Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Uber Clipper.

Controversial cab company Uber are partnering with Thames Clippers to operate an Uber Clippers ferry service on the River Thames. The service starts tomorrow (Monday the 10th of August). It will allow users to purchase tickets for Thames Clippers boats in advance through the Uber app and then use QR technology to board. The payment will be processed using Uber account details. Thames Clippers' users can still purchase tickets via the existing methods, including touching in and out with contactless or Oyster and via its own ticketing app. Passengers will be able to use the service across a fleet of 20 vessels on the River Thames, with departures from 23 piers across London, from Putney to Woolwich. Unfortunately at present the service will not be extended to Erith Pier (photo above - click on it to see a larger version) or on to Gravesend. Some time ago test voyages to Gravesend were undertaken, and the response from passengers was very good indeed. The use of Erith Pier would involve installing a floating pontoon on the existing structure to cater for the large variations in tide. On top of this, the current owners of Erith Pier are Morrison's supermarket, adjacent to the pier. They are not keen on the pier being used for commuting to and from London, as they do not want commuters cars in their car park. I have heard a rumour that Morrison's have however been in negotiations to sell the pier to a new owner. One can hope that any new owner might be more amenable to having ferries stop on the pier. What do you think? Drop me a line to

I don't know about you, but I get an almost incessant stream of junk mail through my letter box; much of which is delivered by the Royal Mail. Sometimes I feel that I would like to fit an electric paper shredder to the inside of the front door, and I am certain that I am not alone in that sentiment. Every year in the UK an estimated twelve billion items of unsolicited marketing mail drop onto doormats around the country; this is equivalent to roughly five million trees. In 2018 Royal Mail revenues from delivering junk mail increased to more than £600 million, with the company delivering over three billion items of unaddressed post. There had been a deal with the Direct Marketing Association to stop sending junk mails to people who opted out, but this soon broke down; The preference scheme was known as the Door Drop Preference Service was ready to launch in 2012. Unfortunately the arrangement soon fell through, as the Direct Marketing Association accused the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of not doing enough to sign up other organisations who send junk Email to the scheme. The trade body argued that if its members joined, advertisers would switch their junk mail to free newspapers. This analysis was rejected, and the deadlock was never broken. Earlier this year the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs finally admitted that the scheme would never materialise, but somewhere along the line a decision was made that no public announcement would be published. All in all the situation is a mess; there are two existing non – addressed junk mail opt – out schemes, but very few people know about them – one is run by Royal Mail, and the other by the Direct Marketing Association – both schemes have to be joined by post, and registration on both expires after two years, when households have to reapply. The figures suggest that less than one in fifty UK households is signed up to these schemes. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The photo above was taken in the summer of 1907 (click on it for a larger view), and shows how the residents of Edwardian Erith dealt with a heatwave similar to what we have experienced in the last week. The first public swimming baths in Erith was an outdoor one in Walnut Tree Road; the photo was taken during the opening ceremony on the 3rd of August 1907. The pool cost £700 to build and was sixty feet long by twenty five feet wide. The water was heated using the waste boiler heat from the adjacent Erith Power Station. Bearing in mind that in addition to the power station, the swimming baths were close to the livestock holding pens at Erith railway station - which you can clearly see in the period photograph below - I would imagine the smell must have been eye watering at certain times!

At this time of year, so many people seem to carry around a bottle of water; when the weather is hot, this seems like a sensible move. What I find very hard to understand is that rather than carrying an individual bottle containing up to half a litre, I see many people carrying 1.5 or even two litre bottles of water. Are they really planning on drinking that much? What will happen when they need to use the loo, and as we know, the number of public toilets in the UK has been cut back to almost nothing. The search for public toilets in towns and cities has become more and more desperate in recent years because the number of lavatories has fallen markedly. Campaigners say that many have had to be closed because of councils have to pay onerous business rates on them. The search for public toilets in towns and cities has become more and more desperate in recent years because the number of lavatories has fallen markedly. Campaigners say that many have had to be closed because of councils have to pay onerous business rates on them. The British Toilet Association has estimated that 40 per cent of local authority run public conveniences have disappeared in the last decade, taking the number down from 12,000 to 6,000, in part because councils have to pay business rates on them has estimated that 40 per cent of local authority run public conveniences have disappeared in the last decade, taking the number down from 12,000 to 6,000, in part because councils have to pay business rates on them. 

