Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Waiting Room.

It is so common nowadays to find public spaces that are dreary, dirty and unloved. In many places the world seems grey and unwelcoming. It is a great pity, as unless there is a profit to be made, so many services seem unable or unwilling to "go the extra mile" for customer satisfaction. It was therefore a really pleasant surprise to find somewhere that bucks this trend. The two photos above were taken by me last Friday. Click on either to see a larger version. A couple of years ago I visited and photographed the waiting room at Bexleyheath Station, and I was impressed with it back then. Since my last visit, the place has had an extensive refurbishment, including new doors, a repaint, and the vintage wooden parquet flooring has been sanded and re - varnished. Normally there is a trust - based book library, where travellers can take a book as long as they leave a book; unfortunately this is currently not operating due to concerns over infection spreading via the books. Nevertheless the waiting room at Bexleyheath Station is a far nicer place to be than you would normally expect from a waiting room - indeed, it is the best one I have ever visited, and is a credit to the station staff, who keep it immaculately clean and well looked after. The bench seats in the waiting room appear to be 1930's vintage pieces - it was noted that these are the kind of thing that Drew Pritchard of Salvage Hunters would pay a substantial sum for. In pre Covid-19 days, there was even a guest book located on the table at the centre of the room. It was full of warm and positive comments; where else would you find a guest book in a public waiting room at a railway station? I have contacted Network Southeastern to commend the staff at Bexleyheath Station for their outstanding customer care. 

As people gear up for Christmas, the whole thorny issue of gifts and gift wrapping comes up. I have a major issue with gift wrapping paper for Christmas presents; due to the treatment much of the paper receives during production, it cannot be recycled, and is especially bad for the environment, as the only way to get rid of it is to put it in landfill, or to burn it. What I have chosen to do is rather than wrapping Christmas presents, I will be giving them in sparkly gift bags, which can be reused, year after year. As I have previously written, this is also the reason that I don't send Christmas cards, as I believe them to be ruinously bad for the environment - wood and rags are pulped to make the cards, energy is used to print them, fossil fuels are used to transport them to the shops, electricity and gas are burned to light and heat the shops, then once they are purchased, more fossil fuels are used to deliver the cards around the planet, then after a few days they are discarded, and many cannot be recycled, due to the plastic or wax derived finishes that many cards have. On top of this, greetings cards are a vector for spreading both Flu and Covid-19 infections. The cards themselves can harbour the viruses for several days, but the main risk is in the envelope - viruses can live in the saliva used to activate the glue to seal the envelopes. I can understand the practice in the past, when a Christmas card sent to friends and loved ones would be a form of annual communication when you might otherwise not hear from them, but nowadays this is far from the case; instant worldwide online communications mean that from my perspective, Christmas cards are consigned to the past. one can send electronic, online greetings for a fraction of the cost of a postage stamp - and the recipient will not be in danger of getting an infection. What do you think? Please leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

I have had several correspondences with readers following my article last week on conspiracy theories, and what motivates people to follow them. Here is some prescient advice given some years ago, which is just as valid today. Not everything you see on the Internet in general or social media in particular is gospel truth. Sometimes interesting or gratifying or controversial facts, posts and memes are complete fabrications. The fact that tens of thousands of people have ‘Liked’ an article doesn’t prove that it’s true. (Though it doesn’t prove that it isn’t, either). The fact that one or more of your very intelligent and well-informed friends posted it isn’t conclusive proof that it’s accurate, either. Sometimes, very bright people fall for bogus messages because they want to believe them: for instance, because they fit with their political views, or offer some exciting gift, or refer to some threat that they don’t have the technical knowledge to recognise as improbable. Intelligence and omniscience are not synonyms. Sometimes, people just don’t care: they like the story the message tells too much to check it for factual accuracy.  The late scientist and philosopher Professor Carl Sagan produced what he called his “baloney detection kit” – a series of rules to employ when encountering any potential guile or manipulation. “1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.” 2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view. 3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts. 4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy. 5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will. 6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging. 7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them. 8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler. 9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate sceptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result." Certainly some very thought provoking principles. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

