Sunday, June 12, 2022


The two photos above - click on either one for a larger view, show work that was carried out to the exterior of the Purple Willows Day Nursery and Preschool last weekend. Back in February, during the very high winds, the single layer brick wall surrounding the Purple Willows building was blown down onto the pavement in Erith Road beside the 99 bus stop. Fortunately nobody was hurt during the incident. Since then no wall has been present. Last weekend a new wooden fence was constructed. If you look at the lower of the two photographs above, you will see work was still being undertaken, when the photo was taken. The upper photo shows the completed fence several hours later on the same day. I do not know for certain, but I would guess that the owners of Purple Willows decided to replace the brick wall with the wooden fence for both aesthetic and commercial reasons. I'm sure that the wall was insured as it surrounds a commercial premises. Most walls and fences in residential properties are not covered by house insurance, as I'm sure many people have discovered during the aftermath of storms in the past. Commercial premises insurance is somewhat different, and in most cases, although not all exterior walls and other structures are indeed covered by insurance. Whatever the case, the former brick wall is now a rather pleasing wooden fence. I just wonder how long it will take before some local low life decides to put graffiti on it.

As a follow-up to the article I wrote last week about the former Pop in Parlour in Queen Street, opposite for Baptist Church in Erith, I have had a huge amount of interest and feedback on the story, although at the time of writing nobody has any real idea as to what is going to happen to the structure which is now been empty and seemingly abandoned for over a decade. It seems that local people have a great interest in the future of the former Pop in Parlour, though nobody seems to know exactly what is going to happen to it. If I get any concrete information on the fight of the building, I will let people know in a future update, though I'm not very optimistic about this at the time of writing.

Smartphone cameras will produce better image quality than standalone DSLR cameras by 2024, according to a Sony executive. Smartphone cameras will produce better image quality than standalone DSLR cameras by 2024, according to a Sony executive. New technologies such as quantum saturation and improved AI processing introduced to smartphones within the next two years will effectively render single-lens set-ups as obsolete, the executive said. The comments were made during a recent business briefing. “We expect that still images [from smartphones] will exceed the image quality of single-lens reflex cameras within the next few years,” said Terushi Shimizu, president and CEO of Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS). He added: “Still images are expected to exceed ILC [interchangeable lens camera] image quality.” Sony, which manufactures both high-end cameras and smartphones, claimed that one of the biggest improvements for smartphone cameras would relate to their sensor size, which is expected to double over the next two years. This advance will “realise a new imaging experience” by applying multiframe processing, stated the article. Combining the advances in software, such as artificial intelligence, with advances in hardware will also improve features such as zoom, dynamic range and low-light noise reduction. Sony has an unrivalled insight into some of these sectors because it provides image sensors for a number of leading smartphone manufacturers, including Apple. The iPhone 13 Pro Max – currently Apple’s most advanced smartphone – uses three Sony IMX 7-series sensors, while Sony commands a market-leading 42 per cent share of the global image sensor market for smartphones. Sony’s own phones borrow some of the same technology it develops within its standalone camera business, with its upcoming Sony Xperia 1 IV featuring the “world’s first true optical 85-125mm zoom lens”. Set to launch in September, the phone comes with three lenses, real-time eye autofocus, and colour settings and parameters similar to those of Sony’s pro-level cameras.

