Sunday, September 19, 2021


Back in May I wrote a follow - up article about the vehicle in the two photos above - click on either to see a larger view.  Back in March and April of 2019 I had featured an ongoing saga of a un-taxed and uninsured semi derelict mobile home / recreational vehicle that was parked outside of Erith Hospital. It later moved to Castleton Avenue in Barnehurst. Later still it was seen in a car park in Thamesmead; after this it seemed to disappear until the beginning of May this year, when it was spotted in Fraser Road, Erith, right next to the 99 bus stop outside of the Europa Industrial Estate. The scruffy and ramshackle van is permanently lived in; it has a smashed windscreen, and most importantly, the toilet in the shabby vehicle does not have a septic waste tank. When the owner flushes the loo, the raw sewage pours out of the bottom of the van and onto the street. The occupant of the van is usually away during the day, but returns in the evening. Recently, some long term roadworks in Fraser Road meant that the van had to move from its previous location adjacent to the 99 bus stop outside of the Europa Industrial Estate (seen in the lower of the two photos above) to a new location closer to the BATT Cables factory site - which also meant that the van was then parked on double yellow lines, as you can see in the upper of the two photos above. The Police were alerted to the situation back in May; on Wednesday of this week I received a message from them, telling me that the DVLA are going to remove and impound the illegally parked recreational vehicle - hopefully this eyesore and health hazard will be removed from the road and impounded prior to being crushed in the very near future. What do you think? Email me at

On Tuesday last week, Ocado announced that the July blaze at its warehouse in Erith, caused by the collision of three robots resulted in 300,000 orders being lost. Ocado said the business disruption cost it £10m, plus another £10m for stock and other write-offs. The resulting net cost, not covered by insurance, was estimated to be £10m, which will drag down profits for the current year. Ocado said it had increased warehouse capacity at Purfleet in Essex and Andover in Hampshire, with the latter processing 20,000 orders a week. This helped offset additional safety measures at Erith, which Ocado expects to return to pre-fire capacity by the end of November, in time for Christmas.

After the recent quite deep forays into the world of electric vehicles (EV’s) over the last couple of Blog updates, I have had some reader feedback asking for some information about the new type of fossil fuel which is currency being deployed - apparently as a move towards reducing exhaust emissions; the reality seems to be far more nuanced and complex that the government back publicity would indicate. There have been extensive column inches written about E10 Petrol. But much of what I have read has been somewhat contradictory or downright confusing. I will now attempt to clarify. In order to make conventional fuels less polluting, it was decided to blend in some renewable content such as biodiesel and ethanol. This is nothing new: it has been going on with petrol and diesel in the UK for the past 10 years. Apparently, blending renewable fuels in this way has contributed to a CO2 emissions reduction equal to taking more than a million cars off the road. It has been said that migrating to E10 Petrol will have a greater positive impact on atmospheric pollution levels than the removal of lead from petrol which began in the UK in 1989, and was mandated in EU law in 2000. Scientific studies had proven that raised lead levels in children's blood had a direct link with brain damage, hypertension and learning disorders and that children who lived near motorways and town centres had a far higher likelihood of developing these illnesses. A 1985 study in the US estimated that leaded petrol caused one million cases of hypertension per year and more than 5000 deaths from heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases related to blood pressure – and that was just for men aged between 40 and 59. So E10 fuel is here now, and it claims to be better for the environment. Vehicles manufactured from 2019 onwards usually have an E5 and E10 label close to their fuel filler caps, showing which fuels they can accept. Drivers of cars registered before 2002 have been advised not to use E10 in their vehicles, because problems have been reported. Research carried out by What Car? magazine revealed that E10 is potentially less efficient than the current E5 blend of petrol, with the problem being worse in smaller-engined vehicles. Drivers of shopping cars would end up filling their cars more often, which isn’t the point of owning a small car with a tiny engine. E10 Petrol is less volumetrically efficient - meaning you need more of it to provide the same amount of energy as existing E5 Petrol - so you get fewer miles to the gallon, and have to full your vehicle’s tank more often - with the associated increase in cost that this entails. Classic cars, motor bikes and even petrol powered lawn mowers and chainsaws will be unable to use E10 Petrol.  E10 petrol’s higher ethanol content is corrosive to rubber parts, gaskets, seals, metals and plastics, which causes engine damage, so it could dislodge deposits in older engines and fuel systems, causing blockages. Other concerns in respect of the use of E10 Petrol in pre 2002 vehicles are as follows - Higher ethanol content in petrol can make it harder to turn over an engine from cold. Ethanol’s higher volatility can contribute to vapour lock (petrol becoming gaseous) when operating temperatures are higher, causing stalling. Ethanol’s high solvency can cause problems with many seal and gasket materials that are used in fuel systems, as well as with fibreglass resins. Besides a risk of fuel leaks, rubbers and resins can get partially dissolved, producing deposits that could foul carburettor jets or fuel injectors. Ethanol can become acidic and cause corrosion of aluminium, zinc and galvanised materials, as well as brass, copper and steels coated in lead or tin. What owners of vulnerable cars can do is source replacement engine components made with ethanol-compatible materials. Otherwise, the quick fix is to use the higher-octane 97-99 Ron ‘super unleaded’ E5 petrol, which is expected to remain available at most fuel stations after E10 comes into use. For readers with diesel powered vehicles, there is another solution which is far greener than using conventional fossil fuel, and even smells nice! Many food outlets use large quantities of cooking oil, which is usually vegetable based. When it has become contaminated, they store it for collection by specialist cooking oil companies, who pay good money to get hold of the oil. Where’s the money on old cooking oil? I hear you ask; well, it makes excellent bio diesel. There is a general perception that cooking oil needs to be specially treated before it can be used in diesel engines. This is actually not true. You can empty a bottle of Mazola or whatever oil you fancy straight into the fuel tank of your diesel vehicle and it will work a treat. The only thing you need to do with old oil is filter out any particles or bits of food – as these can clog up the fuel injectors of the engine. Old fish frying oil actually smells of the chip shop when you burn it in a diesel engine. Some years ago Mercedes Benz commercial vehicle division did some tests on the use of vegetable oil versus conventional diesel in long term use as a fuel. They found that engines run on vegetable oil actually suffered significantly less wear and tear than those run on conventional diesel – this is not much of a surprise, as vegetable oil is a lubricant, and diesel is a solvent. Vegetable oil also has far lower levels of harmful particulates than Diesel, a factor of increasing importance nowadays. Vegetable oil has a lower energy density than diesel, so your miles per gallon does drop a bit, but the cost savings are so big that it makes it worthwhile. It is not illegal to power a road vehicle on old chip oil, as long as you have declared it to HM Revenue and Customs, filled in the relevant paperwork and paid the excise duty. One downside of this is that criminals are now stealing cans of old vegetable cooking oil from outside of restaurants in order to sell it for use as vehicle fuel. Obviously the crooks that are currently nicking cooking oil for use as fuel have no intention of declaring it to HM Revenue and Customs  – so if you see some shady looking characters in a van smelling of plaice and chips going past, be very suspicious…

