Sunday, March 12, 2017


You may recall that last October I wrote about the conversion of the former Royal Alfred pub in Manor Road into apartments and a new larger Londis convenience store by the family that own and operate the existing Londis on the opposite side of Appold Street. You can see my original article by clicking here, which also shows some photographs of the then level of progress. Well, only a few scant months on from then, the scaffolding that has cocooned the building for almost a year has now been dismantled, and the remarkable changes to the historic building can now be seen. There is still much to be completed now that the large rear extension and new roof have been added, and the exterior still needs more work, but the refurbished, extended and repurposed building is now beginning to take shape. I will be having a tour of the interior soon, and I will report back with new photographs. Keep watching this space. 

I have asked some of my regular readers why they like reading the Maggot Sandwich, and one answer that consistently comes up is that it is a true local news provider. Whilst the original local papers such as the Bexley Times, and to a greater extent, the News Shopper have become regional rather than local due to major cutbacks and to no longer being located in the area. For example the News Shopper are currently reporting on a story about feeding feral pigeons, which has attracted some keen debate on their talkback page. This is understandable as it is a contentious issue which attracts strong feelings in both directions. My issue is nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter – it is an item that will be of interest to some people, but my concern is that the story comes not from South East London or North Kent, but from Epsom in Surrey! I have never been to Epsom, and ended up looking it up on Wikipedia. It describes the place as “Epsom (/ˈɛpsəm/) is a market town in Surrey, England, 13.6 miles (21.9 km) south south-west of London, located between Ashtead and Ewell. The town straddles chalk down land (Epsom Downs) and the upper Thanet Formation. Epsom Downs Racecourse holds The Derby, now a generic name for sports competitions in English-speaking countries. The town also gives its name to Epsom salts, extracted from mineral waters there.” Well you learn something every day. Quite why people in Plumstead, Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Erith or Slade Green would have interests or concerns in respect of activities specifically local to Epsom somewhat mystifies me. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

After what seems like an almost endless round of delays and changes, construction of the long anticipated London Paramount Theme Park is begin later this year, and it should be open to the paying public by 2022. The £3.2bn park is hoped to rival Disney resorts in Florida and Paris. London Paramount Resort will boast more than 50 rides, a nightclub and a 2,000-seat theatre. It is estimated that the 872-acre-park will bring up to 40,000 visitors a day. Thousands of jobs will be created by the park, with estimates of around 27,000 permanent full time roles being created. The project manager say of the development:- "The Entertainment Resort will contain a number of themed zones, with exciting rides and attractions for families, children and the more adventurous thrill-seeking visitor. At the heart of the Entertainment Resort there will be a wide range of indoor, covered and open-air experiences as well as a variety of cafes, bars and restaurants. a number of exciting events will be hosted each year such as shows and music events. Late afternoon every day the ‘Paramount and Friends Carnival’ is planned to take place. We are planning to follow this every evening with a spectacular show celebrating the works of Paramount Pictures and our other content partners. Also in the evening, there will be a chance to enjoy a West End quality production at one of our theatres, indoor or outdoor venues. These venues could potentially showcase Paramount films, BBC and Aardman productions and provide a stage for live comedy acts and concerts. The heart of the Entertainment Resort will open to the public in 2021, with additional rides and attractions scheduled to be unveiled soon after in the following years." This has got to be good news for the entire region; the number of jobs being created, and the amount of wealth that this amusement park will generate will be a force for real change and regeneration - it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. 

