Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Pretty Things.

The photo above - click on it for a larger version - was taken by regular reader and occasional contributor Miles. The photo shows Southmere Lake in Thamesmead during the height of the recent heatwave. Local temperatures reached 40.2 degrees Celsius in Lower Belvedere on Tuesday afternoon. 

With the recent spate of extremely hot weather, the authorities have been very keen to ensure the everyone carries a bottle of water when out and about; I understand the thoughts behind this - dehydration can become a serious matter when temperatures exceed thirty degrees Celsius. One aspect that seems to have been overlooked, however is that of what I term as "wee mileage". Wee mileage is a concept I developed back in November 2009; I expounded it at the time, but perhaps it deserves a revisit. It encompasses irregular and unreliable public transport, the woeful lack of public toilets in this country nowadays, and the propensity which many have for going out for a quiet pint on the odd occasion. The aforementioned factors create an artificial boundary as to how far one can travel from home, if intending to indulge in a tipple whilst out and about. Once you have left the hostelry or beer festival at the end of the evening (in those halcyon pre - lockdown times), there is a finite amount of time available for travelling before one will be compelled to pump ones' bilges. Obviously this will vary between individuals and their personal bladder capacity / ability to hold on, the amount of liquid they have imbibed, and the ambient air temperature.  I am presupposing that one does not cheat and avail oneself of a convenient bush or dark alley. Wee mileages seem to be higher when employing a cab, mainly due to the fact one can take a last minute leak before starting the journey, and the cab will take you door to door with no waiting around at a chilly bus stop or draughty railway platform with the bladder clock ticking. This is the principal reason that I have never attended the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival at Olympia (cancelled this year, and replaced with a virtual event - as so many public events have been). The exhibition hall is admirably equipped with public conveniences, but once you leave the venue and head back to civilisation from West London the trouble starts. One would have to navigate the tube back to Charing Cross Station (it is possible to make a loo visit there - they used to have the temerity to charge a fee, but now I understand that they are now free to use). After this it is fifty minutes overland by train to Erith Station, in a train that has a loo - but that is almost always locked and out of use to stop vandalism. Just too much to endure - and thus far too high a wee mileage for me to even consider. A similar restriction occurs when taking bottles of water whilst out and about in hot weather - people guzzle water, then find that there are few if any loos around. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

Above you can see two photos which show part of Erith in a "then and now" way. The upper photo was taken in around 1935, and shows James Watt Way looking North; To the right of the photo can be seen The Prince of Wales pub, and ahead is the Royal Arsenal Co-Operative Society shop, on the corner of Manor Road. Just out of the shot, to the left would have been the construction site for the forthcoming Odeon Cinema, which opened in 1937. You can see some period photos of the cinema by clicking here. In the lower photo, you can see the McDonald's drive through burger bar where the pub once stood, and in place of the RACS shop, there is now a KFC fried chicken drive through. To the left, on the site of the Odeon Cinema (demolished in 1999) is a block of flats with offices and the new, faceless Erith Library on the ground floor.  I think pretty much anyone who has spent time living in or around Erith is of the opinion that the old Victorian town centre should never have been demolished. If it was still in place now, the town would be a significant tourist attraction - I would have likened it to "Whitstable on the Thames".

Frances Allen, one of the leading computer scientists of her generation and a pioneer of women in technology, died last Tuesday, on her 88th birthday. Allen is best known for her work on compiler organisation and optimisation algorithms. Together with renowned computer scientist John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late '60s and '70s that helped to lay the groundwork for modern programming. In recognition of her efforts, in 2006 Allen became the first woman to be awarded The Alan Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing. After earning her masters degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1957, Allen took a job at IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York. She planned to stay only until she paid off her college debt, but ended up staying at the company for 45 years. Her first major project was on the National Security Agency’s Stretch-Harvest project, which aimed to build a supercomputer capable of analysing communications intercepted by American spies around the globe. In later years, she applied similar ideas to "parallel computer", which aimed to use groups of low-cost, high-performance microprocessors to share the processing of smaller tasks in parallel. This process would go on to become an everyday part of most computers, and is a technique now used by companies like Google and Facebook. In 1989, Allen became the first female IBM Fellow, a rare award bestowed on the company's leading engineers, scientists, and programmers. The award mistakenly referred to her as a man - "In recognition and appreciation of his outstanding technical contributions." The award, including the mistake, remained on her office wall until she retired in 2002. Allen died of Alzheimer's disease at a nursing home in Schenectady, New York. 

