Sunday, August 29, 2021


The photo above - click on it to see a larger version - is debatably the most bland, uninteresting and seemingly pointless photograph to grace the start of my weekly Blog entry in a very long time indeed. Never fear, there is reason behind the apparent madness. The two metal posts are located in the Eastern end of Morrison's car park in Erith. They are the first stage in the installation of two rapid chargers for EV's - Electric Vehicles. This marks a start of wide scale deployment of electric vehicle fast charging stations in all major supermarket chains around the UK. I spoke to the engineers on site on Tuesday afternoon, and they told me that the work to install and commission the two new points would take between two and three weeks to complete. The number of EV's in the local area is growing rapidly, and this will no doubt be something which will only increase with time. There is some confusion regarding the different types of EV charger available, and what their capabilities are. I will explain. A slow charger usually means a domestic three-pin plug (up to 3kW), and would take more than 12 hours to fully charge an electric car. A fast charger, typically found at a workplace or public location, will take the ‘Type 2’ seven-pin plug attached to the charging cable in your car and will have an output of 3.6kW, 7kW, 11kW or 22kW. Depending on the charger’s power and what your car can accept, a charge will generally take between one and six hours. Rapid chargers, also called quick chargers, will have a plug of their own that attaches to your car, and can charge in an hour or less. While lesser chargers all output AC electricity, most rapid chargers give DC. AC rapid chargers have an output of 43kW, while DC rapid chargers have an output of 20kW-50kW, although installation of 150kW and 175kW chargers has begun in the UK. These can recharge the latest electric cars in just 45 minutes. Tesla has a network of its own ‘Superchargers’. In the UK, these are capable of dispensing 145kW, although the firm’s current cars can only accept up to 120kW. In Europe, a consortium of major car manufacturers has begun installation of 350kW capable chargers. These could result in EVs being charged in as little as five minutes. The National Grid conducted a study into installing 100 of these across England and Wales and found that this would put 90% of drivers within 50 miles of such a charger. The chargers would be wired directly into the electricity transmission network, rather than local grids, dispelling concerns about power shortages. You might wonder why manufacturers and the press often quote a charging time to 80%, rather than 100%. This is firstly because not fully charging each time extends the life of the battery, and secondly because the last 20% takes longer to complete relative to the first 80%.