It seems that the vision of the “Smart Home” is more than a few years away. A survey has recently been carried out by accountancy giant PwC shows that British homeowners are more concerned with practical applications and financial advantages rather than the need to be “tech-tastic” when it comes to smart technology at home. The majority of participants (72 per cent) were uninterested in making their homes smarter, and were not looking to buy smart appliances, renewable energy devices or automated cleaning appliances over the next two to five years. Research shows that they could be convinced if there were financial incentives such as reduced energy bills or free installation of smart energy meters or lights. Less than ten per cent of consumers were not bothered by pressure to keep up with tech-savvy friends and family with smart homes and were unimpressed with the ability to control devices through an app, possibly preferring to stride over and flip the switch themselves. Concerns were expressed over the security of certain smart devices, after the revelations recently that smart TV’s could be used by hackers to spy on individuals, by remotely activating the TV’s camera and speech recognition microphone. People seem to want simplicity and reliability over additional functionality, according to the report. One of the problems very few people have considered when discussing “The Internet of Things” as digitally connected domestic devices are often called is that of durability and life cycle. Whilst, for example, a central heating system may last for twenty or so years (with a boiler swap – out halfway through), a smart phone with an associated app to remotely control the heating system has an average life of not much more than a couple of years. There is no guarantee that the app will continue to be supported on later version of the phone or tablets’ operating system, or that the app itself will still be available. Some years ago, I worked as a technology analyst in a multinational consulting company. I did some research back then into the possibility of replacing some very expensive, proprietary interactive touch screen screens outside of office meeting rooms which showed who was using the rooms, and who would be in there next with much cheaper Android tablets fixed to the outside of the meeting room. The Android tablet hardware worked out at less than one third of the cost of a proprietary screens, but the problem was that the company that provided the meeting room screen software could not guarantee that their code would carry on working for at least five years, and after multiple Android updates. The project ended up dead in the water because of this. I think that many similar situations may well arise in domestic environments, where a device such as a heating or lighting system with a relatively long lifecycle is to be controlled by a tablet or mobile phone with a far shorter life cycle, and with software with a shorter life cycle still. I feel that much of the “internet of things” is actually a solution looking for a problem. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Older Maggot Sandwich readers may be recall the giant Fraser and Chalmers factory. The company had a very long history; they started back in 1849, when two young Scottish men - David Fraser, a millwright, and Tom Chalmers, a foundryman travelled to the USA to take up careers in agriculture. Soon after their arrival in America, the California Gold Rush started, and they found it far more profitable to make mining machinery spares and equipment than to grow crops. They set up a large factory in Montana, and by 1860 they had moved to Chicago and continued expanding. By 1890 they were the largest mining equipment manufacturers in the entire USA. At this point they were approached to set up a new factory in England which was designed to supply mining machinery for the South African gold fields. The Erith works was opened in May 1891. The new factory was built on what had previously been a recreation ground. The British arm of the firm severed all connections with the American part, and by 1903 they expanded production to include steam plant, milling machinery, and general engineering products. Just after the First World War, the factory, which by this time employed four thousand workers and covered an area of thirty four acres was sold to the General Electric Company.

Online shopping is hitting a major problem, after having a major boost during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The keen prices many online retailers can offer when compared to a high street shop may soon be at an end. The reason is straightforward – the huge number of items ordered on the web which are subsequently returned to the vendor – usually at the vendor’s expense; the recent huge increase in the price of vehicle fuel has exacerbated this. A quarter of handbags and a fifth of shoes are returned as unsuitable. There is a discernible pattern of returns; women are far more likely to return an item bought online compared with men, who seem to only return items when they are actually faulty. A study by Barclaycard found that one in four women admitted to ordering more goods online than they intended to keep. In comparison only one man in ten did the same thing. The practice is driving up the cost of internet shopping as websites struggle the sheer volume of items coming back, and the increase in the cost of transportation due to the high fuel prices at present. The study also discovered that one in six items of clothing bought online is returned, with twenty percent of women admitting to ordering the same garment in several sizes to see one fits best. Men apparently are far less likely to do this. A Barclaycard analyst said in a recent interview on the subject:- “The speed and convenience of online shopping, and the speed and convenience of returning has led to the emergence of the serial returner, and women are far more likely to fall into this category. Shoppers are deliberately over purchasing safe in the knowledge that they can choose from the ever growing number of ways to quickly and easily send items back, such as hourly courier services and local drop – off points. With six in ten consumers saying that a website’s returns policy impacts their purchasing decision, online retailers are caught between trying to attract customers and remaining competitive whilst also ensuring that they protect their bottom line”. The study pointed out that online businesses did not always lose out, as more than a quarter of shoppers saying that they had intended to return an unwanted or faulty item bought online, but they had never go round to it.

One of the local clubs which has been in the longest continuous operation celebrates its 60th birthday this year. The club is based on the upper floor of Belvedere Working Men's Club in Gilbert Road, Belvedere. The club describes itself thus:- "Founded in June 1962, the Erith Model Railway Society (or EMRS of short) has been in existence for 60 years. It is very friendly and informal in nature, and comprises people engaged in modelling railways in most scales including N, HO, OO and O. As well as modelling railways, the Society holds an annual modelling contest and many social events. Members' families are more than welcome to attend any EMRS-organised events such as dinners, Christmas and summer celebrations, held at a local family restaurant, pub or club, visits to prototype railways and rail-tours. The Society meets every Wednesday evening from 6:30pm up to 9:00pm at our clubrooms in Belvedere (address: Belvedere Working Men's Club, Invicta House, 66 Gilbert Road, Belvedere, Kent, DA17 5DA), but we are in the enviable position of not having to share our facilities with anybody else, so the rooms are potentially available every day of the week. Some of our members also meet on Tuesday evenings from 7:00pm up to 9:00pm to work on the various club layouts that we are currently building. To help our active 'project groups' we have set-up a multi-gauge test track (4 x OO oval, 2 x N oval & 1 x O end-to-end). All tracks can be switched to operate on either DCC and DC. The Society also has Hainault Junction (4 x OO oval) being used as a test track, which operates on DC. All test tracks are available for all members to bring and test/run their own stock. The Society is always looking for new members, particularly youngsters, who will form the backbone of the Society in the coming years. If you are interested in joining a prosperous, busy and growing club, then why not contact us. We are always happy for you to come and visit the club on a Wednesday evening, where you will receive a warm welcome, and get the opportunity to tour the rooms and see exactly what we get up to".

