Sunday, September 13, 2020

Spice Master.


The photo above was sent to me by regular reader and occasional contributor Shane, who took the picture out across the River Thames. from the Thames Path at the end of Corinthian Manorway, off West Street in Erith. The remains of the old wooden jetty can be seen. Historically, this was where the the loam excavated from the loam pit quarry in Fraser Road was transported to, prior to being loaded onto ships moored on the jetty, where it was then taken to Sunderland, where the loam was used to form moulds for casting iron and steel objects for use in heavy industry.  This was a source of employment for many local people in Victorian times. The former loam pit is now the location of The Quarry housing estate.

I took the photo above earlier in the week; it shows a couple of fly tipped fridge freezers which had been illegally dumped in Appold Street, Erith. Because Appold Street is a side street and dead end, it seems to attract a disproportionate level of fly tipped material. The illegal tipping was reported both to the Police and also to Bexley Council.  Fly tipping locally is not always something that the perpetrators get away scot - free with. Some years ago, I was involved with a serious case, which ended up with the fly - fipper getting a custodial sentence, much to my satisfaction - back in January of 2015 when a repeat criminal called Anton Munteau was found guilty by Bexley Magistrates in respect of two offences of failing to have a Waste Carriers Licence and one of Collecting Scrap Metal without being licensed. He had dumped pallets containing two tonnes of rotten bananas at the Morrison's recycling facility in Erith. He was sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment (6 months) on all the fly tipping offences to run concurrently. No separate penalty was awarded for the Waste Carriers Licence offences or the offence under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. He was ordered to pay £1000 in clear up costs which was broken down to £800 to the London Borough of Bexley and £200 to Dartford Borough Council. He was also in Breach of a previous 12 week suspended prison sentence, The court decided to activate 6 weeks of that sentence and he was given a further 6 Weeks imprisonment to run consecutive to the 26 weeks making a total of 32 weeks - a full eight months inside with no remission due to his having already broken a suspended sentence. The court also ordered the forfeiture of the vehicle concerned in all of the offences, which was a white Mercedes panel van worth around £4,500. I am hopeful that more of the local fly tippers get caught and prosecuted in the same way as in the case outlined above. Whether anyone gets caught for the illegal dumping of the fridge freezers, I really do not know. Time will tell. Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com

Word reaches me that a planning application has been submitted to Bexley Council to substantially redevelop and remodel the Spice Master Indian Restaurant in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere. The planning application, number 20/01859/FUL covers alterations and extensions to provide a two storey building with restaurant /cafe (Class A3) on ground floor and a house of multiple occupation (HMO) (Sui Generis) for up to seven people on the first floor of 45 - 47 Nuxley Road Belvedere Kent DA17 5JN. Details of the proposed redevelopment comprise of:- "First floor: refurbishment, roof extension and change of use for the rooms above the restaurant and the C3 use class flat to Sui Generis to provide a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) . This will provide 7 no units with their own bathroom and shared kitchen facilities. Ground floor: refurbishment of the existing A3 use class unit to provide an empty shell for future tenants with relocation of the toilet facilities to the back and provision of back of house access and refuse disposal; independent access to the proposed first floor HMO; and provision of refuse facilities integrated within the building shell for the ground floor unit and first floor HMO". The Spice Master is just the latest in a number of restaurants that have operated out of the building. The building that the restaurant is located in has a lot of history. It was originally constructed as a Victorian temperance cafe called the Belvedere Coffee Tavern and Refreshment Bar – see the period photograph above - click on it for a larger version. I can dimly recall it as a “greasy spoon” type cafe when I was a child, growing up in Upper Belvedere. I never went in it, but would go past regularly. In the mid to late eighties the cafe building was extensively extended and remodelled, to the extent that the owners got into some rather hot water with Bexley Council planning department, as the original structure was a grade II listed building, and they altered it so much that it lost its’ listing. At the same time it was extended, it changed from being a rather scruffy looking cafe into a rather upmarket Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita, which seemed to be frequented by elderly Jaguar driving wide boys and their brassy wives. It was very popular at lunch times for people holding business meetings, and at weekends it was packed – especially for Sunday lunch when one would need to book in advance to stand a chance of getting a table. During the middle of this period, it was exposed by the News Shopper has having the worst kitchen hygiene recorded in Bexley to that date; the place was so bad that it was featured on at least one television consumer protection programme. This had the effect of killing trade off almost overnight. They cleaned the place up, and re-launched it the next year with a new name –“The Garden”, but people had long memories, and the trade did not return. One diner of the time told me ”It was nearly always empty and almost overly friendly with the service. We knew of its health and safety problems (but that was like a year before we'd started going there so it had cleaned up its act) and we had some lovely meals. We tended to use it as a "sod-it-we-can't-be-arsed-to-cook" night as it was local, quite reasonable and they had a tolerable/well priced wine list. It was nice enough but I'm not a fan of Italian Restaurants seeing as at home we eat a lot of Italian style dishes (pasta, lasagne, meatballs, Mediterranean salad etc) so I like to have stuff a bit different when I go out.  It was the height of mid-80's home decoration inside, if I remember rightly. Artex about 3ft thick and everything covered in fake Roman columns, plastic ivy and plaster statues with B and Q's finest wall-hangings and light fittings. Probably quite swish in the day but when we were there in the mid-90's it was a little tired and dated and not my type of thing at all”. Not long after this, it closed for good and lay empty and boarded up for quite a time.It was about at this time that I moved to Erith, and was less aware of the goings on in Nuxley Road than I used to be. The old restaurant building was again gutted and refurbished, this time as an Indian restaurant; the first competition for the venerable and long established Belvedere Tandoori, which was one of my introductions to high street curry eating back in the day. Now it would appear that further changes are in the pipeline. Watch this space for developments in due course. 

