Sunday, December 11, 2016

The 2016 Christmas Tree Festival.

The photos above were taken this weekend at the annual Christmas Tree Festival at Christ Church Erith. The event raises money for several good causes, including the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice. Hundreds of visitors turned up to the event, which is one of the most popular and well - attended in the local calendar. A very wide cross - section of the local community visited the church over the weekend - the event started on Friday lunchtime, and finished on Sunday evening, with many musical performances taking place whilst the visitors walked around the church, which was filled with decorated Christmas trees sponsored by local organisations and individual families. The event is free, though donations to the various good causes that the event supports are always very welcome. Thanks to the numerous Maggot Sandwich readers who came over to say "hello" during the festival; I was helping to sell copies of the Friends of Christ Church Erith calendar. 

I took the photo above recently of Moat House, in James Watt Way. The newly completed block of apartments for affordable rent has been abandoned and empty since the terrible fire that destroyed much of the roof and damaged the top floor of the building in early August. The residents are still in temporary accommodation whilst engineers and builders repair the extensive damage. It had originally been said that the residents would be able to move back into the block by the end of September, but that date as been and now long gone. At the current rate of progress, I doubt that the apartment block will be ready to take back residents before the Spring of next year. 

Local Councillor Alex Sawyer has most definitely been earning his keep in his role as member for Traffic and Transport over the past week. He has been questioned by Erith residents over the closure of the very busy pedestrian crossing on the railway bridge linking Fraser Road, Bexley Road and the Fish Roundabout. This is used by commuters to and from Erith railway station, students at Bexley College in Walnut Tree Road, and people visiting Christ Church Erith. It is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the town; the crossing was closed and out of use due to ongoing roadworks in Bexley Road. The trouble is, the roadworks seemed to have ground to a halt, with very little if any work actually being done in my experience. This caused a degree of frustration; one local resident who chooses to be anonymous wrote to Councillor Sawyer thus:- "Are you aware that the pedestrian crossing in Bexley Road, near the junction of Victoria Road, and opposite Christ Church Erith was suspended on Thursday of last week and was still suspended yesterday when I used Erith Station?   This must be one of the most important and most used pedestrian crossings in Erith, with traffic coming from all directions.  I did spot some commuters trying to dodge the traffic and cross Bexley Road, rather than walk up Bexley Road and cross over near Fraser Road – which is still dangerous. If this is a temporary measure, when on earth will the situation be rectified? What reason is there for the suspension please? These traffic lights are absolutely essential and must be replaced". The traffic lights were eventually restored to operation just before the end of the week - but not before being a severe inconvenience to commuters. No explanation was given for the lengthy outage, and to my knowledge my correspondent did not receive a response to her Email. What do you think? Have you encountered problems over the last week or so due to the suspension of the crossing? Leave a comment below, or Email me at
After the previous story, and the routine use of Email in communication, it may surprise you to learn that Email has actually been around for a pretty long time - certainly longer than many people will have realised. Email was invented before the Internet arrived, with early versions being used more than fifty years ago. Email has become one of the de facto ways of exchanging electronic messages today in the blink of an eye. Email is nowadays regarded as the most important and widely used communications medium on the internet, and it heralded the end of physically writing letters, especially to people or organisations based overseas. It also played a role in the downfall of the humble telex and then fax machine. Some feel that email was devised as an early messaging application for Arpanet, the precursor to the modern Internet. That is true to certain extend, but in reality electronic messaging was in existence long before the arrival of that network. For example, the AUTODIN (Automatic Digital Network) network in the United States became operational in 1962, and it provided a message service between 1,350 terminals for the United States Department of Defence, handling 30 million messages per month. Then in 1965 MIT created its CTSS MAIL System, which allowed users of MIT computers to leave messages at the university for other users, who would see the messages the next time they logged on to the computer. Just like leaving a note on someone’s desk. These old mailing systems were only typically able to send messages to various users of the same computer or network. But something had to change when computers began talking to each other across different works. Essentially, the electronic message needed to be inserted into a digital envelope, addressed to the right recipient, and then posted to them. Ray Tomlinson is widely regarded as the inventor of email. Tomlinson created the first inter-network messaging system in 1971 while working for Bolt Beranek and Newman (now Raytheon BBN Technologies), where he helped develop the Tops - TENEX operating system and Arpanet, the predecessor to the Internet. The US Department of Defence had in 1969 created Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was a network connecting numerous computers across the department for the purpose of communication. In October 1969 the first message was sent from one computer to computer on Arpanet. But Ray Tomlinson in 1971 invented and developed Arpanet’s networked email system, which was an email system as we know it today. His system proved very popular and by 1974 there were hundreds of military users of email. This is because Tomlinson’s system decided to use the ‘@’ symbol to allow users to send messages from one network to another. Tomlinson’s invention thus distinguished local recipients and addresses on other networks and this has remained standard ever since. Tomlinson died in March this year aged 74 following a reported heart attack, but before his death he did say that he doesn’t remember what was said in the world’s first ever email because the text was just “gibberish” written for the purposes of testing, or sections from the Gettysburg address. It should be noted that email continued to evolve over time. Larry Roberts for example invented some email folders for his boss so he could sort his mail. Then in 1975 John Vittal developed some software to organise email. Commercial email systems began to appear in the 1980s, with one of the best known being Eudora (circa 1988). Not long after Pegasus mail appeared. Email continued to evolve. One of the first email standards was SMTP (simple message transfer protocol). SMTP is simple and indeed is still in use today, but it does have its limitations. New email standards such as POP (Post Office Protocol) are also increasingly used. Email certainly changed how the world communicated, and it remains one of the principal communication mediums the world over.

