Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Shop.

Here is a puzzle for you; the photos above show the interior of a new shop that is shortly to open in the local area; you can see the shelves being filled prior to the first opening. Your challenge is to identify exactly where the new shop is located. No prizes - just a bit of fun. The only clue is that the shop is physically located within Erith - as to precisely where, that it up to you to determine. Answers on a postcard, or better still, by Email to me at I will have photos of the grand opening of the shop next week. 

Another venue that will be opening shortly is the refurbished White Hart pub, which is going to be an African restaurant / bar. The owners have not exactly covered themselves in glory thus far - mainly due to the outrageous drinks licence application that they have submitted to Bexley Council. They have applied to open to serve alcohol at 10am in the morning, and not close again until 4.30am the next morning. Bearing in mind there are residential apartments above the bar / restaurant area, and retirement flats and sheltered housing nearby, I think that this application is almost certain to be summarily thrown out. 

I come across stories every so often that sound very much like "urban myths" - and usually, after some detailed research, they turn out to be so. This time, however, I have encountered a tale, that sounds very much like a "shaggy dog story" - but actually turns out not only to be rooted in reality, but absolutely true. It was sent to me by a very long term reader who has a knack of turning up interesting stories now and then. The real ale producer The Westerham Brewery came up with a novel method of transporting their beers to the troops in France after the 1944 D - Day Normandy landings. Westerham Ales were exported to troops in Normandy inside the auxiliary fuel tanks of Spitfires! They were dubbed “Modification XXX Depth Charges” to get them officially approved for flights. Edward (Ted) Turner Describing working at Brittain’s Engineering in Peckham:-" We were also making ‘jettison’, auxiliary fuel tanks for fighter planes to carry extra fuel to enable them to fly further into Europe and still be able to get back home. Once refuelling facilities were established over there, the Westerham Brewery used to fill those auxiliary non-returnable petrol tanks with Westerham Ales for our troops in Europe. Black Eagle lorries delivered it in barrels to Biggin Hill where the auxiliary dual purpose tanks were filled with Bitter on one side and Mild on the other. We made them of 16 gauge metal with baffles for safe landing, the RAF’s version of the brewer’s dray.”  In his book “Dancing in the Skies”, Tony Jonsson, the only Icelander pilot in the RAF, recalled beer runs while he was flying with 65 Squadron. Every week a pilot was sent back to the UK to fill some cleaned-up drop tanks with beer and return to the squadron. Jonsson hated the beer runs, as every man on the squadron would be watching you upon arrival. Anyone who made a rough landing and dropped the tanks would be the most hated man on the squadron for an entire week. The famous Spitfire test pilot Jeffrey Quill stated “After D-Day in 1944, there was a problem about getting beer over to the Normandy airfields. Henty and Constable (the Sussex brewers) were happy to make the stuff available at the 83 Group Support Unit at Ford near Littlehampton. For some inexplicable reason, however, beer had a low priority rating on the available freight aircraft. So we adapted Spitfire bomb racks so that an 18-gallon (82-litre) barrel could be carried under each wing of the Spitfires which were being ferried across from Ford to Normandy on a daily basis. We were, in fact, a little concerned about the strength situation of the barrels, and on application to Henty and Constables for basic stressing data we were astonished to find that the eventuality of being flown on the bomb racks of a Spitfire was a case which had not been taken into consideration in the design of the barrels. However, flight tests proved them to be up to the job. This installation, incidentally, was known as the aforementioned Mod XXX Depth charge". This is a completely true story - and it just goes to show that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction. 

As I have previously mentioned, the fact that the Maggot Sandwich is published each Sunday afternoon can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that readers know when it is published - and they often visit the site not long after the weekly update has been posted. The downside is that publishing at a fixed time each week does very much limit flexibility, and the ability to respond to news items that have a limited life span. In this case, I was passed the image above at the same time as it was posted on FaceBook, but due to only publishing on Sunday, it looks like I am somewhat late to the party. The image is of a painting of the river front at Erith which was made in 1866. Nothing that unusual there then - except that the painting now hangs in The Louvre in Paris. Quite why such an apparently unremarkable painting should hang in the same gallery as the Mona Lisa is beyond me, but it is very gratifying to know. The artist was a chap called Charles Francois Daubigny, and he painted the river scene at Erith in 1866. 

