Sunday, April 10, 2016


Southeastern Trains and Network Rail have been the subject of further criticism in the last week after points and signalling failure at Lewisham last Monday morning, which disrupted services for much of the day. Fortunately most trains on the Greenwich to Dartford line did not suffer too much disruption, but once again it goes to show what a precarious hold on service the rail company has. One small thing goes wrong, and an entire line grinds to a halt. If this is not bad enough, to add insult to injury, London Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has been quoted as saying that  it costs 18p more per mile to travel into London using public transport compared to a transatlantic flight. Mr Khan pointed out that a return train journey on Pay as You Go with an Oyster or contactless card, from Bexley in Zone 6 to Waterloo East in Zone 1, costs £11.80 (daily cap) - or 50p per mile as the passenger jet flies. In contrast, a Virgin Atlantic ‘Upper Class’ return to New York on May 5 - the day of the London mayoral election - would cost £2199.55 – or 32p per mile. The Labour candidate said the figures ‘show how ludicrously expensive Londoners’ fares have got under the Tories’. He went on to say that he will freeze fairs for four years if he is elected into office. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, who visited the newly revitalised Erith Market last Wednesday, complete with an entourage from the Conservative members of Bexley Council said in response  “Khan’s £1.9 billion black hole would cut vital transport investment and mean even more trains to and from Bexley are overcrowded and late. My Action Plan for Greater London will improve services and means that when a train pulls into the station you can actually get on it.” As I have said in the past, with a handful of notable local exceptions, you can always tell a politician is lying, because their lips are moving. What do you think? Leave your response in the comments section below, or Email me at

Regular Maggot Sandwich reader and occasional contributor Dana Whiffen has written the following piece this week:- "Former number one musician's Andy Newman's death brings back memories of Thunderclap Newman in Erith Area. News By Dana Wiffen. Andy Newman who many of you may ask, he was the pianist and multi-instrumentalist for British band Thunderclap Newman, founded by The Who's Pete Townshend. If you remember seeing them on Top of the Pops Andy was the bearded piano player who looked a bit old for the band, but he was actually not the oldest member in the band. Sadly Andy Newman died at his home in London on Wednesday 30th March aged 73, Andy could read music and could play keyboards, piano, clarinet, saxophone and many other wind instruments, his unique style of Dixieland piano playing fused with pop/rock sound gave Thunderclap Newman a distinctive sound. Thunderclap Newman shot to fame in the 1969 when the single “Something in the Air” by his band  Thunderclap Newman went to number one for 3 weeks, this track has since been used in TV adverts  giving the track further chart success in later years. The band originally put together by Pete Townshend who knew both Andy Newman and the bands singer/songwriter John “Speedy” Keen they added a very young but brilliant guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and went into the studios to record the track with Pete playing bass and Speedy playing drums. After the amazing success of “Something in the Air” the band needed to change from a studio band to a band capable of playing live and a bass player Jim Avery and drummer Jack McCulloch were added. The album Hollywood Dream followed and several singles from the album were released including “Accidents” and “The Reason. They then toured the UK with The Who as support and later toured smaller venues playing at The Black Prince in Bexley in 1971, they also supported Deep Purple on a European tour. Conflict within the band mainly due to Speedy Keens unreliability, he turned up for rehearsals late and even refused to go on stage leaving the band to play without him as their singer, on the eve of a planned tour of the USA as support for the Who, they split up. Andy went on to release a solo instrumental album on Track titled “Rainbow” and also toured with Roger Ruskin Spear of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah fame. He regularly came to Bexley having friends in Erith and shortly after the band split he went to see a local band play at Dartford College and ended up on stage playing a number with them. Several years later there were various incarnation of Thunderclap Newman with him at the helm, only though playing small venues, more recently in 2010 a significant line up was put together including Mark Brzezicki (Big Country) on Drums, Josh Townshend (Pete’s nephew) on guitar and vocals. They toured and recorded some live and studio tracks of Thunderclap Newman tracks giving them a more modern and rockier sound, this was released on Track Records titled “Beyond Hollywood” the same year. There were plans for Pete Townshend to write some new songs for this band but things got delayed with Pete touring with The Who and Mark with Big Country, although it was hoped that they would go into the studios later this year. Sadly "unsung musical genius" was not to achieve another stab at the big time and this quiet but highly intellectual person will be greatly missed. When I was working at Track Records, Andy had stayed at my place my mum making him a bed up on our sofa. He visited and we met him at Hall Place only last summer (see photo above - click on it for a larger version - Dana is to the left of the photo, and Andy Newman in the centre). His musicianship and friendship will be missed by all who knew him".

