Sunday, November 27, 2022


The empty, former Argos store in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is being put to good use this Christmas; it is to be the home of a Christmas themed pop - up cinema, sponsored by the Erith Town Partnership and The Exchange. 

In a late breaking story, there were two murders by stabbing last night less than a mile apart, one was in Thamesmead, and the other in Abbey Wood. Two teen aged boys have been stabbed to death. The victims, both 16, were both attacked in the street at around the same time yesterday evening. At the time of writing, details are currently scarce, but it would appear that Police have launched a murder investigation and are trying to establish whether there is a link between the stabbings. The Metropolitan Police said of last night's attacks: "A murder investigation is under way following two stabbings this evening. At around 17:10hrs on Saturday, 26 November police were called to reports of people injured in Sewell Road, Abbey Wood and Titmuss Avenue, Thamesmead". Police investigations are continuing. The unfortunate story has made the national news

The following warning has been issued by the Crayford Police Safer Neighbourhoods Team:- "Please be aware that pickpockets are taking advantage of the shops, public transport and other busy areas to pickpocket in Crayford and Bexleyheath, no doubt other areas too. What can you do to protect yourself? Only carry what you need when you go out, keep valuables out of sight, put withdrawn cash away before leaving the bank. Ladies, please do not put bags on pushchairs or shopping trollies, keep bags zipped and if possible wear across your body. Gentlemen, please keep your wallet, mobile phones tucked in a pocket inside your coat or jacket if possible, not in your rear trouser pocket. When out in crowded spaces be alert and avoid being distracted. Pickpockets operate in crowded places often using something such as a newspaper, coat or bag to conceal their actions.  They will often pass the items they steal to another person. For additional crime prevention advice visit"

The incredibly popular Erith Christmas Tree Festival is almost upon us; for readers who are unfamiliar with the annual event, the festival is described as:- "The Erith Christmas Tree Festival is an annual community event that is held a Christ Church in Erith. 80 Christmas trees as well as window ledge arrangements, lighting effects, music and activities fill Christ Church with light and sound and wonderful smells! As a real community event everyone and anyone is welcome to join in with this now essential part of Erith’s Christmas preparation. Every tree is different as every one is sponsored and decorated by a different person, family, charity or company. Every tree tells a story. Entry is FREE! Donations go to the Greenwich & Bexley Hospice and to Christ Church. The first festival was in 2009 but it has now become part of Erith’s Christmas build up. The addition of the concert and Carol Service by tree light as well as the Craft Fair and next door Scouts Christmas Fair makes the Christ Church site the centre of all things Christmas. It was started as a community mission rather than an overtly Christian event which has helped it to feel welcoming to people of all faiths and none. We would like this to continue and hope to grow this special weekend so that it can serve all of Erith and beyond in the future. There is a FREE Musical Concert featuring the Rock Choir on Saturday night and our traditional Carol Service by tree light on Sunday evening so plenty to get you in the mood for Christmas!"

