Sunday, March 13, 2016

Erith Market returns.

As I have previously mentioned, Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is shortly to get a couple of new shops – a Subway sandwich takeaway, and a new expansion to the existing Mambocino coffee shop / café which will offer “sit down” dining in the evenings. This will be the first honest to goodness restaurant in central Erith for many years (I refuse to count the cafeteria in Morrison’s, before anyone points it out). This is all excellent news, and the sooner both outlets open, the better. There is also a public event aimed at the children coming up shortly - The centre will be hosting its annual Easter fun day from 11am to 4pm on Saturday March 19, with a variety of themed stalls. An egg hunt will also be held across the centre, with hunters just having to keep their eyes peeled for Easter themed posters in the windows of selected shops, go inside and receive a treat from the retailer. There will also be a free face painter on hand to transform children into chicks, bunnies and fun Easter characters for the children to meet. It sounds like I had better avoid the centre on the day. I am not exactly in the demographic that the event is trying to attract. Another welcome piece of news which has been rumoured for the last year or so is that a new weekly street market will be launching in Erith soon to attract footfall and new businesses to the town. The market will be held at the eastern end of Pier Road, a location which provides a link from Morrisons’ superstore to the centre of Erith, encouraging customers to spend more time in the town. Initially, it will feature around ten stalls offering products including clothes, accessories and more, to complement businesses in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. It is a pity it is (initially at least) only going to be held on Wednesdays, starting Wednesday the 30th March and will last for up to fourteen weeks, and the feedback from the public and Erith Town Forum will decide as to whether it becomes a permanent fixture. Why it is not also being held on Saturdays, as Erith Market traditionally always was is not presently known. Still, i will be paying it a visit with my camera when it does start, and I sincerely hope that it does well. 

I recall back on the 26th November 2003 when three Concorde jets flew in formation over London to mark their final flights and their retirement. I was standing on the flat roof of the office building where I worked, in Blackfriars Road, Southwark. It was an extremely impressive, and very sad sight – a triumph of Anglo – French engineering being given the chop by a bunch of faceless bean counters who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. It was for many years thought that the classic aircraft would become museum pieces and that would be the end of the era of supersonic civil aviation. Recently it has become clear that this may well not be the case. A group of Concorde experts claim to have received adequate financial backing to recommence flights by the end of this decade. Aviation enthusiasts who may not have the means to fly on board could also have the opportunity to admire an aircraft placed on permanent display in central London. A group calling itself Club Concorde, which comprises former Concorde pilots, charterers and frequent fliers, among others. Though British Airways and Air France have no plans to recommence Concorde flights, the group has now secured what it believes to be sufficient financial backing to independently return the supersonic aircraft to service. They have two aims: firstly, to place one of the aircraft on a purpose-built platform positioned by the London Eye and above the Thames; secondly, to return another to use as part of a Return to Flight project. Drawing from a £40 million investment, the club is aiming to purchase a Concorde currently stationed near Orly Airport in Paris, and to place it as the main draw in a £16-a-head London tourist attraction that would include a restaurant offering dishes that were originally served on Concorde flights. Club president Paul James hopes the plane could be on display by 2017. Getting Concorde back in the air would be rather more complex. The club has access to an additional reserve fund worth £120 million and plans to use this revenue to purchase a Concorde currently on display at Le Bourget airport in Paris. When restored (and painted in an entirely new, neutral colour scheme) and also deemed safe to again take to the skies, the plane would be deployed for use in fly-pasts at air shows and made available for corporate and special events, as well as for private charter. Club Concorde is aiming to recommence flights by 2019, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Concorde flight, and should the initiative prove a success the organisation may subsequently aim to make a second Concorde flightworthy at a later stage. Bearing in mind the entire venture will be financed by private money, I think it is entirely laudable. None of the retired Concordes were anywhere near their maximum airframe flight hours, and they were built to exceedingly high engineering standards. Providing the two machines to be returned to service have been correctly stored over the last thirteen years, there is no reason why with sufficient time, money and skill that they could not be refurbished, updated and returned to service. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

