Sunday, November 08, 2020

Crashed Focus.

I don't normally cover stories that have made the national headlines - there is little point, as proper journalists tend to make a much better job of it than I could, and in any case what would be the point? I am making somewhat of an exception this week, due to the potential impact the story may have on the local economy. It has widely been reported that Sainsbury's, who own Argos, are planning on opening more Argos branches within existing Sainsbury's supermarkets, and closing down many, if not all physical Argos stores like the one in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre pictured above. Apparently much of the retail business undertaken in the physical stores has transitioned online during the Covid-19 lockdown. The Erith store has been closed for some months, and I have my doubts as to whether it will actually reopen. I feel that this would be a great loss for local people - not everyone is comfortable ordering goods online, and I feel for the staff, whose jobs might well be at risk. The Erith store has been extremely popular, but I would imagine the overheads in operating the store must be quite high; Operating a giant out of town warehouse and a fleet of delivery vans must be a lot more cost effective that paying rent and rates on expensive in town retail outlets. Do you work for Sainsbury's or Argos? Can you give me an insight into what is going on? Email me in complete confidence to

British Telecom is currently engaged in a large project to remove many of the remaining street telephone boxes from around the UK. Originally some of the boxes were to be replaced with ultra fast 5G enabled contact points, with video and audio connections to enable the public to call the emergency services, and to enable ultra fast wireless charging of mobile devices. This project has however now been cancelled - the original supplier of the specialist hardware for the contact points went out of business in October of last year, and the only other company who expressed an interest in supplying the hardware is based in Germany, and has subsequently pulled out of the deal due to uncertainty over Brexit. This part of the project, is as I currently understand it, dead in the water. The removal of phone boxes is still going ahead in many, but not all cases. British Telecom are saying that the number of boxes is no longer financially viable. I recall that some time ago there was a well – used payphone in Manor Road, outside of the former Royal Alfred pub. A reliable source told me that the phone box use got very much heavier, the further into the month one went. Apparently this was because local addicts would use it to phone their drug dealers when the credit on their mobile phones had run out. That all ended in the autumn of 2011 when joy riders in a stolen BMW lost control of the car and crashed into the phone box. It was thought that as the pay phone generated a fair deal of cash, that BT would replace it, but after a few days the box was removed and the hole it left in the pavement was covered with tarmac. That was the end of what I understood to have been the most profitable phone box in the area, so I am not exactly surprised that less well – earning phone boxes are being retired. I do have concerns however; mobile phone signal coverage is generally good in and around Erith, due mainly to the cell transceivers and antenna farm on the roof of Electricity House next to the Fish roundabout. Other parts of the London Borough of Bexley have far patchier coverage, not to mention what would happen in the event of a national or local disaster, or even a terrorist attack, as happened last week in Vienna? One of the first things to go down in such an event are the mobile phone networks. The authorities have the ability to disable all mobile phones in a given cell or series of cells, with the exception of specialist mobile phones (which have to be approved by the Police and the Home Office) which are used by the disaster recovery teams in large organisations. In certain circumstances, the entire mobile phone network may go down. If this happens the only alternatives are old fashioned copper landline telephones, or the most reliable backup method of communication – two way radio. Unless, like me you are a Radio Amateur, the options for two way radio operation are very limited; CB and PMR 446 are pretty much limited to line of sight – 4 to 6 miles at sea level on average (your mileage may vary due to a number of factors I won’t go into here). This is where the organisation RAYNET steps in; RAYNET is a voluntary emergency service operated by Radio Amateurs that provide short, medium and long range voice, video and data communications in areas where there has been a total loss of mainstream communications. RAYNET volunteers train alongside the Fire Brigade, Police, Ambulance Service, Mountain Rescue and RNLI. When all other forms of communication have failed, radio will always get through. What I am really saying is, if you want to maintain reliable communications under any sort of adverse circumstances, then you really need to become a Radio Amateur – you can read all about how to apply here.

Thanks once again to Jeff, who over the last couple of weeks has been supplying me with scans of a historic local document. The two shots above - click on either for a larger version - show images from a  pamphlet originally produced for Education Week, June 22nd - 27th, 1925 by the Erith Education Committee (63 pages of text and pictures, plus adverts). Most is a description of provision of school provision and services in Erith. The two shots this week show a local girl's netball and boy's football team. 