The photo above (click on it to see a larger version) was taken from a historic 8mm cine film. It shows an orange municipal dustbin lorry in Erith High Street; the footage was taken from the first  floor of Burton's Tailor's looking towards Crayford Road (now Compton Place) in 1967. The building in the background is The Prince of Wales public house, which was demolished to make way for the current McDonald’s drive through. What strikes me is that not one single building in the photo, taken in 1967 still exists today. The row of shops to the right hand side of the road are now replaced by the Sherwood House residential care home and the Erith Health Centre, and the left hand side contains residential flats and the new Erith Library, built in what used to be the lovely Art Deco Odeon Cinema. I am of the opinion that the 1970’s brutalist concrete shopping centre was built at minimal cost  for what it was, and that someone had their fingers in the till. Nothing else can explain how planning permission could have been granted for the wholesale destruction of a historic town centre with a structure that was not just hideously ugly, but blatantly unfit for purpose, and was so shoddily thrown together than it began to fall apart almost as soon as it was finished. The only shop to have remained throughout the period from the opening of the new concrete shopping centre to the present day is the pharmacists Howells and Harrison – who still have the same sign outside as they did in the 1970’s. Anyone that remembers the old concrete shopping centre will recall how dark and forbidding parts of it were, and how the overpowering smell of Jeyes fluid and stale wee permeated the whole area. The dingy and forbidding multi storey car park over the shops was the hangout of vandals and winos, and one could feel very intimidated when parking in there. The new (ish) Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is a very clever re – use of the carcass of the old structure, but in a far more sympathetic and people – friendly way. The oldest buildings that survived the destruction of the town centre is the post office - which has recently become a locally listed building.

