Following the very positive reception of the photograph of the sunset over the Thames at low tide last week, I have taken another sunset photo, but this time with the river at high tide - click on the photo above to see a larger version. I don't think enough people give credit to the natural beauty of the local river and the foreshore - especially when the weather is good, and the light really accentuating the stunning scenery. Erith has had a bad rap in some people's eyes for decades, which I feel is wholly unjustified. The town and surrounding areas have a lot to give, and the community spirit is very strong. It also does not escape me that you can buy a riverside apartment with a view exactly as you see in the photograph above for roughly a tenth of what you would pay for a similar apartment in somewhere like Putney.
Following my article on "The Internet of Things" last week, I have had a response from a long - time reader who wishes to remain anonymous. They write:- "I really do not want my personal security prejudiced by dodgy software set up by foreign multi-nationals! My late father-in-law, a Pole who spent most of his adult life in political exile in the UK and, was completely paranoid about people knowing his business (with some justification, as members of his family were regularly harassed and in a number of cases, imprisoned or sent to Siberia for many years, because of their anti-communist stance) and it has rubbed off on me. Anyway, why would I someone messing about with my energy systems etc? If someone were to hack into the system and maliciously turned off my heating in my absence, I would come back to frozen pipes and associated damage. It is time people woke up to the risks to their lives including their bank accounts (I refuse to do internet banking), homes and property and personal security. Who is daft enough to put their real birthday on Facebook or post holiday details for anyone to see? It is time to teach schoolchildren the risks even if adults ignore them". Some interesting and thought provoking points. What do you think? Please feel free to Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, one of London's largest pirate radio stations was raided and put off air. Dance music station Vision Radio - which professes to being an internet only station, but actually broadcasts on 87.5 FM, right at the bottom end of the FM broadcast band, was put off air last Tuesday. It did not come back on air until Friday evening. It broadcasts from somewhere in Romford. Radio regulator OFCOM has announced that in the last year it has carried out nearly four hundred raids on the sites of illegal transmitters. Nearly a quarter of the raids took place in Haringey, North London, while 90 resulted in equipment being seized. Lambeth, South London, was the next biggest offender, with more than fifty raids on suspected pirates this year. I must admit that my views on this have changed over the years; back in the late 1980’s when I was involved with Bexleyheath based pirate station Radio Lumberjack, there was very little to listen to on the FM bands, save the BBC and a handful of heavily regulated independent local stations. If you wanted to hear specialist music, there was very little option but to listen to one of the many pirates operating from in and around London. Radio was the only option; nowadays the web offers a means of transmission around the globe that back then the pirates could only dream of. With mobile apps available to enable streaming content to be sent to all manner of mobile devices – phone, tablet, smartwatch etc. The need to have a transmitter on the top of a tower block seems to be long gone. Back in the day we only had one option; nowadays the openings to get your message across are legion – and to be honest a lot more effective. Even a relatively powerful VHF broadcast band FM transmitter, well located high up on top of a block of flats is unlikely to have a range of more than fifteen to twenty miles at best. With an internet connection, you can “broadcast” to the world from your bedroom. Technology has in my opinion changed the nature of broadcasting, just as it has in many other areas. It is easy to romanticise the land based pirates of the 70's, 80’s and 90’s, but in reality lugging around car batteries, breaking into the lift motor room on top of a tower block and fitting antennas on the roof whilst keeping an eye out not just for the Police and the DTI, but potential rival station operators was really not much fun for the most part. In my opinion all that has now become redundant due to the new technology. There now is a true democratisation of broadcasting.