You may recall that I recently wrote about how the imminent arrival of Crossrail (more properly now entitled The Elizabeth Line) has already had an effect on local house prices. Now, a survey undertaken by estate agents Rightmove has shown that the average price of a two bedroomed terraced house in Abbey Wood has risen by 34.7 percent between 2015 and 2016. The survey was based on like for like properties within a one kilometre radius of Abbey Wood station. Rightmove said that the rise was due to  a number of factors, including the Elizabeth line, people looking for better value further out from the centre of town, and London property proving to be an attractive investment. The downside of this, as I have mentioned before, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for first time buyers to get on the property ladder – and considering that the Abbey Wood / Belvedere / Erith / Slade Green area has been viewed as the joint best value region in which to buy a home within the M25, along with Barking and Dagenham. With the forthcoming opening of the Elizabeth Line, this may well cease to be the case. As other areas of Greater London become unaffordable to anyone other than a Russian Oligarch or Saudi Royal, then the search for (relatively) cheaper housing will march ever outwards.

The woes of Southeastern Trains, and anyone (myself included) who is unfortunate in having no choice but to use their terrible service have got even worse this week. On Thursday there was more service disruption on the North Kent Line, after a track defect outside of London Bridge station affected trains travelling to and from Cannon Street, Charing Cross and Waterloo East. The disruption lasted for most of the day, and my own journey back from Greenwich to Erith was delayed by forty five minutes - and I got off quite lightly compared with some other unfortunate travellers. The sooner that TfL take over the franchise the better, in my opinion. 

I saw the sad news about the former TV star and magician Paul Daniels, who has been sent home from hospital for his final days with terminal brain cancer. I used to know him, back at the height of his fame in the early to mid-1980’s, as he was one of my customers when I worked at a Saturday job at Silica Shop in Hatherley Road Sidcup, who at that time were the largest independent computer retailer in the UK, which at its peak had an annual turnover in excess of £45 million - a huge amount back then. You can see an example of a typical Silica Shop advertising flyer above - notice the large amount of detailed text - this was a Silica Shop trait - they lumped huge amounts of technical detail into all of their advertising; something that would put off a lot of potential shoppers today. All this is targeted advertising is routine nowadays, but back in 1983 it was unique, and Silica Shop had debatably the most sophisticated customer database used anywhere in the United Kingdom at the time. My own thoughts are that if Silica Shop had taken this self-written ground breaking business software and ported it onto the then new IBM PC, they would have had a huge business in selling and supporting enterprise level Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications now. Instead they continued to shift boxes of home computers, and eventually went out of business in the mid 1990’s. If the management had employed a more creative vision, Silica could have been a global software name like Oracle Corporation now. I have to say that I learned more about computing in my few years working at Silica shop than I have learned anywhere else. My entire career in IT has been built on stuff I picked up in a quiet side street in Sidcup. I digress:- Paul Daniels would always ask for me in person – for what reason I really don’t know. He came into the shop maybe once every six Saturdays, and would always spend around £800 – which was a lot of money back in those days. He had several Atari 8 bit computers, and he was one of the first people in the UK to have an Atari 520ST – a pioneering sixteen bit pseudo clone of the Apple Macintosh at a quarter of the price, and with colour graphics. To be honest, Paul Daniels was a challenging customer. He knew his stuff, and would try and trip you up – but my product knowledge was pretty sound back then, and it was very rare that he managed to get one over on me. Looking back, it was obvious that he must have liked my service – as there were other staff who whom he could have asked for, but he would always ask to be served by me. I recall him getting somewhat spiky when he asked me what I had thought of his show the Saturday before, and I responded that I had missed it (I had been down the pub with my mates – what did he expect – not that I mentioned this to him). If I had been earning commission on sales, I would have made a small fortune from him alone. Sad to see him in the current circumstances. 

The photo above was sent to me by Maggot Sandwich reader and Chairman of the Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association, Dana Whiffen. It shows London Mayor Boris Johnson visiting Welling Welling on Wednesday to congratulate Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Association, and the local Welling Police teams of Falconwood and East Wickham for working together to achieve 100% Neighbourhood Watch coverage in these two wards. Coverage in Erith and Slade Green has yet to reach these levels.