This week has seen the launch of the Apple iPhone 13. The phone makes a step upgrade from the iPhone 12, not a massive improvement, much to the disappointment of many Apple fans. One thing the iPhone 13 has not done away with, is internal loud speakers. I had hoped that the iPhone 13 would have allowed audio output only through the phone earpiece and through Bluetooth earbuds, but it still has integrated stereo speakers. 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 has 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. Apple, by fitting stereo speakers to the iPhone 13 are playing into the hands of sodcasters everywhere. What do you think? Email me at

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 fifteen years ago to turn it into the light and pleasant venue it is today.

The photos above were taken by me on Friday during my post lockdown visit to my favourite pub of all - the excellent Robin Hood and Little John in Lion Road, Bexleyheath. Regular readers will be aware of the very disappointing experience I had two weeks ago, when I visited another of my favoured pubs - the Malt Shovel in Dartford, where I waited fifty minutes for a cheese and pickle sandwich, which when it eventually arrived, was made with stale bread. The pub was almost empty on a Friday lunchtime. I will not be returning there. The Robin Hood and Little John is the polar opposite; the place was busy (within the confines of proper social distancing) and I had to struggle to get a clear photo of the bar - which you can see above - click on the photo to see a larger version. The current food offer is not quite their very extensive normal menu at present, but there is still a good variety of superb, freshly cooked pub food available. After my intense recent disappointment with the Malt Shovel, I was pleased to find the Robin Hood and Little John to be living up to its always very high standards. I strongly recommend the place. 

Bexley Council issued a press release on Friday afternoon, which reads as follows:- "Bexley’s Trading Standards, with the Metropolitan Police, has removed 62,940 illegal cigarettes from a grocery store in Erith during a raid last week. The officers discovered the illicit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco piled high in two stock rooms behind the grocery store on Friday 10 September. Bexley Trading Standards Officers first carried out a covert operation, acting on information from the Metropolitan Police. The officers found the store to be selling smuggled tobacco products from under the counter. During the raid, Trading Standards Officers and Police bagged 3,147 packets of cigarettes and 42 kilogrammes of hand-rolling tobacco estimated to be worth £32,000, along with other criminal evidence. It took officers several hours to remove 14 sacks of evidence from the two stock rooms, storage cabinets and false industrial packaging used to disguise its illegal importation into the UK. The haul was not produced or packaged for legal sale in the UK. When tested the seized goods are likely to fail UK safety regulations that need cigarettes to self-extinguish to prevent house fires. Councillor Peter Craske, Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Places, said: Illicit tobacco not only harm our efforts to reduce smoking in the borough, but also presents a serious fire risk to Bexley residents. The successful seizure has made a sizable dent in the cash profits of these determined organised criminals. We will continue working with the Metropolitan Police to track down and stop the selling of smuggled and unsafe products under the counter.” Trading Standards investigations are ongoing. Residents can report illicit tobacco sales by calling the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Following the sad death last week of Sir Clive Sinclair, I wrote an obituary of the man who did more than any other individual to bring computing to the mainstream in the UK. After the wide publicity his passing has received, I decided not to go ahead with including the obituary in this week's Blog update, as so many column inches have already been published. I feel that anything I might write on the subject would be superfluous. Instead the end video this week is an obituary by someone far better suited to commemorate the great, if flawed man.  YouTuber Paul Jenkinson, creator of the excellent video series "The Spectrum Show" gives his thought on the life and accomplishments of Sir Clive Sinclair. Comments and article suggestions should be Emailed to me at

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