The historical photo above (click on it to see a larger version) shows part of the river front factory in Erith High Street once used by electronics manufacturer Burndept. This looks to have been taken shortly before the building was demolished; the former Erith Riverside Swimming Baths can be seen in the foreground. Burndept once had another, larger manufacturing facility located in the former Vickers-Maxim munitions factory in St Fidelis’ Road, off West Street and close to the railway line and where Bronze Age Way now runs through. Burndept built all sorts of electrical and electronic devices, and did a lot of sub – contracting work for other companies. During the war Burndept produced military communication equipment until April 1941, when the Erith factory was almost completely destroyed by a German incendiary raid, forcing the company to relocate production to a former jute mill in Dundee. However, after the war, Burndept returned to Erith, where they set up business in Erith High Street and St Fidelis Road. During the 1960s, the company manufactured the SARBE lifejacket beacon for the RAF and a number of Commonwealth and foreign air forces. The beacon sent an automatic and continuous transmission of a homing signal as soon as the life jacket entered the water. They also built mobile two way radios for industrial and commercial use. The St. Fidelis Road factory shared premises with Vox musical instruments, maker of the world famous Vox AC-30 guitar amplifier, as used by pretty much every major band in the 60’s and 70’s. in fact, Burndept made the chassis and cases for many Vox organs and amplifiers. By 1965 Vox and Burndept (who by this stage were largely owned by the same parent company) were pretty much different departments within the same umbrella organisation. Later, the Vox brand was sold off to Japanese musical instrument maker Korg, and it is now no more than a label. Burndept struggled on into the late 1970’s, until finally becoming part of the Ever – Ready group. All operations in Erith ceased, and the final Erith High Street factory was demolished shortly after the photo above was taken. Do you have any recollections of Burndept? Email me with your memories to

Mystery surrounds the source of finance for the recent remedial work to the South Facing aspect of Electricity House, as I covered last week. You can see the rendering work that has been completed in the last week, since my previous report. It is no secret that Bexley Council is progressively buying out the leases of the tenants of the 1930's building, in order to be in a position to control the structure prior to having it demolished to make way for a new development right in the centre of Erith. As previously mentioned, the land is now substantially more valuable than the building itself, which overall is in a rather poor state of repair. Why anyone would spend money on the cosmetic enhancement of the building is something that is currently beyond me, especially as the entire structure will not be around for very much longer. It was built back in 1938 and opened in November 1939 as a showroom and offices for the local electricity company, which at the time was run by the council. Pre – war services such as gas, water and electricity supply were quite commonly managed and supplied by local councils; the idea of private companies being involved was something that did not happen until after the war had ended. Electricity House was also a place where new electrical customers could view domestic appliances which they could buy via hire purchase (it sounds like an early version of BrightHouse, but without the crippling interest rates). As well as the showroom,  Electricity House was home to what contemporary accounts say was a very upmarket dance hall with a fully sprung Canadian Maple floor; there was also a small Pathe cinema. The local electricity business was astonishingly successful – probably much helped by the fact that it offered the cheapest metered electricity in the entire UK at the time – one penny per unit. Ten thousand local people signed up for electrification in the first month alone, attracted by the offer of free connection to the local power grid – unusual at the time – many suppliers would even charge for the copper cable to connect new customers. In 1939 the Erith electricity board made a (for then) massive profit of £13,000. The idea was that the money would be used to improve local services and amenities for all, but the advent of war meant that early in 1940 Electricity House was handed over for war work, and once peace was restored, the money intended to benefit local people was absorbed by the LEB during nationalisation, and nothing was ever seen of it. Much of Erith was still lit by gas until relatively recently. I believe that some houses in West Street did not get electricity until 1947 when the London Electricity Board was formed, and the local council control of power was nationalised. 