The local area has been home to many notable musicians, including but not limited to Kate Bush, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. There is another group, who by all reasonable standards ought to be mentioned alongside this list, the biggest group you probably have not heard of. The band were revered by David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, and they were the first people to hear Sergeant Pepper when the Beatles recorded next door to them at Abbey Road. Guest stars for their final gig included Van Morrison, David Gilmour and Bill Nighy. The band were called The Pretty Things; in many ways The Pretty Things were an offshoot of the original lineup of The Rolling Stones, as members of both bands met at Sidcup Art College. Members of The Pretty Things came from Dartford, Sidcup and Slade Green; whilst they were initially described as a free form rhythm and blues band, they were later described as the very first Punk band. The Pretty Things were the also-rans of the British Invasion, a band that never got its due. Despite this lack of recognition, they were never quite ignored, cultivating a passionate following that stuck with them through the decades. Founded by an ex-Rolling Stone, The Pretty Things were so raucous and rebellious that they made the Stones seem sedate by comparison. Their hair was longer, their behaviour more outrageous, and their R and B rocked without a hint of restraint. But they were not to share the Stones' success, and after two classic albums they turned their backs on the Blues, to become pioneers of British Psychedelia and record the first “Rock Opera.” Dartford lad Dick Taylor took his first steps towards becoming a Pretty Thing when he and schoolmate Mick (then Mike) Jagger teamed up with Sidcup Art College student Keith Richards to explore their mutual love of R and B. Along with fellow enthusiasts Bob Beckwith and Alan Etherington, they formed a band that they named Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys , possibly after the DC comic characters created by Batman writer Bill Finger, or perhaps in reference to Sonny Boy Williamson II, Rice Miller, who in his early days toured the Delta under the name ‘Little Boy Blue.' While the Blue Boys were rehearsing in Dick's front room, Brian Jones, then calling himself “Elmo Lewis” and playing slide guitar in the style of Elmore James, had paired up with mouth-organist Paul Pond, who later adopted Brian's surname to become Paul Jones, and sing for the group Manfred Mann. When Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated started their new London residency in March 1962 they attracted Blues devotees from far and wide, so it was no surprise that there should be Blue Boys in the audience when “Elmo and Paul” were bashing out their Blues at the Ealing Club. When Brian decided to put a band together, though Paul couldn't be persuaded to join, Keith Mick and Dick all passed the audition. Despite these changes in style, they rarely racked up hits on either side of the Atlantic. In the United States, they didn't chart until 1975, a full decade after they released their rough-and-tumble debut. Back then, the Pretty Things seemed like rivals to the Rolling Stones and that was no great leap: guitarist Dick Taylor played bass in the first incarnation of the Stones, not long before he teamed up with Phil May to form the Pretty Things in 1963. Taking their name from a Bo Diddley song, the Pretty Things were intentionally ugly: Their sound was brutish, their hair longer than any of their contemporaries, their look unkempt. This nastiness was evident on their first pair of singles, "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down," two 45s that charted in 1964 whose success helped to get their eponymous debut into the U.K. Top Ten a year later, but that turned out to be the extent of their commercial success. For reasons best known to the band's management, The Pretty Things never toured the U.S.A. Their Don't Bring Me Down was banned there, but a garage band managed to have a regional hit with the song in Florida. And though manager Bryan Morrison confidently told Record Mirror 'It now looks fairly certain that they will visit the States early in the New Year,” that never came to pass. Certainly they had more than enough work to keep them busy, though they never failed to cause rifts and ructions wherever they went. At home, their road manager was fined £25 for pulling a shotgun when the lads were menaced by local thugs at a gig in Trowbridge. Phil May was cut and bruised when he was pulled off stage by five girls in High Wycombe, and they were kicked out of their rented flat in Belgravia because of neighbours' complaints. On their first visit to Holland, where they had a large and dedicated following, there were uncontrollable riots during their appearance at the 1965 Blokker Festival, which was being shown on Dutch TV, and the broadcast was terminated when outraged citizens rang the station to complain - you can see the video of this at the end of this Blog update. Their notoriety continued; When the band embarked on a tour of New Zealand, Drummer Tony Prince's relations with the rest of the group became increasingly strained by his drunken antics, which included carrying a dead crayfish around for days, and breaking into the dressing room with an axe after they'd locked him out. The press took the opportunity to savage them, claiming the band drank whisky at the New Plymouth Opera House, broke chairs, lit fires backstage, abused officials, and