Another piece of local history that you may not be aware of; the invention of the car exhaust silencer and the firearms sound suppressor (often incorrectly referred to a silencer) were developed and manufactured locally. In 1902, the first successful, commercially available suppressor was invented by Hiram Percy Maxim. Maxim was an American inventor, graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim - inventor of the first portable, fully automatic machine gun: The Maxim Gun, which as I have previously written, was produced in Fraser Road, Erith, and later in Crayford. Hiram Maxim senior was born in the USA, but became a naturalised Briton, and worked in the local area for much of his life. Whilst the initial work by his son on the silencer was carried out in the Maxim companies Hartford, Connecticut design studios, much of the manufacturing was carried out in the Erith factory - mainly as Maxim Senior felt that the products could be marketed to various European defence agencies - always a man with his eye on maximising a profit. The Maxim Silencer, patented in 1909, was a tubular device attached to the barrel of a firearm which significantly reduced noise and muzzle flash when fired. It was regularly advertised in sporting goods catalogues where it was available for mail order, both in the USA and here at the time. The Maxim Silencer was marketed to all sportsmen and intended to enhance the shooting experience by reducing the risk of hearing damage and noise pollution. At the same time, silencers and mufflers for internal combustion engines were being created using the same noise reduction techniques. Maxim Junior took advantage of this and founded his own company, Maxim Silencers, Inc. in 1912. While the Maxim Silencer began Maxim’s success, his company still remains, over 100 years later, as a leader in motor vehicle exhaust, heat recovery, and emissions control silencers. It now no longer has any local connections, and operates exclusively out of the USA. More on Maxim in this week's end video later.
Problems with the drains outside of Erith Morrison's continue. Once again Thames Water have had vehicles on site to clear the ongoing blockages that have plagued the supermarket and its close neighbours for the past eight years. I think that only a complete rebuild of the underground drainage system will resolve this.
Not very long before the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect, I was using the pedestrian crossing on Queen's Road; the traffic had stopped for the red light, and I made my way across the busy main road. Once I had crossed, the lights stayed red for some time. An ambulance came round the De Luci fish roundabout and up Queen Street. The drivers of the cars stopped at the traffic lights looked confused – they wanted to move out of the way for the ambulance, but also did not want to jump a red light and most likely get caught on a traffic camera. If you get out of the way of an emergency service vehicle and run a red light, stray into a bus lane, or cross a hatched junction, whatever your good intentions, you could be liable to a £60 fine (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days). The fine in central London is over double this amount. The fines are levied by local councils, and the exact criteria do vary somewhat, but overall they would seem to be a very lucrative source of revenue for the local authorities. Recently the Daily Telegraph reported that a study by the AA showed that the level of fines levied on drivers who thought that they were doing the right thing in moving out of the way of emergency vehicles has now resulted in one in ten drivers would not enter a bus lane, or cross a red light in order to let a fire engine, Police car or ambulance through, even if the blue lights were flashing and the siren wailing. In London, with the virtual complete coverage of public spaces by CCTV, the figures were even more worrying; one in six drivers said that they would not give way to let an emergency vehicle through. Most drivers will still move aside to save a life, but in return local councils are dishing out fines to punish drivers trying to do good. A campaign called Blue Light Aware was launched some time ago to make motorists more conscious of the risks of interacting with emergency service vehicles on call. It makes clear the fact that “blue light” drivers have certain exemptions from the normal rules of the road that ordinary drivers don’t. They go onto explain that in most circumstances it is better to find their way around normal traffic, as they can traverse bus lanes and red traffic lights quite legally. It all sounds like a mess to me; one thing is for certain – the ordinary motorist is damned if they do, and damned if they don't move out of the way of a “blue light” responder. What do you think? Either leave a comment below, or Email me at email@example.com.
