Sunday, January 30, 2022


Construction work for the regeneration of Erith Pier Square has now recommenced following a delay due to the non - arrival of some custom made granite blocks, that have now finally arrived on site, which you can see in the lower of the three photos above - click on any one to see a larger view. Thanks to Erith Councillor Nicola Taylor, who sent me the following update from Bexley Council:- "I am emailing with an update on Erith Pier Square following our recent correspondence. Works have recommenced at Erith Pier Square as of Monday. All of the granite sets have now been delivered, Riney plan on installing as much as they can this week. I’ve attached a couple of photos. We’re expecting a delay of around 4 to 6 weeks which brings completion of the scheme to late Feb/March but will let you know if there are any further changes".  Work to Pier Square has been somewhat controversial. Several mature and healthy trees were cut down and removed from site at the start of reconstruction work. A number of readers contacted me about this at the time. I am unable to say why the council's contractors did not uproot the trees carefully and have them relocated if they could not be left in situ. This did not start the reconstruction work on a very good footing and from the feedback I've heard, the previous Goodwill from local residents was somewhat dented by this unnecessary activity. Activity. The delays to the continuation of the work after Christmas and New Year is more understandable. From what I understand, the custom-made granite stone blocks, which are to form an integral part of the new design of the square, were delayed in transit from the EU. These are now on site, and work is progressing. Unfortunately, due to this delay, the site will now not be open to the public until late February or early March. Nevertheless, when it is finished I think it should be a very welcome addition to the area around the entrance to Erith Pier.

This week the Maggot Sandwich has a guest contributor, who chooses to remain anonymous. They write:- "It's fair to say that streets in the north of Bexley borough aren't looking their best at the moment. Most days I go for a walk in our excellent local woods, along the Thames and in surrounding local areas, and there is litter strewn everywhere. Roads and pavements are filthy and there are lots of dumped mattresses and sofas around. This is truly dispiriting and ruins what should be a nice place to live - and it has been a problem for a while, certainly before Covid hit and the series of strikes last summer. A couple of years ago, after there was a squashed Halloween pumpkin still lying in the gutter near where I live at the end of February, I raised the issue of street cleaning in my local area in a Freedom of Information request to Bexley Council. I was told that non-shopping streets and gullies were only cleaned by mechanical brooms on a 3 week frequency and I would guess that even this low frequency has not been met much since. By contrast, neighbouring Greenwich aims to sweep residential streets every week on the same day as refuse and recycling collection. Many of the streets in the north of the borough are heavily parked and mechanical sweeping does not deal with litter lying between or under cars This means that some litter is left untouched for months on end and often only shifts when there is heavy rain! Bexley has, along with all other local councils, suffered from a decade of central government funding cuts and there are huge additional financial pressures from non-discretionary services like social care, but, even so, how can such a poor service be justified when the Bexley Band D Council Tax rate is in the top ten highest in London. I had to go to my dentist in leafy Sidcup last week and was surprised at how clean the streets were there. Is it just the north of the borough that gets such an inadequate service? Does anyone else think that it's time to do some 'levelling up' for the north and deploy some resources from the leafy south up here?" What do you think? Email me in complete confidence to me at