Despite the rules, the number of people not wearing masks on the buses continues to rise. Whilst I appreciate that some of those people have genuine respiratory problems, and are exempted from wearing a mask, I suspect that a majority just don't bother. What annoys me significantly more, are those people who give lip service to mask wearing, but wear the mask as a chin - strap, or use the mask to cover their mouth, but leave their nose uncovered. You might as well not bother. What also galls me is that bus drivers do not challenge those passengers breaking the rules - what is the point of having rules if they are not enforced? On a personal note, I always wear a mask in public; I do not like it, but wear it all the same. If I have to suffer, then others should do the same. If this was not irritating enough to the law abiding public transport user, then another irritation also seems to be on the increase. Despite with pretty much all mobile phones being supplied as standard with ear - bud type earphones, the incidence of passengers playing music out loud on public transport is reported to be on the rise. Personally I think playing music out loud on mobile phones in public should be a criminal offence. It is nearly always someone who looks like they would stab you if you complained to them. Why people do this rather than using headphones / ear buds is completely beyond me. The issue was even been discussed in the House of Lords. In 2006, The Piped Music and Showing of Television Programmes Bill was presented to Parliament, calling for "the wearing of headphones by persons listening to music in the public areas of hospitals and on public transport" to be made compulsory, although it never made it into law. The phenomenon has even been given a name – it is called “Sodcasting”. "Sodcast [noun]: Music, on a crowded bus, coming from the speaker on a mobile phone. Sodcasters are terrified of not being noticed, so they spray their audio wee around the place like tomcats." To say there is a backlash against "Sodcasting", that it is felt to be antisocial, is a massive understatement. The fact that the music played is usually hip-hop or other forms of urban music, often seen as threatening by those who don't listen to that music,  exacerbates the sense, felt by many, that the very practice of sodcasting carries an implicit threat: "You don't want to mess with me." Indeed, back in 2006 a couple of thirty somethings from London launched a Music Free Buses campaign and a petition asking TfL (Transport for London) to ban the practice. "People think they can sit on a bus and blast music out, and when you ask them to turn it down you get abuse, especially from teenagers," they told their local newspaper. Around 4,500 people signed the petition, and in a poll carried out by the campaigners, 84 percent said under-18s caught playing music out loud should have their free travel revoked. Only 2 percent of respondents said they found the playing of music in public acceptable; the same proportion of those polled who were 18 or under. The message was clear: youngsters are the ones sodcasting, and adults despise it. TfL declined to ban it, though. I wonder if a relaunch of the campaign may well be on the books? What do you think?


The photo above shows part of Erith High Street back in the summer of 1966, shortly before it was all demolished to make way for the hideous 1970's brutalist concrete shopping centre, which was universally hated by all. It took the extensive remodelling and re - engineering of the centre around fourteen years ago to turn it into the light and pleasant venue it is today.


