Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Christmas Tree Festival.

I took the photos above - click on either for a larger view - yesterday at the annual Christ Church Erith Christmas Tree Festival. It was pretty much touch and go as to whether the popular festival was going to be able to go ahead, due to the current Pandemic. In the end, a decision was made to proceed, but with very strict quarantine rules in place. A maximum of fifty people were allowed in the building at any one time, all visitors had to be masked; sanitiser hand wash was available, and all visitors had to be separated by a minimum of two metres during their visit. There was a one - way route around the historic church, as you will see from the white arrows on the floor. I have been helping out at the event for several years, and visitor numbers were substantially down from previous events, which I suppose is only to be expected under the exceptional circumstances. Those who attended expressed their gratitude that the festival - which forms a vital part of the local social calendar - was able to go ahead, even with the restrictions that I outlined. Several people said to me that they were glad that the festival was able to take place - as it was a small part of the annual calendar that still appeared to be "normal" to them, after so much uncertainty and disruption over so much of this year. The Christmas Tree Festival is a major social event for the Northern part of the London Borough of Bexley - with visitors coming from as far away as Milton Keynes to visit. 

I have frequently bemoaned social networks like Facebook, and how some people seem to publish all sorts of intimate and what one would have thought were private details about themselves. If that were not bad enough, the professional social networking site LinkedIn is now the target for organised cyber criminals. LinkedIn, which has over 600 million users globally, is a prime target for scammers looking to connect with professionals across a variety of industries, including information security and oil and gas. Scammers copy information from real LinkedIn profiles to pose as recruiters and attract new connections. Security analyst Symantec have been investigating the situation. They found that most of these fake accounts followed a specific pattern. They bill themselves as recruiters for fake firms or are supposedly self-employed and primarily use photos of women pulled from stock image sites or of real professionals. The primary goal of these fake LinkedIn accounts is to map out the networks of business professionals.  Using these fake LinkedIn accounts, scammers are able to establish a sense of credibility among professionals in order to initiate further connections. In addition to mapping connections, scammers can also scrape contact information from their connections, including personal and professional email addresses as well as phone numbers. Symantec said LinkedIn users should be very sceptical of who they add to their network. “If you’ve never met the person before, don’t just add them. We weren’t surprised to learn that these fake LinkedIn accounts received endorsements from real users”. I would add to this by recommending that if you are a LinkedIn user, and you receive a request from someone that you don’t know, do a Google search on the person to see what you can find out about them – and if they actually exist at all. As always, be careful; once something is online about you, it is impossible to remove it. Publishing anything online is very much a one – way process.

The upper of the two images above shows a sight that will be familiar to local residents - the greatly used Erith Post Office, and the site adjacent to it that used to house company WDS Signs, but has been vacant for some time now. The lower architect's impression shows what may be a possible redevelopment of the WDS Signs facility. The details of the proposal are as follows:- "Proposed Scheme submitted as Pre-App enquiry: Construction of a Seven Storey Block providing 22 Residential Units, 270 sq m (2,906 sq ft) of Commercial Space and associated Parking. Proposed Residential Accommodation : Twelve x 1 bedroom, Six x 2 bedroom and Four x 3 bedroom flats". I have been reliably informed that the site was due to go to auction on the 29th of October, but the lot was withdrawn prior to the auction date, as it had been privately sold. I have doubts as to whether the proposed flats get built in the currently shown design, as the site is within the Erith High Street conservation area, which places limits on new build structures. More on this story in the weeks to come. If you have any information on this matter, please contact me in complete confidence at

