Sunday, July 08, 2012

Green light for Bexley College.

I have been told of a serious and very nasty incident on Erith Pier (photo above - click for a larger view) on Tuesday afternoon. A man got out of a van, carrying a box, he walked up the path leading to the pier; a few local fishermen saw him, but initially paid him little attention – after all, lots of people walk on the pier – it is very popular, especially on a warm and sunny day. The man took the box and suddenly dropped it over the side and into the water – I am told that he then made a rapid exit. Several anglers then noticed a faint mewing sound coming out of the box, and some clear thinking person used their mobile phone to ring the RSPCA emergency line. An inspector was very quickly on site, and after some trouble managed to retrieve the box. It contained a number of very small (possibly new born) kittens, all but one of which had drowned.  An adult female cat was also found, clinging to the underside of the structure of the pier - it was rescued by the RNLI, who were called by the RSPCA to assist. The cat was heavily pregnant, and thus not thought to be the mother of the dead litter. This story intensely annoys me on a number of levels; firstly it is a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal – and has been proven on a number of occasions in the past, people who are cruel to animals are quite often cruel to people too. The lack of personal empathy (psycopathy) is a common thread. Secondly there is absolutely no reason to drown unwanted kittens – there are numerous organisations who will take them in and find them suitable, loving homes – the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and Cats Protection  are but three of many. The scrote who carried out this reprehensible action may well meet his Waterloo. He would have had to have parked his vehicle in the car park outside of Morrison’s  - and they have CCTV all over the place. The Police are fully aware of the incident, and hopefully they will be able to trace the perpetrator and arrest him. The incident has now been picked up and reported on by the News Shopper - you can read their report by clicking here

Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is planning to hold a community activity day on the 4th August; the plan is to invite local organisations and volunteer groups to have displays and stalls with information about themselves, in order to promote what they do locally, and possibly recruit new members. They are keen for clubs and societies to take part, the News Shopper are reporting that Barry Owen, the general manager said Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is the ideal venue for community interaction with over 2.5million visitors each year. "It is perfect for engaging the local community and provides a great opportunity to generate awareness for groups in the area. "It is sure to be an entertaining and interesting day and I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing what Erith has to offer. "With the summer holidays coming up, it is an unmissable opportunity to gain interest for your groups and maybe even get a few more people to sign up on the day!"  What is interesting about this is that 2.5 million annual visits is a bit misleading. A lot (I would say most) of the visits are people returning on a regular basis; many local people visit the centre on an almost daily basis; Personally I often use it as a convenient cut through when heading through the town centre – I certainly don’t always stop to go into a shop. I wonder how the figures were calculated? I would imagine it was someone in a high visibility tabard with a little counter over a day, and then they multiplied the results by 364, or something similar.

Thanks to the couple of readers who sent me valuable information about Erith Oil Works, after the question I asked in last weeks’ update. It turns out that the works is fully up and running, producing several types of high quality rapeseed, palm, and coconut oil, and is in fact the largest producer of edible cooking oils in the UK. The factory is owned by an American conglomerate called Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). It amazes me that such a big factory can seem to exist almost completely off the town’s radar, and yet employ a sizable number of local residents. Still, it does not pong like some similar factories I have encountered in the past. You can read more about ADM and what they do by clicking here.

In general, I am the kind of person who dislikes “getting into” a TV show or series if I have missed the first episode. I like to watch a series in chronological order. I have made an exception to one programme though – I have only recently succumbed to the geeky charms of The Big Bang Theory.  I know it has been shown on Channel 4 for what would appear to be ages, but it never really showed up on my radar for some reason; strange, as I used to like The IT Crowd, which follows pretty much the same premise (a group of socially awkward geeks getting by in the world). But whereas The IT Crowd was pretty much written for a general audience, the script content of The Big Bang Theory does not make any allowances for ignorance. If you are not pretty much up to speed with science (and physics in particular), sci fi series like Star Trek and Doctor Who, comic book characters and cult TV in general, you will probably have a hard time with the show. My conclusion is that the writers are genuine geeks, and are writing for an audience of geeks – something that you would expect would be commercial suicide. Instead of dumbing the dialogue down, they have deliberately made it at least partially inaccessible to those without a certain affinity with technology and cult media. The series is actually a huge world wide hit; I guess that the producers have not underestimated their audience, and they are now reaping the rewards.

