Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Carnegie Ensemble.

The two photos above (click on either for a larger view) were taken by me yesterday afternoon. The Exchange hosted a concert by the newly formed Carnegie Ensemble, which consists of six members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. They performed Brahms' string Sextet Op.18 and Dvorak’s Double-bass quintet Op.77 in the Carnegie Hall at The Exchange in Erith. As an encore they played a short piece by local Erith composer Percy Hilder Miles (1878-1922). The members of the ensemble are:- Anna Smith and Lucy Curnow (violins), Philip Hall and Peter Mallinson (violas), Michael Atkinson and Colin Alexander (cellos), and Beverley Jones (double bass). All proceeds from the concert are going towards the repair and renewal of Erith’s old library. As you can see from the photos above, classical concerts in the old library main hall are incredibly popular, and very well attended. The acoustics in the large space are very well suited to a string sextet, there certainly were no problems with hearing every nuance of the performance from any part of the auditorium space. 

Lidl have not given up on their project to build one of their discount supermarkets in Fraser Road, Erith. They were refused planning permission for the new store a while back by Bexley Council. In the last few days, a public campaign has been launched to try and persuade the council to change their mind. Lidl propose the demolition of the Atlas Trade Park in Fraser Road, and construction of a standalone Lidl food store with associated car parking. Provision of a brand new discount food store (1,375m2 sales area, 806m2 of ancillary space) with 91 free car parking bays of which 2 would be for electric vehicles, 6 would be disabled spaces and 8 parent and child spaces. Residents in Erith, Lower Belvedere and Northumberland Heath have received a personalised leaflet through their doors over the last few days. The leaflet urges locals to contact their local councillor to demand that planning permission be granted for the new store. Personally I cannot understand why Bexley Council declined the planning permission; Erith is dominated by Morrison's supermarket - there is no realistic competition - I don't feel that Farm Foods or Iceland offer anything like the full range of goods that Morrison's does. On top of this, the Erith Quarry housing development - next door to the proposed Lidl site will shortly be opening, with over four hundred new houses and apartments. This equates to roughly a thousand new people coming to live in the area. over the next year. Lidl carried out a survey of local residents; the results were overwhelmingly positive. A total of 1,366 people responded to the survey, of which 1,276 local residents supported the construction of a new Lidl store on the Atlas trading estate site. That is a majority of 93.6 percent. If the store does go ahead, it will employ 40 local people; I am led to understand that priority will be given to people who are employed by the outlets currently on the site. You can read more about the proposed new store by clicking here.  What do you think? Email me at

If you own a mobile smartphone, it will almost certainly use either Apple's iOS operating system, or Google's Android operating system. What many people are unaware of, is that these two competing operating systems are both based on the same foundations. You may think that your phone is state of the art, and a very high tech piece of kit, but the base software that runs it is actually fifty years old this week. Both iOS and Android are based on the venerable Unix operating system, which was released fifty years ago this week. The Unix project was initially an unapproved spin - off of an unsuccessful operating system called Multics. Unix and Multics were products of Bell Labs - part of AT and T, the gigantic American phone company. The burgeoning development team happened to be in precisely the right environment for Unix to flourish. Bell Labs, which was funded by a portion of the monthly revenue from nearly every phone line in the United States, was not like other workplaces. Keeping a handful of programmers squirrelled away on the top floor of the research and development complex was not going to bankrupt the company. Leaders of the Unix project were two programmers - Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. During the summer of 1969, Thompson, Ritchie, and their ostensible supervisor Rudd Canaday hashed out the basics of a file manager that would run on a PDP-7 mini computer that they had "borrowed" from Bell Labs acoustics department. This was no simple task. Batch computing—running programs one after the other—rarely required that a computer be able to permanently store information, and many mainframes did not have any permanent storage device (whether a tape or a hard disk) attached to them. But the time-sharing, multi user environment that these programmers had fallen in love with required attached storage. And with multiple users connected to the same computer at the same time, the file manager had to be written well enough to keep one user’s files from being written over another user’s. When a file was read, the output from that file had to be sent to the user that was opening it. Eventually when they had the file management system more or less fleshed out conceptually, it came time to actually write the code. The trio—all of whom had terrible handwriting—decided to use the Labs’ dictating service. One of them called up a lab extension and dictated the entire code base into a tape recorder. And thus, some unidentified clerical worker or workers soon had the unenviable task of trying to convert that into a typewritten document. Of course, it was done imperfectly. Among various errors, “inode” came back as “eye node,” but the output was still viewed as a decided improvement over their assorted scribbles. The PDP-7 didn’t have a tape drive or a hard drive at the time—the system was “booted” by feeding a punched paper tape into it. Without an attached drive, the file system they had worked so hard on had to wait. At least they had a functioning multi-user time-sharing environment to play around with. Still, the team felt this was an accomplishment and christened their operating system “UNICS,” short for UNIplexed Information and Computing System. Eventually, word leaked out about this operating system, and businesses and institutions began contacting Bell Labs about their new operating system. The Labs made it available for free—requesting only the cost of postage and media from anyone who wanted a copy. By this time the operating system name had been changed to Unix. The rest has quite literally made tech history. By the late 1970s, a copy of the operating system found its way out to the University of California at Berkeley, and in the early 1980s, programmers there adapted it to run on PCs. Their version of Unix, the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), was picked up by developers at NeXT, the company Steve Jobs founded after leaving Apple in 1985. When Apple purchased NeXT in 1996, BSD became the starting point for Apple OS X and iOS. The free distribution of Unix stopped in 1984, when the government broke up AT and T and an earlier settlement agreement that prohibited the company from profiting off many Bell Labs inventions expired. The Unix community had become accustomed to free software, however, so upon learning that AT and T would soon be charging for all copies of Unix and would prohibit alterations to the source code, programmer Richard Stallman and others set about re-creating Unix using software that would be distributed to anyone free of charge—with no restrictions on modification. They called their project “GNU,” short for “GNU’s Not Unix.” In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a university student in Helsinki, Finland, used several of the GNU tools to write an operating system kernel that would run on PCs. And his software, eventually called Linux, became the basis of the Android operating system in 2004. So if you have an Android or iPhone, you are actually using something based on Unix - the best operating system that many people have not heard about.