On Wednesday evening I saw something that made me want to bite my tongue; I knew however that if I said anything I would have most likely got a barrage of abuse. I was standing in the queue at a checkout in Morrison’s. There was a couple in front of me; they looked to be aged in their mid-sixties, and were expensively dressed. The man pulled out his wallet to pay for the contents of their trolley – he had eight or nine debit and credit cards, and inside the wallet was a white address label type of sticker – and written on it were the PIN numbers for each of his cards, along with the three digit number on the reverse of the cards. I could not believe someone would be so stupid as to record the PIN numbers of all of their cards and to keep the information in the same, easily stolen place. He was obviously worth a bob or two, and it was an open invitation for a mugger or pickpocket to steal from him. Not only that, but if he did have his wallet stolen, any money taken from his accounts using the legitimate PIN number prior to his reporting the theft would not be refunded by the bank or credit card company. Madness.

I took the photo above - click on it to see a larger version - last night; once again the main drain servicing Morrison's supermarket in Erith had been blocked, and a sewage truck with drainage operatives had been called to clear the obstruction. Lorries such as the one in the photo above can be seen in James Watt Way several times a week. As I have previously written, it would seem to be a far better option for Morrison's management to bit the bullet and have the drainage system in question replaced by one that is more fit for purpose. The call out costs in respect of sewage trucks and operators clearing the blockages several times every week must be considerable. What do you think? Email me at

I recently discovered that South East London and North Kent once suffered from a serious earthquake. On April the 12th 1884, and powerful earthquake shook an area from Woolwich to as far as Margate. Initially residents thought that one of the armament storage warehouses at Woolwich Royal Arsenal had exploded – as had happened back on Saturday the first of October 1864, when two massive gunpowder stores on the marshes in Lower Belvedere detonated – which was one of the largest non – nuclear explosions in British history. It was understandable therefore that almost twenty years later many who experienced the massive explosion would automatically assume that the earthquake was caused by another accident whilst handling explosives. You can read more about the Belvedere explosion by clicking here. The earthquake was a different beast altogether; the epicentre of the quake was in South Essex, from there the shock waves spread out causing disturbance over an area somewhat in excess of 53,000 square miles. It measured 6.9 on the Richter scale and caused buildings to sway and develop structural cracks, chimneys to collapse, slates to cascade down roofs, and several fires were caused. In North Kent, well away from the epicentre, the effects were still profound. People were understandably terrified – the ground beneath their feet was moving, and great clouds of dust rose into the air. Some people were knocked over, whilst others were sick with fright. Some even wondered if the day of judgement had come, as the motion of the earthquake caused many church bells to ring spontaneously. Eventually the earthquake passed; fortunately there were few serious injuries and no reported deaths. To date the Kent earthquake of 1884 remains one of the most serious geological events to have taken place in England. Let’s hope we are not scheduled for another, as the potential damage both to life and infrastructure would be proportionally worse nowadays – there were few gas mains, almost no electricity cables and certainly no fibre – optic lines for an earthquake to destroy back in 1884 – the same most certainly could not be said of today. What do you think? Email me with your comments to

On Thursday, radio station Time 107.5 FM announced that a major international film studio is to be built in Dagenham; it will provide many new jobs to people around the area. In the past, a considerable number of people in the London Borough of Bexley commuted daily to Dagenham to work at the Ford factory. It is entirely possible that local people may once again travel to Dagenham for work, this time at the studio. The news announcement regarding the development reads thus:- "Barking and Dagenham Council has signed an agreement with a Californian real estate company to build London’s largest film and TV production centre in Dagenham. Hackman Capital Partners (HCP) will reportedly invest hundreds of millions in Eastbrook Studios London over the coming years. The company already owns three studios in America where films such as Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane and Iron Man were made.  HCP reportedly plans to develop 12 sound stages, three acres of backlot, offices and ancillary space on the former Sanofi factory site, in the London East Business and Technical Park, in Yewtree Avenue. The council expects the project to create 1,200 jobs and to contribute £35 million to the local economy each year. “Dagenham used to be famous for factories and Fords but in the future, we will be equally famous for making films,” said the leader of Barking and Dagenham council, Darren Rodwell. “It’s not for the glamour or glory. It’s about bringing in thousands of jobs, providing education and training opportunities for local young people,and giving people hope in these gloomy Covid times.” Building work is set to start next year and filming could begin as early as mid-2022 with the studio fully operational by 2023. Mr Rodwell claimed the coronavirus pandemic would not stop work on the site. Michael Hackman, CEO of Hackman Capital Partners, said: “We are proud to be partnering with Councillor Rodwell and his team to bring this exciting project to fruition. “Together with the diverse and talented people of Barking and Dagenham, our investment will help write the script for the next iteration of ‘Made in Dagenham’”. The site will be leased to HCP on a 250 year basis".  Good news all round in my opinion. 

