Sunday, October 17, 2021


Many thanks to the readers who answered my plea last week to locate the recreational vehicle that had been illegally parked in Fraser Road Erith, with no road tax, MOT or insurance for over six months. As regular readers will be aware, the Police and DVLA had been involved, and the DVLA had clamped the front offside wheel of the vehicle, and also affixed a number of tickets to the smashed front windscreen of the shabby and unroadworthy vehicle. Thanks to numerous eagle eyed readers, the vehicle was located, parked not one hundred metres from its original location in Fraser Road. At the time of writing the scruffy van is now parked in the car park of the Wickes DIY store - as you can see in the two photos above - click on either for a larger view. I spoke to the operations manager of Wickes in the week; they were aware that the RV had been parked on their property, but did not see it arrive, and no activity has been noted over the last few days. The owner of the vehicle would have appeared to have removed the DVLA wheel clamp in order to move the van - something which I believe in itself is an offence. I also note that both the front and rear vehicle registration plates have been removed in the last week - I presume in a vain attempt to disguise that identity of the Recreational Vehicle - but as many will know, the registration number is SIB 8712. Details of the new location of the van have already been passed onto the relevant authorities. You can see details of the vehicle on the DVLA website in the screen capture below. 

Readers of the Maggot Sandwich come in many different forms; some are very keen on the transport articles I write. Others favour stories about law and order issues. Others still form a significant group - Radio Amateurs - of which I admit that I am one. The whole field of amateur radio is in somewhat of a transformation at present. Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators—hams—have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of the radio spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalise amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognise. The central problem is that radio amateurs are aging, and new blood does not appear to be coming into the technical hobby. This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others complain that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it. No matter where they land on these battle lines, however, everyone understands one fact. The world is changing; the amount of radio spectrum is not. It will be hard to argue that spectrum reserved for amateur use and experimentation should not be sold off to commercial users if hardly any amateurs are taking advantage of it. For those younger people who are drawn to ham radio, up to those in their 30s and 40s, the primary motivating factor is different from that of their predecessors. With the Internet and social media services like WhatsApp and Facebook, they don't need a transceiver to talk with someone halfway around the world (a big attraction in the days before email and cheap long-distance phone calls). Instead, many are interested in the capacity for public service, such as providing communications in the wake of a disaster, or event comms for activities like city marathons. Outside the United Kingdom, there are some notable bright spots, according to Dave Sumner (K1ZZ), secretary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). This collective of national amateur radio associations around the globe represents hams' interests to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized United Nations agency that allocates and manages spectrum. In fact, in China, Indonesia, and Thailand, amateur radio is positively booming, Sumner said in a recent article in technology magazine Spectrum. China's advancing technology and growing middle class, with disposable income, has led to a “dramatic" increase in operators, Sumner says. Indonesia is subject to natural disasters as an island nation, spurring interest in emergency communication, and its president is a licensed operator. Trends in Thailand are less clear, Sumner says, but he believes here, too, that a desire to build community response teams is driving curiosity about ham radio. “So," Sumner says, “you have to be careful not to subscribe to the notion that it's all collapsing everywhere." China is also changing the game in other ways, putting cheap radios on the market. A few years ago, an entry-level handheld UHF/VHF radio cost around £150. Now, thanks to Chinese manufacturers like Baofeng, you can get one for under £25. HF radios are changing, too, with the rise of software-defined radio. The radio ham universe is affected by the world around it—by culture, by technology, by climate change, by the emergence of a new generation. Amateur radio enthusiasts are a varied and vibrant community of millions of operators, new and experienced and old and young, into robotics or chatting or contesting or emergency communications, excited or nervous or pessimistic or upbeat about what ham radio will look like decades from now. What do you think? Email me at

There was a very colourful and larger than life character who lived in Erith during Victorian times; his name was Robert Austen, but he was more popularly known as "Robert the Devil" - he was an exhibitionist and showman, and I understand he had a strong man act that sometimes toured around North Kent and beyond. He had a couple of party tricks. He often drank in the pubs on Erith riverfront, and was notorious for betting other drinkers a pint of ale if he could swim across the River Thames from Erith to Coldharbour Point in Havering, Essex and back - which he invariably did. As I have previously written, the currents and undertow in and around Anchor Bay make this one of the most lethal stretches of the Thames for swimmers, and why most people who enter the river end up getting fished out by the Police or RNLI as corpses. It would appear that Robert Austen was a very strong and confident swimmer who could repeatedly challenge this. On top of swimming the river, Austen would permit a man to break a granite kerbstone over his chest with a sledge hammer - for the price of a gallon of beer! He was for a time the master of the Thames Sailing Barge "Chance". The subject of the mural on the side of The White Hart African restaurant (see the photo above – click on it for a larger view). He died on the 4th November 1944, and is buried in the Churchyard of St. John's Church, West Street. His short obituary does not mention his nickname, but does tell of him being a strong swimmer. I suspect that he timed his Thames swimming challenges with slack tide, as I don't believe even an Olympic standard swimmer could manage the very strong currents and undertow when the river was in full tidal flow. What is also interesting is that his nickname was not by any means original. The first known use of the name “Robert the Devil” goes back a very long way in history indeed. The name actually originates in a thirteenth century French novel called “Robert le Diable”, a tale of supernatural birth and spiritual redemption. The tale of a boy born to a childless noble couple only after the mother has secretly called on Satan to help her conceive. The behaviour of the boy, and then of the strong, powerfully built young man skilled at arms that he becomes, is so destructive and brutal that one day, loathing himself, he prevails on his mother to reveal the secret of his birth and thus the source of his wickedness. He leaves his home in Normandy, as well as his privileged position as the only child of the Duke, to seek salvation in Rome. The Pope and then a pious hermit set him on the way to remission of his sins through a lengthy, arduous penance, whose most striking requirement is that he never speak. Living dumbly at the Roman court as the Emperor’s pet fool, Robert becomes aware of a Turkish threat of invasion. He prays to God to allow him to use his ever-extraordinary strength and fighting ability to help the Romans, though without revealing his identity. Thanks to an angelic emissary of the Lord, Robert is able to accomplish his desired mission. The Saracens are persistent enemies, however, and it is only after three successive military campaigns that they are finally defeated, the Romans all the while wondering who their elusive champion might be. Robert’s identity has been known all along to the Emperor’s daughter but has remained a secret, because she, like Robert, is mute (but for non penitential reasons). Dramatic events, involving a villainous steward, rejected as a suitor to the Princess, ultimately restore the power of speech to both Robert and the Emperor’s daughter. The Emperor, grateful for Robert’s decisive help against the Turks, wishes to grant him his very willing daughter in marriage. Robert declines, however, and returns to the hermit’s abode, where his path to salvation began. When Robert dies, he is venerated as a saint. Basically a medieval superhero type of story. Not especially relevant to the historic Erith resident, but interesting nevertheless. 

