Sunday, January 02, 2022

Crazy Duck.

The photos above show the progress of the construction of the new low rise apartment block located behind the former White Hart pub - now an African restaurant - in what was the very extensive pub garden. The site is adjacent to the Erith Pier Square - which is currently under refurbishment and remodelling, so the whole area around the pier is somewhat of a building site at present.  More on the Pier Square at the end of this update - who says I don't plan these things?

Web based local news service Kent Online have been reporting a story, which, whilst slightly out of my normal coverage area, does illustrate a point rather well. The site writes:- "Plans for an "eyesore" 5G phone mast that would tower above trees and neighbouring homes have received an angry response from people living nearby. Mobile network Three hopes to install the 65ft tall structure in the "rural setting" of Barn End Lane, Wilmington, near Dartford". The article goes on at some length regarding the mechanics of the mast installation, and ends with a selection of comments from local residents, one of which sparked my attention. The anonymous person was quoted as saying:- "There is no need for this structure to be here. The effects of 5G signals are still being investigated. Why not put it in one of numerous areas away from residential housing where it isn't an eyesore or where it is masked by trees so that it doesn't detract from the rural setting.?" Firstly the characteristics and effects of 5G transmissions (or indeed the lack thereof) are fully understood, and very well documented. Secondly the comment about locating the mast where it could be masked by trees shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the physics of UHF and low band Microwave propagation. Trees, vegetation, and indeed water vapour absorb radio waves at UHF and Microwave frequencies - as anyone with a satellite dish will be aware - if a satellite dish is obstructed by vegetation, or used during heavy rain, the received signal is very prone to break up. It strikes me that the complainant is happy to use 5G services, but not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary - such as having a tall mast in their locality - but in reality you cannot have one without the other. This lack of critical thinking and the belief that 5G could be hazardous is something far too common amongst people who really should know better; reliance and belief in comments posted on social media is really the modern version of "Well, I read it in the paper, therefore it must be true". Thirdly, the "rural setting" is a housing estate. I think the originator of the quotes is not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. It would appear that the person making the complaint has been reading some of the many pseudo science (as in non science) sites that appear online, fuelling conspiracy theories and other such utter nonsense.  Much reference has been made in the few years to conspiracy theories in the popular press, with unfortunately little in the way of explanation. Conspiracy theories are not a new phenomenon, but they seem to have risen to the forefront of consciousness in recent years. Some controversial examples of such theories include the belief that terrorist attacks and mass shootings were staged events orchestrated by various shadowy world governments. Other examples include the belief that the pharmaceutical industry intentionally spreads diseases or that vaccines cause illness rather than prevent them. While it might seem like these beliefs are rare or even pathological, research has shown that they are surprisingly common. One study found that nearly 40% of UK residents believe in at least one conspiracy theory. A conspiracy theory can be defined as the belief that there are groups that meet in secret to plan and carry out malevolent goals. What explains this common and often deep-rooted belief that powerful, sinister, and secretive groups are conspiring to deceive others—particularly in a day and age where we have more access to information and facts that might debunk these ideas? Researchers suspect that there are a number of psychological mechanisms, many the result of evolutionary processes, that contribute to these beliefs. In a world where you might feel powerless and alienated, it can be appealing to believe that there are forces plotting against you and your interests. Once these beliefs take root, cognitive biases and mental shortcuts reinforce and strengthen them. Many of the same factors that fuel other types of problematic thinking, such as a belief in the paranormal, also contribute to conspiracy theories. Whilst such paranoid ideas are not new, the internet has helped transform the speed and manner in which they spread. In order to understand why people believe in these conspiracies, it is important to explore some of the psychological explanations and the potential effects these beliefs have. Researchers suggest that there are a number of different reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories. Many of these explanations boil down to three key driving factors:- A need for understanding and consistency; A need for control; A need to belong or feel special. The first reason - A need for understanding and consistency - The world can often seem confusing, dangerous, and chaotic. At the same time, people want to understand what's happening and are driven to explain things that happen. Doing so helps them build up a consistent, stable, and clear understanding of how the world works. When people encounter disparate information, it is only natural to look for explanations that connect the dots. Conspiracy theories offer explanations that provide this connection. They also suggest that the underlying causes are hidden from public view. When confusing things happen, believers can then assume that it is because they are being intentionally deceived by outside forces. There is also a connection between conspiracy beliefs and educational levels. Lower educational status tends to be associated with higher levels of conspiracy belief. Having lower analytical abilities and less tolerance for uncertainty also play a role. As a result, people turn to conspiracy theories to provide explanations for events that seem confusing or frightening. The second reason - a need for control - There is also evidence that people turn to conspiracy theories as a way of feeling safer and more in control. When people feel threatened in some way, detecting sources of danger can be a way of coping with anxiety. Whilst people may be drawn to conspiracy theories as a way of making sense of the world and feeling more in control of their own destiny, the long-term effects may actually leave people feeling more disempowered than ever before. The third reason - A need to belong or feel special - People can also be motivated to believe in conspiracy due to social reasons. Some researchers have hypothesised that by believing in conspiracies that portray out-groups as the opposition, people are able to feel better about themselves and their own social group. Those who believe in the conspiracy feel that they are the “heroes” of the story, while those who are conspiring against them are “the enemy.” Such findings suggest that conspiracy beliefs might arise as a sort of defence mechanism. When people feel disadvantaged, they are motivated to find ways to boost their own self-perceptions. Blaming others by linking them to malevolent plots provides a scapegoat on which to lay blame, thus improving how conspiracy believers view themselves. The belief in conspiracies is also rooted in what is referred to as collective narcissism. This is the belief that your own social group is better, yet less appreciated, by other people. What researchers have found is that while these beliefs are motivated by a desire to understand, exert control, and feel socially connected, these aren’t the effects people are deriving from their beliefs.6 Rather than fulfilling these needs, believing in conspiracies seems to reinforce feelings of confusion, isolation, disenfranchisement, and loneliness. It is a destructive cycle—negative feelings contribute to the belief in conspiracies, yet the belief in conspiracies results in negative feelings. Believing in conspiracy theories erodes people’s trust in their government, their leaders, and their institutions. It also diminishes trust in science and research itself. This distrust may discourage people from participating in their social worlds. It might also cause people to stop seeing themselves as valuable contributors to society. Contact me at