One worrying trend is now coming to light; homeowners are deliberately failing to report minor crimes in their area, because they fear that doing so could damage the value of their property. Now that there are several online services featuring interactive online crime maps, homeowners are turning a blind eye to minor crimes, raising fears that the interactive maps are actually distorting official crime statistics. A recent survey found that half of households had been the victim of minor property crime, such as vandalism or theft from a garden shed. Two thirds of the people surveyed said that they did not report the incident to the Police. One in twelve said that their motivation for not reporting the crime was the worry that it might adversely affect local house prices. Official statistics show that the crime rate in England and Wales fell by seven percent last year, to the lowest figures since 1981. Studies in the U.S.A show that higher crime rates depress house prices. Since 2011 the Police have mapped every incident of recorded crime online, where users can see exactly how many crimes and the type of offence committed on every street in Britain. More than half of prospective house owners check the website before they buy, and almost two thirds said that they would not buy a property in an area with a crime rate that was higher than average. The study was undertaken by the property maintenance company The figures have raised concerns that crime mapping may be encouraging criminals and distorting crime statistics.  What do you think? Have you encountered this kind of behaviour?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange”, much of which was filmed on location in Thamesmead. Set in a flamboyantly stylised near-future where gangs of disenfranchised teenagers indulge in narcotic cocktails and revel in acts of ‘ultraviolence’, the film centres on Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his band of droogs. McDowell’s performance in A Clockwork Orange was a major influence on the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker in the recent Christopher Nolan directed Batman trilogy. Both are charming sociopaths who seek to disrupt the status quo of their respective societies. Kubrick is considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema, directing classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, and The Shining. With a career spanning almost half a century, Kubrick is known for his meticulous attention to detail and long, rigorous productions. He made a total of 13 feature films, taking longer breaks after each completion. Despite that, his films have long been remembered and served as an inspiration for both filmmakers and viewers. Filming took place between September 1970 and April 1971, making A Clockwork Orange the quickest film shoot in his career. Technically, to achieve and convey the fantastic, dream-like quality of the story, he filmed with extreme wide-angle camera lenses. On the heels of depicting a distant future with everyday space travel in 2001, Kubrick depicted a cold, unforgiving dystopian near-future in A Clockwork Orange. With decrepit landscapes and crime-ridden streets, the sci-fi future depicted in A Clockwork Orange is more than a little alarming. By using the (then) modern, minimalist architecture of Thamesmead for shooting locations, Kubrick transports audiences to the kind of dark world where experimental behavioural therapies are used to turn everybody into mindless drones. A Clockwork Orange is based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name about Alex DeLarge and his journey to redemption through experimental therapy and techniques, after committing a series of crimes with his gang. Despite all the violence, both the novel and Kubrick's film remain surprisingly popular. At the height of his violent escapades, Kubrick's Alex commits a home invasion and injures one woman so horribly that she dies. Later, while facing the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, Alex chooses to undergo the controversial "Ludovico technique" - a kind of brainwashing programme that renders Alex incapable of performing violence, though at the expense of his own free will. During treatment, Alex is strapped to a chair and forced to watch violent films. He is then injected with a chemical agent that makes him physically sick, thus conditioning him to associate violence with physical illness. Stanley Kubrick filmed many scenes in the movie on location in Thamesmead, which was a new development at the time. The whole film is set in a dystopian near - future Britain. In ons of the film’s most famous scenes, Alex throws fellow gang members Dim and Georgie into Southmere Lake, which is adjacent to Binsey Walk at Thamesmead South Housing Estate. This is 200 yards north of Tavy Bridge precinct, where Alex walks home at night through an elevated plaza whistling and kicking rubbish. Even though the scene lasts less than two minutes, it took the perfectionist Kubrick six days to film. Like many of Kubrick films, it received mixed reviews from film critics, but upon reevaluation, is considered a classic. The movie also received four Oscar nominations including three for Kubrick for writing, directing, and producing. Many of Kubrick's films have been restored for preservation and have continued to leave an impact with moviegoers. Many famous directors have been influenced by him due to his filming style and inventive ways of telling a story through camera movements and framing, all of which is evident in the dystopian crime film. Ironically for a film set in the near future, many of the locations in and around Tavy Bridge in Thamesmead have now been redeveloped. In 2009, another production was based in Thamesmead, set in the same near future, dystopian universe as A Clockwork Orange. This was the science fiction superhero comedy / drama Misfits. The TV show, which lasted for five series, featured a group of dispossessed teenagers who were undergoing community service sentences for various petty crimes; they were caught outside during a supernatural thunderstorm and who subsequently acquired special abilities. Initially, the show focused on five young adults, each gaining a superpower which mirrors their character. The group of unwilling superheroes were based at the Southmere Community Centre, on the banks of Southmere Lake in Thamesmead.

As has been reported in many press outlets, Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who propelled the band’s sound for nearly 60 years, has died aged 80. A statement from his London publicist, Bernard Doherty, to the PA Media news agency said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.” Earlier this month, it was announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure. With his limber stance, keen knowledge of jazz, and unruffled ability to make songs swing even when keeping the strictest time, Watts is regarded as one of the greatest – and most stylish – rock drummers of all time. Unlike the colourful romantic histories of his Rolling Stones bandmates, Watts was stable in his personal life: he married his wife Shirley Ann Shepherd in 1964, and they remained together until his death. He is also survived by their daughter, Seraphina, and granddaughter Charlotte. When you mention the Rolling Stones, you don’t immediately think of Dartford, do you? Yet the band had their roots in Dartford, even though their music had more in common with the Mississippi Delta than the Thames Estuary. Apart from the excellent Mick Jagger performing arts centre, there is nothing to commemorate the band in Dartford – which is ironic, as unlike the Beatles, the Stones are still a (just about) going concern. I wonder if a lot of this is because the band abandoned the town to move to a house in West London as soon as they started to find success? There was a campaign to get a blue plaque installed on platform two of Dartford railway station a few years ago (see the photo above - click on it for a larger view) – where Mick and Keith first met after both visiting the West End to buy rare American blues records, where they discovered they shared the same musical passion, and the seeds of the band that would become the Rolling Stones were sown. The local area has been instrumental  (if you will excuse the pun) in being home to Kate Bush (Welling), John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (Sidcup), David Bowie (Bromley), and more recently Tinie Tempah (Plumstead). The musical influence this part of South East London / North Kent has had worldwide has had is huge; we just seem to be exceptionally poor at celebrating its’ success.  Going back to the Rolling Stones, one thing which has been unclear for years is the actual origin of their name. Some think it comes from the Muddy Waters song of the same name, which may indeed be the case. The thing is, what exactly is a rolling stone? Well, according to a source I read, it is nothing to do with a stone rolling down a hill. The “rolling stone that gathers no moss” actually refers to a 16th Century garden lawn carved stone roller; so the Rolling Stones, with all of their “bad boy” image are actually named after something you would find in a garden shed.