Twenty years ago last week, Microsoft released Windows 2000 in the UK. A rock-solid, 32-bit business-oriented alternative to Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition, it paved the way for future consumer versions, including Windows 10. If you used a PC in the late ’90s, you were quite familiar with the frequent crashes, lockups, and reboots that were common on MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95 / 98. The DOS-based PC ecosystem was a house of cards built on an ancient patchwork of code that ran on endless variations of hardware. As DOS-based Windows became more complex and feature-laden, more people began to rely on their PCs for serious work, and the instability issues came to a head. Windows 98 frequently required reboots and reinstallation to fix puzzling, recurrent issues with applications that conflicted with each other and the OS. Critics widely panned the utterly terrible Windows Me (released in September 2000), the last in the line of MS-DOS-based Windows, for being bloated and extremely unstable. Enter Windows 2000, which ran with rock-solid stability on the very same hardware most people used with Windows 98. At the time, being able to leave a computer running without it crashing, and not having to reboot after installing software seemed like a miracle. In fact, Microsoft included “Dramatically Reduced Reboot Scenarios” as one of the primary selling features of Windows 2000 on its website back in 2000. Although intended as a business desktop operating system, Windows 2000 Professional also found its way to many home PCs. This was due to both its reputation for stability and, of course, rampant piracy thanks to CD-R drives and the relative leniency of the serial-number-based copy protection Microsoft used at the time. Since it didn’t ship on consumer-level PCs, if you wanted it on a home machine, you either had to buy it or get a copy from someone who had a copy sitting around at work. After years of Windows 98 and Windows Me crashes, Windows 2000 was a revelation on consumer machines. Windows 2000 also served as an alternative to its successor, Windows XP, for several years. XP included some features that were controversial at the time. These included an Internet-based product activation system that complained if you changed your PC hardware such as changing your video or sound card, and a colorful new shell interface some derided as “Fisher-Price”. The more professional, grey appearance of Windows 2000 was preferable to some, and it could also run most XP programs just fine. Within Microsoft, Windows 2000 represented a crucial step for bringing the much more stable, technologically mature Windows NT platform to the masses. It proved that a technically advanced Windows OS could also have a consumer-friendly interface and multimedia-friendly features. Windows 2000 was an essential link in an unbroken chain that started with Windows NT 3.1 in 1993 and continues to this day with Windows 10.
Transport for London (TfL) have issued the following notice affecting the local area:- "Greenwich and Bexley – Until Saturday 26 June there will be various closures of the A102 and A2 each week night from 22:00 – 05:00. No works will take place at weekends and the Blackwall Tunnel will remain open. These are TfL works for essential maintenance. Please leave more time for your journey. London’s buses are returning to front-door boarding, with customers required to touch in with Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards on certain routes. We hope to have all London buses equipped with the necessary safety measures and ready for front-door boarding by the end of June. While we put these safety measures in place our buses will have varying boarding procedures depending on the route. If your bus only has a front set of doors, please continue to board and touch in via the front doors. Buses with middle doors will vary depending on the route. Please check before your journey and make sure you're aware of any new boarding procedures on your route. Once on board please follow the signs. To further ensure the safety of our customers and bus drivers, we will be introducing new limits to the number of passengers allowed on board at any one time. This will make it easier for customers to observe the national requirement of maintaining a 2 metre distance between them and people outside of their own household". Incidentally, in my experience on local buses (the 99 being a prime example) I would estimate that around a quarter of bus passengers are not wearing face masks as has been stipulated, and at the time of writing, nothing seems to be being done to stop this. What have your experiences of recent public transport been? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "There has been no reports of residential properties but there has been an attempted burglary reported along Grasmere Road Bexleyheath. Incident had taken place between 10.30pm on the Tuesday 15th June and about 6.35am on the Wednesday 16th June. It seems entry was tried via the front of the property and the victim had found their lock damaged". Belvedere ward:-"Last week, PCSO Worrall discovered a set of vehicle registration plates that had been discarded in Upper Abbey Road – directly next to the residents car park of flats 106 – 128. Subsequent checks revealed that these registration plates were from a vehicle that had been stolen from East London. The team have had reports of several youths gathering in Berkhampstead Road since the government restrictions eased. It appears that the groups have been gaining access to the communal areas of the flats and causing issues for residents. Thus far, our patrols have been unsuccessful in finding any groups in the area". Bexleyheath ward:-"There has been no reports of any burglaries or attempted burglaries on the ward over t he last week which is good news. On the Wednesday 