In a similar music inspired theme, Erith’s multi – award winning singer / songwriter Wayne Jacobs is in the press once again. He’s entered a talent competition called “Britain Does Variety”. The winner of the competition will get a chance to perform in a paid gig at a 5 star luxury resort in Europe and recording time at River Studios. He’s already won the UK Country Radio listener’s award in the last four consecutive years. In 2012 he wrote a song about Big Ben, and was consequently invited to sing it on top of the famous landmark in front of MP’s. Other original content has been aired on BBC Radio Kent and BBC Radio Norfolk, and on a number of specialist Country and Western radio stations both in the UK and the USA. Personally Country and Western music is not my thing, but I hope that Wayne does well in something he obviously loves doing.

You may be aware that there has been a large amount of discussion relating to the possible changes proposed to local electoral boundaries; the Boundary Commission have proposed merging Erith and Slade Green into a single electoral boundary. Below you can see the letter responding to this which has been posted by our local councillors. Personally I think the boundary changes are ill - thought out and very unwise, as they don't reflect the reality of local circumstances. Read the letter and let me know what you think - either post a comment below, or drop me an Email. 

My feature on Erith’s sporting history last week has provoked quite a positive reaction. Regular reader and occasional contributor Brian Spurrell has come across an account of the three (not two as I wrote last weekend) cricket matches held in Victorian Erith with a home team pitched against a team of Australian visitors. The matches took place on what is now the Europa Industrial Estate. Adjacent to Erith Railway Station and Fraser Road. “20 September 1884: H H Hyslop's Xl v XVI of Erith and District. Then came 1884, when I was 10, and as a climax to the season, the news that the Australians were coming.  Great was the excitement, added to the fear that Spofforth, the "Demon", would paralyse the local batsmen.  As it happened, only four "Aussies" were included in a side brought down by Mr Hyslop, a friend of the captain of Erith, Mr Corbett, to meet 16 of Erith and district.  Spofforth was not one of them, but the quartet were formidable, being Palmer, Boyle and Giffen, a trio of tip top bowlers, and Blackham, generally considered to be the finest wicket keeper playing.  Two other well-known visitors were Godfrey, who often appeared for Sussex, and the Rev. A Carter, of the Yorkshire Gentlemen, whose antics when fielding caused much laughter. The district team went in first, and then came surprises.  Boyle, the bowler, was behind the stumps and Blackham, the famous stumper, shared the bowling with Palmer, and each in his unusual position distinguished himself, Boyle stumping four batsmen and Blackham taking five wickets for 26.  As Palmer collared ten victims for 17 with his easy action and deceptive deliveries, the total was a poor one of 51.  However, to everyone's surprise, the famous visitors did not do too well either, and had not Giffen, after a lucky let off at 4, gone on to 46, and Palmer 22 in good style, they might well have been behind.  As it was they reached 101.  The bowlers responsible for their poor display were Horner of the Surrey 11, who took four wickets for 26, and Parish, the local "demon" who also got four wickets at a cost of 32.  The 16 went in again, but fared no better, losing seven for 28, Haywood, the Eltham "pro", getting 17 not out.  This time Boyle bowled and bagged a couple, but Palmer was still the most destructive with 4 more victims, his complete bag being 14   11 bowled, 3 stumped. Some features of this match have remained vividly in my mind over a period of 57 years, especially the mastery of Palmer over his opponents, for he seemed to get a wicket whenever he liked.  During an interval he came to the railings, chatted with spectators and impressed them with his charming personality.  He asked me if I played and when I stammered "Yes" he said, "Then, my boy, always play the game and always be a trier." I was the proudest kid in Erith that day, and ever after I rejoiced in Palmer's success in Australia.  Palmer remains in my memory as one of the finest bowlers I have ever seen, both for action and effectiveness. 1 May 1886: - Erith and Australia v Bickley Park and Kent. On May Day, 1886, a quartet of "Aussies" were again in Erith, playing for Erith and Australia v Bickley Park and Kent   high-¬sounding titles both.  Blackham was one of the four, but instead of Palmer, Boyle and Giffen we had S P Jones, Evans and Garratt.  Harry Nuttall, who later kept wicket for Kent, was on the same side, but the opposing team was not an impressive one, the chief personality being "Nutty" Martin, of Dartford, who played for Kent from 1885 to 1899, and in that time took 979 wickets for the county   17 runs apiece.  He was considered one of the best left handed bowlers in the country, and on the one occasion that he represented England against Australia was the leading instrument in winning the game by taking 12 for 102. In the match I'm telling of, Erith and Australia batting first were well served by three of the Cornstalks, Jones 57, Evans 60 and Blackham 59.  Martin with five wickets was the most successful bowler.  Against a score of 244, the response was lamentable for facing Garrett, eight for 16, and Evans, three for 15, Bickley Park were helpless and were all out for 37.  To general regret Blackham again did not keep wicket, Nuttall officiating there.  Happy memories are conjured up when I think of "Sammy" Jones promenading the ground arm in arm with an equally light hearted Erith player. 3 May 1890: - H H Hyslop's XII v XVIII of Erith and District. Yet another visit from down under cricketers on May 3, 1890, when Mr Hyslop obliged with a team that included nine of that year's tourists, the most that ever played here.  There were Blackham, Boyle and Jones again, and Dr Barrett, Turner, Murdoch, Burn, H Trumble and G H S Trott.  In batting, Murdoch, who afterwards played for Sussex, was the best man, and Turner, known as the "Terror", was one of the world's outstanding bowlers.  Until our "Tich" of Kent beat it, he held the record for most wickets in first class cricket in a season.  Five other tourists, Lyons, Walters, Charlton, Ferris and S Gregory, watched the game.  So Australia could have fielded a full side.  Two others in Hyslop's XII were county players, Bacmeister, of Middlesex, and Fielding, of Surrey.  It will thus be seen that the 18 of Erith and district, who were the opposition, had a tough lot to meet.  The best known in the local team was W Wright, a Notts "pro" who played for Kent for 12 seasons and in 195 matches took 727 wickets at a cost of 19 runs each.  Later, this same year at the Oval, I saw him receive the injury which sent him to St Thomas' hospital for six weeks.  It was a gallant attempt to catch Lohmann from a terrific return that he had his hand split. Another County man in the side was Bombardier Barton, who did little for Kent, but much for Hampshire.  He was a useful all-rounder and a superb cover point.  Two others, Roberts, for Hampshire, and Hunter, for Kent, had appeared a few times for their Counties.  By this time I was assistant groundsman (that sounds better than ground boy) and scorer for the Erith Club, so I was lucky enough to score in this match, to be photographed in distinguished company, and take an innings at the superb lunch when I scored freely.  The 18 batted first, Barton played the best cricket for 21, Faulkner hit well for 32, and Hutchings delighted the crowd by smacking Turner all over the ground, one big drive laying the scoring tent low.  He made 35 in about 20 minutes.  Turner got most wickets but his cost 36.  The total was 156, sufficient to make a draw, as Hyslop's men got 128 for three, the scoring being very slow.  Barrett in particular being painful, his 50 taking 2 hours 20 minutes to make.  Trott 31, and Murdoch 22, were others who batted.  Barton took two wickets for 11 and was difficult to score from, Parish sent Trott's stumps flying to take the other wicket that fell.” The author of the cricketing memoir ends his recollections with the following comment: “The ground was beautifully situated where the beginning of the GEC works now stand.  On one side was a wooded cliff, and underneath that was the narrow footpath that led to and beyond our old recreation ground, where other local clubs played their matches, men and boys' teams often jostling each other. About a year from the final appearance of Australian players here.  Erith lost its ground, Fraser and Chalmers' works were built upon it, a deplorable change cricket¬-lovers thought, but they were powerless to avert it.  As a result the club dissolved, and by 1892, our recreation ground also having been built on, there was only the Working men's Club team in the place, and that, too, was defunct by the next year”.