One relatively new occupant of the high street is very much a Kentish invention; this year marks the fifteenth birthday of the Micro Pub. The very first Micro Pub – the Butcher’s Arms, was opened back in 2005 in Herne Bay; since then over two hundred Micro Pubs have opened – many in Kent and South East London, as well as plenty all over the country. Locally we have five – The Kentish Belle next to Bexleyheath railway station, The Bird and Barrel in Barnehurst, The Broken Drum in Westwood Lane, Blackfen, The Door Hinge in Welling High Street, and The Penny Farthing at Waterside in Crayford, conveniently situated right next door to The Crayford Tandoori - a match made in heaven if ever there was one. The massive popularity of Micro Pubs does pose the question, just what exactly is a Micro Pub? The definition of a Micropub is difficult. It is a set of ethics rather than a set of rules A 'Micropub' according to the Micropub Association is defined as follows: "A Micropub is a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks' There may be differences between the pubs; they may or may not have a bar, they might serve beer straight from the cask or through hand pumps. But they are united in one philosophy. A simple pub with the focus on cask beer and conversation for entertainment. The basic premise is KIS, KIS – Keep It Small, Keep It Simple". The landlord of the Butcher’s Arms, and the person credited with creating the entire concept, Martyn Hillier said “The Micropub Association will be a place where like-minded real ale lovers can share their Micropub experiences. The Micropub Association will also be a platform for the new Micro Pubs to tell the beer drinking community about themselves. A successful Micropub is based upon good ale and lively banter and I want this to come across through the Micropub Association. Ultimately I’d like to think that we could become a useful lobby group to support the likes of CAMRA and SIBA, promoting the real ale experience”. How micro pubs will fare by the time the pandemic is finally over, only time will tell. 

The photo above - click on it to see a larger version - shows the South aspect of Electricity House, just after the scaffolding that has recently been surrounding it had been dismantled on Monday morning. As you can see, the brickwork has now been rendered. The mystery surrounding the work deepens; it had been assumed that the cosmetic work to the building had been undertaken on behalf of Bexley Council, to protect their investment prior to the building being closed and then demolished. It would appear that this is not actually the case at all. One of my confidential sources writes: "I phoned Liz House (Senior Property valuer) at Bexley earlier today. I asked her if she knew whether the Council had arranged for remedial works to be done? She seemed somewhat doubtful, and said Council was unlikely to be throwing money at the place (due to current financial position) and commented that it would be pointless in light of future demolition plans for the building etc. So, if it`s NOT them". This now begs two questions; who has funded the remedial work, and why? If not the Council, then the only logical alternative is one of the buildings' tenants. The largest and most active of which are the operators of the P2 Events Centre, which is controversially located in what used to be Erith Snooker Centre, on the upper floor of the building. It is my understanding that this events centre is administered by Pastor Ogedengbe and Bola Segun of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, which operates out of the same building. My source has carried out some investigations into the organisation, and has discovered that the holding company for the group is called Praise Embassy Limited, which is currently undergoing the process of being compulsorily struck off the register at Companies House. The reason for the strike - off process being initiated appears to be that Praise Embassy Limited have failed to submit accounts, or a confirmation statement since the company was first registered on the 4th of October 2018. You can read details of the situation by clicking here

It would seem that the BBC's long time business model involving the licence fee may now be challenged. In a report on how public service broadcasting should adapt to the age of online viewing, Ofcom said the existing system was “unlikely to survive” and that new platforms should be obliged to feature traditional broadcasters’ streaming services prominently. It suggested the rules governing the public service remit for broadcasters including the BBC should be radically overhauled, potentially allowing them to fulfil their obligations online instead of through traditional channels. If Ofcom’s suggestions are implemented, they would represent the most radical revision to the rules governing broadcasting in the UK since streaming services began to challenge traditional outlets. As the likes of Netflix, Disney TV and Amazon Prime Video make inroads to viewing habits, the behaviour of viewers has radically changed. The report states that while 67 percent of total viewing time in 2019 was to broadcast content, that figure fell to 38 percent among 16-34 year olds, Ofcom’s audience research found, with those viewers feeling “much less connection to the public service broadcasters” and sometimes only discovering their content via streaming services. Two in five viewers of streaming services say they can imagine watching no broadcast TV at all in five years’ time. The BBC are currently in negotiations with the government in respect of renewing the licence fee. Currently, a colour TV licence costs £154.50 a year.; this works out as £12.88 a month - considerably more than a subscription to the various popular streaming services, which range between £5.99 and £8.99 per month. Also, the streaming services such as Netflix and others offer a continuous range of fresh, original content that is available on demand. I used to be a big fan of the BBC and the licence fee, but my recent experiences have changed this. I rarely watch BBC TV and listen to BBC radio in the way that I used to. Last year I also permanently cancelled my Sky TV contract, which I had held for around 24 years, as I felt that it offered extremely poor value for money when compared with the streaming services - on top of this, I was paying what I considered was a huge monthly fee to Sky in order to then have to watch adverts. A premium, paid for service absolutely should not contain advertising. I feel that the BBC need to develop a completely new business model based on a subscription service in a similar way to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix - amongst others. As previously mentioned, until relatively recently I was a big fan of the BBC, but that changed when I spent six months working with them in a professional capacity. Whilst I am certain that a large number of BBC personnel are lovely people, the BBC staff I encountered were, in my opinion (with a couple of notable exceptions) the most entitled, arrogant and dictatorial individuals I have ever had the misfortune to work with. There is a very pervasive attitude amongst a significant percentage of BBC staff, that "We are the BBC!" - and therefore entitled to do pretty much as they please, as they have a government charter. The concept of having to work to recruit and retain viewers is an anathema to the BBC - they are so institutionalised, that the idea of competition with other broadcasters is utterly alien to them. I am not going to turn this into a rant (though I have to admit, the temptation is strong). What do you think? Should the BBC licence fee be replaced with a subscription based business model? Email me at