When travelling back from occasional business meetings I need to attend in Watford, I find myself on a Southeastern train from London Bridge back to Erith. I am usually travelling during the mid-afternoon period, before the start of the busy period (the term “rush hour” is a misnomer, as it lasts for several hours in the morning and evening). On several occasions a person has walked along the carriage, placing packets of tissues on empty seats opposite commuters. The tissues are accompanied by a note saying that the person placing the tissues is unemployed and has young children to feed – this is done in the hope that travellers will hand over cash in sympathy. Earlier this week British Transport Police announced that the beggars are part of several organised criminal gangs travelling to the UK for three month “tissue begging tourism” stints. The beggars target off – peak travellers to avoid sceptical and aggressive regular commuters and very packed trains. The begging notes apparently all have identical wording , and some are even commercially laminated – something quite pricey for someone who is meant to be penniless. Southeastern, Thameslink and Southern Rail have all issued warnings to their customers about the issue. What also interests me is that if the person is meant to be skint – how did they afford to pay the train fare? Of course they did not. In an interview with The Metro newspaper on Monday, British Transport Police Superintendent Jenny Gilmer was quoted as saying “We have noticed a pretty significant escalation of reports. There is no doubt that this is an organised activity, and it is clearly profitable for people. There are members of the public who are handing out money”. The message would seem to be, don’t give these people money for tissues – it is an organised criminal con. Have you seen these operators in action? What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

I get very annoyed by Apple Mac users who claim that their computers are “virus proof” or some such thing – whilst Macs are pretty robust, any computer that can run executable code can run malware. I have a Mac, and love it,  but I would not claim it was any more robust than any other platform. This is backed up by the news that The first "fully functional" ransomware targeting OS X has landed on Macs – after somehow smuggling itself into downloads of the popular Transmission BitTorrent file transfer client. Transmission's developers have warned in a notice splashed in red on the app's website that if you fetched and installed an afflicted copy of the software just before the weekend, you must upgrade to a clean version. Specifically, downloads of version 2.90 were infected with ransomware that will encrypt your files using AES and an open-source cryptographic library, and demand a payment to unscramble the documents. Transmission has millions of active users. It is possible the application's website servers were compromised, and the downloads tampered with to include the KeRanger nasty. Those who have had files encrypted will be asked by the malware to cough up US$400 in Bitcoins, paid to a website hidden in the Tor “dark web” network, to get their files back. In an interview with Reuters last week, Ryan Olson of Palo Alto Networks said "It is a little bit surprising because ransomware has been so incredibly popular for Windows, and mobile platforms, It's now of the most popular criminal business models. The fact that it hasn't made it to Mac shows that it's had a great amount of success on the Windows side. But the fact that [the malware] was distributed through a legit application demonstrates that we will see this again." The KeRanger malware, which imposes a 72-hour lockout window unless the victim pays 1 bitcoin (around £320), appears to have been first discovered via a rogue version of Transmission, a widely popular BitTorrent client. For some time now, ransomware has primarily targeted Windows machines—threatening total data destruction if the ransom isn't paid. Recently, even a Los Angeles hospital was infected, which resulted in the payment of a $17,000 ransom. In June 2015, the FBI said it had been contacted by 992 victims of CryptoWall, a similar ransomware scheme, who have sustained combined losses totalling over $18 million. In the UK fewer reports have been made, but this may be due to embarrassment / desire to protect an organisations image and business credibility. An analysis of the KeRanger ransomware showed that “The KeRanger application was signed with a valid Mac app development certificate; therefore, it was able to bypass Apple’s Gatekeeper protection. If a user installs the infected apps, an embedded executable file is run on the system. KeRanger then waits for three days before connecting with command and control (C2) servers over the Tor anonymizer network. The malware then begins encrypting certain types of document and data files on the system. After completing the encryption process, KeRanger demands that victims pay one bitcoin (about £320) to a specific address to retrieve their files. Additionally, KeRanger appears to still be under active development and it seems the malware is also attempting to encrypt Time Machine backup files to prevent victims from recovering their back-up data.” All very grim stuff. Time Machine is Apple’s proprietary backup and restore application (and very good it is too). I have not heard any reports of infections reaching the UK, but as is usual with this sort of thing, it is probably only down to time. 