A story that certainly does have local relevance, and was picked up earlier in the week by the London Evening Standard is that of the forthcoming electoral boundary changes. The article, which strikes me as being written in a style designed to wind up local readers of both Bexley and Woolwich, describes how residents of the London Borough of Bexley are apparently up in arms over the proposed changes from the Boundary Commission. It plans to move the Abbey Wood ward from the Erith and Thamesmead parliamentary constituency to a newly formed seat called Woolwich as part of moves to slash the number of London MPs from 73 to 68 by 2020. According to the Standard, "dozens" of residents had objected, and have criticised the proposals, saying they have nothing in common with the riverside town best known for its huge Royal Arsenal. One of them, Maree Parra, said in an interview in the Standard that:- “We have paid higher prices to live in Bexley as we have no desire to live in Woolwich and do not visit Woolwich for any reason.” Mary Clark said: “Woolwich has gone downhill big time. I do not want to be classed as being in Woolwich, and the value of my house will go down.” Nicola Hunter wrote to the commission to say she moved to Bexley borough because “their ideas and priorities are far superior and in line with my views and aspirations”. But Woolwich resident Nick Bradshaw, 60, a freelance musician and music teacher, said: “Having lived in this area for 20 years, there’s a clear divide between the sort of people inhabiting Plumstead and Woolwich and those in Welling or Bexleyheath. I was always aware of the different demographics and Bexley is less cosmopolitan. They seem more reactionary and conservative. I go to Bexley and can’t wait to get away from there. I think it’s them being snobby and they have not been sensible about it. These comments don’t surprise me because I know what kind of people these are". Crikey - anyone would think we were talking about people from North and South Korea arguing over the divide, rather from a couple of neighbouring South East London suburbs. I get the distinct feeling that the Standard journalists behind the piece are trying to start a storm in a teacup - this outside the political reasons for the creation of the new ward, purely to do with the alleged perceptions and reactions of residents on both sides of the boundary. People in both wards share far more than they have differences, and I feel that the Standard's piece does not address this, and talks of "class war" - errant rubbish - it almost feels like "never let the facts get in the way of a good story". 

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 and Book Code illicit radio stations in some detail. They have picked up on the espionage activities of North Korea, especially after the recent assassination of Kim Jong Nam which has received much press attention for understandable reasons. 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, such as myself. 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. Book Code stations are a simpler but still very effective way of communicating via radio with any person intercepting the transmission unable to understand the meaning of the message being communicated. The key to a book code is that the sender and the receiver need to have an identical copy of a book - two different editions of the same book will not work, as the page layouts will be different. If you buy two identical copies of a book, the transmitter can compile their message in plain language (uncoded), then look through the book to find the relevant words in the text. The sender then notes down the page number, paragraph, line and number of words along the line. This is written down as a series of numbers. This is done for every word in the message in order (very tedious, but very secure as long as the books used are not known to anyone intercepting the message). The stream of numbers is then read out over the radio and the recipient then reverses the process to decypher the message. It is simple, very secure and almost impossible to crack without the use of sophisticated statistical analysis software and a handy supercomputer, which only the likes of the NSA or GCHQ would have access to. As long as the book used is kept secret - and preferably changed for another title for both the sender and recipient on a regular basis - it is pretty much secure. 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

Further to my examination of Smart energy meters and the unexpected problems which they can cause; information came to light this week which on top of all of the other problems that they can have, highlights that they can be staggeringly inaccurate in a variety of circumstances. A recent study from researchers at University of Twente (UT) and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) has found that three-phase static (electronic) energy meters, which are replacing traditional electromechanical meters, can exaggerate energy consumption by as much as 582 per cent. Estimates of the number of households in the Netherlands with smart meters range from 750,000 to 1.5 million. In the US, smart meter penetration at the end of 2016 has been estimated at 70 million, according to the Edison Foundation. The government of the Netherlands aims to replace at least 80 per cent of the energy meters in the country with smart meters by 2020, in keeping with EU goals. EU authorities suggest that smart meters, on average, result in energy savings of 3 per cent. But as researchers Frank Leferink, Cees Keyer, and Anton Melentjev report, "Some consumers are complaining about their energy bills after replacement of the energy meter, because the registered energy is higher with the static meter compared to the old Ferraris meter." Smart meter billing problems have also been documented in the US. Some of the past flaws found in static meters have been attributed to electromagnetic interference, which has been addressed over the years. The researchers suggest that present flaws are made more difficult to detect by insufficiently broad testing and opaque industry practices. They point out that makers of the smart meters covered in the study test their equipment under ideal conditions, with consistent voltage and load, but fail to consider other scenarios. They also observe that faulty smart meters tend to get scrapped instead of being offered for examination and that utilities don't make their equipment available for testing, don't document the devices well, and tend to rely on proprietary software. Among the ten models tested, the issue appears to be a component known as the Rogowski Coil, one of the four-types of current sensors used in static meters. The three others are: the shunt resistor, the current transformer, and the Hall effect-based current sensor. "The reason for faulty readings appears to be the current sensor, and the associated circuitry," the research paper states. "As a Rogowski coil results in a time-derivative of the measured current, the measured voltage has to be integrated. Probably active integration is used instead of passive integration, and the input electronics are pushed in saturation caused by the high rise-time of the current." Which basically boils down to a poor design in the meter means that it is inherently inaccurate and cannot be relied on. I think we will see more on this subject in the mainstream press in the near future. 