Barnehurst has played an important part in British musical history; the pub The Red Barn (photo above - click on it to see  a larger version), next to Barnehurst station was the home to the resurgence of Traditional Jazz music in the 1950's and early 1960's. Trombonist Chris Barber, now 86, is the last big-name trad jazz survivor and on the 9th of September the current incarnation of his group will play a celebratory concert in London to mark his 67th year as a bandleader. Barber regularly played at The Red Barn. The pub was built back in 1936 and was home to local jazz band the 'George Webb Dixielanders'. George Webb, a worker at nearby Vickers, formed the band with his friends in 1944 and performed regularly at The Red Barn on Monday evenings. The pub is celebrated as the home of the revival of traditional jazz in Britain and jazz legend George Melly unveiled a plaque on 4th July 1985 to commemorate this. The pub still has the plaque and photographs of this event on display. His source material, like the Yerba Buena's were the early recordings of Oliver, Morton and Armstrong. The Dixielanders made some recordings for Decca as well as sessions for the small Jazz label. Trumpeter, Humphrey Lyttelton joined the band and assumed leadership. In 1949, the band made some historical recordings with Sidney Bechet. The Lyttelton band went on to record many sessions for the Parlophone label, eventually landing a top twenty hit with Bad Penny Blues. Incidentally, back in the 90's, I used on occasion to see George Melly at Charing Cross station, where he was probably waiting for a train to his home in Blackheath. I used to think his outrageous, lurid suits were part of his stage attire; this was not the case – he really wore them in public! You really could not miss him, even in a crowd of people. The Big Chris Barber Band is performing at the Cadogan Hall, London, on the 9th of September. More on this later.

Bexley Council have released details of the survey of local residents that was undertaken recently by consultancy company Groundwork, who the Council commissioned to run the community design process. The results of the survey, and the idea forum have been published:- "Four themes dominated the feedback – The River Thames; Play; Attractions and identity of the park; History and heritage. People said that the river is an untapped resource for the gardens and that stronger connections need to be made between the gardens and the river. Their ideas were mostly around improving views of the river, designing a better viewing platform and creating better access to the gardens from the riverside walk. There were lots of imaginative suggestions from children and adults on how to incorporate play into the gardens. Local people said they wanted to visit Riverside Gardens, but don’t feel inspired to use the space. They suggested considering events and activities in the design, as well as ways to make the space more attractive and inspiring. The Riverside Gardens and Erith have a rich history and heritage. There were lots of ideas on how this could be incorporated into the gardens, through creative sculptures and artwork, new signage and historically themed planting. The next stages in the rejuvenation of Riverside Gardens will be to employ a landscape architect with a brief based on feedback from the local community. There will be more engagement activities in September to get feedback from local people on the design of the park. There are also plans for a summer activity programme to trial some of the new ideas. To stay informed about the next stages keep an eye on or follow Greater Erith on Facebook and Twitter.  Work has also started on detailed designs for Pier Square following public feedback. The aim is to transform this area at the entrance to Erith Pier. Work is expected to begin later in the year. These improvements build on previous regeneration work funded by the London Borough of Bexley and follow the Council’s successful bid for a further £1.6m from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund through the ‘Greater Erith Programme’".

