Sunday, July 05, 2020

Barnehurst rumours.

The photo above shows the town houses and apartments facing the River Thames and opposite Erith Pier. The development in Wharfside Close, Erith offers stunning views of the Thames, and also over to Essex on the opposite river bank. Considering the premier location of the houses and apartments, and the proximity to Erith Town Centre, the development is not nearly so pricey as one might expect. A two bedroomed apartment retails for around £250,000, and a three bed town house goes for in the region of £325,000. As I have previously mentioned, if these residences were located in another riverside location such as Putney, they would sell for around ten times the amount. Erith really does offer very good value for money when compared with similar riverside locations. What do you think? Drop me a line to

There have been some malicious rumours floating about on Facebook over the last couple of weeks regarding Barnehurst Golf Club. The unsubstantiated rumours say that the club will not be re-opening after the Covid-19 lockdown, and that the land is to be sold off for housing. I have it on excellent authority that this is absolutely untrue. It sounds like someone who has an issue with the golf club has started the rumour to try and harm the long established golf club - which was the first in the UK to admit women. Barnehurst Golf Club is absolutely not being redeveloped into housing - despite what has been posted on Facebook. 

Do you recall the Vidor brand of portable radios and batteries? They used to be sold all over the place, especially in shops such as Woolworths. The batteries were cheaper than Ever Ready or Duracell, and very popular, if not so long lasting. The brand Vidor was based in Erith, and they produced a range of consumer electronics in the years after the war; their battery production facilities were located in South Shields and Dundee, whilst their television and radio factory was in St Fidelis Road, off West Street, Erith. In 1934 T. N. Cole, managing director of the Lissen battery company, left that company sometime after it had been taken over by Ever-Ready; he purchased the Burndept radio company and set up the Vidor battery company, in direct competition with Lissen/Ever-Ready. Vidor's name came from the initials of Thomas's two daughters, Valerie and Denise, and his wife Rebecca. As a concession to Ever Ready and his agreement with the company, he did not run Burndept and Vidor himself, but employed Mr. R.P. Richardson as Managing Director. In 1935 Thomas brought an action appealing against the agreement with Ever Ready. An out of court settlement was made and from that time on, relations between Ever Ready and Vidor were strained, not helped by popularity of Vidor batteries with radio dealers because of their competitive prices, which were around twenty five percent cheaper than their rivals. In 1939 a Vidor portable radio shown at National Radio Exhibition. After World War II, between 1947 - 1958 Various models of radio were manufactured - you can see a video featuring the Vidor "My Lady Margaret" valve portable radio set by clicking here. The company appears to have been absorbed into several others in the late 60's / early 70's, and the battery making part of the business was sold to an Argentinian company, who as far as I can ascertain, still own the brand. 