Several tabloid newspapers such as the Daily Star seem to be getting quite excited about a subject I have covered on the Maggot Sandwich in the distant past, but now seems to be back in the news. For some inexplicable reason, they have been writing about Secret Numbers Stations in some detail. Secret Numbers Stations have been in existence since World War II. They can be found quite easily if you have a radio which can receive the shortwave bands. Generally speaking, numbers stations appear somewhat erratically and consist of a disembodied electronic voice reading out streams of numbers which repeat a fixed number of times. The stations are usually outside of the main shortwave broadcast bands, and can sometimes be encountered in the amateur radio bands – much to the annoyance of their legal users. Whilst numbers stations are well known to radio enthusiasts like me, most of the general public will be unaware of their existence. The purpose of numbers stations is simple. They are the most secure method of communicating with spies in the field. Computer communications are easily intercepted, and even the most heavily encrypted ciphers can be broken over time by supercomputers used by the security services – and it is relatively straightforward to identify a person from an Internet Service Provider. Old fashioned analogue shortwave radio is completely anonymous – no sign in, or account is required, and a suitable radio can be picked up in a shop for a few pounds. Anyone found with a radio which can receive the shortwave bands will not get much attention – most compact travel radios can receive shortwave broadcasts; thus a spy can be completely anonymous and untraceable whilst listening to the coded broadcasts. Sometimes new technology is not the best solution to a problem, and this is most definitely the case here. Each numbers station transmission is read out by a computer generated voice, giving it an eerie, somewhat creepy sound. One would have thought that once the Cold War was over, the need for numbers stations would cease, but in many cases, the number of stations has actually increased – radio traffic, including numbers stations has been recently noticed in the Ukraine, where before the recent dispute with Russia, it was pretty much a backwater. You can watch a short news broadcast about secret numbers stations below. It is a few years old, but still very accurate and insightful. Please leave a comment below, or Email me at