Guest contributor Miles has submitted part four of his thoughts on electrically powered vehicles, and how Bexley Council could accommodate a charging infrastructure. Miles writes:- "So why do we want to bring Electric Vehicles (EV's) to Erith? We could arguable start with our failing high-street and town centre. There is a direct correlation between the installation of rapid chargers and the rise of footfall in the area. Given the affluent owners of current high-end EV drivers seeking out charging locations, we could see a generous increase in spending in the town - which in turn further attracts new businesses and associated jobs. As EVs become more and more mainstream, air quality should improve drastically as idling engines outside of schools, traffic lights and junctions are left firmly in the past. For the government and local councils EVs provide an precision tool to encourage good habits, Bannatyne’s Health Club have already used this to great effect by placing charging bays in their parking bays. Bexley could use the same approach to encourage more utilisation of council leisure, recreational and heritages sites. Unfortunately it appears Erith, and most of North Bexley is entirely devoid of any charging infrastructure but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Following Hugh’s coverage of Bexley’s sudden interest in EVs, why should they be interested? Well as it turns out, they’ve overlooked central government funding to accelerate EV adoption in the UK, that aside it could be a potentially excellent revenue generating scheme at a time when austerity is rife- charging networks such as InstaVolt are actually offering to install, maintain AND pay ground rent on new charging stations! Putting aside the economic benefits I mentioned earlier, this could not only earn the council income but also focus regeneration and good habits by placing chargers in tactical locations. Erith and surrounding areas are particularly well placed for EV infrastructure. We have generous amount of on street parking, with a plenty of lamp posts that are ripe to be retrofitted for on street charging. Morrisons alone could support a significant charging network which could be huge for the supermarket and riverside shopping centre. I recently reached out directly to Morrisons, they tell me they won't be installing a charging network in the immediate future, but would support any council initiative to supply chargers. New charging installations provide an excellent opportunity to our entrepreneurial residents, I personally believe there's significant opportunity most current sites have overlooked. Car washing/valeting is an obvious opportunity straight out the gate, leading through to vending machines or food stalls. Local shops and restaurants could very easily encourage custom to their business by simple advertising (another potential revenue stream for the council). Lidl offer free charging providing you use their store, imagine if a restaurant such as the White Hart had a captive audience for an hour looking to waste some time! As the tides turn, and EVs become more and more dominate in car sales new opportunities for the public and private are ripe for the taking. What should Bexley Council take into consideration when installing charging infrastructure? First and foremost the location and types of charger, Ecotricity hit the nail on the head with their balance of Rapid and Fast chargers - a charger than can put 100+ miles per hour vs. 22. The key is to place a specific quantity with room for expansion at strategic sites. Off the top of my head I'd say somewhere near the fish roundabout, maybe with Erith Riverside, Hall Place without a doubt, Bexleyheath Asda, ideally a spot somewhere on the A206 but that may fall to another borough. As for fast chargers, I'd simply place them at key shopping locations and places undergoing regeneration. As a courtesy to other drivers, I'd always place them towards the back of the car parks to minimise ICEing. I'd also take advantage of Street light conversion we discussed in part one. Parking enforcement, idle fees and overflow should also play part in any new installations. The first two are intended to discourage ICEing and EVs overstaying once charged. Overflow parking, whilst not always possible at certain locations, alleviate circumstances where an EV is waiting for a charger, or needs to vacate the charge but not leave the location - this could be as simple as a few additional spaces for mixed use. Government subsidies and grants have been used in the past to encourage the transition to cleaner technologies, whilst I do support this to a degree it must be carefully managed to recipients don't simply bake that subsidy into their profit margin. I would to see any public funds managed with careful scrutiny, for example, OLEV home and work charger subsidies should consider the bill of materials and installation of a typical install - not simply dish out £500. Often the consumer ends up paying the same price! Lack of noise an EV produces, even at moderate speeds should be considered during the tradition to electric. Most of us a accustomed to a fair amount of noise when a car approaches, I've surprised a few people at the supermarket as they suddenly discover a large car moving at walking pace.  I’ve heard of certain manufacturers introducing artificial noise to the vehicle, personally I feel a bit of common sense, good signage, rumble strips, traffic calming would go a long way without removing a key advantage of EVs, minimal noise pollution. EV’s open up new possibilities for the council, as noise and pollution slowly reduces throughout the borough properties built near busy roads suddenly become more attractive to properly developers and customers alike. Previously commercially unviable brownfield sites, and dilapidated properties could see new investment leading to increased council revenue. All in all, it’s great to see Bexley are gaining interest in EVs, and I hope it continues to gain traction". Some interesting insight from Miles; if you have any thoughts on the subject that you would like to share, please contact me.