At the start of January 2021, the accountancy firm PwC published a report predicting that about 300,000 people could leave London in 2021. The previous August, a London assembly survey was even more striking: 416,000 people planned to move out of the city in the following 12 months. There were many causes: lower international migration thanks to Brexit and the pandemic, fewer graduates moving to the capital, and the increased possibility of home working meaning the once office-bound could be pretty much anywhere. Dartford has been named the most popular destination for homeowners looking to leave London, a new study has found. This year, more than 90,000 Londoners left the capital, the largest number to leave for "at least a generation", according to research carried out by estate agent Hamptons. While St Albans in Hertfordshire was more popular with first-time buyers, Dartford appeared more desirable to existing homeowners looking for a change, or buying a second home. The report, published in The Times, found there were three major factors in fuelling the trend. The first was lockdown, the second was the ease of working from home, and lastly, cheaper mortgages. Of the total of 112,780 Londoners who bought property outside the city this year, 82% were moving permanently. Around 15% were landlords looking to buy-to-let and 4% were second home buyers.

Last week I published an article on the life of John Downton, an English artist, philosopher, musician, and poet, who was  born in Erith, and who Downton Road in the Erith Park development is named after.  Following publication, I received an Email from local historian Ken Chamberlain, with a story about John Downton's sister Hilda - (shown in the portrait above - click on it for a larger version), which makes for fascinating reading. Ken writes:- "I read with interest your article on the Downton's. Shortly before her death I visited her at her house in Sevenoaks. The reason for this  particular visit was that she wanted to donate some of her brothers drawings to the then Erith Museum . This I duly managed to do in company with the then Curator of the Museum Service. Hilda was insistent they should be displayed in Erith. We managed to bring her up for the opening of the display. A bit scary as a couple of us carried her up the stairs, and back down again. Being fully aware that IF we dropped her she would die. No question, but she insisted and all went well. After the closure of the Museum, the Museum Service took them and I presume they are in store somewhere. You rightly mention her mother was a member of the Mitchell family, her brother was Hedley. At her Memorial Service I was given two paintings of her Grandparents, who owned Lesney Farm. They too are with the Museum Service, I HOPE! By the time I  got to know her she was virtually blind, but she was a charming lady, and very proud of her Erith origins, boasting she was the first lady in Erith to own a car. She never married. I  attach a self portrait of her as a young lady. One story she related was she was informed on the 3rd September 1939, by her doctor the Germans would be here the next day The family believed it and immediately moved to Scotland where they bought a house".  