I got asked in the week about how criminals and malicious hackers actually gain control of computers. I responded that the easiest method was to exploit the user, rather than the computer. Getting the user to carry out an action which allowed the bad person to gain unauthorised access to the target computer. Using booby-trapped USB flash memory drives is a classic hacker technique. But how effective is it really? A group of researchers at the University of Illinois decided to find out, dropping 297 USB memory sticks on the school’s Urbana-Champaign campus last year.  As it turns out, it really works. In a new study, the researchers estimate that at least 48 percent of people will pick up a random USB memory stick, plug it into their computers, and open files contained in them. Moreover, practically all of the drives (98 percent) were picked up or moved from their original drop location.  Very few people said they were concerned about their security. Sixty-eight percent of people said they took no precautions, according to the study, which will appear in the 37th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in May of this year. “I trust my Macbook to be a good defence against viruses,” one (stunningly naive) participant is quoted as saying, while another one seemed aware of the risks, but didn’t care, saying: “I sacrificed a university computer.”  Some 135 people actually opened some files in the drives, according to the study. The researchers didn’t put any malware on the sticks, but had left an HTML file that contained an image allowing the researchers to detect when a file was opened. The HTML file also contained a survey, which had the goal of informing unbeknownst students and faculty that they had become part of an experiment, and trying to figure out why they had picked up the drive and opened files inside. “It's easy to laugh at these attacks, but the scary thing is that they work—and that's something that needs to be addressed,” the leading researcher on the study, Matt Tischer, told “Motherboard” the technology news website. In the study, the researchers concluded that “the anecdote that users will pick up and plug in flash drives they find is true.” Based on the participants’ survey answers, the researchers concluded that most people did it with “altruistic intentions.” In fact, 68 percent people said they did it to find the owners, while 18 percent admitted it was just out of curiosity. However, considering their actions, it seems some overestimated their good intentions. Despite the fact that some USB drives contained a CV file, almost half the users didn’t open that file, and, instead browsed vacation photos first, “overtaken by curiosity,” as the researchers put it. Tischer said that it’s hard to prevent something like this from happening. “There are no easy solutions to these problems, but they will certainly extend beyond simply the technical to include a deeper understanding of the social, behavioural, and economic factors that affect human behaviour, there is a difference between warning users that a particular action is dangerous and convincing them to actually avoid it. We need to close that gap.”

Christ Church Erith has been also featured on the Maggot Sandwich recently. Now they are in the news for another great piece of philanthropy. They are working with the charity Age UK on the “Men in Sheds” project.  Christ Church have offered Age UK Bexley a plot of land behind the church hall to use for the programme, which has a growing waiting list. The Men In Sheds project is for men over 60, sharing and learning skills in a fully kitted out workshop and working on either personal projects or commissions for local organisations. The programme’s next project is to set up a furniture recycling shop to refurbish sofas and other household items and sell them on to the local community. Della Jeffery, the project development manager said in an interview with the Bexley Times that “The men in sheds project has already proven popular and benefits older men by reducing social isolation and improving mental physical well being”. Christ Church Erith are also marking the second year of their revamped Friends of Christ Church Erith group. In the last year, the Friends of Christ Church Erith has accomplished the following:-  In April, Friends were invited to a private tour of the Bell Tower during its Centenary. Friends’ committee members provided refreshments at each of the Tower Centenary Open Days. Members were personally invited to the Community Lunch in June. In November the Friends held a Quiz Night in the hall (which raised £609). In December, Friends’ committee members provided refreshments at the Rock Choir Concert during the Erith Christmas Tree Festival. They sponsored energy efficiency light bulbs (£50) for one church chandelier in response to the Vicar’s “Let There Be Light” appeal last December. In January this year, members were invited to the formal launch of the forthcoming “Our Erith” exhibition. At the end of February this year, the Friends took a stall at Bexley Civic Society’s Local History Fayre held at Hall Place (the cost of our stall was paid for personally by a Friends committee member).

I have campaigned against fly - tipping on the Maggot Sandwich and elsewhere for years. Readers may think that environmental crime is a relatively new thing, but as you can see in the newsreel footage below from 1965, the problem was well known and widespread over fifty years ago. Do give it a watch and let me know what you think. Email me at

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting video. The problem of fly tipping may not have changed but health and safety (check out the guys cutting the metal with no eye protection) and environmental concerns (burning the old cars) certainly have.