I had a very strange encounter last Saturday evening, and it is something that prompted me to write this article. I popped into Morrison's supermarket in Erith to pick up a few bits and pieces - nothing more than a few items in a hand basket. The supermarket was quite busy for a Saturday night, and after I had done my shopping I went to the checkout line to pay for my goods. I noticed that only one checkout was staffed, and that there was a queue of people waiting for it. I waited in line for a couple of minutes, until I caught the eye of one of the relatively new junior store managers, who appeared to be doing his rounds. I asked him if, as per company policy, they would be opening more staffed checkouts to deal with the rapidly forming queue. He said no, they would not, and that if we did not want to queue, we should use the self service checkouts. As you may well be aware, I will not use self service checkouts in any shop, for reasons I have outlined several times in the past. Please bear in mind that it is Morrison's written policy that they will always open an extra staffed checkout if a queue has formed behind another checkout. It appeared that the junior manager was contradicting this - which I challenged. His response was "we don't have the staff - you will have to use the self service checkouts". I put my basket down and left the store, with the junior manager trailing behind me saying "that's no way to behave!" I was furious - his attitude was that he was doing me a favour by getting me to self serve, which I absolutely refuse to do under any circumstances. Much to my regret I did not get his name, as I would certainly have reported him for his attitude. Since the incident, I have done some research, and coincidentally this week several sources have reported the news that Morrisons is telling staff to become ‘more Disney’ as the supermarket giant tries to improve customer relations. The Yorkshire-based firm is sending thousands of employees on training courses to teach them how to have a friendly and cheery demeanour on the shop floor. One checkout worker said she was instructed to be ‘more like the Disney staff in Florida’, according to a report in retail trade magazine The Grocer. Shelf-stackers have been told to ‘drop the box’ when they see customers in need of a hand. Morrisons is the worst performing of the so-called ‘big five’ supermarkets when it comes to shop-floor service, a recent mystery shopper trial by The Grocer found. It scored a lowly 12.9 out of 20 on average during the 51-week study that ended on June 10. Sainsbury’s came out top with a score of 16. A Morrisons spokesman said the store did not recognise the instruction to be more like Disney, and he added: ‘We want colleagues to be friendly, but to behave like themselves.’ Earlier this month, 8,000 Morrisons staff qualified for shares or a cheque of an average £4,000 as part of its Share Save scheme. Disney is renowned for the high level of customer service provided by theme park staff, known as ‘cast members’. It is somewhat unfortunate that the junior manager I encountered last Saturday night had obviously not been on the customer service training course. It is not the first time recently that I have had to complain about poor customer service in the Erith branch of Morrison's. I have complained on several occasions about the salad bar. There is nothing wrong with the quantity or quality of the salad on offer - quite the opposite - I find it to be of high quality. The problem I have is that the salad bar normally closes at or just after 8pm - a full two hours before the store closes, and it is impossible to purchase a salad from the bar after it has closed. I have mentioned this to Morrison's management before, but have had little in the way of a response. It appears to me that the salad bar is being run for the benefit of the staff that operate it, not for the benefit of the customers. Other supermarket chains do not close their salad bars hours before the main part of the store, so why should Morrison's do it? If you have any insight into these issues, please contact me, either by posting a comment below, or alternatively by Emailing me at