Now for an article from Miles, the Maggot Sandwich occasional correspondent regarding all things electrical; this time Miles shares his thoughts on Smart Power Meters:- "It’ll be no surprise to anyone that energy prices across the board have gone through the roof, along with just about everything else much to the enrichment of the oil and gas producers who are now reporting record profits. Following the age-old play book, rather than focus on the source of the problem, businesses and government are pushing the responsibility to solve this crisis on to the end consumer - you and I. We’ve seen this before with recycling (it’s cheaper to create new plastic, than truly recycle), climate crisis (the majority of emissions come from fewer than 100 organisations), green washing and many other examples. Some years ago the European Union required all member states to roll out a number of initiatives; one of which was the ‘smart-meters’. Briefly, this new generation of meter has the capability of reporting back your energy consumption as frequently as the infrastructure allows. It also has a few secondary functions which are dubious in nature but we’ll come back to that later. Where this becomes relevant is the government's initiative to become net zero by 2050. At the time of writing Chancellor Hunt announced the consumer should “cut their energy to stop the UK being ‘blackmailed”. Of course these are lofty goals we should aim to achieve as soon as possible, but is it actually for the country's betterment, or another deflection onto the consumer? Given the chaotic nature of the energy market, many families are struggling as a result, the government and industry have identified a perfect opportunity to trial the appetite for consumer load shifting and reduction. Essentially incentivising electricity customers to reduce or entirely shut off power for a brief period in peak periods. Where a reduction is made against a benchmark (ie. your typical use) a credit is made against your bill - allegedly rising to a stratospheric £3/kWh if that load can be moved to an off-peak period. This all sounds great, but clearly utilities, The National Grid and the Government are testing the water. We already know there are proposals to utilise ‘smart’ appliances, including vehicles which will be offered the choice to automatically reschedule their consumption to a period of the National Grid’s choosing. My concern is when will this no longer be a choice?  Back to smart meters for a moment. There’s two darker aspects which they enable, or at best make a lot easiest to perform. The first and most alarming is the ability to remotely cut off supply, a supply that may be vital for heating, cooking, transport or medical reasons. Now to be transparent, this happens to a degree already, and has done for decades through prepayment meters. Once your credit runs out (and I remember the days of the coin operated 50 pence models) your power shuts off. Whilst I’m not proposing companies giving away free energy, suppliers do need to consider the implications of cutting supply suddenly. Given recent events, I don’t believe they do. If you are not aware utility suppliers have remotely switched credit meters which fell into arrears to prepayment without notification. Quite worrying if they are ignorant of a customer's circumstances. In summary my message is: Are customers being made the scapegoat for failings of governments and big business? Will credit metres move from a mechanism for a consumer to keep track of their consumption to another form of energy enforcement? Could encouraging consumers to move consumption to dynamic off peak periods save us money, or is it another form of control?" A thought provoking piece - what do you think? Email me at

The photos above - click on either for a larger version - show a day time, and then a night time view of works currently being undertaken in the Eastern end of Morrison's car park in Erith. What many do not realise is that many UK supermarkets outsource the management of their car parks to specialist third party parking companies, either via a lease, or sometimes by outright sale. This has certain tax benefits to the supermarket chains, and also removes a level of liability for activities in the car parks. The management company that runs the car park at Morrison's in Erith has, over the last couple of years since it took over, been rationalising the use of the parking spaces, which have been determined to be far too numerous for the usual number of cars visiting the store. To this end the management company have permitted a number of third parties to construct semi permanent structures in the car park - current tenants include AutoGlass car windscreen repair and replacement, We Buy Any Car / Any Van, and a vehicle washing and valeting station. The construction shown in the photos above is for a vehicle MOT testing facility, which is currently in the early phase of being built. 

As I have mentioned previously, Erith and Belvedere share a somewhat dubious honour; over the last few years both towns have been awarded the title of the hardest place in the UK to pass a driving test. It would seem that the title changes between Erith and Belvedere each time the award is announced, and this time it is Erith that has come out on top. Six other London areas are also amongst the 20 places with the lowest pass rates, making London the hardest place to pass your driving test. This year, Erith takes the crown with the lowest pass rate - at just 32 per cent of learners passing. Belvedere is second lowest at 36.5 per cent. Also in the bottom 20 are Wanstead with a pass rate of 38.8 per cent, Chingford with 41.4 per cent, Yeading with 41.6 per cent, Croydon at 42.3 per cent, and Barking at 42.4 per cent. By contrast, the data from insurance comparison site Quotezone shows that the Lochgilphead test centre in Scotland had the highest pass rate in 2021-2022 with an impressive 80 per cent of its pupils passing their test. The data, which looks at learners aged 17 to 25 taking their test in a manual car, found that average pass rate across the country is just below 50 per cent. Quotezone founder Greg Wilson, explained  in an interview on the My London website that a higher number of hazards and road features in cities could be to blame for the low pass rate in London. He said: “Rural locations appear to be the best places for learner drivers to take and pass their tests, whereas taking your practical test in metropolitan areas like London and Birmingham, seems to make it more difficult to pass. This could be explained by the higher number of hazards and road features in cities, leading to more opportunities for driving mistakes and errors. London is unquestionably the hardest place to pass a driving test the first-time round - driving test centres in London hold seven out of the 20 lowest pass rates, closely followed by centres in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester." The news comes as thousands of learner drivers are having to wait until 2023 for a driving test space while the DVSA struggles to manage the backlog from Covid restrictions.