Fellow local Blogger Malcolm Knight of Bexley is Bonkers has just published an article on the problems he has experienced with his home smart meter installation - you can read about his experiences by clicking here. Malcolm is one of very many people who have had serious issues with his smart meter. Government guidance says that since the middle of March 2019 customers should only have been given second generation smart meters (SMETS2). However, eight energy companies are still installing first generation smart meters (SMETS1) say the network is not reliable enough to switch customers on to. People living in high rise flats and those sharing a service inlet, or on a pre - paid meter were especially affected. The whole smart meter deployment project has gone seriously off the rails. The second generation of meters is supposed to be able to connect remotely to a national network, which should make switching supplier possible, for the first time for many customers. In reality many suppliers are still installing first generation meters, and even where they are installing the second generation, in many cases the users are complaining that they do not connect, and also the users are still unable to change energy suppliers. The communication protocols used by different energy suppliers still vary considerably. Smart Meters send real – time power usage data back to the supplier via a 3G mobile phone signal. It has since been announced that 3G phone technology is being phased out over the next few years. The idea behind this is that the meter does not have to be connected to a home data network. This sounds all well and good; the power company can bill you without having to send a meter reader to your house, and you get the option to monitor your power usage in an almost real – time way. There are however, problems. The data sent from the SMETS1 first generation Smart Meters to the supplier is sent unencrypted, and “in the clear”; it is possible to intercept the data stream, and also a malicious attacker can potentially send instructions to the meter remotely. Several Smart Meter companies do tacitly admit this, but they play the whole lack of security aspect down. Some second generation SMETS2 meters do encrypt user data, but not all, and the encryption algorithm used is relatively weak. Over three thousand Smart Meter customers contacted Citizens Advice in 2020 (the most recent year for which figures are currently available) with problems regarding the meters, which the energy supply companies have been reluctant, or unable to address. Some said they had experienced problems when having a smart meter installed, with engineers failing to turn up, or being unable to fit the device into the space available. Some were also frustrated that despite having a smart meter, they still had to submit readings manually. Customers also complained about energy firms using aggressive sales practices to push them into having a smart meter installed when they didn't want one. So far more than 12.1 million smart meters have been installed. back in 2018, Citizens Advice warned that with 39 million smart meters still to go, the 2020 deadline was 'unrealistic'. It has now called on the Government to delay the smart meter deadline to 2023. Even Smart Energy GB, an organisation set up by the Government to promote smart meters but funded by suppliers, has produced research that indicates lukewarm interest amongst consumers. An independent survey by Populus that gathered the views of more than 10,000 people found that less than half of those who didn’t yet have a meter said they would want one installed within the next six months. Negative coverage of the meters including on the BBC’s Watchdog consumer affairs programme may also have dampened householders’ enthusiasm. In July 2018, MPs called on the Government to urgently review the smart meter roll-out which they said was 'over time, over budget and mismanaged'. The British Infrastructure Group of MPs and Lords warned that half of smart meters stop working when customers switch supplier, while a tenth were not functioning due to poor mobile phone signal. The average annual saving on a gas and electricity bill by 2022 was estimated in 2014 to be £26, but this has now been reduced to just £11, MPs said. Smart Meters primarily benefit the energy companies, because they no longer need to employ meter readers. The benefits to the consumer are minimal at best, and when allied to the security and compatibility concerns mentioned earlier, they don't add up for me, especially when the much vaunted money saving aspect turns out to be a white elephant. What do you think? Email me at

The end video this week shows an exhibition held by the aforementioned Erith Model Railway Society back in 2018. The attention to detail and sheer amount of work that goes into each display is astonishing. 

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