It seems incredible, but Windows XP - one of the most popular and widely used version of Microsoft's computer operating system is now twenty years old. it was released to manufacturing twenty years ago last Tuesday, on the 24th of August 2001, although it was not available for sale in the UK until October of that year - although I managed to get a copy prior to the official release date - more on this shortly. The new operating system was built on the same kernel as Windows NT, moreover, it was the first home user operating system Windows, not based on DOS. According to the memories of users, it was also the most stable of the user versions. I attended the launch of Windows XP in London, at The Royal Festival Hall, after managing to blag a ticket to the event through work (there are occasions when then working for a household name multinational blue chip professional services firm could have its’ fringe benefits). I was sat in an aisle seat in the Royal Festival Hall. There was a big opening video with a track by Madonna, then Ballmer came running down from the back of the hall, all WWE wrestling style. Had I known Ballmer was  running past my seat a couple of moments earlier, I could have stuck my leg out and sent him flying. Anyway, at the end of the presentation, a few members of the audience, myself included were invited for a corporate “meet and greet” session. I said hello to Steve Ballmer; he took one look at me, and the polo shirt I was wearing, and his look was pure poison. He blanked me completely. I have to say that I was very impressed with this reaction; the polo shirt he had taken such offence to was a sober grey in colour, but on the right  hand breast was embroidered Tux – the Linux mascot; this was at around the time that Ballmer said of the open source movement  “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” Understandably he was not too impressed with my appearance! Steve Ballmer has now been long retired, and more reasonable heads are now in charge at Microsoft. 

People of a certain age will remember classic children’s TV shows like Play School and Fingerbobs from the 1970’s. The man behind much of this well-loved television was laid back, softly spoken Canadian actor, musician and scriptwriter Rick Jones, he of the bald head and bushy beard that many can fondly remember, and can be seen in the photo above. Jones began his TV career as a co-presenter of Play School, a daily programme for pre-school-age children, in which he played guitar and sang. In 1972, he became the host of Fingerbobs, another show for younger children, in which he created characters from finger puppets made of paper. He was also one of a number of well-known entertainers who took turns to present We Want To Sing, a musical variety series made by BBC Manchester, in which a young live audience was invited to sing along with songs performed by the host and various guests such as The New Seekers, The Settlers, and cabaret trio The New Faces. Other BBC TV programmes in which he appeared included Watch and Play Away. Subsequently, Jones had success as a musician (keyboards/vocals) fronting the British country rock band Meal Ticket. It turns out that from his memoirs, life at the BBC in the early 1970’s was not nearly so innocent as was portrayed on screen at the time. It turns out that Rick Jones has a link to the local area that I reckon he would rather not have had – as it ended up with him getting the sack from the BBC. Even now at the age of 84, he gets fan mail for Play School and Fingerbobs. Jones, originally from Canada, worked down an Ontario nickel mine to save up the money to come to drama school in London. He was 24 and married with two children when he became one of Play School’s first presenters in 1964.  But the BBC was nothing like he expected. ‘We went in there thinking “it’s going to be very staid”,’ he says, ‘and soon found out that wasn’t the case at all.’ There was the BBC Club on the fourth floor. It was dangerous as any time you had a break, it was up to the club. All roads met at the Club. You could be doing Songs Of Praise and you’d still be up there, knocking endless drinks back. Everyone met there — there were love affairs, book deals, assignations of almost every human kind.’ Then there were the drugs. I answered a fan letter from a mother,’ he recalls. ‘It was so well-written and so seductive that I drove to Erith to meet this woman.  'I was rewarded by the most astoundingly beautiful person and an astoundingly beautiful daughter aged about four. We spent the whole afternoon sitting under a big tree in her garden smoking her weed. ‘Nothing else happened except that two weeks later a letter addressed to me and containing two huge spliffs turned up on the desk of the head of Play School, Cynthia Felgate.’ Unfortunately for Jones, the fan from Erith had made clear in her letter what she had got up to with him.  ‘Cynthia summoned me in and told me: “Not at the BBC, Rick.” She was old-school. ‘I said to her, “OK, you have that one and I’ll have this one,” and I walked out because I knew it was all over. I was ready to go anyway.’

