Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tweed hibernation.

I took the photos above on Friday afternoon. I was working from home, and took a late lunch break in order to take a few shots of the oft described ongoing work at Erith Station. The top photo shows the station building itself; the main structure was officially opened on the 30th July 1849. It has been clumsily restored at least a couple of times in the recent past. The lower photo shows the builders' yard that has been set up in the long closed station car park. The builders are extending both the London and Kent bound platforms, presumably to cope with longer trains to be laid on for next years' Olympic Games. Unfortunately the more pressing issue of installing a lift for wheelchairs and baby buggies has somehow been thrown out of the window. To get this legal requirement under the Disability Rights Act reinstated, please add your name to the online campaign being run here.

For me, the start of winter is marked by one event, no festival or cultural event though; it is when I have to put my tweed jackets into hibernation for the winter, and don a more substantial coat in order to combat the wintery inclement weather. This occurred during the middle of this week. So for me, we are now officially into the winter season. I am not a person for extremes of temperature; I don't like snow (the attractions of winter sports like skiing and snow boarding leave me cold, if you will pardon the pun). I also dislike the heat, as I have recounted in the past. Spring is my favourite time of the year; warm weather, things growing and the days getting progressively longer is what I most enjoy. I don't think many people are that keen on the short, cold and dark days of this time of year - probably why so many festivals occur in winter - something to keep up the spirits whilst we wait for spring to come around again. 

The Metropolitan Police have launched a London - wide crackdown on illegal drivers. In Erith they targetted Manor Road, mainly as the large amount of industrial traffic that uses the road means that there is a fair chance that a few bad eggs will be encountered. On Wednesday this did indeed turn out to be the case. The officer I spoke to told me that they were looking for uninsured drivers, MOT failures, those driving without a licence, and specifically they were looking for scrap vans without scrap licences - something very common all over the place, and especially so in and around Erith. Apparently seven illegal vehicles were impounded for crushing, five notices of prosecution were served on unlicenced scrap dealers, and a total of four people were arrested for various offences. You can see more on the Erith Watch website here.

I have been doing a spot of research into the history of Victorian Erith, and I have come across some interesting facts, some of which I will recount over the course of the next few weeks. An article on Erith was featured in the magazine "Household Words" on the 12th June 1852. The magazine was created and edited by Charles Dickens, and several of his classic stories started out by being serialised in it. The Erith article was written by respected journalist George Augustus Sala (1828-1895). In it, he gave Erith the pseudonym of "Dumbledowndeary". He said that the then newly built riverside pleasure gardens and original wooden pier (which still exists - you can see it in last weeks' photos of the Alexander Selkirk festival) and the then recently planted pleasure gardens (now long gone) had not proved the success that had been hoped. The principal trade of Erith was then the huge brick works, whose appearance he described. The old part of Erith town was sleepy and shabby, with no gas lights, no pavements, no window sashes or door knockers. New development was beginning however, with new villas, with their conservatories rising, as he put it "like a little Babylon of bricks". Sala was also somewhat unimpressed by the energy of Erith's inhabitants, who included "three Policemen who appear to pass their time in the consumption of tea under the shadow of their sergeant". Of the remainder "Three fourths of the male population, and the whole of the female and infant ditto are always loitering in the doorways, or sprawling amicably in that part of the road where there should be a gutter".

I took the photo above during the same session that brought you the Erith Station shots. I have to say that I am extremely happy with the photograph you see - it shows that Erith can be beautiful, and in the right conditions can show what a real "big sky" can really look like; in fact I have it as the wallpaper on my own computer at present. I have uploaded it full size, so if you wish to have a similar wallpaper on your own computing device, you can click on the image below in order to enlarge the picture in order to save it for your own use. All of my photos are uploaded to Flickr, and are published under the Creative Commons licence. Basically this means that anyone can copy my work, change and re - use it in any way that they see fit, just so long as they make no money out of it, and I get a full credit as the creator of the work.

It is somewhat incongruous to learnt that Erith was one of the founding places of the worldwide motor industry; A chap called Edward Butler took out a patent in 1884 for a "petroleum powered motor tricycle". Butler was testing his invention in Manor Road in February 1889, after having redesigned the engine from two stroke to four stroke; he managed to overturn his vehicle in what was then Beadle's coal yard. This was almost certainly Britain's first recorded motor accident, though the press at at the time made little of the incident.  Butler's company was wound up in 1896, with no production vehicles ever being produced.

