Sunday, May 14, 2017


The photo above was taken only a few minutes before this week's blog update was published; it shows volunteers from environmental clean up charity Thames21 and 108 Detachment Army Cadet Force using a couple of grappling hooks to pull a dumped shopping trolley out of the River Thames mud in front of the Erith Riverside Gardens. A clean up of this type is organised every May,  and there is always plenty of stuff to pull out of the river - idiocy never seems to go out of fashion - local scumbags chuck trolleys and stolen bikes into the river when they have grown tired of abusing them on the land. It is great to see that responsible youngsters are more than happy to help clear up the mess made by their peers - and they seemed to be having a lot of fun whilst doing it. They got a free lunch courtesy of local sponsor Morrison's (whose trolleys were being pulled out of the river). 

Despite the unseasonably cold and windy weather over last weekend, the 12th Bexley Beer Festival was the most successful yet. The festival was drunk dry by the end of the Saturday session - and this despite Bexley Brewery supplying an additional eight casks of "emergency top - up" ale. Reported attendance was up by a little over three hundred people over last year, making total numbers who visited the event in excess of 1,600 visitors - a record. eighty five different real ales and around fifteen ciders and perries were on sale. The event was organised by volunteers from Bexley CAMRA, who did an amazing job. The festival was held in The Old Dartfordians Rugby Club in Bexley Village; normally, when the weather is warmer, many visitors to the festival sit outside, watching a cricket match, but due to the wintry conditions, nearly all of the visitors were in the main club building, or in the large marquee tent where the beer was on sale. It was very crowded, and quite a tight fit, and very noisy as people were having to shout at each other to be heard over the noise. Nevertheless it was a well organised and enjoyable event - let us just hope that the weather is better next year. In an associated story, work on the forthcoming "The Kentish Belle" micropub in Avenue Road, Bexleyheath, next to the Co-Op mini supermarket, and close to Bexleyheath Station has begun. Until a couple of of weeks ago, the building housed a hardware and home goods shop; that has now closed and the builders have moved in - the whole structure is currently covered in scaffolding, and it looks like the building is being at least partially re - roofed. According to The Kentish Belle's Twitter feed, the micro pub owners are getting the keys to the retail unit on the 18th of May; it would seem that the building freeholder is using the gap in the tenancy to carry out some structural repairs before the conversion work begins on the interior of the retail unit to transform it into a micro pub. In my opinion The Kentish Belle could not be better placed - almost right next door to Bexleyheath Station and located in a relatively wealthy residential location that is also home to a number of decent restaurants. Speaking of which, the other empty retail unit in Avenue Road, directly opposite the William Camden pub that I initially incorrectly identified as the location of The Kentish Belle is now being converted from a tyre wholesaler and into an Italian restaurant that will be called The Glass House. It will have eighty covers, and has applied for a licence to have live music performed. No date has been given for opening, but when I checked on Tuesday afternoon, there was still extensive building work to be done - by the looks of it the place will not be ready to open for a couple of months yet. Nevertheless the addition of both The Kentish Belle and the Glass House will make the Avenue Road area of Bexleyheath an increasingly attractive location for an enjoyable evening out. 