This week marks the thirty ninth anniversary of the first IBM PC going on sale in the UK. Looking back, the launch of the original PC was a real revolution in computing, but this all actually happened as a bit of an accident – IBM never expected the PC (the original model was actually named the 5150, but most people nowadays are not aware of this). It is fair to say that the IBM PC 5150 turned out to be one of the most influential computers ever invented, and its descendants are still used by billions of people on a daily basis. Not bad for a machine that almost never happened. The machine almost never happened as when it was first mooted that IBM was going to build a PC, a senior executive reportedly asked the simple question: “Why would anyone want to take a computer home with them?” But IBM at the time was struggling financially, and its leadership had not failed to notice that many of its competitors were already selling minicomputers, as well as microcomputers from the likes of Commodore, Atari, Tandy and Apple. IBM was late to the game and it knew it. It developed the IBM PC 5150 in just twelve months. It was widely rumoured that IBM did not expect to sell many of these machines, and it was reported in the media that IBM only ordered 40,000 machines to be made. The IBM PC 5150 proved to be a sales success, and it rapidly became the most influential commercial computer system of all time. Indeed, by the end of 1982 IBM was selling one PC every minute of the business day. That was despite a hefty price tag. Pricing in 1981 started at $1,565 (£1,209), which was the equivalent to $4,073 (£3,148) in 2016.  On top of this high price, the machine was not exactly cutting edge. The 5150 boasted a 8088 CPU, 16K of RAM, expandable to 640K, and a colour graphics adapter. It included a monochrome IBM monitor, and also came with the option of a floppy disk or if you could not afford that, a cassette system. No hard disk drive was even an optional extra at launch – third party units became available (at huge additional cost) sometime later. Even by the standards of the early 1980’s, the original IBM 5150 PC was slow and expensive – but it had the badge “IBM” on the front, which counted for a huge amount – there was a contemporary saying “nobody gets fired for buying IBM” – and this proved to be true. On the upside, it was beautifully made out of very high quality materials, and it was supplied with what many regard as the very best keyboard ever. It also came with unparalleled technical support and maintenance – something businesses then and now value highly. Due to IBM’s rapid development of the 5150, it simply did not have the time to develop all the technology needed for the machine by itself. So the development team therefore opted to build the new machine mostly from existing “off the shelf” components. IBM opted to make the IBM PC an “open architecture” product. It even published a technical reference of the system’s circuit designs and software source codes. This meant that other firms could develop software and build peripheral components, and this is what changed the computing world. And soon other companies such as Compaq, Dell, and HP began to offer complete ‘IBM compatible’ PCs. Thus, the IBM PC rapidly became the industry standard. Software developers concentrated on the most popular platforms, and this meant that the IBM PC became the computer with the greatest variety of software available to it. You may recall that this came at a time of a “perfect storm” – the release of the PC, and the creation of the World’s first personal computer spreadsheet – VisiCalc – also the first “killer app” – people would buy an Apple II or an IBM PC just to run VisiCalc. You can read a full account of the impact that VisiCalc had in the early to mid 1980’s business and academic computer market by clicking here. That decision was a doubled edged sword for IBM, as it effectively lost control of the market; over the next three decades, competition in the PC market was unrelentingly fierce, which eventually led IBM in 2005 to sell off its PC manufacturing division to Chinese computer producer Lenovo. The IBM compatible PC transformed the world. Certainly nowadays a lot of work can be done on smartphones and tablets, but in reality PCs (desktops or laptops) are still used for heavy duty work. Some industry commentators have suggested that we are now living in a “post PC” world, and while it is true that PC shipments are currently in decline, it is still a massive industry that continues to be the bedrock for most businesses. The advent of hybrid devices such as the Microsoft Surface Pro series also suggests that the PC is continuing to evolve. But the PC is here to stay. IBM didn’t invent the personal computer, but the IBM PC 5150 certainly heralded the dawning of the computer age in many offices and households around the world. Happy birthday PC!