The News Shopper are featuring a story about a proposed new rubbish gasification plant to be constructed for Cyclamax Ltd at a site off Crabtree Manorway North in Lower Belvedere. Bearing in mind we already have a largely unwanted and polluting waste incinerator almost next door to the proposed new plant, it does seem very much that once again the Abbey Wood / Lower Belvedere / Erith area is being used as a dumping ground for things that richer and better connected areas have refused We also have the repulsively smelly Crossness sewerage works to contend with too. I get the feeling that those in power who plan such things think along the lines of "well, it's a shithole already, nobody with any power or influence lives in the area, lets' dump it there". Belvedere ward Councillor Sean Newman told the News Shopper in a recent interview that "The residents of Belvedere have had a history of bad smells and emissions, and we don't want to add to that". Tim Waits of Bexley Friends of the Earth also commented that "The area is already a dumping ground". He then added "This part of London and its' wildlife are being saddled with a controversial, industrial sized development that a more affluent and influential residential area would not tolerate". Well said those men. I get the feeling that national government will steam roller permission for the  gasification plant through, whatever local opposition is in place - after all, that is what happened with the waste incinerator, even though a ten year local campaign was run to prevent its' construction.

There is another technology birthday this week; Apple's now ubiquitous iPod is ten years old. It was launched with a bit of a whimper, and only really started to gain market traction once a Windows version of iTunes was launched - when it first came out, it was Mac only, in a period when Apple Mac sales were very much in the doldrums. Eighteen months later it was the dominant portable digital music player. To be honest, the iPod has not really ever broken any technological grounds - but the design, build quality and intuitive user interface are what have endeared it to so many people around the world. At one point, Microsoft's Zune media player offered a better technical specification for a similar price, but as you may already know, the Zune has experienced pitiful sales figures and it is now being withdrawn. Mobile phones are now acting as portable media centres, and I somewhat doubt that there will be another media player phenomenon like the iPod.

A new extremely high tech variant of the Stuxnet computer worm is apparently in the wild; it is known as Duqu. unlike Stuxnet, which was an exceedingly subtle and complex digital weapon, specifically designed to destroy Iran's uranium refining systems for their nuclear weapons programme, Duqu is designed to carry out industrial espionage. You can read an absolutely amazing article about how Stuxnet was detected, and what it was created to do by clicking here. The story is absolutely true, but reads like a Tom Clancy novel. In a similar vein, it is rumoured that the recent RIM Blackberry service outage was not the result of hardware failure, as RIM announced, but that it was actually a cyber war "dry run" by the Chinese. I doubt we will know the truth for some time to come.

Nowadays I spend much of my working week in Canary Wharf; it is a strange place - more like a mini totalitarian state than anywhere else I can think of. The entire area is privately owned, and patrolled by an army of security guards, who to all intents and purposes not only look like Police, but act like Police too. The end result is a business area with astonishingly low levels of street crime. I am not going to debate the morals of such an arrangement here and now - it could merit an entire entry to itself. On a side note, I took a stroll out to New Providence Wharf one lunchtime. This is a part of the development that is bounded by the River Thames, and directly faces the O2 Arena on the south side of the river. The area hosts some spectacular apartment blocks - single flats can sell for £1.5 million or more - due to the close proximity to Canary Wharf, and the spectacular river front views. What the developers and estate agents don't tell you is that the place is located right next to the Canary Wharf waste transfer station, where the rubbish from around the Wharf is brought by dustcart to be sorted and then loaded onto barges so that tugs can sail it down river to be disposed of at the giant rubbish tip at Rainham in Essex. The noise and smell must be horrible, especially in summer. Not something I think you would see mentioned in the promotional brochure for the development.

A bit of a guilty pleasure - on occasions I do listen to Radio 700. As mentioned once in the past, this is a small commercial radio station in Germany that has the only private licence to broadcast on shortwave into Europe. They are basically a radio station with the aim of providing a service to a very small area, but somehow they have managed to convince the authorities to allow them to broadcast their programmes over their 1 kilowatt Rhode and Schwartz shortwave transmitter to most of Europe. Most of their shows do sound like a Teutonic version of BBC Radio 2 circa 1972, but the fact they can do so on shortwave is a bit of an anachronistic bonus. If you have a radio that can receive shortwave broadcasts, do give them a try on 6.005 MHz.

Slade Green is getting a large shot in the arm in the form of a grant to regenerate the area around the Howbury site, in Slade Green road. Approximately £8 million has been allocated to rejuvenate the area, which has been sold to Redrow Homes Ltd. You can read all about it on the News Shopper website here.

The video below is a trailer for the forthcoming series by restauranteur and larger than life TV presenter Reza Mahammad. He has a new series starting soon that is going to feature the cuisine of Rajasthan. The show is a mix of travelogue and cookery programme. Reza is actually the friend of a friend - and he's camper than a field full of pink and sparkly tents, and always entertaining. Check out the trailer below, and feel free to leave a comment, as always.

No comments:

Post a Comment