The photo above (click on it for a larger view) was taken on Thursday evening at The Erith Think Tank meeting, held in the Conversation Room in the old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. Subjects discussed included the group's plans for the Erith Pier Festival on the 21st September - and there are a couple of surprises planned! Other subjects included the forthcoming presentation and consultation meeting with a couple of Bexley Councillors, which is to take place on October the 10th. Another subject was discussed, and it became apparent that Think Tank members had divided opinions on the matter; there is some controversy regarding the proposed West Street housing development:- that is, the Chichester Wharf development on the old public park space in West Street. it is the last piece of green land in West Street. The council proposal is to build 31 flats with only 17 parking spaces on the piece of parkland. There are already severe parking restrictions in West Street. All flats are to be commercially sold only - no social rent - the plot is regarded as too small to include any flats for affordable rent or part rent / part buy. Provision of a GP surgery has been urged. Several members of The Erith Think Tank objected to the development in principle, that the park should be left as green space. Developer (Bexley Co.) is requested to state how the money they make on the development will be reinvested in the local area. The lack of green spaces affect local residents physical and mental health challenges. What do you think about the proposed development? Email me at

Bearing in mind Erith is very much a maritime town, the River Thames does not really get the exposure or use one would expect. Historically Erith was an important port outside of London. Many ships which were too large to make it into the Port of London were unloaded at Erith, with their cargoes being taken further up river by Thames sailing barges. This was before the river was fully dredged and managed as it is nowadays. Today one can watch huge container and bulk carrier ships passing Erith river front on a daily basis; the best time to see ship movements is at or around the changing of the tide.  Some of the small and medium sized vessels can often be seen moored on Erith Pier as well. Until 2013, there used to be an annual Thames Sailing Barge race on the River Thames. The race ended on its 150th anniversary. The race was the brainchild of a man who was nick named “The Golden Dustman”. His real name was Henry Dodd. He was born in 1801 into a very poor family; his first job was as a plough boy in arable fields that were within view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which he did until he was in his early thirties, when he found employment as a “scavenger” – a sort of prototype recycling consultant. He soon discovered that the big money was in transporting waste, rather than actually sorting it. London was rapidly growing in size, and the population was booming. As the number of people in the capital increased, the amount of rubbish they generated went up. Dodd saw this as a very lucrative business opportunity, so instead of using slow and somewhat unreliable horses and carts to haul rubbish, he first hired, then purchased a fleet of sailing barges, which could transport far greater cargoes at a higher speed than any contemporary road solution. Most of the waste material Dodd was transporting was burned outside the capital, and the resulting ash was a vital ingredient in making bricks, which in turn were used to build the expansion of London. Never one to overlook a business opening, Dodd invested in several brickworks, including a very large site on what is now Manor Road in Erith. Nowadays, this kind of end to end ownership of all stages in a manufacturing process is known as “vertical integration” and Henry Dodd was a pioneer of it. All this made Dodd incredibly wealthy; he was one of the richest commoners in England, right at the start of the then new middle class. Dodd’s money bought him a degree of respectability in Victorian society (though I am sure there were whispers behind his back – though after having been brought up in the environment he had, I somewhat doubt if this bothered him). Dodd became a very enthusiastic patron of the theatre, and through this mutual interest he became very good friends with Charles Dickens. Dickens scholars believe that Dodd was the inspiration for the character of Mr. Boffin, the millionaire dustman who appears in the novel “Our Mutual Friend”. Dodd invested a large amount of money in sailing barges, and soon discovered that there was an intense rivalry between barge skippers. Never one to miss a main chance, he decided that in 1863 he would stage a sailing barge race – for entertainment, but also as a means to improve the business. The first race was only for his own sailing barges, and was run from Erith to Canvey Island and back, with the first barge and skipper to make the round trip being awarded a generous cash purse, which was awarded under the auspices of the Prince of Wales Yacht Club. Many in society assumed that the event had Royal patronage (something that Dodd did little to discourage), but in fact it was named after an Erith pub! In 1864 the race was opened to all comers, and after a while it became such a big event the running of it was passed over to a committee of barge owners. Within ten years, specially built racing barges were being constructed purely to try and win the race. Passenger steamers would be chartered to follow the racing barges on their course, and records show that over 10,000 people watched the race from on board these steamers. Henry Dodd, the “Golden Dustman” died in 1881; he left a fund to sustain the match – an eye watering sum of £100,000, which today is equivalent to tens of millions of pounds. In the latter years of the 19th century, the event was covered by Charles’ Dickens son (who confusingly was also called Charles) in his annual gazetteer. For the Centenary Match raced in 1963, the two principle rivals in Britain’s coasting trade, F T Everard and The London and The Rochester Trading Co. lavished money on their fastest barges in an attempt to ensure success for craft which were, by that time, an anachronism in transportation terms. The 48 mile course was from Mucking to the Mouse Lightship, and then back up to Gravesend. F T Everard’s Veronica was the winner, leaving the rest far behind in her wake. The 150th Anniversary Match on Saturday 13th July 2013, had the contest finishing at Erith for the first time since 1894. Not only was this spectacle thought to be the second oldest sailing contest in the world after the America’s Cup, unlike the America’s Cup of 1851, it was still sailed in craft virtually unchanged since those times, and as such was in itself an especially important part of this nation’s maritime heritage.