Whilst carrying out some historical research on the Vidor article above for this edition of the Maggot Sandwich, I came across a story that sounded so over the top and outrageous that it had to be fiction; further investigation proved that in fact it was all completely true. The following account is a precis of the official account which was released by the CIA historical research some time ago. Some details are still redacted, even though the events took place just over sixty years ago. On January 2, 1959, the Soviet Union kicked off its Luna programme, sometimes called Lunik by the Western media, with the launch of Luna 1. This first spacecraft missed the Moon, but the next hit the target and became the first spacecraft to impact the lunar surface in September of that year. A month later on October 7, Luna 3 returned history's first ever pictures of the Moon’s far side. It was a stunning year for the Soviets on the Moon, one in which the United States only racked up a handful of failed lunar missions. The effect, aside from a blow to U.S national morale, was a devastating effect on the American psyche. However exciting these missions were to space fans, they brought with them the terrifying reality that the enemy had bigger boosters and more advanced technology. The disparity between American technology and the perceived Soviet power led to an intelligence programme run by the CIA. By studying Soviet spacecraft and space missions, the agency hoped to not only anticipate launches and their impact on the public but also to adjust American launch schedules to better keep pace with the enemy. Even educated guesses about Soviets plans would help the United States know where to concentrate its efforts to hopefully overtake the Soviet Union in space. It would be useful for the US armed forces to have a handle on Soviet hardware to know what might give way to an offensive military spinoff. And this intelligence would also help American leaders be better prepared to respond to a new Soviet threat should one arise. Sometime between the end of 1959 and 1960, the Soviet Union toured several countries with an exhibit of its industrial and economic achievements. Among the artifacts were a Sputnik and a Lunik upper stage that contained the payload, the latter freshly painted with viewing windows cut into the nose. At first, many in the CIA assumed the touring Lunik was just a model, but some analysts suspected that the Soviets might be sufficiently proud of the spacecraft to bring a real one on the tour. These suspicions were confirmed when CIA intelligence agents managed to gain unrestricted access to the spacecraft one night after the exhibit closed. They realised it wasn’t a model. It was a real production article. The agents gleaned what they could in 24 hours but desperately wanted a better look. They wanted to get inside the Lunik.  This was easier said than done. The Lunik was heavily guarded, usually with a constant garrison so examining it before or after the exhibit closed was ruled out. But the Lunik did move around, which meant that it could be "borrowed" during the transport chain if there was a weak link. And there was. The spacecraft, as well as every other piece of the exhibit, was transported in a crate by a truck to a rail yard where it was loaded onto a train and moved to the next city. At the rail yard, a guard took note of each incoming crate. What this guard didn't have was a list of cargo and and expected delivery time for each crate. The CIA hatched a plan to steal the Lunik for a night and get it to the train station by morning for its journey to the next city. Finally the night came when the team of CIA agents put their plan into action. They arranged for the Lunik to be the last truckload carried out of the exhibit hall. It did, and trailing it were the CIA agents in plain clothes, disguised as locals looking out for an expected Soviet escort. But more Soviet guards never materialised. With the coast clear, the CIA stopped the truck at the last turn off before the train station, escorted the driver to a hotel, covered the truck with a tarpaulin, then drove it to a nearby salvage yard that was selected for the night because of its surrounding ten-foot tall walls. At the rail yard, the guard took stock of the incoming crates and left to go home when he assumed the last had arrived. More CIA agents tailed him for the night to make sure he didn’t go back to work early. Back at the salvage yard, the CIA team backed the truck into a narrow alley, closed a gate, then froze. They waited anxiously for a full half hour to be sure they hadn't been followed. Confident they hadn't been seen, they finally turned their attention to their charge. They had studied the crate and knew the sides were bolted together from the inside making the roof their only access point. Two men set to work removing the roof without leaving any marks on the wooden planks -- luckily the crate had been opened so many times the planks were already a little worse for wear -- while the other two prepared the photographic equipment. With the roof removed, the men saw that the Lunik took up almost the full space of the crate; they wouldn’t be able to walk from one end to the other. So they divided and conquered, two men working on the nose and two on the tail end. They descended in socks by rope ladders and started dismantling the Lunik by torchlight. They took a full roll of film of the marks on the spacecraft’s antenna and sent it out for processing the make sure the cameras were working. Happily, word came back the pictures were perfectly clear. The men at the tail end removed the base cap to study the engine area. Though the engine was gone, the mounting brackets, fuel tank, and oxidiser tank were still in place, giving the experts a sense of how big and powerful the engine was. At the nose end, the men discovered that a rod ran though the spacecraft to support the centrally loaded payload fixed in place at the front by a four-way electrical outlet acting as a nut screwed into the rod. This was covered by a piece of plastic with a Soviet seal. It was their only way in, but if the seal was missing the Soviet guards would know someone had tampered with the spacecraft. Refusing to be stymied by a piece of plastic, they checked with CIA personnel offsite that the seal could be duplicated in time to replace it. Their offsite colleagues said yes, giving them clearance to cut it off. The seal was sent out for duplication while the men began exploring Lunik’s insides. The small team worked through the night. As sunrise approached they began putting the Lunik back together, careful to leave no traces of tampering. They affixed the fake seal, put the cover back on the crate, and loaded the whole thing back onto the truck. The original driver was back at the helm by 5 o’clock in the morning and the truck was waiting at the rail yard for the guard when he came back to work at 7 o’clock in the morning. He unquestioningly added it to his list, and the Lunik went onto its next city with the rest of the exhibit. The CIA’s intimate look into the Lunik’s construction ultimately played a fairly important role. Knowing Lunik's dry weight and true size allowed experts to determine its wet weight, which was invaluable for the agents who tracking subsequent launches. With this major variable known, experts could extrapolate the true power of the booster that launched this spacecraft. And this in turn allowed Americans experts to work backwards to determine the Soviets’ true capability with their existing hardware, and more importantly determine the payload limits of their existing technology. Kidnapping the Lunik helped the United States determine what the Soviets couldn't do without a massive technological breakthrough, information that helped the national leadership and heads at NASA set goals and shape timelines that would help the Americans match and ultimately overtake the Soviet Union in space. Definitely a story of its time; I am just astounded that the Soviets did not realise that their prized spacecraft had been kidnapped. A definite case of truth proving to be far stranger than any fiction. Comments and feedback to me at