I took the two photos above on Saturday afternoon. The photographs show a crashed and abandoned Ford Focus car at the junction of Picardy Road and Berkhamstead Road in Upper Belvedere. The car crash actually happened on Friday afternoon, and an eye witness told me that the driver of the car was driving very slowly along Picardy Road, and appeared to be distracted by either the radio or the satellite navigation system on the dashboard. He did not not notice that the road curved, and crashed into the lamp post shown in the photos. The adjacent homeowner called the Police, and the accident site was taped off. I understand that there were suspicions that the driver of the car may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, though this has not been confirmed or refuted at the time of writing. The graffiti sprayed on the car apparently appeared over night - perpetrated by vandals unknown. If you have any further information on this incident, please drop me a line to

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Halloween came and went on the ward with no issues. The team generally receive calls to the ward phone from residents reporting youths throwing flour and eggs however we did not receive one single call for any anti-social behavioural matters. There are no burglaries to report however we have had an Incident of vehicle crime. On Monday 26/10/2020 in Becton Place there was an incident of theft of number plates, registration number GL08FLE taken from a Ford KA. A vehicle using these same plates attempted to commit a theft from a motor vehicle. It’s possible the vehicle is involved in catalytic converter thefts. The team has been made aware of a male peering over a fence looking into the rear gardens at Holmesdale Grove. This male is described as being white, aged approximately mid-thirties to forty-year-old with long dreadlocks down to his waist". Belvedere ward:- "There has been a slight increase in motor vehicle crime across the ward over recent weeks, both theft of vehicles (mainly motorcycles) and theft from vehicles (mainly cars). Of note, there have been three occasions in which Catalytic Convertors have been removed from cars. In other areas of the ward, we have been noticing an increase in anti-social behaviour by a certain group of young males in and around the Albert Road recreation ground and Bedwell Road – most recently last weekend where the group are said to have been throwing glass bottles into Bedwell Road, presumably in the hope of causing damage to vehicles using the road. Those responsible are thought to be the same group that is using electric scooters around the same area and causing a nuisance to residents/ shoppers alike. We are making a concerted effort with our patrols of the area to deter this group as much as possible. Over the Halloween weekend and over bonfire/ fireworks evenings this week, the team has been working later into the night along with officers from neighbouring wards to patrol several areas across the north of the borough". Bexleyheath ward:- "Monday 26/10/20 1400 – 29/10/20 1300 Theft From Motor Vehicle Catalytic Convertor Stolen Midhurst Hill. Friday 30/10/20 1515 – 30/10/20 1530 Theft from Person items stolen from handbag left on floor Goals, Graham Road. Friday 30/10/20 1830 – 31/10/20 0700 Theft From Motor Vehicle Number Plates Stolen Latham Road. Monday 2/11/20 1240 Theft From Motor Vehicle Catalytic Convertor Stolen The Mall car park, Broadway. Monday 2/11/20 0800 – 1200 Burglary Belvedere Road front door not double-locked with key, jewelry taken. Monday 2/11/20 1415 – 1445 Criminal Damage The Mall car park, Broadway - paintwork scratched. Monday 2/11/20 1330 – 1545 Theft From Motor Vehicle Catalytic Convertor Stolen Asda Graham Road. Sadly we have had a burglary this week, please revisit your own property and locking it up securely when you leave, make sure the front door handle is pulled up and the key is used to lock it". Crayford ward:- "One burglary to report this week. On Saturday 31st October it was reported that Mayplace Primary School had been broken into, it is unclear at this time how the building was entered or what was stolen. Between 10.00 on Monday 26th October and 15.15 on Tuesday 27th October, a driving license was stolen from a Vauxhall Insignia whilst parked in Norris Way. The theft of a silver Ka was reported as happening between 18.45 on Friday 30th October and 11.00 on Saturday 31st October close to Footpath 124 and Lower Station Road.  It had been involved in a road traffic collision and was awaiting collection by the insurance company.  A black box tracker has since located the vehicle as being in Sidcup. Two catalytic converters have been stolen, both from Sainsburys car park and on Friday 30th October.  One was a silver Honda CRV and the other a Toyota Auris". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward:- "With Autumn nights upon us, the team has been completing High Visibility patrols around the ward from 15:00-Midnight. No burglaries to report this week. There has been a sharp rise in theft from motor vehicles over the past month on the ward, these seem to be happening in a specific area of the ward mainly concerning the following roads:- Hengist Road, Horsa Road, Hurst Road. This week we have had 1 attempted theft from a motor vehicle on Hengist Road on the 31 October, and 1 theft from a motor vehicle on Cavendish Road on the 02 November. Please do not leave valuable items in your vehicles. If items are visible in your vehicle, you are highly likely to become a victim of these crimes. On Halloween evening there were reports of a small group of youths who have run down Hengist Road, causing criminal damage to motor vehicles. We had two reports reported to police of wing mirrors being broken off and a smashed window. If anyone has any further information regarding these incidents, please contact the team and let us know". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Two burglaries occurred overnight between Saturday 31/10 and Sunday 1/11 in Moat Lane and Bridge Road. Both victims had left downstairs windows open. CCTV inquiries are being made. Please ensure all windows are locked before leaving your home or going to bed. One positive stop and search at Dale View with drugs confiscated and the relevant warnings were given. Extra patrols have been carried out during the evening across the borough during Halloween weekend and this will continue for Bonfire night". Thamesmead East ward:- "No Burglaries this week. Remember remain vigilant,close and lock windows and doors even if you’re only going out for a short time. When the nights get longer keep burglars guessing – use timer lights. Vehicle Crime - Maran Way - Wed 21/10/20 between 8:55 pm - 9:31 pm victim reports suspects removed the vehicle with a tow truck. Holstein Way - Thurs 22/10/20 between 6 pm - 10 pm victim reports Catalytic converter removed from Honda Civic by suspect/s unknown. Seacourt Road - Thurs 22/19/20 – Mon 26/10/20 Victim reports 3 bags of sharp sand were left in an open back tipper truck which has been removed by suspect/s unknown. Parkway -  Fri 23/10/20 - 25/10/20 Victim states suspect/s unknown have stolen Ford Transit van. Sydney Road - Sat 24/10/20 between 12 midday - 9:47 pm Victim reports unknown suspect/s entered the vehicle and removed two bags from the boot. The victim stated there was no damage to the vehicle as sometimes the boot does not shut properly. Wolvercote Road - Sun 25/10/20 9 pm – Mon 26/10/20 7 am Victim reports a speaker, charging cable and old bank card removed from victim's vehicle without damage by suspect/s unknown. Holstein Way - Mon 26/10/20 8 pm – Wed 28/10/20 5 pm Victim reports catalytic converter removed from Lexus.  Criminal Damage  - Mangold Way - Sun 25/10/20 2 pm – Tues 27/10/20 12 midday victim reports vehicle being scratched down one side by suspect/s unknown. Autumn Nights - Mangold Way - between the hours of 11:15 pm on Thursday 29/10/20 and 8:05 am on Friday 30/10/20 a van was stolen but was later recovered in Erith. Holstein Way – Friday 30/10/20 between the hours of 9:00 am and 6:40 pm the catalytic converter was stolen from a Honda vehicle. Maran Way - Thursday 29/10/20 between 6:00 pm and 7:00 am on Friday 30/10/20 the catalytic converter was stolen from another Honda vehicle. Kale Road – between 8;00 pm on Sunday 1/11/20 and 00:20 am on Monday 2/11/20 the driver's side window was smashed, believed that the suspect/s had tried to steal the vehicle.No entry was gained. Pointer Close - a vehicle parked in the underground car park had the driver's side window smashed, nothing taken. The incident happened between the hours of 00:00 am and 9:30 am on Monday 02/11/20. Holstein Way - a vehicle was stolen between the hours of 10:00 am on Monday 02/11/20 and 09:00 am. Lensbury Way - between the hours of 6:00 pm on Tuesday 03/11/20 and 07;00 am on Wednesday 04/11/20 the rear lights and number plate were stolen". West Heath ward:- "Thankfully there Have been no burglaries reported to us over the past week. One report of criminal damage to a vehicle parked in Shakespeare Road between Wednesday 28/10/20  and Thursday 29/10/2020 at 8am when the owner of the vehicle discovered several tyres had been slashed. The team has been busy over the last week on late shifts throughout the Halloween period, this will continue with Bonfire night fast approaching. Stay safe and look out for one another during this difficult second lockdown. We as a team are here as usual to help and support our community".

The end video this week is a bit of a curiosity; it features American firearms historian Ian McCulloch, and him examining two vintage Luger 9mm pistols. The guns have a remarkable local connection. The Dutch government adopted the Luger pistol for the KNIL (Dutch East Indies colonial forces) in 1910, and placed an initial order for 4,182 pistols from original Luger manufacturer DWM in Germany. These were standard 9mm New Model Lugers, with grip safeties, no stock lugs, and manual safeties marked “RUST”. When more pistols were needed by the KNIL after World War One, the Treaty of Versailles prohibited DWM from making them. Instead, the Vickers company tooled up to produce them at its Crayford factory. Back when Maxim-Nordenfelt licenced the Maxim gun to DWM, part of the deal was a reciprocal licence for Maxim to produce DWM products. That was inherited by Vickers when they acquired Maxim-Nordenfelt, and it gave them the right to make the 6,000 guns ordered by the Dutch in 1923. An incredible but true local story.

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