Well, It would seem that popular local coach hire company Ebdons Tours has been effectively closed down by the licensing authorities for serious breaches in regulations going back quite some time. Peter Lewis, who traded as Ebdons Tours with his wife Carole Lewis, was also disqualified indefinitely from working as a transport manager following a public inquiry. Mr Lewis was supposed to install exhaust filters costing between £3,500 and £7,000 to cut his vehicles’ emissions and ensure they met the standards of the London Low Emission Zone, avoiding the £200 charge for non-compliance. When his fleet of coaches was given a routine inspection by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in the spring of this year, it was discovered that seven out of eight coaches did not have the required particulate filters installed, despite them having certificates saying that filters were indeed fitted. Investigations revealed test certificates had been issued on the same vehicle on more than one occasion, while declarations had been made relating to filters that were installed on multiple vehicles within the same calendar year. Security cameras in the emission zone revealed the vehicles had been used while exhaust filters were not fitted, and the DVSA officer also found discrepancies with vehicle safety standard paperwork. As a result the Deputy Traffic Commissioner has withdrawn the licence to operate for Ebdon’s Tours for three years, as well as disqualifying Peter Lewis from operating a transport organisation for life – in effect killing the business.

Another local business that has rather more quietly shut up shop recently is the independent double glazing supplier PJ Plastics in Northumberland Heath, which has recently ceased trading. The business had been trading for many years, and indeed Pewty Acres has windows and doors supplied by the company. Personally I found their service to be excellent, and the products they supplied to be first rate, but I hear that not all of their customers were as satisfied as I was by their work. The PJ Plastics website is now down, but their Twitter feed is still operational; if you scroll back, their tweets are all pretty standard - mainly showing work their fitters have carried out, then suddenly - seemingly out of the blue they announced on November the 18th that the company was urgently looking for a buyer - and that was the final message. I do understand that PJ Plastics carried out a lot of work for local authorities and housing associations - the recent budgetary cutbacks may well have impacted on their cash flow - if any reader has better insight into the failure of PJ Plastics, please get in contact with me with the details - in complete confidence if you so wish.