ruined heartthrob Eden Kane's stage act. The New Plymouth Daily News defended the band, saying “theirs was R and B at its raving best. Electric excitement, and an original stage style, plus good R and B drumming.” But too much damage had already been done, and when Prince was thrown off their flight home for disorderly behaviour, his days as a Pretty Thing were numbered. Rather than bring stability to the band, he'd proved himself to be the most unstable of them all. As May later put it, "we were sort of novice lunatics, but suddenly they hand us, like, the high priest of lunacy." As a result, the band received a lifetime ban from New Zealand. The Pretty Things may not have shown up on the charts, but their cult proved to be influential: it's been said Pete Townshend was influenced by The Pretty Things pioneering rock opera "S.F. Sorrow" to write Tommy for the Who, and David Bowie covered both "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down" for his 1973 album Pin Ups. Critics liked them too, but that affirmation didn't sell records. Nevertheless, the Pretty Things were survivors, soldiering on through the '70s, turning into a harder, heavier outfit that was rewarded with marginal U.S. success -- 1974's Silk Torpedo and 1976's Savage Eye made the lower reaches of Billboard -- cutting a credible new wave album at the dawn of the '80s. The Pretty Things would split not long afterward but their cult remained so strong that they became a semi-active concern at the beginning of the new millennium, as they would occasional reunite for tours and recordings. Founder member Phil May died suddenly in May of this year. The Pretty Things final album  ‘Bare As Bone, Bright As Blood' will be released in September.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Another week with no reported burglaries for Barnehurst residents. As for vehicle crime we have just been made aware of a white Mercedes registration number KW68 FHO that was stolen overnight of Tuesday 11/08/2020 from Hillingdon Road. In Birling Road an Incident of fly tipping was reported. CCTV coverage shows two vehicles, one being a black Mercedes and the other a yellow dumper truck with the words GAP PLANT printed on the side. Rubbish had been dumped at 1330 hours, 1348 hours and again at 1403 hours on Monday 10/08/2020. Following the ongoing issues of bikes being driven in an anti-social manner in Hurstwood Avenue, Officers attended an address and issued a Section 59. This is a warning notice with regards motor vehicles being driven in an anti-social manner. The team have since had no further reports in since the warning was issues. We have been made aware of an Incident just off Barnehurst Ward where a resident has had several people attend the address claiming its up for rent. It appears these visitors saw the advertisement through social media and believed the property was up for rent. The email and contact number left on the advert now appears to be false as Police have attempted to make contact". Belvedere ward:- "We have had another dog bite incident, this time at Franks Park. The victim was having a run when a dog not on the lead (suspected) came out of nowhere and bit them on the leg. The dog owner has been identified and will be dealt with. The law states that dogs must be kept on a lead when in public. Abide by this please, don't be one of the arrogant dog owners that lets their dog run free and attack a person or another dog just because. Same applies to your dog's personality. If it is of a bad temperament and like to use its mouth then put a muzzle on it! Be considerate and conscious. The issues in Nuxley Roads with the drunk male who shoplifts. The investigation is still on-going and the suspect will be dealt with. He has not been seen for a while but will turn up again. There are still issues at the Belvedere Park Estate with thieves and fraudsters being let into the blocks. PLEASE, do not let anyone in if you don't know them. Don't buzz them in and don't hold the door open for them. I know it is the polite thing to do, natural even, but we need to get into this suspicious mind-set and keep them out". Bexleyheath ward:-"On the 10th Aug there was a report of someone being pick pocketed on the Broadway at some point after 6 pm. Victim had their mobile phone stolen from their pocket whilst exiting the bus. Please be very cautious and try not to have any desirable items at easy reach. Also there was a report of someone impersonating a Police Officer claiming that the victims card had been used fraudulently. On the Friday 7th August – Victim had reported a theft from motor vehicle along Church Road Bexleyheath, Car windscreen was smashed and purse was taken from inside the vehicle. This had taken place between midnight and 1.30 am. On the Monday 10th August victim had reported their mobile phone stolen whilst shopping in the Broadway in H and M. Had noticed that their phone when out of range from what they had it connected to. Also on the Monday 10th August there was a report of an interference of a motor vehicle along Grace Avenue Bexleyheath, suspect had tried to gain entry to the vehicle but was unsuccessful. This incident had taken place overnight". Crayford ward:-" Firstly I am really pleased to say there have been no burglaries on our ward in this last week. Once again the majority of crime has been vehicle related. A lady accidentally left her purse on top of her vehicle whilst buying petrol at Sainsburys petrol station on Wednesday 22nd July at approx. 