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Another week goes by with no burglaries. There has been one incident of vehicle crime in Holmsdale Grove which occurred overnight on Thursday 3/12/2020 whereby unknown suspects have gained access to a Suzuki Van and have caused damage to the Ignition barrel by drilling into it. Between Thursday 3rd and Saturday 5th of December, a resident returned home to find graffiti over a garage door. The team have been out and about on the ward carrying out foot and mobile patrols. PC Arif and PC Tom Smith were out on the ward Tuesday 1/12/2020 and stopped two males in Hurstwood Avenue, one of the males ran from Officers to avoid being searched. After a chase around the local area PC Tom Smith caught the male in Colyers Lane. Following a search the male was found to be in possession of drugs. Free Smart Water kits are being offered out to all residents of Manor Way. The event is being held over two days where residents can come along at chosen times to sign up for Smart Water. Finally, just a reminder to double lock doors and windows, double-check your vehicle is locked and secure and when out shopping make sure your bag is zipped up and worn towards the front of the body rather than at the side or behind". Belvedere ward:-"There was a residential burglary reported on Thursday 3rd December, in North Road. Access was gained to the property via a rear window, and electrical items and a purse were taken from the address. Further information was given to the team in relation to a female that had been seen in the area on the previous evening, apparently approaching several properties in order to beg for money. Recent reports of a group of young people in Picardy Road area causing issues by throwing items at the newsagent (shop) and it’s customers seem to have diminished somewhat, however, the team will continue our regular patrols of this area. There have been two reports of number plates having been removed from vehicles recently; one in Regent Square and the other in Waterfield Close. Also, another vehicle was reported as stolen from Halt Robin Road between the Friday 4th and Monday 7th of the month. The team has made efforts to regularly patrol each location. Finally, there have been reports of people sleeping in the communal area of Mary Slessor House on Picardy Street. The team has visited the location several times recently, but there are no items in place within the block to suggest that this is the case. The team is monitoring the area at this time".  Bexleyheath ward:- "A theft of a mobile phone was reported, the victim stated that their phone was taken from their bag. Believed to be in card factory on the Broadway between 2:30 pm and 3 pm on Friday 4th December. There was also a report of a purse being stolen from a children’s buggy whilst the victim was in the bowling alley at Bexleyheath. Incident took place on Friday 4th December between 5:30 pm and 7 pm. On the 5th November, there was a report of a theft from a motor vehicle at Broomfield Road Bexleyheath between 11 pm and 11:05 pm. The catalytic converter was stolen from underneath the vehicle. A report of the theft of number plates from a vehicle overnight on the Saturday 5th December at St Audrey Avenue Bexleyheath, between 3 pm until the next day at 12: 15 midday. There was a report that a vehicle was set on fire at Braeside Crescent Bexleyheath that took place at about midnight on the Sunday 6th December. A mobile phone reported stolen from the victim's bag, believed to of been in JD Sports Bexleyheath on the Friday 4th December at about 11 am. A purse was reported stolen on the SAturday 5th December between 3 pm and 3:30 pm whilst shopping in Dorothy Perkins Bexleyheath. Another victim had used the cash machine and had placed money in their bag only to find later the cash and cards had been stolen from their bag, this took place on the Saturday 5th December from between 3:45 pm and 5:30 pm along the Broadway. On Saturday 5th December between 3:45 pm and 3:50 pm. The victim was shopping in TX Maxx when they felt someone bump into them, then realised that their bag was open and their purse was missing. On the Friday 4th, December between 9 am and 9:15 am, the victim stated they had their wallet stolen which contained cash. They believe it was in the card factory as someone had brushed passed them and when they went to pay they could not find their wallet. On Friday 4th December at about 1:40 pm, the victim was in McDonald's Bexleyheath and dropped his wallet In the restaurant and when they realised they had dropped it they went to collect it. Unfortunately, someone had taken it and left. The victim had a leg injury and could not go after the suspect. There was criminal damage to