Bexley is the borough in Greater London with the second lowest incidence of residential or business burglary during 2021, according to a report published last week. The areas with the lowest number of burglaries were Kingston Upon Thames with 712 and then Bexley with 766. The total reported burglaries in London was 55,252 — the highest figure in England.The figures also reveal that Hackney is the break-in hotspot of the capital — with 2,687 homes burgled in the year from September 2020 to August 2021. Barnet had the second highest number of such burglaries, 2,638, and Tower Hamlets was in third place with 2,612.

A recent report highlights another kind of crime that is rampant in the London Borough of Bexley - that of fly tipping. The report states that the total number of fly tipping incidents was 5,684. Of these, 4,841 were highway incidents. In 2020-2021, no fly tipping incidents were actioned. No fixed penalty notices were issued specifically for fly tipping. This strikes me as very odd; the council have very publicly said that they are active in pursuing and prosecuting criminal fly tippers, yet it would appear that they are actually doing very little, if anything in this regard. Do you have any information regarding this? Please Email me in complete confidence to me at the usual address -

An Email scam / confidence trick that first surfaced back in 2016 has recently reappeared. albeit in a slightly different format. Email users are getting unexpected emails that claim the sender found their email address in an old book. The email asks the user if they are real and what kind of relationship they have with the book. An example can be seen here:- "Hi there;  My name is Jean Rafon, I’m from France. Last week I Bought an old book from street here in Paris and i found your email inside of it, i’m curious to know if this is a real person, and what relate you with this book! Looking forward to hearing from you! Thanks Jean". This is a hook for an online scam, since the same email has been sent en masse to a number of different users. This fake Email can be the precursor to one of the following 1) A Romance scam, where the scammer strikes a relationship with the victim using this email as a form of bait, and over time gains their trust. From there, victims are often instructed to send money to the scammer who then disappears (or asks for more money!) 2) A Malware scam, where the victim and scammer exchange an number of emails before the scammer convinces the victim to click a link to a malware infested website. 3) A Phishing scam, where the scammer sends the victim a link that is designed to steal the login information of the victim. Whatever the specifics of the scam, this is clearly not a genuine email, and thus it should be ignored. I do these things so that you don't have to. 