Since the beginning of the original Covid-19 lock down, as I have previously reported, people have been returning to old and often long forgotten hobbies. I know that during periods of enforced isolation several of my readers dug out Shortwave radios from the backs of dusty cupboards and tuned around the bands to hear what was being broadcast - if anything. Many journalists in the popular press had written off analogue radio, and especially Shortwave as a relic of the past - after all, with the likes of DAB and streaming audio, what was the need for a technology that was well over a century old? Instead, listeners discovered a world of unusual and interesting programmes being broadcast, and a whole host of strange and mysterious signals. Since the start of Russia's murderously criminal invasion of Ukraine, the number of these unusual signals on the Shortwave bands have dramatically increased to the same levels as they used to be at the height of the Cold War. Shortwave listeners encounter a world of mostly international radio stations broadcasting from countries like China, Cuba, Iran, or Romania. These frequencies also include amateur radio and marine and air traffic. Sooner or later, however, those who listen to these more off-beat signals will stumble across strange broadcasts repeating number groups in digitally synthesised voices. Sometimes they are read live, sometimes in Morse Code, and sometimes by means of digital noise transmission. These are the so-called numbers stations. Numbers stations have been in existence since World War I. Over the years they have attracted sporadic interest from journalists, video game designers, and filmmakers. Despite this attention, there are few explanations of what these signals actually are. Too often, they are described as “spooky,” “creepy,” or “mysterious,” and the discussion stops there. It may be disappointing to some, but these stations are not signals from aliens or mind control devices, nor are they dead relics of the Cold War — rather, these stations are part of the sophisticated work of intelligence agencies and militaries, and they are very much still on the air. If these signals can be heard all over the world, then, of course, the messages must be encrypted. This is where one-time pads come in. The one-time pad, the only mathematically unbreakable encryption system, is usually a sheet of paper with random numbers in groups of five or more digits. Typically, the letters of the message are converted into numbers and are added to numbers from the notepad using a simple mathematical operation known as “false addition.” The result is then transmitted. The recipient uses the same page from his own one-time pad and extracts the plain text message by applying “false subtraction” to the encrypted message. This procedure is simple, yet highly effective: The message can only be decoded by a third party if they get access to recipients’ one-time pads. This is sometimes possible for counterintelligence, either using double agents or by arresting the recipient, most likely while he is receiving the signal. A number of events in the 20th century have proven that intelligence agencies do, in fact, use these signals. Decoding these messages is impossible without access to the one-time pads used to encrypt them. Nevertheless, for many decades people have studied them and even made accurate schedules of times of their transmissions. William (Bill) Thomas Godbey, or “Havana Moon,” first made numbers stations logging popular in the 1980s. Later, Simon Mason wrote a book called Secret Signals: The Euro Numbers. For the last two decades, much work has been done by two groups of radio listeners: Enigma 2000 and Numbers and Oddities. Enigma has set designations for these stations based on the language or digital format. E for English, S for Slavic, G for German, V for various. Two independent sites and both have vast information on various numbers stations used both now and in the past. Last year, British historian Lewis Bush published a book called Shadows of the State about these stations and their possible locations. Also notable is the “Conet Project” a freely available compilation of past numbers station recordings. These people have done impressive work uncovering the owners of now-defunct numbers stations using documentary evidence, and have pinpointed the owners of modern day stations using technical observations like signal triangulation and other methods. Sometimes the sponsor of a station is not as self-evident one might think. For instance, not all Russian stations transmit in Russian: sometimes they transmit in English or Spanish. Polish stations transmit in English and Russian. Usually these attributions have been made by signal triangulation and measurements of signal strength and directions. Numbers stations aren’t spooky, nor are they a mystery — for many in the intelligence and military communities, they are daily tasks that serve the interests of their country. We can follow their work at least partially by listening to these transmissions. If you happen to hear them you will know that, as one author on the subject put it, the “shadows of the state” are simply doing their daily work. To further explain and illustrate the subject, please watch the end video below. Comments and feedback as always to me at

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