Word reaches me that over the last couple of weeks, Google Maps Street View photographic cars have been re - photographing the roads in the local area; they do this periodically to keep the first person views of the roads up to date and concurrent with their latest maps. Coincidentally, did you know that Google Street View is ten years old this month? The project started as research at Stanford University, and then was transferred in early prototype form into Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page’s car. Taking photos of every part of the planet so that people could virtually travel the world from the comfort of their own homes or mobile devices is the hallmark of Google’s approach to the world around it and the evolution of technology. Starting out as a camera strapped to Page’s car, Street View technology has been added to vans, cars, tripods, backpacks, bikes and even a snowmobile. It has become the eyes of all of Google’s vision for how we view the world after launching on May 25th, 2007. From Larry Page’s car, the very early Street View team, which was comprised of a few volunteers from Google staff, threw some cameras into a van with a GPS and some lasers. The lasers were to grab data so that the team could know what the distance was between the camera and the facades of the buildings. That spacial recognition is what helps Google patch all of its images together and give it that 3D feel. The camera took a lot of pictures, the devices, hooked up to a bank of computers in the back of the van, and then this very unique dataset that is what makes Street View was amassed. Street View collects quite a bit of data. the Google Street View project team had to work out a way to scale these original vans to grab as much of it as possible so that they wouldn’t have to drive the same routes more than once. The team installed lasers onto the vans – four on each side – to get distance information, more GPS, collected wind velocity and everything in between.  How was this going to work outside of the original San Francisco test area though? There is now Street View data from more than 3,000 cities and 47 countries all over the world, so there was a lot of work ahead before this project ever saw the light of day. The GPS, laser and photographic data was collected by drivers who would fill up hard drives and ship them back to Google. The drivers wouldn’t send them in until they had five disks completely full. The disks would get shipped to a data centre, the information uploaded and then everything would get fed into its core database and go through a few processing steps. One of those processing steps was the blurring of people’s faces and car registration plates. These are seemingly obvious privacy issues that nobody thought of before the product existed, so Google had to invent the technology to do it systematically. Additionally, there are fifteen images taken for each finished shot and angle that you see on Street View today, and Google’s software takes all of these images and combines them together, adjusts the exposure for sun, shadows, colour differences and brightness. That’s the processing that goes into making “perfect” panoramic images. All the while, Google is detecting and extracting information from objects like street signs to feed back into the main Google Maps product. Google Street View launched officially in 2007 and was only available for San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver in the USA, and nowhere else. The cameras at that time were 5 megapixels, which is barely what most people have on mobile phones today. Now the cameras have a resolution of 75 megapixels. When you look up a street on Google Maps and click on the Street View option in future, you will have a better idea of the huge amount of work and financial investment that went into what you then are able to see and navigate around. Happy birthday Google Street View!

There has been a lot of press hype about the release of the latest film in the Alien franchise this week, with the opening of Alien: Covenant, which has been directed by original Alien director Ridley Scott. As anyone who knows me will realise, the first Alien, and its' sequel Aliens are both in my top five favourite films of all time. Ironically my worst film of all time is by the same director; the prequel to Alien - the film Prometheus, which I utterly hated. Let me explain why. Back in 2012 when Prometheus was released, I was expecting much - after all, Ridley Scott had set the bar so high with his 1979 low budget sci fi horror movie; he virtually reinvented the genre. I had heard some rather mixed reviews of the new movie, but I watched it with an open mind. To be blunt, "Prometheus" was a total mess. The story made little sense, the cast telephoned in their performances (with one exception - which I will leave for you to discover) and the characters act in a completely illogical manner. Without giving out any spoilers if you still have not seen the film (hint: - don't bother), the film is a confusing and sometimes contradictory experience. The crew of the Prometheus are at the centre of the story, in a similar manner to the original "Alien" movie. Unlike in Alien, where the crew were basically a group of working class manual labourers - space truckers, if you will, who were forced by circumstance to work together to defeat a common foe; in Prometheus they are a hand picked elite group of scientists and engineers - the best of the best. The problem is that the crew of the Prometheus act like a group of unruly teenagers - they disobey orders, smoke dope, drink copious quantities of booze, and generally act in a shambolic and irresponsible manner. None of this helps the suspension of disbelief; much of the time you are left wondering "just why did that character do that? It makes no sense". It is not like there is a reveal, making the uncharacteristic actions clear. Another thing, when the crew come out of hyper sleep, the ship has just made orbit around the alien world. You would have thought that the first thing they would do would be to survey and map the surface, and check the atmosphere - either directly, or by using robotic drones. But no, they just pile in to land, and guess what? They come up directly on the destination they wanted - the alien base facility. The coincidence is laughable - they had an entire planet to choose from, and they picked the right spot first time. All it would have taken was a crew member to say something like "The survey drones have located some kind of artificial structure - we are going down to take a look". Later, when the crew enter the structure, it becomes clear that they do indeed have semi intelligent mapping drones - why do the humans have to go inside what is clearly a dangerous structure, when the drones can do it all for them? Weak plotting. I could go on, but I don't want to give away what little plot there is even if you have not seen the movie after five years since it was released. I feel that there is a good film in there somewhere, but it needs some drastic re-editing; still, Scott is renowned for issuing cut after cut of his movies, and I gather that Alien: Covenant does go some way to recovering from the disaster that was Prometheus, but as far as I am concerned, I will wait until it is released by Netflix or Amazon Prime (of which I have membership of both) before I will watch it. Press reviews have been mixed to say the least.