Have you recently received an unexpected letter through your front door that was addressed to "dear neighbour" or "dear friend"? If so, this is part of a process that began in the USA, and has now spread to the UK. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions that we have all undergone over the last couple of years, a number of organisations have taken to promoting themselves in what we might consider to be old-fashioned methods.The letters that I'm referring to are written by hand and posted by members of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They rationalise that as they are unable to go door to door preaching, or handing out leaflets in the street as has been their practice for many years, they are reverting to traditional postal letters to individuals. Jehovah's Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching, distributing literature such as The Watchtower and Awake!, and for refusing military service and blood transfusions. They consider the use of God's name vital for proper worship. They reject Trinitarianism, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire, which they consider to be unscriptural doctrines. They do not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity. The Jehovah's Witnesses seemingly target random addresses, though on occasion, they have been known to send handwritten letters to every house or apartment in a street. I received the letter above in the post on Monday morning. I must admit seeing an envelope with a handwritten address on it surprised me, as I'm pretty sure that I don't know anybody who sends handwritten letters nowadays- actually I do know one person but that is a story for another time. I would guess that for many people seeing a handwritten address on an envelope would very much encourage them to open and read the contents, as they were probably think it was from an old friend. I have heard many reports that recipients of these letters have been shocked and worried when they read the letter inside, whilst the exact contents of each letter can vary, they all share similar themes. Similar themes. The writer of the letter usually refers to the COVID-19 pandemic being as a result of not obeying God's will, and that the letter recipient can only become immune from the infection by joining the Jehovah's Witnesses, or similar claims. It has been the case that recipients of these handwritten letters are concerned as to how that Jehovah's Witnesses got got addresses. It would appear that they are not using the electoral register or other database, as whilst the letters have an address, they do not have a personalised recipient name. They are merely addressed as "dear friend" or "dear neighbour". What is also interesting is that the people that are writing these letters must put a huge amount of effort into it. Each letter is usually an A4 sheet of paper completely filled with writing; these letters are not photocopied or printed, they are completely handwritten - each letter would take 20 to 30 minutes to write. This is a huge level of time, investment and dedication by the writer. I am not aware of any laws being broken by the Jehovah's Witnesses in writing and sending these letters, but it does strike me that vulnerable individuals may well find receiving such a letter to be stressful and worrying. Personally, I am of the opinion that people should be able to do, think and believe pretty much anything that they wish to with the caveat that they do not cause harm, irritation or distress to others. I find the Jehovah's witnesses to be somewhat curious, but essentially I feel that they should be allowed to do what they wish to do. My concern is when they evangelize and try to influence people from outside of their group. If they were to keep themselves to themselves, I would think them a bit bonkers, but entitled to their beliefs. The fact that they are so intrusive in their evangelising causes me much concern. I'm certain I'm not the only person with this opinion. The fact that the church is now using this rather old-fashioned method of communication does strike me as somewhat odd. How successful this letter writing campaign will actually prove to be is currently unknown. What do you think of this? Have you received a handwritten letter? Do let me know by emailing me at the usual address.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the closure of once popular radio station Atlantic 252. The station, which was located in the Republic of Ireland, broadcast on Long Wave. Atlantic 252 broadcast a mixture of top 40 chart hits and a small selection of oldies. The station started broadcasting on the 1st of September 1989, it was initially extremely successful, especially in the Northern parts of the UK, where the signal was especially strong. Many listeners were of the opinion that the station was some kind of pirate, when in fact it was nothing of the kind - it was actually a collaborative project between two organisations. Irish state broadcaster RTÉ announced it was to use its allocated Long Wave frequency for a new pop music station. RTÉ teamed up with RTL Group / Radio Luxembourg to form Radio Tara – the trading name of Atlantic 252 – which, being on Long Wave, was able to provide reception across Ireland and the United Kingdom. In county Meath Ireland, it also had administrative offices located at 74 Newman Street in London. In its heyday, the station appealed to an audience of mainly young people between the ages of 18 and 30. Back in those days there were far fewer music stations on FM, and the fact that the Long Wave signal was mono was less important than it would be nowadays. The fact that the Long Wave signal covered almost all of the UK and Ireland was of more importance. In 1987 RTÉ commenced building a giant 3-sided 248-metre broadcast mast in Clarkstown, County Meath, using a specially built pair of air- and water-cooled 300 kW solid-state transmitters (which could be combined to give double power) built by Varian Associates, Texas, despite protests from local residents. Studios were set up in Mornington House, in the nearby town of Trim. The station cost £6 million to set up. Just over 47 million people were in the station's broadcast area. Although the transmitter was in the Republic of Ireland, the signal's reach meant that it was often looked upon as a "UK national station". Reception reports were received from such locations as Berlin, Finland, Ibiza, and Moscow. The signal had even been received in Brazil at night-time. The Scottish musician Mylo has claimed that it was the only station with listenable reception on the Isle of Skye. At launch there were no UK-wide commercial stations (the first would be Classic FM in 1992), and the lack of a UK broadcast licence attracted the attention of the IBA. Although the transmitters were theoretically capable of being combined to operate at a radiated power of 600 kW, international agreements limited it to a daytime maximum 500 kW, and just 100 kW during the hours of darkness. At 8.00 local time (7.00 GMT) on the morning of 1 September 1989 Gary King announced on Atlantic 252, "Mine is the first voice you will ever hear on Atlantic 252." This was followed by a specially produced pre-recorded introduction tape that introduced everybody employed by the radio station on its launch day, I recall listening to the first broadcast whilst on board Radio Caroline supply ship the M.V Galexy, which at the time was moored in Gravesend Canal Basin. Initially, the Atlantic 252 transmitted only from 6a.m. until 7p.m., outside of which listeners were invited to tune to Radio Luxembourg. In August 1990 the station extended its broadcasting hours to 2a.m., and in September 1991 Atlantic 252 began broadcasting a 24-hour service although the overnight programming was automated and was branded as "The Big Mattress". The music format consisted of high-rotation mainstream pop and rock music, with influences borrowed heavily from American radio, and through to 1993, the station was known to play much of the music mostly from the top part of the US charts. The station mixed the best songs from the last few years along with the best songs from the top 40 – this was called "Today's Best Music Variety". Commercial Radio and the BBC initially objected to the station, seeing it as a commercial pirate. However, as UK commercial radio developed and deregulation saw many more stations launching, formats similar to Atlantic's began to appear on FM and Atlantic 252's audience began to decline. Attempts at repositioning followed, including "Real Music, Real Radio", when the station attempted to tackle BBC Radio 1's "new music" format. At the peak of its popularity in 1993, Atlantic 252 had 6 million listeners aged 15+ in the UK and Ireland, but vastly increased competition from local radio stations with similar formats saw this decline yearly. As listeners moved away from Long Wave, and more music stations in FM stereo took to the airwaves, so the popularity of Atlantic 252 quickly waned. in 1999 the station suffered its lowest Rajar ratings since it first came on the air, with the audience falling to just under 1 million UK listeners in the last quarter of the year. The station finally closed in January 2002.