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association; firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "More good news this week for our Barnehurst Residents. Officers arrested the male with the distinctive dreadlocks who had been seen looking into windows in Appledore Avenue and loitering in the rear alleys of Parkside Avenue. This male was in breach of a Community Protection Notice. On Friday 27/11/2020 In Barnehurst Avenue, two Catalytic Converters were stolen from two different venues. The first incident occurred at 10.13 pm. Two suspects wearing balaclavas were seen and appeared to be changing a wheel on their vehicle, a silver saloon. It was later discovered that a third suspect was working very quickly to remove a Catalytic Converter from a nearby Honda. This type of method has occurred before on other Boroughs where suspects pretend to be carrying out works to their own vehicle to distract onlookers. All three suspects made off in the silver saloon. The second incident occurred between 10.00 pm and 11.00 pm and it’s highly likely the same suspects as above. A Catalytic Converter was taken from another Honda in the same road. On Wednesday 25/11/2020 at 03.15 am in Manor Way a young female with long brown hair wearing a short puffa jacket and footwear with florescent strips is seen approaching a front door and appears to be trying the door handle. A vehicle can be seen reversing in the road towards Mayplace Road East, possibly a Vauxhall Meriva. This vehicle and the female are likely to be working together. The team have received a report of a male looking into a resident’s window and the same male was also seen in a nearby front garden in Hillingdon Road on Monday at 03.00 am. The crime occurring on Barnehurst Ward in particular vehicle crime and suspicious persons encroaching onto residents properties seems to be happening from 10.00 pm onwards to early hours of the morning.  Please be vigilant and call the police if you see anything suspicious. We are looking to roll out Smart Water in the very near future with Manor Way next on the list. A catalytic converter was reported stolen along Barnehurst Avenue on the Saturday 28th November between the time of 10 pm and 11 pm. Also on Saturday 28th November, another catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle along Barnehurst Avenue. Three males were seen at the vehicle at about 10:13 pm and 10:14 pm and had their faces covered. Between the Tuesday 17th November and Thursday 19th November victim reported their van had a deep scratch on it and had been done deliberately – no exact times". Belvedere ward:- "Last week we gave information regarding a burglary in Halt Robin Road, during which a vehicle was stolen after car keys were taken from the property. We are in the process of viewing CCTV from several locations around the area in the hope that a suspect can be identified. There have been two males calling at properties in the Wadeville Close, Lumley Close and Grosvenor Road area in the last week or so, offering to sell household items and toys to residents at the front door. Suspicions have been raised as the males are thought to have been carrying false ID cards and some residents believe that these males were acting on a pretence to return and commit burglaries – however at this stage, neither male has attempted to enter any property, and there have been no reported burglaries in the named streets. Belvedere ward panel – we are currently searching for anyone interested in joining the Belvedere ward panel, which meets every three months to discuss issues around crime and anti-social behaviour within the ward. The panel also has a say in which issues they would like the team to prioritise between meetings. Our next meeting is set to take place in February 2021. If you are (or know anyone that may be) interested in further information about the ward panel, please contact the team". Bexleyheath ward:- "A theft from a motor vehicle was reported along Freta Road between Sunday 15th Nov and Monday 30th Nov. Items from within the vehicle went missing. On the Saturday 28th November, the theft of a motor vehicle was reported at Heathfield Road Bexleyheath. Vehicle was stolen whilst the keys were still in the ignition. Theft from a motor vehicle was reported overnight from the Thursday 6th November along Leysdown Avenue Bexleyheath, the catalytic converter was stolen. On the Saturday 28th November at about 11:15 pm a brick was thrown at a property at Grove Road Bexleyheath, no damage was reported. A report of a theft of number plates was reported from a vehicle at Garden Avenue Bexleyheath. It happened overnight on Thursday 26th November between 2 pm and 6.50 am the next day. Also overnight on Thursday 26th November a vehicle was driven into whilst parked at Horsham Road. The times were from 10 am and 7 am the next day. On the 20th November, tools were stolen from an open van along Oakland’s Road Bexleyheath between 9.30 am and 10 am. Along the Broadway Bexleyheath, there was a report of three tyres deflated/damaged on a vehicle that happened overnight on Thursday 26th November between 7 pm and 1.30 pm the next