Some sad news for fans of stock car and banger racing along with other forms of amateur automotive competition such as speedway; the popular race track in Purfleet, Essex, just over the River Thames has announced that it will be shutting down. The Arena Essex Raceway issued an announcement last week which stated:- "Contending with our great British weather with the first two months of the season seeing both opening events for the Rolling Thunder Show and King of the Ring events being cancelled due to freezing weather conditions and our own season opener being held in minus 11 degrees followed by a cold and miserable Easter weekend didn’t make for a great start to the year. The Lakeside Hammers on a continuing downward spiral in terms of spectator support as well as having meetings cancelled not just due to weather conditions but ongoing issues with the BSPA to contend with also heavily impacted the Raceway’s income. The above along with the amount of investment needed to just maintain the stadium plus the continued increasing costs for compliance, insurance and health and safety has led to the Raceway no longer being financially sustainable and therefore with great sadness and a heavy heart we have to advise 2018 will be the last racing season for the Woodroffe family. The final event to be run bringing Arena Essex Raceway’s gates to a close will be on Sunday 4th November with the 27th Firecracker". I know that many race fans have made the trip over the Dartford River Crossing to The Arena Essex Raceway for many years, and it will be sad to see this long established venue closed for good. I understand that the site will be redeveloped as a new housing estate, as an extension to the already existing one nearby at Chafford Hundred.

Prior to the weekly local safety and security reports from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association, here is an alert from a member of a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme in Northumberland Heath:- "New scam going on in Northumberland Heath today (26th July) outside Tescos. The scammer managed to get my grandfather's bank card off of him. A man in a uniform approached my grandfather and told him that he needed a parking permit to park his mobility scooter on the forecourt of Tescos in Bexley Road and that this was a new thing only introduced on Monday. To pay for the ticket this man in uniform escorted him to the ATM and told him that is how you paid for the permit. My grandfather tried to use his card, but nothing happened and he couldn't get his card back. The man in uniform then said he was going to get his supervisor. My grandfather then went into Tescos, where he found out that there was no permit and when he got back to the machine the card had gone. Thankfully, we have managed to stop the transactions. Several had been made including one for £500 and a money transfer between his savings and current account". Now onto the reports from the wards. Firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Another excellent week for the ward with only one crime of note reported which was an attempted burglary in Parkside Avenue where between Wednesday 25th July from 1.30am to Friday 27th July - 6.20pm suspects have attempted to gain entry to a semi-detached property which is currently undergoing renovations and not occupied. The suspects described as “three skinheads” have tried to access the property by forcing the front and rear doors causing damage to the door and frames. The team held their first ward panel meeting this week after the boundary changes in May. There was an excellent turn out and it was a pleasure to meet the old Colyers Ward members who have moved over to Barnehurst. It's good to see so many residents who are passionate about the local area and try to make a difference A big thank you to Barnehurst ward Councillor Howard Jackson who also attended. Local issues were discussed & the ward priorities/promises were set. They are 1/ To prevent & reduce burglaries using various tactics focusing on crime prevention. 2/ to prevent & reduce motor vehicle crime. 3/ to prevent and reduce incidents of ASB. We have also launched our street a week campaign, we aim to visit all residents across the entire ward on a street by street basis making sure that a least one street a week minimum is visited, our aim is to meet as many residents as possible and make sure every household knows who their local officers are and how to contact them. Our next community contact session is at Barnehurst Golf Club on Wednesday 8th August at 1pm. Please pop along to meet the team and to discuss any local issues that may be of concern". Belvedere ward:- "The team are now getting reports that the same beggar that was in Nuxley Road is also attending ASDA, Lower Road. He is white, about 50 plus years old, white hair and white beard. If anyone is having issues with this male please get in contact with the team. We had a burglary at 31 The View on Saturday 28th, unknown time. If anyone saw anything or has any information please get in touch. We are having issues in Wilton Road with street drinkers. The issues are mainly happening on the Greenwich side near to the pub. If anyone know who these males are please let us know. On a lighter note we attended Court Lodge on 31st July and spoke to the residents about general safety and security. Biscuits were had by all! Our next drop in surgery will be on