I have written extensively in the past about the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, that lies on the bed of the River Medway / River Thames Estuary, and the potential risk to life that it has had since it sank 78 years ago. The Ministry of Defence, along with specialists from the Royal Navy are finally doing something about the sunken, explosive laden wreck. If you are a new reader, or do not recall the story, I will summarise:- the remains of the SS Richard Montgomery are one of the most contentious and controversial ship wrecks in the world. The American Liberty Ship, loaded with bombs and ammunition, sank in a storm in 1944, and broke in half in the Thames Estuary, between Sheerness on the Kent side of the river, and Southend on the Essex side. Contemporary accounts say that  on 20th August 1944, she started dragging her anchor, and despite warning sirens from surrounding ships, she ran aground on a sandbank around 270 yards from the main Medway Approach Channel, in a depth of 33 feet of water. Normally a Liberty Ship has an average draught of 28ft but the Montgomery, at this time, actually drew 31ft. Her overloaded, shoddily built and early welded construction made her vulnerable to the severe stress of grounding, and several serious cracks appeared in her hull, she eventually broke her back on the sand banks near the Isle of Sheppey about 1.5 miles from Sheerness and 5 miles from Southend. As the tide ebbed the ships plates snapped with a sharp crack heard over a mile away and the crew, mindful of its hazardous cargo, abandoned ship at 0300hrs using floats and lifeboats. A Rochester-based Master Stevedore T.P.Adams of Watson and Gill, was given the urgent and highly hazardous job of removing the cargo, which began on 23rd August 1944 at 1000hrs, using the ship's own cargo handling equipment, driven by a venerable, old (and expendable) steam ship the “Empire Nutfield” moored alongside. By the next day, the ship's hull had cracked open further, causing several cargo holds at the bow end to flood. The salvage operation continued until 25th September, when due to a severe gale they were forced to finally abandon the ship before all the cargo had been recovered. Subsequently, the ship broke into two separate parts, roughly at the midsection. During the enquiry following the shipwreck it was revealed that several ships moored nearby had noticed the Montgomery drifting towards the sandbank. They had attempted to signal an alert by sounding their sirens but without response, as Captain Willkie of the Montgomery was asleep. The ship's chief officer was unable to explain why he had not alerted the captain or carry out any remedial action. A board of Inquiry held aboard the ship during the initial unloading, concluded that the ship’s crew had acted in accordance with their instructions and that the anchorage the harbour master assigned had possibly placed the ship in jeopardy, and returned the Montgomery's captain to full duty. The salvage of the SS Richard Montgomery was abandoned shortly thereafter, and the vessel was declared a hazard to shipping and marked by several warning buoys. It has stayed in position ever since. According to a 2008 survey, the wreck is at a depth of 49ft, on average, and leaning to starboard. At all states of the tide, its three masts are visible above the water. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency nevertheless still believe that the risk of a major explosion is remote. The UK government's Receiver of Wrecks commissioned a risk assessment in 1999, but this risk assessment has never been published. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency convened with local and port authorities to discuss the report in 2001 and concluded that "doing nothing was not an option for much longer." The New Scientist magazine carried out an investigation concluded in 2004, based partly on government documents released in that year, that the cargo was still deadly, and could be detonated by a collision, an attack, or even the shifting of the cargo in the tide. The bad condition of many of the bombs is such that they could explode spontaneously. Documents declassified shortly before, revealed that the wreck was not dealt with immediately after it happened, or in the intervening 60 years, due solely to the expense. According to a survey conducted in 2000 by the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency, it was confirmed the wreck still held munitions totalling approximately 1,400 tons. Finally, something is being at least partly being done about the wreck. reports in both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph say that an operation to remove the masts from the sunken cargo ship in the River Medway / Thames Estuary, containing 1,400 tonnes of unstable explosives onboard, will involve Royal Navy specialists. It is believed that if the unexploded ordnance on the SS Richard Montgomery were triggered it could lead to the nearby oil and gas facilities in Sheerness being damaged. According to the Guardian, masts from the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, beached in the sands below, have been pictured poking above the water - as you can see in the photo above - click on it to see a larger version. A no-entry exclusion zone extends around the wreck and a local port owner is responsible for marking it with warning notices attached to the masts. Protective buoys circle the ship. The MoD was supporting the Department for Transport, which in turn has a contractor that will undertake the mast removal process over a two-month period. MoD-assured experts were due to assess the best way of surveying the area, identify any objects of interest, decide which of those objects need further investigation, and ensure that the mast removal work can be undertaken as safely as possible. Two Royal Navy specialists had been tasked with providing specialist survey and identification advice and expertise. A recent Department for Transport survey found the ship’s three masts were deteriorating and in a poor state.The MoD had warned that the unexploded ordnance could detonate if any of the ship’s masts collapsed. Previously the ministry had offered to pay £5m to any company that was able to safely remove the masts. Peel Ports, which operates Sheerness docks, is responsible for marking and guarding the wreck. The seabed was surveyed in October to check for spilled explosives before the dismantling of the masts begins. An MoD document reportedly seen by the Telegraph said that in the worst case the masts collapse or removal operation could cause “an explosion impacting the local area including the nearby oil and gas facilities in Sheerness leading to mass damage and potential loss of life”. Comments and general feedback to me at

The end video this week was filmed in Erith Pier Square, as mentioned at the beginning of this update - prior to the commencement of the refurbishment works. The short film is something of a surreal oddity. I have no idea how it came into being, or indeed what the actual point of it is. If you can enlighten me, then please feel free to let me know. Let the strangeness commence...

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