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Despite that we have had an attempted burglary in Pennine Way where the suspect was seen scaling the side wall of the garden and was confronted by the householder. The suspect pushed past the victim and fled via the rear gate before leaving in a silver blue Peugeot. There was also two theft from motor vehicles overnight of Friday 30th August, one in Downbank Avenue and one in Barnehurst Road. In both cases there was no damage to the vehicles and there was an untidy search of glove boxes etc with cash and cards taken. The next community contact session will be held at Barnehurst Golf Course at 11 am on Tuesday September 10th". Belvedere ward:- "The team have been informed of suspected drug use taking place in Wadeville Close. Thus far we have not witnessed anyone partaking in such activity at the location – our patrols will continue. We have also had reports of several people gathering at the bench area opposite of Sainsburys in Nuxley Road to drink alcohol. Whilst this is not an alcohol controlled zone, those gathering are becoming rowdy and appear intimidating to members of the public. Once again, we have not witnessed this behaviour however we will continue to patrol this area; Issues on Essenden Road involving a white transit van and two mopeds have been reported to us. It is suspected that drugs are being dealt by either the van occupants or the mopeds. No particular times or days this happens. If anything suspicious is seen please report to us; Overnight from the Friday 23rd to Saturday 24th of August there was an attempted burglary at 67 Gertrude Road in which entry was not gained to the property. The resident of the address discovered that a pane of glass in his conservatory had been shattered during the night. This occurred between 7.30pm and 10 am; At 02.30 am on Wednesday 28th August there was a black Land Rover stolen from the front driveway of 95 Woolwich Road. It appears that someone was using a device of some kind to unlock the vehicle as it was opened without keys; There was a residential burglary at 22 Stapley Road on Sunday 25th August between 5pm and 5.15pm. Residents of the address were asleep in the living room when access was gained by someone climbing a wall into the rear garden and entering via the rear patio door. A wallet was stolen before the suspect was disturbed and left the venue".

Bexleyheath ward:- "There has been no reports of any Burglaries or attempted Burglaries on the ward. There was a report of theft from motor vehicle along Oakland's Close Bexleyheath. This was reported on Sunday 01/09/2019 and the incident had happened overnight. Also on the same day there was another report of a theft from motor vehicle reported by Christchurch Broadway; On Sunday 01/09/2019 – There was a report of a theft of motor vehicle at one of the car parks on the Broadway; A purse was reported stolen in W H Smiths along the Broadway. The incident happened on Monday 02/09/2019, the victim had been distracted; On Saturday 31/08/2019 a mobile phone was reported stolen whilst victim was in the M and S Store in Bexleyheath. Last Monday a resident was assaulted along Iris Avenue by two youths and the team are currently investigation the incident". Crayford ward:- "Crime in Crayford this week has once again been mainly motor vehicle related. On Wednesday 21st August between 11:00 and 11:15 the window and driver's window was smashed on a Vauxhall Vectra whilst parked in Old Road. There were three reports of criminal damage to motor vehicles in Crayford Way on Wednesday 28th August at approx. 23.20, wing mirrors were damaged and kicked off. The suspects were seen to be two white males, no further details known.  A Honda Jazz had the catalytic convertor stolen whilst parked at Hall Place car park on 29th August between 13:25 and 16:00. It does seem that Japanese vehicles are being targeted locally. On 29th August between 13:00 and 13:15 two blood pressures monitors were stolen from the pharmacy in Station Road. Two males described as white and aged 17-18 years entered the shop, one stole the monitors whilst the other kept the assistant busy. There will be no community contact session next week; the next will be held at Vintage Lindy Lou's on Wednesday 18th September between 16.00 and 17.00, please come along if there is anything you would like to discuss with me in person". Erith ward:- "Over the last week we haven't had any burglaries on Erith which is good news. However we have been hit with yet again a lot of theft from motor vehicles, these range from the following: Stolen Satellite navigator from a delivery driver, Tools taken from the back of a van and Items taken from the glove box. Please do not leave items in your vehicles overnight is the best advice we can give. Crimes from the week - Theft from MV Wednesday 28/08/2019, Erith High Street; Theft from Motor Vehicle Thursday 29/08/2019 10:30:00 Saltford Close; Theft from Motor Vehicle Wednesday 28/08/2019 17:00:00 West Street; Theft from MV Sunday 01/09/2019 15:00:00 Tower Road; Theft from Motor Vehicle Monday 02/09/2019 19:00:00 West Street. Community Contact Session: in Erith; Wednesday 11/09/19 Costa Coffee 1pm; Friday 13/09/19 Erith Library 11am". Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week.