Upper Belvedere featured in the London Evening Standard on Thursday this week. A driver was in the process of taking his driving test (as I have previously featured, Belvedere is the hardest driving test centre in the UK in which to pass your driving test). The young driver was driving down Nuxley Road towards the roundabout that leads to Bedonwell Road and King Harold's Way at a speed that was appropriate for the road and traffic conditions. All of a sudden the dashboard camera in the test car picked up a car illegally, and very dangerously undertaking along the pavement - as you can see in the screen capture above. You can see a full recording of the criminal offence by clicking here. The undertaking car came very close to hitting a young mother with a child in a buggy. Fortunately nobody was hurt, and the learner driver passed his test. The offending cars registration number is clearly seen in the dashcam video footage; I am certain that the driver will have now been visited by the traffic Police. 

You may recall that some time ago I wrote a piece about the life of pioneering engineering genius Richard Trevithick, who spent the final years of his life living in the Royal Victoria and Bull pub in Dartford. Since then, further details of his extraordinary life have come to my attention. In 1801 Richard Trevithick invented the first full sized steam locomotive; physically Trevithick was an imposing man – he was tall and almost superhumanly strong. Over the course of his life, he hold something like 1,700 patents for a variety of devices – including steam dredgers, various forms of steam propulsion for ocean going ships, floating iron docks, the marine screw propeller, hot air heaters, and a very early  ice making machine. Whilst Richard Trevithick was an amazing inventor and engineer, he was a very poor businessman. He did not renew his patents when they expired after thirty years, and when this happened, Stephenson and other engineers copied, and in many cases improved on Trevithick’s designs - and thus the commercial railway industry was developed. Trevithick had his income dramatically cut when the royalties from his patents ended, and he found himself extremely short of money. In 1816 Trevithick took up an invitation from the government of Peru to migrate there in order to build steam engines to pump floodwater from the country’s silver mines – silver was one of Peru’s main exports. So important was this to the Peruvian government that they paid Trevithick a salary of £100,000 a year – equivalent to roughly thirty times as much nowadays. Over the next five years Trevithick built up a second fortune of around half a million pounds, making him one of the richest people in society at that time. He was then met with a second tragedy; in 1831 a revolution started in Peru, and Trevithick backed the government side, who then lost. His money was lost to the revolution, and Trevithick was lucky to escape Peru with his life. Making his way back to England in little more than the clothes he stood up in, he ended up taking lodgings in the Royal Victoria and Bull pub. Never discouraged, Trevithick started work on a completely new form of engine. He manufactured several prototypes, but these all succumbed to mechanical failure and exploded. His new engine design was what we would call nowadays a gas turbine – a jet engine. The reason that Trevithick’s engines failed was nothing down to the design; it was actually because of the lack of high tensile strength and low weight complex alloys meant that Trevithick’s designs were bound to fail. Materials technology was not developed at anything like the level it would need to be for such an engine design to work. Shortly thereafter Richard Trevithick died and was buried in Dartford. His gas turbine engine designs were given to the public records office, where in 1927 they were put on display. Engineering student and trainee RAF pilot officer Frank Whittle saw the drawings and realised their significance. He took Trevithick’s design, modified it and used it as the basis for his revolutionary jet engine. The power source for nearly all modern aircraft in essence dates back to a series of engineering drawings made by Richard Trevithick whilst staying in the Victoria and Bull pub in Dartford, where he lived in his penniless final years. 

The News Shopper have reported that a stabbing recently took place close to the Eardley Arms in Woolwich Road, Upper Belvedere and that four men, a 20-year-old man, two 22-year old men and a 54-year-old man were subsequently arrested. The victim was a 43-year-old man suffering from stab injuries, which were not life threatening. It is not the first time that The Eardley Arms has been mentioned in the same breath as other types of criminality. A very long time Maggot Sandwich reader recently reported to me that he was watching a friend's band who were playing in the pub. He went into the gents to find a group of men engaged in selling what appeared to be drugs, and others snorting a white powder. Apparently they were so casual about it that it would appear to have been a regular activity. I make no other claims about The Eardley Arms, but it does have a very poor local reputation. 