As we enter a new phase in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, some businesses are now able to open up after the strict lock down. I hope over the next few weeks to give a platform to a number of local businesses that are now able to return to trading, albeit with some restrictions on their activities. This week I am featuring an article by guest writer Nick Hair, the landlord of The Kentish Belle Micropub, located in Pickford Lane, almost next door to Bexleyheath railway station. Nick writes:- "The Kentish Belle, not only a Micropub but also a keen supporter of Welling United as real ale suppliers, has had quite the 2020 so far. Coronavirus is the main thing on everyone’s tongues, and so, after a period of just over 100 days, it is extremely refreshing to be ready to welcome people back in. One thing worth saying at the start is that we are taking literally tens or even hundreds of steps in line with legislation backed up by Health & Safety, environmental health and other advice including public order to make sure those who pop back for a proper pint are entirely safe. If we had any qualms, and trust me when we say we had seriously thought about delaying, about safety we would have stayed as an off licence. Luckily, however, we think we’ve struck a balance as an ‘outdoor only’ venue for the first 4 weeks. Of course, a speck of rain is no doubt to be expected (consider the law of Sod as now we’re all allowed out and it will no doubt mean a terrible Summer!) but in general we think this is the best thing for it. Lots of people are concerned about surfaces indoors and the answer is simple: we’re going back to basics. Paper tabs, table service, glassware (!) and that all-important al-fresco atmosphere backed up by parasols and the like should really do the trick. After August 2nd we are going to do a thorough review. But what of the recent past? Well, we’ve been lucky. Our cask beer and can/bottle sales have driven a year-on-year sales increase of 10% over the period (somehow!), and all this whilst supporting all of our staff by not only ensuring they got furlough, but also making up to 20 percent of our Government grant (£2,000) available to staff through a ‘Hardship Fund’. We realised early on that simply letting the Government pick up the slack wasn’t enough and that we should support the people who we entrust to look after you, the client, all the time. And we’ve been doing other bits, too. Sponsoring a local new football team, helping local businesses by buying from smaller enterprise, rapidly clearing trade debts at the start and therefore doing our bit when other, larger chains have left some suppliers out of pocket. The Belle continues to feel like a successful, community-focused pub. So much so that this first weekend is booking only, in order to reduce workload on the police by ‘going loco’ and letting people spill out onto the street; and also reducing noise to neighbours. We can, of course, from here on in (temporarily under new licensing law) allow you to grab a cold, crisp pint in plastic and take it across the road or just down the way to not congregate outside which is a positive step. We have to say we’re extremely optimistic about the future and think the Covid crisis is a perfect opportunity for vast swathes of the population at large to re-evaluate priorities and their relationship with small business. Consider: an average family in the area with a combined income of £40,000 might find themselves spending 5 percent of that wealth going to Spain. Covid or not we want to see more people holidaying at home, keeping that wealth within and giving jobs to people in tourist hotspots. Indeed, we also hope to see people making the same effort for a loaf of bread from the Bakery or some steak from Picketts in future as they have done now. Supermarkets don’t need you - the High Street does! So let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed, and be sure to pop online to our website where you can still get beer delivered every Friday if you’re shielding or unable to get out. Otherwise, we’re here on temporary hours from Wednesday - Sunday. All the information is on the internet. Special thanks to all those who have been with us through thick and thin, now and from opening".