Long time reader and regular Blog contributor Miles alerted me to something I had been oblivious to; a recent episode of the Channel 5 series "Rich House, Poor House" was set with the poor house located in Barnehurst. Personally, I would hardly call Barnehurst "Poor" - in fact I think it is one of the nicest parts of the local area. How can you class an area as poor when it even has its own golf course? Which leads me neatly onto the next subject - who says I don't plan these things? As many readers will be aware, the Bexley Council owned Barnehurst Golf Course is looking for a new operator. The course currently has its lease up for sale. According to the advert for the lease, the course offers the following:- "Set in approximately 45 acres, this 9 hole course is situated in Bexleyheath, within the M25 and just 18 miles from Central London. The course was originally laid out in 1904 and designed by Open winner James Braid. It is set in a mature landscape extending to 2,372 yards and includes a great variety of holes which are suitable for beginners and more advanced players alike. The course also includes a practice putting green and an automated irrigation system to greens. The clubhouse has been recently redecorated and comes equipped to allow the new operator to start trading immediately. Alongside the course and clubhouse, there is a recently built 16 bay floodlit driving range. Matthew Lynwood of Faybrook Consulting who are handling the letting on behalf of the London Borough of Bexley commented: “It is rare to bring to the market such a fantastically located quality golf facility within Greater London. The course is steeped in history, golf holes are set in mature woodlands and the property includes a recently built covered range. “As you play the course you enjoy fantastic views over the River Thames and beyond into Essex as well as far reaching views into Kent. It is a gem set in a great landscape yet surrounded by dense residential areas. It truly presents an opportunity for an operator to manage a busy and successful business which is able to attract beginners to the game as well as providing a challenge to more advanced players.” Coincidentally a report on London's golf courses has recently been published. According to the study, Britain is home to a quarter of all the golf courses in Europe, with one in 20 found in London, despite the capital making up just 0.65% of the UK’s total land area. The 43 publicly owned golf courses in London take up just under 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) of land in Greater London, bigger than the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, which has a population of 185,000. The borough of Enfield alone contains seven courses, but the council receives just £13,500 from Enfield golf club each year to rent its 39-hectare golf course – less than the typical annual rent for a two-bedroom flat in the area. In a recent article in the Guardian, Russell Curtis, an architect and the author of “Golf Belt”, a new study of how London’s golf courses could help address the housing crisis, said he was not calling for all the capital’s golf courses to be turned into housing but that some courses could be made more accessible to the capital’s residents if they became allotments, biodiverse green space, sports facilities or even urban farms. “This is not a war on golf,” said Curtis in the Guardian article. “There surely has to be a way of improving the social utility and accessibility of golf courses to benefit the wider population. The redevelopment of golf courses is always presented as a binary choice between beautiful green fields or concrete, but there’s a model in the middle where you could provide new homes and social infrastructure while achieving biodiversity gain.”

The end video this week was shot by a local transport enthusiast; it shows buses coming and going at the bus stops outside of Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Comments and feedback to me at the usual contact address -

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