The London Borough of Bexley comes out top in a poll that it would rather not have won; Bexley has one of the highest smoking rates among expectant mothers in Greater London, according to new figures. Some 8.2 per cent of mums-to-be in the borough still smoke at the time of delivery - a figure that is only higher in Greenwich and Barking and Dagenham (both 8.6 per cent). In contrast, just 1.5 per cent of expectant mothers in Westminster smoke at the time of delivery - the lowest rate in London. The England-wide average is 10.6 per cent, with the highest rate (14.4 per cent) found in the north. Smoking while pregnant can lead to premature delivery and an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death. The report does not investigate the reasons for the wide disparity in the statistical figures - I guess that is a matter for further investigation.

Brian Silk the man behind Bexley Invicta football club, and occasional Maggot Sandwich restaurant critic, has written the following review on the newly opened Riverside Fish and Steak restaurant in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. "Having anticipated the opening of a restaurant in Erith that is open in the evening, I was keen to try out Fish and Steak soon after it opened. I went along early last week and chose a table close to the window. The restaurant is very nicely furnished and decorated - the sort of place you could go to for a special meal. I was impressed with the menu: plenty of choice and a range of prices, with nothing overpriced. The Starters were enticing, with one or two unusual options - such as Roasted Tomato, Basil and Cheshire Cheesecake - but I didn’t have the appetite for a three course meal (I’d already decided I wanted to try a Dessert). So I went straight for a Main, choosing a rib-eye steak with chilli butter, chips with parmesan, battered onion rings and asparagus. Everything on my plate was really tasty, but the steak was particularly good. It was succulent by itself, but the butter made it really juicy. The glass of red wine I ordered went well the the steak. Although I was already full, I decided to have a Dessert. For me, it was a difficult choice between the Creme brûlée and the Dark chocolate and salted caramel delice. I opted for the latter and asked for it to be served with coffee. The presentation of the delice was impressive and it was as good to eat as it looks, and the coffee was spot on. I should add that the service was excellent throughout and I left impressed and satisfied. I definitely intend to return to Fish and Steak". Brian took the photos pf his meal, which you can see above - click on either for a larger version. You can see a reproduction of the Riverside Fish and Steak menu below - again, click on either image for a larger version.

We seldom get anyone searching the River Thames foreshore at Erith for hidden treasure - it is far too muddy and dangerous, but other parts of the banks of the River Thames have been the source of much historical and archeological information. For many years there has been little regulation on shoreside treasure seeking - an activity better known as mudlarking.  The Port of London Authority, which owns the river bank along with the Crown Estate, has ordered a clampdown as treasure hunting has soared in popularity. Previously anyone could look for fragments of the past, ranging from Roman coins to Delftware pottery, provided they did not scrape or dig the surface to retrieve them. Under the clampdown, any form of searching for objects washed up by the tides is prohibited unless the mudlarks hold a permit, which costs £32 for a day or £75 for three years. But the move dismayed some mudlarks — the Victorian name for impoverished children and adults who scavenged the washed up debris for anything to sell. Ted Sandling, whose new book, London In Fragments, details his passion for amateur archaeology, said the new requirements “unfairly penalise casual mudlarkers. I started as a weekend mudlark, going down to the river  serendipitously when I saw the tide was out. I applied for a permit when I began to take it seriously, after around a decade of doing it once or twice a year.  My path is now being closed off to others.” Last month the London Evening Standard reported that one of the earliest Victoria Cross gallantry medals to be awarded was recovered from the mud on the banks of the Thames. The medal, presented for bravery during the Crimean War and worth at least £50,000, was found by a mudlark on the foreshore with a metal detector. Tobias Neto, 54, from Putney, said he only realised the medal was a Victoria Cross when he got home and saw the writing “For Valour” below the crown.