I took the photo above a while back, whilst on the Woolwich Ferry; it was an experiment in black and white, moody photography. There has been much concern locally for a couple of years; there have been strong messages from TfL and the Department of Transport were looking to phase out the Woolwich free ferry. This would be a very poor move if it happened, as records of a ferry across the River Thames at Woolwich date back as far as 1308. The documentation from that date refers to the waterman who ran the ferry, William de Wicton, sold his business and house to William Halle, for £10. In 1320 the ferry was sold again for 100 silver marks. There is no further mention of the ferry during the years that Woolwich rose to prominence as a royal dockyard under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Much later, in 1810 the army established its own ferry that ran from Woolwich Arsenal to Duvals Wharf. In 1811 an Act of Parliament was passed to establish a ferry across the Thames from Woolwich at the Old Ballast or Sand Wharf, opposite Chapel Hill, where the dockyard then terminated. The ferry became known as the western ferry and was run by a company that called itself The Woolwich Ferry Company. The Western ferry continued to operate until 1844, when the company was dissolved after a history of inept management. The current free ferry was set up in the 1889 and has run ever since. You can read more about the opening of the free ferry service by clicking hereGood news regarding the continuation of the Woolwich Ferry service; It was announced earlier this week that two brand new ferry boats will be commissioned to replace the three ageing vessels in operation – John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman. The reliability of the modern boats making up for the loss of the third vessel (I doubt this - there will always be a need for a backup ship). In addition, there will be new mooring facilities at Woolwich and North Woolwich, the embarkation points. The work should be complete by March 2018, according to papers lodged with TfL’s finance and policy committee. In an interview with The Wharf newspaper, TfL's general manager of river services Andy Thompson said: “We are working to extend the life of the Woolwich Ferry service into the 2020s. We’ve completed work on the jetties and lifting bridges, so we are now focussing on the ferries themselves, and can confirm that we are planning to buy two new boats to replace the existing 1960s vessels. The buying process for these has now started and we have encouraged a number of ship building companies to bid for the contract. Alongside this, we recently consulted on plans for new fixed river crossings in East London, including two new crossings at Thamesmead and Belvedere, which could be delivered by 2025, subject to funding.” Whatever your opinions on the proposed bridges / tunnels, it does annoy me when people talk of Thamesmead and Belvedere, as if they were in East London! 

The Slade Green Community Forum have just released the following request for help:- "On the weekend 15/16/17 April we will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 'Slade Green Heroes' whose brave actions saved the centre of Slade Green from being blown up ( is a copy of the commemorative plaque at the railway station for anyone who doesn't know the story). Below is a summary of what is currently planned (with support from Slade Green Big Local) and the help we need. Note that some dates/times are provisional. Below that note details of two current consultations, in particular proposed new ward boundaries that will divide Slade Green between two wards, and Erith likewise. Friday 25th March to Sunday 3rd April - Distribution of publicity material. We are in need of people to help with the deliveries to all local roads. Friday 15th April 8 - 11 pm Slade Green & Howbury Community Centre. World War 2 Dance. We need a couple of volunteers to check tickets on the door, and volunteers to help with set up from 7pm and with clearing away after the event. Saturday 16th April - morning - children's event at St Augustine's Hall, time and details tbc. Saturday 16th April 2pm - 2.15 pm at Slade Green station. Commemoration at the site of the commemorative plaque. Does anyone know a bugler who can play The Last Post? Generally, could do with some people to help with stewarding and some people to look after invited guests. Saturday 16th April 2.45 - 4 pm Afternoon Tea at the British Restaurant (St Augustine's Church Hall). Remembering the use of the old St Augustine's Church Hall as a British Restaurant during the war (it served meals to people who had run out of rations, and provided meals for local armaments factories and schools). We're serving a simple afternoon tea and will have displays about British Restaurants and about local history prepared with help from the Crayford Archive and Slade Green Library. We need some help serving refreshments, and people who can help with set up between 12.30 and 1.30 and with clearing away afterwards. Also we'd be pleased to have any donations or loans of period photos or information. Sunday 17th April 3.30 - 6pm Big Band Concert at Slade Green Christian Fellowship (corner of Elm Road and Slade Green Road). The Little Big Band are students and teachers from Bird College and we will be splitting any proceeds with them as they are fundraising to take their band on tour (aside - they were really excellent when I saw them at a church in Blendon last year). We need help with checking tickets on the door, with the interval refreshments, and ensuring that pre-ordered refreshments are taken to the band members". 

The end video this week features extended coverage of the Erith Model Railway Society 2016 exhibition, which took place over the weekend of the 30th and 31st January at Longfield Academy. The exhibition featured over thirty railway layouts. See what you think, and either leave a comment below, or Email me at

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