Last week, the UK government made an announcement that was slipped out quite quietly, and did not get picked up by many media outlets. Analogue radio station licences will be extended for another 10 years, the UK government has said – entirely reversing plans to shut off FM and AM radio stations in favour of DAB digital radio. Commercial radio stations will be allowed to renew their existing, close-to-expiry licences for another decade, meaning your old cars' tape deck-cum-stereo will keep working until at least 2032. The U-turn "ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade", the government announced last Tuesday.DAB and its' successor DAB+ were supposed to replace AM and FM. Problems rapidly became apparent with DAB: instead of degrading gracefully as analogue radio signals do on the fringes of coverage areas, it goes dead altogether – or pollutes the listener's ears with a weird undertone of bubbling swamp sound effects. Signal propagation (coverage) can be a problem as well with DAB compared to traditional analogue radio signals.  Back in 2016 Ofcom said: "Local DAB services are estimated to reach around 90 per cent of homes and around 76 per cent of major roads," with national BBC services reaching about 7-10 per cent more than that. It took nearly 20 years from the launch of the first DAB station to hit 50 per cent of listeners, despite heavy government-backed marketing and promotion efforts. DAB uses MP2 compression, not MP3, which is why it sounds so bad, even when the BBC throw a 50 percent bigger bitstream at the Third Programme, than they do Pop stations like Radios 1 and 2. DAB+ uses the more modern HE-AAC v2 (AAC+) audio codec and would make a big improvement in sound quality. This is unfortunately the big problem - there is a big base of older DAB receivers that do not support DAB+, and DAB sets are not forward compatible to DAB+ broadcasts. Try to pick up a DAB+ station on an old DAB set and you just get silence. So the UK being an early adopter of DAB was the first problem, as that gave us a very large number of old DAB sets installed that would be obsoleted by the (necessary) move to DAB+. That DAB+ support was not mandated quickly enough in all radios sold since its introduction in 2007 was the next big mistake, as it meant non-DAB+ sets kept being sold making any switch to DAB+ progressively harder. One other problem with DAB / DAB+ is that the broadcasters insist on cramming ever more stations into the same space, forcing lower bitrates and thus poorer sound quality for each station. What amazes me is that even large popular radio stations such as Planet Rock are nowadays only broadcast in mono - in this day and age! This was the principal reason I stopped listening to the station. This debate about digital broadcast radio is pretty much moot; the technology is being overtaken by internet streaming - either via smart speakers in the home, via computer or smart television or indeed by smart internet enabled radios such as my Roberts Stream 93i pictured above, or increasingly by 4G or 5G phone services. I feel that DAB/DAB+ has now missed the boat. What do you think? Email me at

