As many readers may already know, I don't send Christmas cards, for a number of reasons, mainly as I think them redundant now that the Western world is now online, and via social networking, Email, Twitter and a host of other services; people keep in contact all year round, not just via a once a year bit of printed card. Cards use a huge amount of natural resources, both in their production and transportation, and generally get shredded or dumped after the annual festivities. I think we really need to move on from them. I know many regard me as a grumpy old curmudgeon when it comes to the Christmas festivities; and I suppose I am to an extent. I suppose having no children does mean that I don’t see the holiday from their perspective. For the most part it is a period for me to endure, rather than enjoy. I am not saying that the festival is a complete anathema, but it sometimes feels that way.
Apple, Google, Facebook and other tech companies may be forced into finding a solution that allows users to connect across the various messaging platforms. Currently, each service has its own way of handling communication that is not compatible with others, placing a burden upon the user when there is a need to reach someone using a different platform or service. A universal communication method would benefit the end-user, whether using an iPhone or Android phone, with Facebook, iMessage, or other social media apps. A cross-platform solution works against the existing model that social media and tech companies have accepted as standard, keeping their customers or users circling back to the same company rather than moving between different services. It’s the same reason for members’ rewards cards at supermarkets. Keeping the existing customer is much easier than recruiting a new one. This is such an obvious and popular requirement, I’m baffled it is taking governments around the world this long to get to implementing it. So much of our communication infrastructure is owned by 3-4 giant technology companies, all incompatible with each other, with absolutely zero control over what happens to your messages and your data. Forcing them to be interoperable – preferably via forcing the publication of open programming interfaces third party developers can tap into – is not only the bare minimum we should expect from our online communication channels, it is probably also a highly popular requirement that would simplify the the lives of people all across the European Union, where different countries favour different messaging protocols.
Proposals have been published by Bexley Council, which if they are enacted, could mean the redevelopment of the parcel of land in Walnut Tree Road, Erith, adjacent to the college building, and opposite the Old Carnegie Library, which until the mid 1970’s was the home of Walnut Tree Road Tram Depot. Erith was heavily dependent on trams for local transport for many years. The main line between Erith and Abbey Wood was heavily used; Walnut Tree Road was constructed to allow trams to go from West Street up towards Northumberland Heath; a branch line went from Pier Road all the way up to North End. Strangely trams never ran from Erith to Upper Belvedere, as the residents of Upper Belvedere were strongly opposed to the idea. I would hazard a guess that as a good number of wealthy and influential people (including some of the owners of the factories in Lower Belvedere) lived in the big houses at the top of Picardy Road and in Eardley Road, they probably did not want the great unwashed flocking onto their doorsteps from working class Erith. There were also technical issues with the proposed route up Picardy Road, which for the most part is a one in ten, or steeper hill. A conventional tram would have difficulty in climbing such a steep incline. The coming of the trams meant that the small power station in Walnut Tree Road needed to be doubled in size (it was located where the old Erith Swimming Baths once stood, and is currently a patch of grass). The tram shed was built on the opposite side of the road, on the new college campus site. The existing level crossing over the railway at Lower Road was replaced with a bridge (locally still known as “the new bridge”) and a set of gates were constructed adjacent to the Ballast Wharf Siding in West Street, which is now called Chichester Wharf. Another tram siding at the bottom of Walnut Tree Road was protected by what was the longest level crossing gate in Britain. The rails, which weighed a total of 1,480 tons, were laid into a bed of six inches of concrete, lined with granite blocks, except outside of churches, schools and Erith Cottage Hospital, where quieter wood blocks were laid instead. When the tram service began on the 26th August 1905, there were a total of fourteen double decker trams servicing the Abbey Wood – Erith – Northumberland Heath line. Of these, only half had covered upper decks, which could not have been much fun if you were stuck on an open upper deck in the middle of winter. The trams were pretty impressive and grand looking, with maple lined interiors and gold coloured curtains. The original exterior paint livery was regarded as being initially a bit showy and garish – bright green and canary yellow. This was soon replaced with brown and cream, which was regarded as a more sober look. Financially Erith Tramway was not a great success. The only period where the tram company made any substantial profits was during the First World War. At that time the area had a great influx of workers to the munitions factories at the Vickers and Maxim gun works; after that time, the service began a slow decline. To make the complete journey from Abbey Wood to Northumberland Heath cost 3d. The drivers wage, for a minimum sixty hour week was 6d an hour. By 1933 Erith Tramway had 4.1 miles of track and a total of twenty tram cars. At this point, the service was losing money, and the London Passenger Transport Board converted all local tram routes to the newer trolley bus technology. The last tram ran through Erith on the 9th of November 1935, though the depot adjacent to the new college site was retained until 1976, when it was demolished to make way for a car park.