Over the last few months a great deal of column inches have been written in the popular press on the subject of 5G mobile technology, on the subject of the politics, the misguided idiots burning down the transmitter masts, and to a lesser extent on the claims made for the emergent telecommunication technology. The truth is somewhat at variance with this, and I will attempt to explain why and how, and to identify much of the hype and downright misinformation that surrounds the new technology. Before that, it is important to explain exactly what 5G is, as thus far this has been far from apparent. 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells. Analogue signals representing sounds and images are digitised in the phone, converted by an analogue to digital converter and transmitted as a stream of bits. All the 5G wireless devices in a cell communicate by radio waves with a local antenna array and low power automated transceiver (transmitter and receiver) in the cell, over frequency channels assigned by the transceiver from a common pool of frequencies, which are reused in geographically separated cells. The local antennas are connected with the telephone network and the Internet by a high bandwidth optical fibre or wireless backhaul connection. Like existing mobile phones, when a user crosses from one cell to another, their mobile device is automatically "handed off" seamlessly to the antenna in the new cell. 5G Millimetre waves have shorter range than microwaves, therefore the cells are limited to smaller size; The waves also have trouble passing through building walls, requiring multiple antennas to cover a cell. Millimetre wave antennas are smaller than the large antennas used in previous cellular networks, only a few inches (several cm) long. Another technique used for increasing the data rate is massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output). Each cell will have multiple antennas communicating with the wireless device, received by multiple antennas in the device, thus multiple bitstreams of data will be transmitted simultaneously, in parallel. In a technique called beam forming the base station computer will continuously calculate the best route for radio waves to reach each wireless device, and will organise multiple antennas to work together as phased arrays to create beams of millimetre waves to reach the device. The new 5G wireless devices also have 4G LTE capability, as the new networks use 4G for initially establishing the connection with the cell, as well as in locations where 5G access is not available - which currently is most of the country. 5G can support up to a million devices per square kilometre, while 4G supports only 4000 devices per square kilometre. The first issue that has been generating headlines in the press of late is that "China is using the technology to spy on Western nations". No, it is not. 5G is upcoming technology, and China – because it is resurgent – is making a big push for it. Its engineers are world-class and its companies can produce equivalent or better quality products than Western gear at lower prices. One country in particular hates this – the United States. In conjunction with the Trump Administration's knee-jerk protectionist anti-Beijing sentiment, the US government (with the joyful encouragement of the US telecom industry) is insisting that Chinese 5G products are a security threat and no one should buy them or use them. Recently, the conclusion by the UK's National Security Council (NSC) that Huawei did not represent a major security risk – and that its telecoms equipment can be used in all but Britain's core networks – has led to severe political fallout. The press have also been saying that there is a "Race to 5G". There is no race to 5G. It is instead a clever marketing slogan dreamed up by American telecoms companies who surprised themselves at how effective it was. Every person in the US Congress that has ever spoken about 5G has mentioned this fabled "race" and often used it to explain why something has to be rushed through, or normal practices have to be skirted. I admit it sounds exciting – like the Space Race but with mobile phones. But it is untrue: how can there be a race when any country or company will, soon enough, be able to buy the equipment needed at any time and install it wherever and whenever they want? There are only 5 companies in the world offering 5G radio hardware and 5G systems for carriers: Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson. It is an open market and 5G is an evolving standard. The mobile communications environment is continually improving, but whilst mobile device companies compete with each other when it comes to end user devices, the infrastructure that the devices use has to be built to a common standard, so that each proprietary device will "play nicely" with others from alternative suppliers. It is all about global and national standardisation. One thing that also annoys me is the way in which 5G is being slated as the answer to so many fast data problems. It absolutely, definitively is not. Despite constant claims that 5G is the internet of the future – including by people who should know better, such as commissioners on America's comms watchdog, the FCC – the fact is 5G, while wonderful, is not in any way a replacement for wired connections. 5G signals cannot magically travel vast distances. In fact, they can only go relatively short distances and struggle to penetrate into buildings and through walls – which is why one big battle is about how to install tens of millions of new micro-base-stations to make sure people can get a reliable signal. The 5G network will rely 100 per cent on fast, wired connections for backhaul. Without those lines (hopefully fibre), it is basically useless because the one big plus to 5G is speed. Also, you are unlikely to get 5G unless you are in a big city. Even then, there will be dead spots when you go around a corner or close to a railway bridge. Some UK mobile phone companies are already promoting handsets which they claim are "5G ready" - take this with a major pinch of salt; the infrastructure to support 5G handsets outside of small areas in major towns and cities is quite a long way from becoming a reality, anything that indicates otherwise is essentially snake oil. You will have a 5G phone that spends a majority of its time using a 4G connection. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at
Now for the weekly local safety and security reports from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "We have had two incidents of vehicle crime. On Thursday 30/07/2020 at 1400 hours in Merewood Road a van had been parked up but the keys to the vehicle were left in the ignition whilst the driver made a delivery. Two males were seen on a black moped approaching the van. The passenger then got into the van and was seen driving away towards Thirlmere Road, the black moped followed. Moments later the van was seen parked in nearby Thirlmere Road but the keys to the vehicle were missing. Suspects were described as both being white males aged between 19 – 25 years old. The passenger wore a white helmet and a white top. They were last seen on the moped in Thirlmere Road moments after the vehicle was found. It is not known if they returned to take the vehicle again but on seeing the victim with the vehicle fled the scene. In Twigg Close front and rear number plates registration number FX07ZHL were stolen from a vehicle. As reported in last week's update regarding motorbikes being ridden in an anti-social manner in and around Hurstwood Avenue, the team have spoken to a local resident following complaints from residents however the matter is still ongoing therefore further actions will be taken. Please continue to keep us informed with any information as to where and when these bikes are seen". Belvedere ward:-"There have been more reports of a suspicious male roaming the Belvedere Park Estate. He loiters outside the blocks then tailgates inside. PLEASE DO NOT let people in who you don't know, challenge anyone who may be tailgating you and DO NOT prop doors open! Overnight from the Sunday 19/07 into the Monday 