The advert above dates back to September 1986, when the Grooms Bakery brand celebrated its' centenary of production in the giant Northumberland Heath bakery in Belmont Road. The bakery is still there, though nowadays it is owned and operated by Hovis. Click on the image above to see a larger version. Thanks to Ian from The Belvedere Splash for sending the image to me. 

You may have seen a story on the BBC News website in the middle of last week. A Scottish TikTok user has won a victory against one of the UK's biggest food retailers after using her platform to campaign for a batch of "lumpy" oat milk to be removed. Luna, known as @lunahtic, wanted Lidl to act on her concerns about its oat milk, and after a one-woman campaign, succeeded in having it recalled. You can read the full story on the BBC News website here. Whilst a consumer related news story is nothing at all unusual, what did raise my attention, and that of a regular Maggot Sandwich reader, who flagged it to me, was the reference in the news story of Bexley Council. The lady who made the complaint in the BBC News story was based in Scotland, and it struck both me and my reader as somewhat incongruous that a reference to Bexley Council would be made in the story. Here is a short excerpt from the article:- “I spoke to my local Lidl store manager who did tell me the oat milk had been recalled. I was told that new batches of the same oat milk will be back on the shelves really soon and you can guarantee I'll be first in line." Then, on Tuesday, her report to her local authority environmental health team brought results.The reply said that "they had spoken to colleagues at the London Borough of Bexley, which is the primary authority for Lidl UK stores, and they would look into the complaints”. This was news to both me, and the person who flagged the BBC story with me. I would be grateful if any reader who has inside knowledge of Bexley Council could explain just how the council could be the primary authority for Lidl UK stores? It is now like Lidl has their UK HQ in the borough, or anything like that? I feel that the statement needs sense checking, if anyone can shed light on the whole thing, I would be extremely grateful. Email me at

As I have mentioned several times previously, Bexley Police no longer produce weekly crime reports for each local Safer Neighbourhood Police ward, much to the dissatisfaction of many local residents. Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association do produce a bi weekly newsletter, which this week includes the following useful information:- "Public Space Protection Order consultation - From Laura Wareing, Support Worker London Borough of Bexley. The London Borough of Bexley is asking local residents and businesses for their views on the introduction of a boroughwide Public Space Protection Order. PSPOs are used to provide the Police, Community Officers and delegated Council Enforcement Officers with the ability and powers to control activities that cause persistent anti-social behaviour that is either having, or is likely to have, a harmful effect on a local community’s quality of life. It is hoped that a borough wide PSPO could help to reduce the public health and environmental impact of the misuse of nitrous oxide canisters as well as the impact of street drinking. While nitrous oxide canisters does cause unsightly litter, the health effects are far more serious.  Inhaling nitrous oxide gas can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness, collapse and consequent injury. Taking it can lead to a range of health problems such as burns, a dangerously increased heart rate, swelling on the brain, nerve damage and anaemia, as well as serious psychological problems. Bexley Police have formally requested the PSPO. Before they could submit their request they carried out their own consultation with residents at the end of last year.  More than 2250 residents responded.  Of those responses 2184 supported the introduction of a PSPO. Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Sue Gower MBE said: “As a local authority we are of course more than aware of the health issues that nitrous oxide canisters cause and the negative effect their use has on any area.  We also know that persistent street drinking has also been reported as an anti-social behaviour concern in some locations in Bexley. Part of the PSPO process includes an online public consultation. We are asking those who live, work and visit Bexley to complete a short survey, to establish if there is support for a PSPO and to address any concerns. Please make sure you get in touch and have your say on the proposals.”The consultation is available at from Wednesday 6th October and will close on Wednesday 20 October. If approved the PSPO could be in place by the end of October. If introduced, anyone who breaches the PSPO for the reason of drugs or alcohol would be offered the support they may need. If you would like a paper copy of the survey or if you have any further questions about the proposed PSPO please contact or call 020 8303 7777 and ask for Community Safety Team. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are made under the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014".

Police have released CCTV images (above) of four suspects after train passengers were insulted, kicked and attacked with bottles in southeast London. Three victims were taken to hospital following two serious assaults on-board two trains travelling between Charing Cross and Dartford, both occurring on Saturday, September 11th. The first incident happened on a train travelling from Dartford into central London at around 5:45 pm when a group boarded the service at Slade Green station.

The end video this week is a short promotional film for Erith Leisure Centre. As always, should you wish to contact me, please send an Email to

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