A story appeared on the Bexley Times website this week, with an outcome that really surprised me. Just for once an all too common case of fraud ended up with a happy outcome. The attempted con happened on February 13, when the resident, who lives alone in Sidcup, returned home to find a man standing at his door, saying that a large piece of concrete had just fallen off his roof. He was told that it could be mended for £2,500 cash, with a further £6,000 to be paid. However, the trader ended up removing the entire roof and then demanded a further £39,000 to finish the work.  Trading Standards attended the address but the unidentified trader had left. The trader then continued to contact the elderly man by phone. During one call the trader was spoken to by police and informed that Trading Standards were dealing with the matter. After contacting Trading Standards by phone the same day, the trader was told he needed to return the total of £6,000 paid so far by the victim. Much to their surprise, an anonymous female attended the Civic Offices the following day and handed over £6,000 in cash to Trading Standards, who returned it to the victim. This is a welcome, but very unusual outcome; I don’t normally cover stories on the far side of the borough, as they are outside of the main remit of the Maggot Sandwich, but these con merchants operate all over the area, and there are vulnerable people who could easily fall victim as happened with this elderly man. It is just fortunate in this exceptional case that the Police and Trading Standards were able to get the man’s money back.

I got sent the photo above during the week; I have to say that I had never seen it before. It was taken during the long hot summer of 1990 whilst I was part of the crew of the Ross Revenge, the home of Radio Caroline, at that time moored fifteen miles off the North Foreland, in the international waters of the North Sea. and outside of British legal jurisdiction. It was taken by one of a group of visitors to the Ross Revenge on a day trip to visit the ship and crew / DJ's. The group brought lots of essential supplies such as drinking water, food and most importantly daily newspapers - something we were always very keep to get, as being stuck on a ship moored in the middle of the North Sea can easily make you lose touch with current affairs, despite having TV and radio. I can be seen on the right hand side of the photo, wearing a black T-shirt - and I am not unnaturally tall - I was standing on a bar which ran along the inside wall of the hull. It was not usual to see me up in the morning at this time, but after all, we did have visitors. I did an overnight album show which finished at 6am when I handed over to the breakfast show DJ, then I would normally mooch around, have my dinner whilst watching the breakfast news on TV, and then head to my cabin for a few hours sleep, normally waking mid afternoon, when I would then coordinate the repainting of the ship. You can see more photos from my time on Radio Caroline by clicking here. You can listen to edited highlights from a show I did during a force 9 gale by clicking here - apologies, I do sound about twelve years old, but in my defence, it was a very long time ago!

Much to nobody's surprise, Transport for London has scrapped its controversial standing-only escalators scheme on London Underground after a six-month pilot that sparked a commuter revolt and achieved only “mixed” results, according to the Evening Standard. Passengers were asked to break with the long-held tradition of standing on the right and walking on the left during the trial at Holborn last year. It was designed to ease crowds by regulating flow of customers at peak times. Staff with megaphones told passengers to ignore the usual protocols, footprints were painted on both sides of the steps and a hologram of an Underground worker was used to persuade commuters to break with convention. A Freedom of Information request by the London Evening Standard has revealed that at peak times during the trial, station capacity was increased by up to 30 per cent and congestion was “notably lessened”. Having said that, the standing-only escalators were able to carry an average of 151 passengers per minute, compared to 115 on the “traditional” escalator, according to the study. But Underground bosses on Wednesday revealed they have no plans to trial the scheme more widely. While congestion was cut on longer escalators, where the left-hand side is used by only a hardy few leaving large gaps in between, there was no improvement on shorter flights where more people are willing to walk. Commuters welcomed the decision to end the scheme, described at the time as “going against everything about being British”. Johanna Whitaker, 35, a communications consultant said: “I used the Tube at least twice a day during the trial, always in rush hour. Standing on the left broke London commuter etiquette. There was always the danger of people thinking they could stand on the left at other tube stations - can you imagine? The congestion at Holborn station is bad so Fair play to TfL for trying it, but I hope there’s a better way." I don't think this was ever going to work, but fair play to TfL for at least trying some way to reduce congestion. 