As can be seen from the screen capture above, Scooter and moped related crime committed by young men in Greater London is very much on the increase. The photos above were taken in Belsize Park last Thursday - admittedly a very long way outside of the Maggot Sandwich coverage area, but it serves to illustrate how the serious problem is now spreading. In an article earlier this week in the London Evening Standard, a serving Police officer who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons was quoted as saying:- “Frontline officers are all as frustrated about this as the public are, believe me. We don’t like these kids having one over on us.” A spokesman for the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Community called for the police to be given greater powers to pursue offenders on mopeds more easily and without fear of prosecution. Mike Butler, co-founder of the pressure group We Ride London, said police were hampered by budget cuts, bureaucracy and fear of prosecution by the police watchdog if they were deemed to have used “disproportionate force” in an arrest. he also warned that young thieves consider themselves untouchable because of lenient sentences and Scotland Yard’s unwritten policy of “no helmet, no pursuit”.  In the last few days Kent Police have reported a series of very worrying incidents - Moped riders are reported to have been terrorising pedestrians with fire extinguishers in Greenhithe. Kent police received two separate reports of moped riders spraying fire extinguishers into the street over the last month. Personally I would have thought any force that was used to arrest and detain these scooter riding, thieving. violent scumbags would be proportionate. Fortunately another recent case shows that the Police can triumph against such criminals. It would appear that at least two local moped and scooter thieves have been caught in a fairly spectacular manner. In the early hours of Monday morning, a large section of Wickham Lane in Plumstead was closed to traffic and Police and other emergency services as two youths had climbed onto the roof of a house and refused to come down for over three hours. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said they were initially called to the area on Sunday night after reports four men on mopeds punched a 15-year-old girl in the face after trying to steal a mobile phone. In the early hours of Monday morning, police spotted two rider, both accompanied by pillion passengers, in Wickham Lane. The four suspects abandoned their vehicles and ran away on foot; After a search of the area, which included help from police helicopters, two men were seen on a nearby roof at about 12.30am. Almost three hours after the stand-off began, the two men, aged 17 and 20, came down from the roof and were arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle. From the photographs of the incident, the Fire Brigade were on hand; why they could not have blown the two criminals from the roof with high pressure water from their fire hoses, I do not know. What the whole operation cost is mind boggling, but I am pleased to see that the scumbags got caught. my only hope is that they get a suitable penal sentence. 

The historic photo above (click on the photo for a larger view) was taken in Erith High Street in July 1969, very shortly before the old high street shops were demolished to make way for the much hated brutalist concrete shopping centre. The bus in the photo was operated by the coach and transport company Margo's, whose head office was located at 45, the Broadway, Bexleyheath. The pictured bus is an ex Southdown Leyland Titan PD2/12 with Northern Counties bodywork built in 1955 and acquired by Margo's in 1969. the photo is used with the kind permission of photographer John King - you can see more of his excellent transport, nature and historical photos by clicking here. It is great to see an unusual shot of old Erith; I know that I am far from the only local resident who regrets the passing of the old town centre - though I was too young to remember it; my only terms of reference are historic photographs such as John's above. My own feeling is that if the planners had sympathetically restored the old town centre instead of demolishing it, we could now have a tourist attraction similar to Whitstable, but located on the banks of the River Thames. One only has to look at the excellent work that international management consultancy the Aleff Group have done to conserve and restore the Cross Keys to imagine what it would be like if the whole of the old town had been so sympathetically curated. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email

Crossrail construction at Abbey Wood station has reached an important milestone as all platforms and new tracks have now been built. Building work is expected to finish this autumn, when the new station will open to Southeastern trains. As well as that, Transport for London has confirmed a £1.1 million contribution for a scheme that will redevelop Abbey Wood for the coming of Crossrail. Work began in March on the project in areas around Abbey Wood Station and the Harrow Manorway Flyover. In a News Shopper interview earlier this week, Sam Monck, Head of Borough Projects and Programmes at TfL, said: “We’re committed to making London’s streets more attractive, accessible and people-friendly and by working closely with Bexley and Greenwich Councils we’re about to see real improvements around Abbey Wood station and the Harrow Manorway flyover. This will include better walking and cycling access to the new station, improved lighting and more seating and trees, which will transform the area in time for the Elizabeth line launching in December 2018.” From December 2018, the new Elizabeth line service is due to run through the station and halve journey times into central London. As well as finishing the two new platforms and new tracks, Network Rail have finished building the structure of a new ticket hall, with work on the internal hall underway. Work is still continuing to install overhead electrical equipment and signalling, seating, customer information screens and CCTV. The new station will also include an open concourse leading onto a forecourt to connect the station to the Harrow Manorway flyover and six lifts to provide step free access to every platform. In an online interview, Surface director at Crossrail, Matthew White, said: “Construction of the new station at Abbey Wood will complete later this year. The new station will provide an improved experience for the thousands of people who use the station every day.” The Elizabeth line will stretch 60 miles from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through tunnels under central London and across to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the South East. Trains will stop at forty stations, including Canary Wharf and Stratford, and ten of which are being newly built. According to Transport for London , it is expected the line will carry over half a million passengers every day, and around 200 million every year. Below you can see a recently released time lapse video showing the latest phase of construction work on the new station. Leave a comment below, or Email me at

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