day. Also, the same thing happened to another vehicle on Tuesday 24th November overnight to another vehicle parked at Haslemere Road Bexleyheath. On Friday 27th November from about 11:15 am and 11:30 am there was a report made for a phone and headphones stolen from the victim's bag whilst shopping near M and S on the Broadway. A theft from a motor vehicle was reported at Palmer Crescent on the Thursday 26th November between 6 pm and 8 pm, the number plate was stolen from victims vehicle. Also on the Wednesday 25th November between 12:40 midday and 2.30 pm, the victim reported exhaust/catalytic converter stolen whilst parked outside M&S on the Broadway". Crayford ward:- "There were reports of banging coming from the disused Crayford Manor House on Sunday 29th November at 11:12 am.  On arrival, the police found a fire door had been forced open but pushed closed and there was a smell of cigarettes within.  This is classified as burglary, some wiring was seen to have been stripped but it is unknown when this would have occurred. A black Peugeot was taken from outside an address in Woodfall Drive on Thursday 26th November without keys without permission.  It has been confirmed since that the lease hire company collected it but had not given prior notice, there were personal items within the vehicle. A grey bicycle with blue markings and a bell (model unknown) was stolen from outside Haberdasher Askes Academy on Tuesday 24th November between 8:30 and 16:00, it had not been chained up securely. A black Fiat Punto was stolen, number plate WN60 EXJ, from Dale Road on Monday 30th November, it had last been used at 9 am on that day.  The owner still has keys.  It had been left locked and secure. Officers from our local teams issued Covid tickets to two people refusing to wear face masks to enter a shop when required to do so.  The reason to do so had been explained, they had been encouraged to but actively refused.  It was then discovered that the male was wanted for failing to appear at court so he was arrested and taken to court the following day.  Please wear a mask where required to do so.  Just to let you know enforcement officers are on buses and will issue tickets, I have seen this for myself when travelling by bus this week". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward:- "No crimes of note to report this past week. Our officers have made several Stop and Searches across the ward resulting in two males given the relevant official warning forms for being found in possession of drugs. One in Manor Road, one in Frobisher Road. As the festive season approaches, please remember to take care of your personal belongings when out and about and ensure all doors and windows are locked before leaving your property. If you would like further Crime Prevention Advice in relation to burglary etc, please let us know". Thamesmead East ward:- "No Burglaries to report this week. Catalytic Converter Theft in St Martins Close on Sunday 29/11/20 3:20 pm Victim reports Cat Converter removed by suspects unknown from 16 seater Ford Mini bus. Protect your vehicle from catalytic converter thieves - Consider installing a Thatcham approved alarm to your vehicle  Alarms that activate if the vehicle is removed or tilted are particularly effective. Use a catalytic converter marking system using a Secured by Design (SBD) approved forensic heat-resistant marking solution. This makes it easier for police to trace the converter back to your vehicle should it ever be stolen, and links offenders to a crime. Mark your catalytic converter by etching your vehicle registration onto the metal shell. Limit access to the catalytic converter by parking parallel with another vehicle. Report suspicious activity by looking out for people ‘working’ under vehicles as they may not be the owners or leaseholders, even if they have fluorescent jackets on". West Heath ward:- "There were two reported residential burglaries and one attempted burglary in West Heath from 25/11/20 to 30/11/20. There were no reported motor vehicle crimes for the same period. On Friday 27/11/20 at 1430 hours a residential burglary took place in Burcharbro Road. The unknown suspect forced entry by smashing the rear patio glass doors of the semi-detached property and carried out an untidy search. Jewellery was stolen from within the property. Also on Friday 27/11/20 at 0715 hours, a burglary took place in Knowle Avenue Bexleyheath. The unknown suspect entered by smashing the rear kitchen door of the property. The victim was unsure if anything had been stolen at the time of reporting the incident. An attempted burglary also took place in Long Lane Bexleyheath on Tuesday 24/11/2020 AT 22.30 hours. The victim heard the suspect into their garden and as they went to investigate, the suspect was disturbed and made off by jumping in to a neighbouring garden".

The end video this week is a bit of fun; it is a Christmas themed spoof song featuring the Dartford River Crossing. It was actually filmed in 2018, so the crowd scene at the end of the video does not contravene social distancing rules at all. Drop me a line at

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