Wednesday 8th August at 14:00 outside The CO-OP". Bexleyheath ward:- "We are continuing high visibility patrols around Martens Grove and surrounding areas including the garages between Grove Road and Braeside Crescent as there has been previous reports of ASB issues. Car Park patrols are also included in the teams daily patrols to help deter the same sort of problem. The next contact session is at CafĂ© Nero Bexleyheath between 2pm and 3pm. We are very keen for more Neighbourhood Watches to be setup on our ward. If you do speak to others who do not have one set up on their street and are interested, please feel free to put them in contact with us and we can help them in setting one up. Please do follow us on Twitter and Facebook so we can keep you updated with contact points and what we do on a daily basis. If you wish to pass on information to Police then please feel free to contact Crime stoppers on 0800 555111". Erith ward:- "Crimes this week are down from last week which is good news. 26th July 2018 – Robbery James Watt Way at 1645Hrs Bike stolen; 26th July 2018 –Attempted Burglary – Alford Way between 1315-1450hrs –Tool marks to front door; 30th July 2018 – Theft of Motor vehicle – Rutland Gate between hours of 1900 – 1000hrs; 31st July 2018 – Criminal damage to motor vehicle – Viking Way – at 1030hrs; 1st August 2018 – Theft of pedal cycle – Outside Morrisons Erith – 1310 hours; 2nd August 2018 – Burglary – Thorne Close – Motorbike stolen – between hours of 1715 – 1805 hours. Extra patrols still happening on West Street to combat ASB issues". Northumberland Heath ward:- "One burglary this week in the early hours of Wednesday morning August 1st. The incident took place in Sussex Road Erith where the house and car keys were stolen. A silver Mercedes was stolen from the drive at the property. Please ensure all downstairs windows and doors are securely locked when retiring for the evening. On the evening of Thursday July 26th London Fire Brigade were called to a fire in Northumberland Park. Rubbish and a fence were set on fire, the fire was extinguished and no one was hurt. We have had reports of anti-social behaviour in one of the stairwells in Walsingham Walk which is a residential area for elderly residents. Youths have been gathering urinating and spitting in the bin chute area, and also outside a resident's flat. The staff from the library in Mill Road have reported an incident of anti- social behaviour where a group of Male youths were being rowdy and were eventually asked to leave. The CCTV following this has been viewed and we are working to identify the offenders. We have had two reports of anti-social behaviour in Dickens close over the last weekend. A group of youths with their faces hidden by Tee shirts, egged one property and threw apples at another in the area. One attempted theft of motor vehicle In Belmont Road on Thursday July 26th. The victim was in the process of selling his car when the suspect asked to test drive the vehicle. The suspect jumped in and tried to drive away at speed but the victim jumped on the car causing the suspect to stop and run away from the scene. One theft of number plates overnight on July 30th in Northumberland Close. Further details are not known. We have been made aware of a particularly unpleasant scam this week where an elderly gentleman was targeted . The incident took place at the Tesco Express store in Bexley Road on Thursday July 26th between 1pm – 2pm. The victim parked his mobility scooter outside the store and began shopping when he was approached by a male in what was believed to be a uniform, stating that he needed a permit to park his scooter outside the store and would be fined as a result of new parking regulations. The suspect accompanied the elderly gentleman to the cashpoint outside the store where a number of attempts were made to get cash out using the PIN without success. The male then told the gentleman he would go and get his supervisor to assist with the transaction. In the meantime, the card was swallowed by the ATM leaving the male confused and worried. A number of transactions were made from the account which involved a large amount of cash being transferred, thankfully the bank contacted the victim's daughter and the account was blocked. The next Coffee with cops event will be held on Friday August 10th between Noon - 1pm". Slade Green and North End ward:- "We have had another burglary in Manor Road. The victim was on holiday for 2 weeks and came home to find entry had been made via the back door and mainly jewellery was stolen. This happened just a few doors from the Erith Watch coordinators home and he is aware. Crime prevention leaflets have been delivered to neighbouring properties and the team have made a reassurance visit to the victim. Good news this week comes