The photo above was sent to me a couple of years ago by Erith businessman and property developer Manjinder. It shows some very picturesque aircraft contrails reflecting the rising sun over Manor Road. It also illustrates one of the more bizarre conspiracy theories that persist despite much evidence to the contrary. You may have heard of the Chemtrail Conspiracy? If not, I will explain. The chemtrail conspiracy theory is the unproven belief that long-lasting trails, so-called "chemtrails", are left in the sky by high-flying aircraft and that they consist of chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed for sinister purposes undisclosed to the general public. The main UK based group of Chemtrail conspiracists have their website here - click to view. Believers in the theory argue that normal aircraft contrails dissipate relatively quickly and that contrails that do not dissipate must contain additional substances. These arguments have been dismissed by the scientific community: such trails are normal water-based contrails (condensation trails) that are routinely left by high-flying aircraft under certain atmospheric conditions. Although proponents have attempted to prove that the claimed chemical spraying does take place, their analyses have been flawed or based on misconceptions. Because of the persistence of the conspiracy theory and questions about government involvement, scientists and government agencies around the world have repeatedly explained that supposed chemtrails are in fact normal contrails. Contrails, or condensation trails, are "streaks of condensed water vapour created in the air by an airplane or rocket at high altitudes." They are the result of normal emissions of water vapour from piston and jet engines at high altitudes in which the water vapor condenses into visible clouds. They are formed when hot humid air from the engines (when Kerosene jet fuel burns, one of the results of combustion is water vapour) mixes with the colder surrounding air. The rate at which contrails dissipate is entirely dependent on weather conditions and altitude. If the atmosphere is near saturation, the contrail may exist for some time. Conversely, if the atmosphere is dry, the contrail will dissipate quickly. The conspiracy theorists will have none of this, however. A 2014  research paper presented results of reviewing 20 chemtrail websites found that believers appeal to science in some of their arguments, but don't believe what academic or government-employed scientists say; scientists and federal agencies have consistently denied that chemtrails exist, explaining the sky tracks are simply persistent contrails. The 2014 paper also found that chemtrail believers generally hold that chemtrails are evidence of a global conspiracy; people who believe in the conspiracy allege various goals which include profit (for example, manipulating futures prices or making people sick to benefit drug companies), population control, or weapons testing (use of weather as a weapon, or testing bioweapons). One of these ideas, is that clouds are being seeded with electrically conductive materials as part of a massive electromagnetic superweapons programme based around the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Those who believe in the conspiracy say the chemtrails are toxic; the 2014 review found that chemtrail believers generally hold that every person is under attack and found that believers often express fear, anxiety, sadness and anger about this. Experts on atmospheric phenomena say chemtrails do not exist, and that the characteristics attributed to them are simply features of contrails responding differently in diverse conditions in terms of the sunlight, temperature, horizontal and vertical wind shear, and humidity levels present at the aircraft's altitude. In the US, the grid like nature of the National Airspace System's flight lanes tends to cause crosshatched contrails, and in general it is hard to discern from the ground whether overlapping contrails are at similar altitudes or not. The jointly published fact sheet produced by NASA, the EPA, the FAA, and NOAA in 2000 in response to alarms over chemtrails details the science of contrail formation, and outlines both the known and potential impacts contrails have on temperature and climate. The USAF produced a fact sheet as well that described these contrail phenomena as observed and analyzed since at least 1953. It also rebutted chemtrail theories more directly by identifying the theories as a hoax and disproving the existence of chemtrails. Patrick Minnis, an atmospheric scientist with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is quoted in USA Today and online, as saying that logic does not dissuade most chemtrail proponents: "If you try to pin these people down and refute things, it's, 'Well, you're just part of the conspiracy'," What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The ending video this week comes from a recent Sky News report on homophobia in sport - specifically football. It features local club Bexley Invicta, which was started by occasional Maggot Sandwich contributor and restaurant reviewer Brian Silk. Do give it a watch.

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