Notorious ultra right wing racist, bigot and internet troll Joshua Bonehill (photo above), who once wrote me a threatening and abusive Email, and whom I have featured to quite some extent in the past has been back in court this week. He's been before the bench in the Old Bailey on charges of racially aggravated harassment against Luciana Berger MP. He's already in prison (Wandsworth), serving a three year and four month sentence for inciting racial hatred, which was handed to him this time last year. Many long-time readers will know that I have a personal, libertarian philosophy of “if it works for you”. The premise of which is that I believe that people should be free to do whatever they like within the law, as long as it does not cause harm, inconvenience or distress to others. Joshua Bonehill is self-professed racist, homophobe, misogynist, xenophobic anti - Semite who hates anyone who is not white and British and shares the extraordinarily offensive extreme fascist views he has. Now the scumbag is languishing in prison – for an extra two years over and above the three years and four months he was originally sentenced for, after his current appearance before the court, where he was found guilty of all charges on Wednesday afternoon. “You are currently serving a sentence of 40 months imprisonment, imposed on 17th December 2015 for stirring up racial hatred against the Jewish community in Golders Green. That offence was committed whilst you were on bail for the present offence, which in turn was committed whilst you were on bail for other offences of sending malicious communications over the internet and harassment,” said the sentencing judge at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Spencer. The judge also made the following order: "You must not possess devices capable of accessing the internet and making or storing digital information without notifying the police and making the equipment available for examination on request. You must not have more than two laptops, phones or other mobile devices capable of accessing the internet. You must provide the police with access to any encrypted material. You must not delete the internet history on any of the devices". One thing Bonehill repeatedly emphasises in his warped writing is how he (in his words) is being persecuted for exercising his right to free speech. This strikes me as supremely ironic – he wants the right to write and speak his racist, homophobic, misogynist and antiSemitic views, but then threatens anyone who also uses their right of free speech to challenge his warped and offensive opinions. It seems to me that Bonehill thinks that there should be one law for him, and one (his) law for everybody else. You can see a BBC TV interview with Luciana Berger MP about the case and how it affected her by clicking here.

As I have previously mentioned, the British Government is persisting on its' roll - out of digital utility smart meters, despite overwhelming evidence that they will cost more money than they will save - a lesson learned by the Germans last year, when they scrapped their country - wide smart meter deployment when they realised that it was in fact a white elephant. Whereas the British government has insisted it is effectively communicating the benefits of its controversial smart meter programme - despite MPs having identified a "lack of clarity" over the "problem" the scheme is trying to solve. In its response to the committee’s “Evidence Check” report on smart meters in September, the government said "it is clear about the long term national benefits that smart metering will bring.” More than 4.2 million smart and advanced meters are operating in homes and businesses. Some 53 million smart meters are due to be installed in residences and small businesses by the end of 2020 at an estimated cost of £11bn, with an estimated net "benefit" of £5.7bn by 2020. The Science and Technology committee’s report found that smart meters will benefit suppliers nearly twice as much as consumers in terms of cost savings. It noted that "although the scale and durability of such savings is contested ... it would appear that the rollout could alter consumption levels by 2–3 per cent.” The committee recommended that the government do more to "communicate the national benefits of smart metering alongside the potential cost savings and efficiencies" for consumers. It said this was a weakness of the government’s evidence check statement "and relates to a lack of clarity over the ‘problem’ that smart meters aim to address." Since its inception, the smart meter roll - out programme has been subject to heavy criticism. A leaked report by the Cabinet Office four years ago highlighted the vulnerability of smart meters to cyber-attacks, and flagged estimates that the scheme could leave the taxpayer out of pocket by £4.5bn rather than save consumers cash. To my mind, any project that is going to cost more money to deploy than it will save is already dead in the water.

Have you ever wondered whether it was quicker for those on foot to use the Woolwich pedestrian tunnel, or wait for the free ferry when crossing the River Thames at Woolwich? Well the team from the excellent Londonist website have taken this challenge, and produced the video you can watch below. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at

1 comment:

  1. Long time since we went of the Woolwich Ferry but this link takes you to a page where our friend sings about it.