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Barnehurst has suffered one non-residential attempted burglary in Selkirk Drive whereby a window was forced open but no entry was gained. It's believed the suspect approached the property by climbing over a small gate at the rear of the premises. The Incident occurred on Thursday 25/06/2020 at 00.33 hours. Forensic opportunities were left at the scene due to finger prints found around the window frame. In Colyers Lane on Wednesday 24/06/2020 a non-residential property had a front window kicked in causing it to smash. This was captured on CCTV, the male did not enter the venue. In Hemsted Road on Wednesday 24/06/2020 at approximately 22.15 hours a male entered an unlocked property whilst the family were home. The male was approached and told to leave. It's believed this suspect may have been under the Influence of alcohol. The suspect began to search the porch area before being told to leave again. Cold Callers have been in the area of Coniston Road and Appledore Avenue. It was reported that one resident was asked to go to the cashpoint in order to pay for services offered. Fortunately this resident refused to go to the cash point and also refused any work to be carried out. Bexleyheath ward:- "Thursday 25/06/20 1200 Theft of Push Bike outside HATFORD NEWS BROADWAY. Thursday 25/06/20 2000 – 26/06/20 0500 Criminal Damage to back gate BRANTWOOD ROAD. Tuesday 23/06/20 2100 – 24/06/20 1000 Theft From Motor Vehicle – dash cam taken RYDAL DRIVE. Saturday 27/06/20 2215 – 2255 Criminal Damage THE MALL BROADWAY trolley pushed over car park edge. Whilst our crimes do remain low please be vigilant as there are pockets of crimes occurring, and I am sure this will increase as lockdown is released more and more". Crayford ward:- "Unfortunately we have had a burglary and two attempted burglaries this last week on Crayford ward. On Wednesday 24th June there was a distraction burglary in Perry Street. The lady opened her front door to a male who apologised for knocking on the wrong door, she went back inside her home and when her son arrive a short time later the front door was open and her jewellery boxes had been turned out on her bed. No jewellery was stolen but her purse with cash was. While she had been at the front door another unknown person had come in to the property from the open rear doors. A timely reminder to close and lock doors if not in the same room during fine weather. There were also handrails outside the property which very probably alerted the burglar that someone living inside may move slowly and be vulnerable. There was an attempted burglary in Iron Mill Lane on Monday 29th June between 11.30-17.10. When the victims left home the house alarm was set. On return the patio door was open and there were tool marks apparent. Entry did not appear to have been gained. On Sunday 28th June between 18.00-20.30 there was an attempted burglary in Station Road. The burglars left before gaining entry leaving behind what is believed to be a set of skeleton keys. Seen on CCTV from a neighbour's house were two males aged about twenty years. There was a theft from motor vehicle between 22.00 on Sunday 28th June and 06.00 Monday 29th June in Heathview Avenue. It was believed the silver BMW vehicle was locked, a purse, documents with the victim's name and address on and a children's DVD player were stolen, an unused syringe was found in the passenger footwell. Please ensure your vehicle is locked, even if it is on your own drive and try not to keep identifying paperwork in your vehicle, it could be used to steal your identity. A black Kawasaki motorcycle, number plate GX64XBW was stolen from Samas Way on Wednesday 1st July between 6.02 and 6.20. Two suspects arrived with a motorbike with a blacked out number plate and used this bike to tow away the Kawasaki. We have been out and about on the ward and speaking to as many people as we can. In the event of a emergency please call 999 for immediate assistance, to report crime or non-emergency please call 101. You can also visit for additional crime prevention advice and a host of other useful information. You can of course contact us by email Crayford.SNT@met.police or by telephone on 020 8721 2584". Erith ward:- "This week we have been doing a lot of work around drugs in Erith of which involved plain clothing and stop and searches. We have been out patrolling every street in Erith, speaking to residents and visiting all local shops. Regarding CCS Costa is open in Erith however it is takeaway only at the moment, So at this time we are not back to doing CCS. Once Costa and Erith Library fully open we will arrange some CCs dates. Crimes of note- There have been no Burglaries this week in Erith. Theft from Motor vehicles has dropped off this week. However on patrol I have been noticing items in peoples cars left. I have seen Bags, Sat Navs and even a Nintendo switch and iPad just sitting on the front seat. Do Not leave items in your car they will get taken". Northumberland Heath ward:- "Officers completed patrols on Lawrence Road/Steele Walk due to a resident complaining about ASB and drug activity. Officers came across a parked vehicle with young males inside . The vehicle smelt strongly of cannabis so all males were searched under S.23 MDA .One passenger was found to be in possession of a large quantity of cannabis .The male was arrested for Possession with intent to supply class B Cannabis .The other males involved have also been referred to social services and have been issued either an Acceptable Behavioural Contract or Community Protection Notice to follow. The patrol bus have been helping us out and completing regular patrols in the ASB hotspot areas. We had reports of youths gathering and smoking drugs inside Mill Road car park. The team are completing regular patrols to identify the group involved. Can these incidents please be reported correctly by contacting 101 or online reporting but also make us aware and provide us with intelligence. Officers are also aware of youths congregating in BECTON Place and Wheelock Close. The team have asked for extra support over the weekend to attend these locations. The team are also in the process of completing a Closure on a HMO property due to the amount of anti-social behaviour linked to the property and how it's affecting the community and local residents. The team will provide an update when this completed". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "A child's scooter was stolen from a communal block in Frobisher Road on Sunday 28/06. No Suspects at this time. Two males on the Frobisher Road estate have been issued CPN warnings after being involved in various forms of ASB. One of these males has also been charged with possession of drugs. A juvenile on the estate has also been charged with possession of drugs and we await for all the relevant paperwork for his CPN warning to be issued. On Monday 29/06/2020 PC James chased and detained a male in Clark Close off Forest Road and during his search he was found to be in possession of a knife. He was arrested and we await CPS advice on charging". Thamesmead East ward:- "BURGLARY - No burglaries this week. MOTOR VEHICLE CRIMES - Between the hours of 9:pm on Saturday 27/06/20 and 8;00am on Sunday 28/06/20 the number plate and a motor cycle cover was stolen from a motor cycle parked outside Staplehurst Court, SOUTHMERE DRIVE". West Heath ward:- "Another week with no reported burglaries. The team are continuing to carry out proactive patrols across the ward and as a result two males were arrested. One male who was wanted for non-payment of fines was arrested in Hadlow Road. The second arrest was made in Hurst Lane for a male in possession of class A drugs. No other crimes of note to report. Stay safe".  

The end video this week is a musical celebration of the re - opening of The Bookstore Cafe in The Old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. The venue will be enforcing strict social distancing and effective sanitisation protocols to keep staff and customers safe from infection. a wide selection of freshly cooked food will be available, along with the usual fresh coffee, tea and beers from The Bexley Brewery.

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