a motor vehicle reported on Wednesday 2nd December from about 10 pm and 6:30 am the next morning, driver’s side window was smashed but nothing was taken. A van was broken in to at Rye Close Bexleyheath. Van was parked overnight on the Wednesday 2nd December between 11 pm and 6 am the next day. Doors were seen left opened and tools were taken from within. On Thursday 3rd December victim had cash in their pocket and believes cash was stolen from them whilst on the bus at the Broadway, as people had brushed by them. This was approximately between 1 pm and 1:30 pm". Crayford ward:-"On the Thursday 3rd December at 14:15 a blue Vauxhall Corsa, number plate LX52 VXB was stolen from the Thames Road end of Iron Mill Lane.  Hermes parcels and an iPhone 10 within the vehicle were also stolen.  A male suspect was seen to jump out of a metallic blue BMW and get in and drive the Corsa away.  There is an LOS marker on this vehicle, it will be stopped by police if seen. On the Saturday 5th December between 4:10 and 4:20 a Honda CRV was broken in to in Woolbrook Road, an iPhone and black Beats Pro 2 headphones were stolen.  It was believed the vehicle was locked.  CCTV shows a male on the estate riding a pushbike. At approximately 4:30 am on Saturday 5th December a silver Toyota was broken in to in Whitehill Road.  Two equipment bags containing screwdrivers and optical equipment as well as a fuel card were stolen. The car was believed to be locked.  Some items were found nearby, deposited in front of a garage in Maiden Lane with CCTV and returned to the rightful owner.  Between 20:00 on the Saturday 5th December and 08:00 on Sunday 6th December the catalytic converter was stolen from a green Honda Jazz whilst parked in Thames Road". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward:- "The team has been busy conducting patrols across the ward this week, they have assisted in a drugs warrant and a Knife Arch. We have had one burglary on Brook Street, this was reported to police this week, however, it is unknown when it was committed due to the property being unoccupied for the last month. We have had one theft of a motorbike from Luddesdon Road, this took place overnight between the Sunday 6th and Monday 7th December. On Monday 7th December at approximately 04:39 am a call to LFB regarding a fire at the Rugby Club in North Heath rec. The fire was caused deliberately by someone setting fire to a motorbike that was dumped up against the wall of the rugby club. The vehicle would have been taken to into the park via either of the two entrances on Sussex Road. If anyone has any information or any Ring doorbell or CCTV footage of this, please get in touch with the team. Between Friday 4th and Saturday 5th overnight on Bexley Road, a number of vehicles and shop fronts were spray-painted with white paint. We do not know what time this occurred, however, if anyone has any information or any CCTV footage that could assist us, please get in touch with the team". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Two vehicles were broken into on the Howbury Park estate overnight between Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd of December. A laptop, wallet, cash and a phone charger were among the items left inside the vehicle. Please take all belongings from your cars before locking them. PCSO Mark Pigott and PC James Telfer have both had a positive drug stop and search in the last week (in Manor Road), with both parties coming back for an interview". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglaries - No burglaries this week. Remember remain vigilant, close and lock windows and doors even if you are only going out for a short time. Keep burglars guessing when the nights are getting longer– use timer lights. Motor Vehicle Crimes - Between the hours of 12:20 pm and 13:20 pm on Monday 7/12/20, a vehicle parked near HINKSEY PATH was broken into,loose change, and jackets were stolen". West Heath ward:- "We are pleased to report that no burglaries have been reported to the team so far this week. One report of motor vehicle crime in  Norfolk Gardens overnight between Thursday 3/12/2020 21:00 – Friday 04/12/2020 at 08:20. The owner discovered the Navy blue Vauxhall Astra missing from the driveway but was still in possession of the keys to the vehicle".
The end video this week was suggested to me by long time reader, and occasional contributor Miles. It is a real - time video, showing a Crossrail train making a test journey from Abbey Wood to Westbourne Park from the perspective of the driver in the train cab. It does show that the line is actually up and running, even if it is still not actually in full, public operation. Comments to

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