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Two burglaries to report in the last week. On Wednesday 28/08/2019 between 9am and 4pm, a bag of birthday presents and £1000 in Euros were taken from an address in Northend Road. Then at around 5am on Friday 31/08/2019 keys were taken from a house in Lincoln Road and the car stolen. In both incidents the suspect(s) gained entry through an open downstairs window. Please please check your windows are shut before going out and if you are home, do not leave any windows open in a room you aren't using. A stolen van was found by PC James and PCSO Mark in Frobisher Road last Friday. This was recovered and sent for forensics (image above). Rainbow Road has a new Neighbourhood Watch scheme being run by four new coordinators spread out across the estate. I am meeting three of them this coming Thursday evening just as an introduction between them and our local team. If you would like to have a catch up with the team, please let us know and we can arrange a date and time that suits everyone". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglary - Tuesday 3/9/19 5am-8am Lensbury Way - The reverend at Church of the Cross Church states that the building was hired out on Monday 02/09/2019 after the event the church was locked and the keys placed in a the external metal post box. Suspect/s have broken into the post box and taken the church keys from inside and unlocked the front main doors of the church. On entering the church suspect/s have entered the two side rooms and broken into several cupboards, however nothing appears to have been taken. Tuesday 3/9/19 9pm - 8am Eastgate Close Victim reports suspect has broken padlock from rear garden gate and entered the vacant property via ground floor window. There is evidence of suspect sleeping over night as a sleeping bag and pillow was left behind in the property. Nothing taken. Vehicle crime - Sunday 25/8/19 8pm-945am Seacourt Road Victim reports driver's side window smashed. Victims neighbour saw the suspect. A male wearing black clothing on a scooter; Wednesday 28/8/19 Wolvercote Road between 12–1:37pm Victims car window smashed nothing taken; Thursday 29/08/19 Holstein Way 11am-11:30am Victims Catalytic converter removed from Toyota Auris by suspect/s unknown. Friday 30/8/19 – Monday 1/9/19 Thamesbank Place - Victims front and rear number plates removed by suspect/s unknown; Saturday 31/8/19 Eastgate Close between 12-11:30pm - Victim had parked vehicle in a private car park which is situated under the building. When victim returned home both front and rear number plates had been removed; Saturday 31/08/19 Wolvercote Road between 1pm–11:30pm - Victim reports vehicle had been broken into and spare tyre removed by suspect/s unknown; Sunday 1/9/19 Kale Road between 8pm-5am - Victims passenger front window smashed by suspect/s unknown nothing taken. Criminal Damage - Thursday 27/08/29 8:30pm Redpoll Way, victim was in her living room when victim heard a smash. One large window pane had been smashed. Victim did not see any suspects and is unaware of what caused it". West Heath ward:- "Another quiet week on the ward, no reported burglaries. Two motor vehicle crimes of note. Theft of a Land Rover in Knowle Avenue Between Tuesday August 27th 11:30 pm and 8 am on Wednesday 28th. The vehicle was stolen opposite the victim's address. A vehicle was broken in to in Exmouth Road between Monday September 2nd between 23:30 pm and 05:30 am on Tuesday September 3rd. It is not clear at this stage. For motor vehicle crime prevention advice please visit the Met Police website.  The next drop in police surgery will be held in the Bostall Library in King Harolds Way on Thursday September 12th between 4 pm and 5 pm".

The end video this week links in with one of my earlier stories concerning The Red Barn pub in Barnehurst, that was the venue most closely associated with the resurgence in the interest in Trad Jazz in the 1950's and early 1960's. One of the bands that used to play in the pub was the Chris Barber Big Band, who are still going to this day, and are performing at the Cadogan Hall tomorrow evening. The video below shows them performing live last year. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

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