Now for the weekly local safety and security updated from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:-"There was a report made of a victim being scammed into having roof work completed if they paid in cash and work was not completed. Please be aware of such incidents and try and only use reputable companies. There is also available information on the Met Police website https://www.met.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention On the Sunday 6th September there was a report of a theft of motor vehicle along Frinsted Road Erith and the vehicle was found and recovered later by Police. On the Saturday 5th September there was a report of a front door being set of fire burning part of the door and letterbox. This was along Birling Road Erith between 8 am and 4 pm". Belvedere ward:-"With schools now reopening, we have are in the process of visiting each of our primary schools to catch up with pupils and staff and to arrange further visits throughout the school term. We have had a few reports of parking issues around Belvedere Junior school and Mitchell Close and will be monitoring this issue when we are able. After recent incidents in which vehicles have been broken into around the Albert Road estate, the team are regularly patrolling the area (including surrounding streets). We have also called at every address on the estate this week to provide our contact details, for use if required. We have also been made aware of a group of young people that have been gathering around the basketball court area of the Picardy Street estate on Friday and Saturday from late evening onward – it appears that the group are creating excessive noise and causing issues for several residents – another area in which we will complete patrols when able". Bexleyheath ward:-"Tuesday 9th September there was a theft of a moped reported yesterday along Gravel Hill Close, victim was a delivery driver. Tuesday 8th September there was a report of a hand bag being stolen from a pram whilst victim was shopping in the Broadway in the afternoon – exact location is not known. There was a report of a theft of motor vehicle along Midhurst Hill Bexleyheath. Incident took place overnight on the Thursday 3rd September and vehicle was stolen from the drive. On the Friday 4th September there was a report of a theft of motor vehicle along Izane Road Bexleyheath. Incident took place between 8 am and 6 pm. There was a report from the fire brigade that there was a deliberate fire started along Mera Drive Bexleyheath. Incident took place on Tuesday 1st September. On the Wednesday 2nd September there was a report of an attempted burglary along Woolwich Road Bexleyheath." Crayford ward:-"We have had three reports of theft of catalytic converters. The first was along Bexley Lane Dartford Tuesday 8th September at about 1 pm. The other report was the same day along Old Road Dartford between 1 pm and 1.30 pm. The third was along Cheswick Close Dartford on the Friday 4th October at about 11 am. On the Sunday 6th September, there was a report of a theft of mobile phone whilst being in and around the Sainsbury's Crayford area. On the Monday 7th September a report was made for a theft of a moped along Wolsley Close Crayford. There was a report of a theft of pedal cycle along Town Hall Square Crayford, bike was stored in a bike store and incident took place overnight from the Friday 4th September". Erith ward:-"Thurs 03/09 10 pm, attempted burglary in Galleons Close, no entry gained after trying to force the window. Sunday 06/09 5 pm, robbery. 2 electric scooters stolen from 2 10 year-olds at Mcdonalds in Erith. Monday 07/09 7.30 am, Burglary. 2 tablets, food and drink stolen at The Exchange, Walnut Tree Road after entry was forced. Monday 07/09 4.15 pm, attempted burglary in Galleons Close. Entry forced to a property to try and steal a moped. Unsuccessful attempt. Tuesday 08/09 3.30 am, Burglary. Laptop, wallet and car keys stolen from a property in Riverdale Road. Entry gained through an open window. Tuesday 08/09 0150 am, Attempted burglary in Lowry Close. Victim woke to see a male inside the property who ran off, nothing taken. Entry gained through an open window. Not a great week for our ward but please be assured that patrols are being made around all locations, reassurance visits are being arranged for all the victims and there are a lot of ongoing CCTV enquiries and investigation taking place around all the incidents". Northumberland Heath ward:-"Good News No Burglaries! But unfortunately there has been an increase to theft from motor vehicles over the last two months. There has been another theft from motor vehicle on Stelling Road . Victim noticed the locks had been damage but nothing was actually taken from the vehicle. We are strongly advising residents to keep valuables out of sight. PC Ali Suat has been completing positive stop and searches within Northumberland Heath Recreational Grounds and been issuing anti-social behavioural orders. These individuals have also been referred to the ASB Team within Bexley Council. PC Lucy Gashi is now on Maternity Leave until June next year . This means a new DWO will be replacing her this month". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"No burglaries but 3 theft from motor vehicles. People are still leaving items on display in their vehicles. Items taken from cars in Slade Green BR car park, Boundary Street and Beacon Road. Please contact us if you would like further Crime Prevention advice in relation to this. In line with Public Health England, the team have conducted two Quarantine checks on our ward in the last week and the relevant advice given". Thamesmead East ward:- "Attempted Burglary Portmeadow Walk - Thurs 3/9/20 2am – 07:43am Victim reports unknown suspect/s have broken two windows above the front door. Entry not gained possibly an act of vandalism but due to the damage of windows around the front door probability sways to attempted burglary. Victim recalls seeing a young girl taking photos of houses a few days prior and thought it was suspicious at the time. Vehicle Crime - Fairway Drive Sat 5/9/20 8 pm – 6:20 pm Sun Catalytic Converter removed by suspect/s unknown from victims Honda vehicle. Maran Way - Thurs 3/9/20 5 pm – 8 am Fri Victim reports van broken into by suspect/s unknown taking tools and drills, evidence suggests a crow bar was used. Watersmeet Way - Fri 4/9/20 8 pm – 12:30 Sat Victim reports bag stolen from vehicle but believes the vehicle may have been left unlocked. Glimpsing Green - Sat 5/9/20 9 pm – 10:15 am Sun Victim reports suspect/s unknown have stolen Badge/Licence and personal possessions from private hire vehicle. There is no visible signs of forced entry the victim is unsure if the vehicle was left locked or not. Criminal Damage Southmere Drive - Fri 4/9/20 7 am -1:30 pm Victim reports vehicle vandalised with masking tape". West Heath ward:- "No burglaries have been reported to us over the last week. One theft of a white Luton transit van from Amberley Road between Tuesday 1/09/20 and Saturday 6/09/230 at 12.30 pm when the owner discovered it missing".

The end video this week is a bit of a historical curiosity; it features a very old recording of local musician H. Robinson - Cleaver playing a tune called "The Whistler and his Dog" on the organ in what was The Regal Cinema in Bexleyheath Broadway. The recording dates back to the 20th of May 1937. The Regal Cinema later became the ABC Cinema, and was eventually demolished to make way for what is now the large Asda Supermarket in Bexleyheath. If you have any feedback, Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

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