18.45-19.00. It contained cash, bank cards and driving licence. The person finding it has used the cards which have now been stopped. So easily done and sadly this was the consequence. Clothes and bric a brac were stolen from outside the Cancer Research shop in Roman Way on Wednesday 5th August between 22.30-23.15. This means the charity were deprived of raising money from these items. Please do not leave items outside a charity shop, with the best of intentions, they are likely to be picked over by people it was not intended for. A grey Mercedes was broken in to between 14.50 on Wednesday 5th August and 14.40 on Thursday 6th August in Chapel Hill. Items were disturbed but nothing was stolen, not known how suspect entered. At Ladbroke Stadium between 10.40-11.00 on Wednesday 5th August a red Honda had its catalytic converter stolen. Two men in a black van are suspects. A silver BMW 3 series was broken in to whilst parked in the underground car park at Lyles Court, London Road between 23.00 on 9th August and 11.10 on Monday 10th August, nothing was stolen. On Saturday 8th August between 23.05-23.10 a silver Mercedes was criminally damaged in Hall Place Crescent by three males in a white van. The front windscreen, passenger windows, rear windscreen, boot lid and passenger tail light were damaged. Between 01.00 and 05.00 on Tuesday 11th August a Ford Focus was broken in to in Hillside Road, things moved around, £5 change stolen but left satnav and sunglasses. No damage caused to vehicle. Another neighbour also had their Ford broken in to but this has not been reported by victim. Between 22.30 on Monday 10th August and 06.00 on Tuesday 11th August, another resident in Hillside Road also had their white BMW ransacked and a bottle of Dior aftershave was stolen. At 18.30 on Tuesday 11th August two youths threw rocks at a property in Bexley Lane smashing three windows, no further details known at this stage. At Sainsburys car park a catalytic converter was stolen off a vehicle on Saturday 8th August between 10.30-12.03, no further details of vehicle known at this time. We received information that a lock knife had been found at the rear of business premises in Crayford High Street. It was collected and brought back to Bexleyheath Police Station for safe disposal. Lots of patrolling this week although we have found shade as much as possible during this extreme heat. As ever, please stay safe and take care". Erith ward:-"No burglaries or car crime this last week in Erith which is brilliant. We have been visiting all venues in Erith and dealing with a couple of neighbour disputes. We have been patrolling the ward and helping out on other ward that have low staff numbers". Northumberland Heath ward:-"Good News no Burglaries the week. Unfortunately a Silver Volkswagen Polo was stolen from Northumberland Park. Enquiries still ongoing. A resident from Bedonwell Road returned back from holiday and noticed a brick was thrown through her property window. CCTV shows the suspect was fully covered up leaning over the garden bush and then throwing the brick at the window. A male was seen running away and getting into a vehicle. The witnessed was unable to record the registration number. Investigation is still ongoing. Pizza Hut on Bexley Road have reported an arson . CCTV shows the suspect opening the gate , putting a lighter to the frame until it catches alight and then closing the gate onto the door behind . This incident is currently being investigated by CID. Youths have been seen congregating in Northumberland Park inhaling silver gas canisters and leaving large amount of rubbish in children's play area .Officers will continue patrolling the area and ask for park security to increase their patrols". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"Over the last week we have been working hard on our ward promises, patrolling our Anti-social behaviour and Drug hotspot areas, building on our intelligence picture, and working closely with local residents, and partner agencies. We've received reports of ASB and Drug use in the Dale View and The Nursery area, to tackle this we've increased our patrols in those areas, we've completed a number of stop and searches, completed a number of home visits, and worked closely with partner agencies. Are you having similar issues in your road? Please let us know so we can assist. After a tip off from a keen eyed resident officers recovered a stolen vehicle which had been left in Barnett Close, this vehicle was recovered and has been returned safely to its owner. Has a vehicle appeared on your road which looks out of place? Has the ignition been damaged? Is it insecure? Or is something just not right? If so contact us we can have a look". Thamesmead East ward - no report this week. West Heath ward:-"Two crimes of note this week. One residential burglary in Elmstead on Sunday 9/08/20 at 02.30 am. An apple mobile phone and other personal items were stolen. It is not clear how entry was gained and the investigation is ongoing. One criminal damage to a van Chessington Avenue on Saturday 8/08/20 between 230 – 2310".

The end video this week is of the aforementioned The Pretty Things, live in concert in Holland in 1965. The band don’t seem to be playing a gig so much as providing the soundtrack to a public disturbance, the music getting more and more chaotic as the crowd fights. So many viewers phoned into complain, the TV company ended up pulling the plug on the concert. Give it a watch and send any comments to me at the usual address -

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