interesting – the photo of Chris himself is hysterical – the theatrical bar of light over his eyes to symbolise his “special” insight, and the horrendously Photoshopped hair which makes him look like he is wearing a hairpiece made of fibreglass! You may well have received one of his scam messages yourself. I have been tracking the activities of “Chris”, and have found the following comments made on a scam - busting website:-  "please do not ever give your credit card details to this man..or excuse for a man !! be warned .. how can he sleep at night ?? i'm embarrassed to write this here but i must to warn others. he has unlawfully just taken $28 nzd out of my account just after christmas after i was told i could unsubscribe to his emails/hypno sessions (people you are quite capable of helping yourself find friendship and improve your life without his lies) i'm a honest vulnerable financially single mum and now thanks to him i'm broke !! they just took another $115 nzd out of my account without my consent even tho the emails say you can unsubscribe … 10 emails later no response.. been to my bank and will take this further.. how dare he prey on vulnerable people .. my Dad had a stroke recently and now in financial strife .. i've received nothing from him but a bunch of crap emails and exactly as others describe… “i had dreams about you… i care … yadeyada… my friend will pay half… you can have the reading for free… blah blah.. i heard from his so called personal assistant and he said he would stop emails 2 days later my account cleared out of $150 for what sweet fa (excuse me) you @#4$@!!! how can you sleep at night. yes i made a mistake huge lesson learned Scam artist big time … please don't ever send any bank debts to this guy.. i will expose him and please be weary people i got sucked in and i feel so embarrassed and upset o have no money for food or bills this week and i work 3 contract jobs in health care … take care people". Aside from the atrocious spelling and grammar, the message is clear. Avoid.

Here is a guest piece by Maggot Sandwich occasional contributor Dana Whiffen, and his views on War Memorials:- "Listening to the radio recently with a phone-in programme there was a lady saying how annoyed she was when she witnessed parents allowing their children to climb all over a memorial while they sat fiddling with their mobile-phones, she told them off pointing out their lack of respect, although she doubted if they understood her. This was followed by another call from another lady saying that she did not know what all the fuss was about and who cares about memorials, she felt that 90% of the population knew nothing about them and that in a few years no-one would be interested or would care. This comment infuriated me and I decided to investigate their origin and design further and a book that I was reading pointed me towards the Dartford War Memorial. This opened up another door as it turned out this wonderful monument was created by sculptor Arthur George Walker. He was selected after the Dartford War Memorial Committee had seen his soldier memorial in Sevenoaks and they asked him to use a similar British Tommy figure design for Dartford. It was built in 1922 to commemorate Dartford’s fallen soldiers from the Great War, it stands tall pointed towards Dartford library and attracts many admiring glances from passers-by. Although it was built for WWI, it now carries additional dedications to the fallen from WW2 and the Korean War. Such was the influence of Arthur Walkers “Tommy in full battledress” he went on to create similar memorials for Ironbridge in Shropshire, Chesham in Buckinghamshire and Heston in Middlesex as well as Sevenoaks and Dartford. His most famous work though was for the creation of the Derby War Memorial (of a mother holding her baby) and The Florence Nightingale Memorial near Waterloo Station in London. Arthur George Walker was born in 1861 and he died in 1939, he also created statues and plaques along with his numerous memorials across the country that will hopefully leave a lasting legacy for future generations that will outlive the disrespectful and apathetic. There are many other war memorials throughout London and the UK that could well have equal this wonderful design, why not investigate you local war memorial. Those that don’t care or are totally ignorant of our history seem to be absorbed in total oblivion and selfishness unaware of the sacrifices made so that they can live their lives this way. I hope they are only the minority but fear they may not be! The Dartford War Memorial is now Grade 2 listed". Interesting stuff; if anyone has special insight into local history, and would like to share it with others, please do get in contact with me. 

The end video this week is by way of a tribute to the late keyboard wizard Keith Emerson, who recently died. See him with progressive rock giants Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their 40th anniversary concert, filmed in London back in 2010. Comments below, or Email me at

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