in the form of PC's Mark and James spotting a male with a motorbike in the field at Whitehall Lane. He ran away from them but they ran faster and he was caught and arrested after it was discovered that the bike was stolen. He was also further arrested for going equipped to steal. Once the forensic tests on the bike are completed the decision to charge will be made but this was a great way to show our zero tolerance to anyone riding bikes where they shouldn't and also to send a message to those out stealing bikes. Our next Community Contact Session is on Weds 14/08 from 12 midday at Slade Green Library. At Tuesday night's ward panel meeting, the ward promises chosen for the next 3 months are Shop Patrols, Traffic issues (Manor Road) and Patrols of Parks and Open Spaces. Due to various holidays being taken we are not a fully staffed team during August so only have 1 or 2 officers available from August 7th until around August the 29th so please bear with us if we are a bit slower to rely to any correspondence". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglaries - A parcel was stolen from the victim's post box in the communal area of a block of flats in Redbourne Drive. On Friday 27/07/18 at 12:00pm a property in Parkway was entered and money was taken. Crime prevention - With the warm weather that we are experiencing now, remember to Close windows, LIFT and LOCK doors when leaving the property even for a short time. Motor Vehicle Crimes - Between the hours of 12:00pm on Wednesday 25/07/18 and 08:00pm on Friday 27/07/18, a motor vehicle was damaged whilst parked in Redbourne Drive. Between the hours of 12:30 am 07:10 am on Sunday 29/07/18 a motor vehicle was stolen from Whernside Close. Between the hours of 11:00pm on Friday 27/07/18 and 07:00am on Saturday 28/07/18 a motor vehicle parked and locked was stolen from outside Muskovy House, Kale Road. A vehicle parked in Holstein Way, on Sunday 29/07/18 between 10:00pm and 12:00pm on Monday 30/07/18 was broken into. Crime prevention in motor vehicles - Coins for the car park, sunglasses or other items take them with you and it should go without saying that wallets, handbags, purses and credit cards should never be left in an unattended vehicle. Have a Say event - Wednesday 8th August between the hours of 1:00pm and 2:00pm, the team will be attending Lakeside Health Centre, Yarnton Way. An opportunity for members of the community who prefer face- to – face contact, to speak with a Dedicated Ward Officer. DON'T MAKE YOURSELF A TARGET FOR THIEVES ON BIKES - Criminals are using mopeds and cycles to snatch phones and valuables. They often ride up behind the victim and even mount the pavement to grab them. Don't text while walking as you'll be distracted. Go hands free or stand away from the roadside, near a wall, so no one can come up behind you. Make sure the security features on your phone are activated. Don't openly display high value watches and jewellery. Keep handbags fastened and close to you". West Heath ward:- "Unfortunately the ward has had a commercial robbery and 3 vehicle crimes over the last week. Happily though no reported burglaries. The robbery occurred at 8.50 in the evening on Sunday 29th July in the Cost Cut Stores, Hadlow Road. Two males entered the shop and took 3 bottles of wine and then tried to take cash from the till. The males were followed by the shop keeper and a member of the public and subsequently arrested by police at a nearby address. There was also an attempted theft of a van in The Pantiles in the early hours of Tuesday 31st July where 3 males on 2 motorbikes attempted to open the door of a work van. A car was stolen from outside an address in Gypsy Road sometime between midday and 6.30pm on Thursday 26th July and a car windscreen was smashed in Osborne Road on the evening of Saturday 28th July. We are making progress with getting our ward panel together and have had a very fruitful meeting with one of our NHW Coordinators. We have also had a meeting with L and Q about various ward issues. Our next community Contact Session will be in Abbotts Walk on Saturday 4th August from 12-1pm and we have planned two bike marking events for Saturday 18th August on the Pantiles at 2pm and in Stevens Park at 4pm".

Following on from the update from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association, and their warning about motorcycle and scooter based criminals, the video below is a BBC 4 documentary on Britain's most dangerous motorbike gangs - the documentary was shot in and around Thamesmead, which is regarded as the worst place in the UK for an infestation of the bike mounted criminal scumbags. Give it a watch, and please feel free to either leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

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