10th June a theft from motor vehicle was reported. The catalytic converter was stolen from the vehicle between the hours of 9.30 am and about 12 midday on the 10th June along Gravel Hill Close Bexleyheath. We have received another report of a theft of a catalytic converter. This incident had happened on the Friday 12th June between 8am and 2pm along Bourne Road. A wallet was reported stolen to Police whilst at Goals Soccer Centre along Graham Road and cards were used to make transaction. This was reported on the Monday 15th June late evening. On the Monday 15th June there was a report of a theft from person along the Broadway and items taken from the victim, this incident took place on the Monday 15th June at about midday". Crayford ward:- "We are pleased to say there has been no burglaries or attempted burglaries on our ward over the last week. On the Wednesday 10th June outside Sainsbury's supermarket. Number plates were stolen from the victims vehicle between the hours of 5pm and 6pm. There was a report of a theft of moped at the rear of Crayford High Street, between the times of 5.30am and 9.30am. There was a report of a criminal damage to a motor vehicle along Marden Crescent. Suspect had damaged victims vehicle with scratches. This had taken place over night from the Saturday 13th June from about 5pm and about 9am the next day". Erith ward:-"Crimes of the last week, we have had 2 burglaries this last week further details below. Wednesday 17/06/2020 Burglary - St Fidelis Road, Yale lock broken off nothing stolen clothes pulled out of cupboards. Wednesday 17/06/2020 Theft from Motor Vehicle – Friday Road Items from the boot was taken. Monday 15/06/2020 Burglary – Larner Road - Door forced open no damage, clothing taken. Sunday 14/06/2020 Theft of Motor Vehicle – Victoria Road. Sunday 14/06/2020 Theft of Motor Vehicle – Bexley Road". Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward:-"A communal shed was broken in to in Rainbow Road around 1pm on Sunday June 15th. Nothing was taken from inside but a group were seen running away. The estate is slowly seeing an increase in ASB so if anyone sees anything going on at the location, please send the team an email with any details. The car park and garage areas of Dale View/Sun Court/Grange House have also had issues in recent weeks so again, if you see anything occurring there or have any information about any issues, please let us know. Stop and searches continue across the ward by Mark and James with one male found in possession of drugs in Frobisher Road. He is coming back for an interview next week. Mark and James do as much as they can, when they can and really do a lot of unseen work across the ward. So if you see them out and about, please ensure to say hello". Thamesmead East ward:- "No Burglaries to report this week. Motor vehicle crime - Glimpsing Green Sat 13/6/20 7:50am – 7:55am Suspect/s unknown have entered victims vehicle and removed items from within. The vehicle was left unlocked overnight. Other theft - Seacourt Road Tues 16/6/20 5:15pm – 5:45pm Whilst visiting a friend victim has left bag containing mobile phone, car keys, purse and baby clothes on the door step under a covered area (not an enclosed porch) victim returned 10 minutes later to discovered the bag missing. Criminal Damage - Aspen Green Sat 13/6/20 7pm – 7:15pm Victim reports eggs being thrown at front door between times stated no suspect/s seen". West Heath ward:- "No burglaries to report which is good news. One report of a wing mirror stolen from a vehicle parked in Lodge Hill on Tuesday 16/06/2020 between the hours of 07.15 – 08.30am. No other crimes of note to report. Stay safe". Report from a West Heath resident - "I just wondered if anyone else has mysteriously received a text message from their tv/broadband supplier stating that they were unable to take out this months subscription and adding a number to call to arrange payment. I have had two text messages from apparently Sky but didn't respond , the reason being that yes we have sky , but I'm not the subscriber nor is my account connected in any way to sky as someone else pays the bill via direct debit , so firstly I shouldn't of been contacted , and secondly the fact I was I believe this was a scam to try obtain bank details. Now I've looked up on Sky's own website about scams and it says that if someone had missed a payment they would send out a letter and never contact anyone by email or text message , so be aware because I suspect not just Sky customers are being sent these messages but other tv and broadband customers too".
The end video this week features an excerpt from a dramatised documentary on Sir Hiram Maxim and his invention of the first fully automatic machine gun. The short film has a few inaccuracies in it - the principal one being that the actor portraying Maxim is seen smoking. Maxim was a famous anti smoker, having suffered from Asthma for much of his life; in fact he invented a menthol inhaler to help others with debilitating respiratory conditions. The inhaler, known as the ‘Pipe of Peace’. It was used to treat throat and chest problems such as bronchitis. Soothing vapours from water warmed with a few drops of 'Dirigo', made from Maxim’s own recipe, which consisted of a mixture of liquid menthol and wintergreen oil, could be delivered right to the back of the throat via a long, swan-necked glass tube. The drug was made by John Morgan Richards and Sons Ltd. As word of the effectiveness of Maxim’s invention spread, demand grew and eventually hundreds of thousands were sold in the early 1900s. Hiram Maxim was an excellent inventor, engineer and very canny businessman. He realised that his main product - the Maxim machine gun was a weapon of war, and was giving him a negative public image; by diversifying into medicines, this would contribute to a far pleasanter and more positive personal reputation.