At around 8:00 p.m. on Friday evening, there was a fire at CBL Recycling - City Batteries Limited, which was formerly known as Vinton Metals, located in Manor Road, Erith. Large clouds of steam and smoke were seen emanating from the yard of the recycling facility. The automated fire alarm and fire suppression system installed at the site worked well, and the fire brigade were soon on the site and dealt with the conflagration. Local reports state that the cause of the fire was a leak of sulphuric acid from batteries being broken on the site, which had interacted with other materials causing a chemical reaction. I spoke with the chief fire officer who attended the incident, and he was confident that it would not cause any problems for residents adjacent to the industrial facility. 

A security issue which was first raised around a decade ago has cropped up again. As is quite often the case, a new generation of criminals have deployed a relatively old scam. In essence, some cash dispenser machines have been found to have illegally been fitted with a device which retains the users card when they insert it in the machine. The criminal then retrieves the card and empties the bank account of the victim - they have already observed the PIN number being entered prior to the theft. The device which retains the victim's cash card is referred to as a Lebanese loop. A Lebanese loop is a device used to commit fraud and identity theft by exploiting automated teller machines (ATMs). In its simplest form, it is a strip or sleeve of metal or plastic which blocks the ATM's card slot, causing any inserted card to be apparently retained by the machine, allowing it to be retrieved by the fraudster when the cardholder leaves. Its name comes from its regular use amongst Lebanese financial crime perpetrators, although it has since spread to other international criminal groups over the last decade or so. The scam has been reported in countries with high numbers of ATMs such as the UK, the United States, Germany and France. The Lebanese loop fraud is widespread - the term “Lebanese loop” is applied to any number of similar devices that are used to perpetrate ATM fraud by retaining the user's card. In their simplest form, Lebanese loops consist of a strip or sleeve of metal or plastic (even something as simple as a strip of old - style video cassette tape) that is inserted into the ATM's card slot. Some loops have a covering fascia which appears superficially to be part of the ATM, while others are simply a length of dark-coloured tape with glue strips to hold it temporarily inside an ATM slot. Lebanese loop devices are relatively simple to construct, requiring less technical skill than a card skimming technique. When the victim inserts their ATM card, the loop is long and narrow enough that the ATM machinery can still fully draw the card in and read it. The victim then enters their personal identification number (PIN) as normal, and requests the funds. The ATM then tries to eject the card, the loop device prevents the card from being ejected, either with a flap covering the fascia's slot, or a diagonal slit in the tape which catches against the card. The machine senses that the card has not been ejected, and draws the card back into the machine. The cash drawer does not open, and the money that has been counted is retained by the machine. In most cases, the victim's account is not debited. The victim believes the machine has malfunctioned or genuinely retained their card. In a typical scam, the perpetrator will obtain the victim's PIN either by watching them enter it the first time (shoulder surfing), or by approaching the victim under the pretence of offering help and suggesting they re-enter their PIN (and again, watching them do so). More sophisticated variants of the Lebanese loop scam have developed. In some cases, the fraudsters attach a small camera to the ATM work to record the victim entering their PIN. The video from this camera is then transmitted to the fraudsters, who may be waiting near the machine and viewing the video on a laptop computer, meaning they need not approach the victim directly. There have been cases where a fake keypad is fitted to the machine over the top of the real one, and this records the PINs entered. Once the victim has left the area, the perpetrator retrieves the loop and the trapped card, and uses it, along with the stolen PIN, to withdraw cash from the victim's account; it is advised for ATM users to be especially vigilant whilst withdrawing cash - look for any attachments to the machine that should not be there, and beware of anyone getting too close whilst you are using the ATM. Newer cash machines are fitted with technology to minimise the effects of the Lebanese loop, but lots of older machines are still in use all over the country.

The end video this week is a bit of history; it is a short film following the route of the route 698 Trolleybus on its journey from Woolwich to Bexleyheath via Plumstead, Abbey Wood, Lower Belvedere, Erith and Barnehurst in the early Spring of 1959. It makes for fascinating viewing. Do give it a watch and then let me know what you think by Emailing me at

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