20/07 someone stole from a car in Abottswood Close. It is unknown if the car was left unlocked but there was no damage caused to the car. The thief took a small amount of money. Please check your car when leaving it to ensure it is locked. Recent issues in Nuxley Road by a large built male who is always drunk are being looked at by us. The man in question is known to us and his drinking has become worse. He is stealing form the shops and his size and demeanour is intimidating to the shop owners and public. We are looking at ways to deal with him long term to give him help as well as enforce the thefts he has committed". Bexleyheath ward:-"Sunday 26/7/20 2230 – 2300 Attempted Theft of pedal Cycle Bullman Close males disturbed and property recovered. Tuesday 28/7/20 1745 – 1930 Theft Other Bus Pass taken from person outside McDonalds Bexleyheath. Wednesday 29/7/20 1230-1300 Arson Bexleyheath Broadway - Bin set fire to outside Mojito Broadway - fire brigade attended and extinguished. Between Thursday 30/7/20 23:00 and Friday 31/7/20 0115 Theft From Person Arcadia Broadway - mobile phone stolen from bag whilst inside venue. Tuesday 4/8/20 1500 – 1505 Other Theft Savers purse stolen from inside bag. Tuesday 4/8/20 1800 – 1850 Other Theft Long Lane Bank Card and Cash stolen from bag. Please also be aware that we have seen an increase this week of thefts from handbags/personal property, keep vigilant whilst out shopping and ensure that you keep handbags safe and about your person at all times. An over the body style bag where the pouch is at your front is the safest bag and make sure it zips up and that you use it correctly. Also we have had a couple of reports of people calling residents from Hammersmith Police Station stating that their bank cards have been used in crime. The caller is after PIN numbers and or details from person. These are a SCAM do not respond or give out any information to these people. Your Bank will never ask for PIN numbers neither will the POLICE. We have had reports of males who state they are working for BT taking pictures of houses in the local area Woolwich Road and Brummel Close recently using a white hire van. When challenged the males disappear and refuse to give anything other than we are working for BT. BT have been contacted and their workers all use BT sign written vans. Any suspicious activity please report to police". Crayford ward:-"We are really pleased to say there have been no burglaries this week on Crayford ward. However, the other crimes of note are all vehicle related. On Tuesday 28th July at 00.50 a white Sprinter van was stolen near to Beano's cafĂ© at Mayplace Road East. The driver was making a delivery and, returned to the van and realised that the back doors were ajar and got out to close them. As he did so he was pushed out of the way, sustaining some minor injuries and the van was driven off. The van was later located minus cash from a wallet and some keys. A black BMW 520d, vrm EN16DTV was stolen from Old Road between 19.00 on Wednesday 29th July and 09.30 on Thursday 30th July, the victim still has the keys. On Thursday 30th July between 10.00-11.00 the catalytic converter was stolen from a BMW 3 series whilst parked at Hall Place. A light blue Honda Jazz had its catalytic converter stolen whilst at Sainsburys car park on Thursday 30th July between 10.00-11.20. On Thursday 30th July between 11.00-14.00 the catalytic converter was stolen from a black Lexus RX400 whilst parked at Sainsburys. A laptop was stolen from the rear of a silver Nissan Qashqai whilst parked at Sainsburys on Thursday 30th July between 16.15-17.05. Let's not make it easy for criminals. Thieves are using equipment to scan for electronic keys and create a blank key that can then be used to steal vehicles. Consider keeping your electronic key in a security pouch, which prevents thieves from scanning your key and stealing your vehicle". Erith ward:-"No burglaries or Theft from motor vehicles this last week. We have been patrolling all areas of the ward which includes all shops within Erith. We are taking the friendly approach of stopping anyone in a store that hasn't a face mask on, We also understand some people are exempt due to health reasons, So if we stop and ask you to put a face mask on, We are only saying this for everyone's safety".  Northumberland Heath ward:-"Officers were on mobile patrol when their attention was draw to vehicle being driven erratically along Belvedere Road. Eventually the vehicle was stopped at Streamway were the male was successfully detained. The driver was arrested for taking and driving away, failing to stop, driving without due care attention and driving whilst over the specified drug limit. Officers completed a successful stop on Hurst road which resulted in two arrests. One suspect was arrested for possession of cocaine and the driver was arrested for possession of cannabis and S.5A Driving a vehicle with the concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit. Unfortunately there has been a report of theft of number plates from Belmont Road. There has also been several reports of criminal damage to vehicles parked along Avenue Road. Vehicle side mirrors have been smashed and aerials removed . If any resident have CCTV evidence of these incidents please contact us". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"A male has been charged with thirty counts of money laundering, under the proceeds of crime act, transfer criminal property, after a very protracted investigation which has been ongoing for one year. A male has been charged with a public order offence after an incident on Frobisher Road. There have been information led stop and searches completed on Frobisher Road & Shermanbury Close, and Dale View, all drug related. Information regarding the use of drones has been given to residents of Hollywood Way and Watermeadow Close after reports of misuse". Thamesmead East ward:-"No burglaries this week, however continue to remain vigilant at all times, close and lock windows and doors. Motor Vehicle crimes On Thursday 30/07/20 between the hours of 11:00 am and 12:00 pm a van parked in Hartslock Drive had a hole cut behind the lock on the side door and tools were stolen". West Heath ward:-"There were three reported burglaries, one residential and two attempted on the ward from Wednesday 29/07/20 to Tuesday 4/08/20. There were no reported motor vehicle crimes during the same period. The theft of a bike from a garage on Woolwich Road London between Saturday 1/08/20 at 8am and Sunday 2/08/20 at 12:31 pm. The victim left the side gate closed, but unlocked having done some work on the car. The garage, at the rear of the property was also unlocked with the bike inside and whilst taking a break inside, someone must have walked into the garage and stole the bike. The bike is a bright Blue Giant Defy 2 with Shimano gear shifters. Its value was in the region of £1000. The victim only discovered the theft the following afternoon when the victim went to fetch something from the garage. Co-operative Retail Services Ltd - On Wednesday 29th July 2020 at approximately 0310 hours officers were called to the store following witnesses in the store taking a stock take hearing a smash come from the front of the store. The shutter on the front of the ship was down however someone has managed to get between the sliding shutter and the window and has used a hammer to attempt to smash the window. On seeing the witnesses in the store the suspect has made off in an unknown direction. Suspect described as IC3 with dark clothing no other description provided. Glenview - On Saturday 1/08/20 at 00:01 hours the victim noticed damage to the front door, indicating that someone has tried to prise the lock open. It seems that they were unsuccessful, but it is clear that an attempt has been made to enter the property by force, presumably with a view to burgle".

The end video this week features a poem that was written back in 1982 by Erith resident Pat Butler. The poem was recorded on a cassette, and was found back in 2015 during a house clearance. See what you think, and Email me at

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