Some news has leaked out in a fairly low key manner – which, considering its’ potential impact to a lot of computer users, is somewhat surprising. Google is going to phase out its’ iGoogle home page service. If you are not aware of this service, it enables the user to create a customised web home page with drag and drop elements so that you can have your web mail inbox, weather and news feed and other functionality all in one place. I know a lot of people use this – it aggregates a lot of tools and services onto a convenient home page screen. Google have sadly now announced that they will be phasing out iGoogle over the next year or so, something I know my own mother will be unhappy about, as she loves it. The announcement from Google reads:” On November 1, 2013, iGoogle will be retired. We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down. Users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data”. I think the real reason for this action is most likely politically motivated; the European Competition Commissioner is currently investigating Google for anti competitive / biased behaviour. The Commissioner alleges that “ Google favours its own services in its search results; how it displays content from other websites; how it manages ads appearing next to search results, and how its actions affect marketers' ability to buy ads on rival networks. All serious stuff; I reckon that Google are worried they will end up getting penalised as Microsoft did when they got punished for anti competitive behaviour with Internet Explorer. To be honest, for a company who famously have the motto “Don’t be evil”, they are doing what appears to be a very good job of the opposite.

I was also contacted in the week by a chap who is researching the history of Arsenal football club; he had read my recent article on the history of Erith football club, and how some of the members broke away to form Woolwich Arsenal, which later relocated and changed its’ name to just Arsenal. He was wondering how much more information I had on the subject; unfortunately very little. I was however able to point him in the direction of the Local Studies Centre at Bexleyheath Library, who are a fount of knowledge in respect of the history of the Borough.

It is nice to see an organisation moving into Erith and occupying a long empty industrial unit and offices. Last week the not for profit group Avante Partnerships opened their new headquarters in a formerly empty office unit in Turpin Lane, off Manor Road in Erith (see the photo above). The Partnership help people with physical or learning difficulties or dementia stay living in their homes whilst being cared for. I think they have made a wise decision in moving into the town – the office unit they have taken is in pretty good condition, it has been empty for ages, and I would suspect that the rent and rates will be set at a pretty affordable level; I know that the council are keen to promote companies and organisations moving into Erith the area needs the jobs.

Did you know the Apple iPhone is now half a decade old? As with their computers, Apple have not had the most cutting edge features, or the latest technology; instead they concentrate on the user interface and user experience – which is one of the reasons that they have been phenomenally successful. Most users don’t care that they are stuck within Apple’s “walled garden” and cannot download and install what they wish on their mobile devices. I suspect that Apple will try and follow suit with the various ranges of Mac computers soon – there have been rumblings for a few months that Apple wants to prevent users from installing applications they have downloaded from the web. Personally this would be a really bad move by them – I use Libre Office, rather than MS Office, my browser of choice is Chrome (I like the default large amount of screen real estate, and the minimal interface). I also use a lot of open source software sourced from way outside the Apple “bubble of love” and would not appreciate the inability to do this. Time will tell; the next release of OS X is due in the next month or so, any moves to restrict user choices may make an appearance then.

Several people I know have now tried a journey on the Arabfly Dangleway (a much more evocative name than the rather staid and sterile Emirates Thames Cable Car). All have said the same thing – it goes from nowhere and ends in nowhere. Once you have made the (quite impressive) short journey over the River Thames, there is so little to do in the immediate vicinity of either end that the only viable alternative is to take the cable car back the way you came – thus doubling the operators’ revenue. It is abundantly obvious that the cable car is not going to be an integral part of the capital’s transport infrastructure as has been touted by Boris’s team; it is nothing more than a glorified tourist attraction, whose ability to attract may not last very long. One person I spoke to said that in his opinion it was built in the wrong location – if it had been constructed in central London, say in the gardens adjacent to the London Eye, it may well have become a London landmark. Only time will tell.

Some good news (for once) for Erith – Bexley Council have approved two planning applications on Thursday last week that mean Bexley College will indeed be able to build a new campus on the old brown field site that once housed Erith Tram Shed, opposite the old Andrew Carnegie gifted library building, but that has now been left derelict for at least thirty years. It is currently not much to look at - as the photo above attests. The project to construct the new campus building will cost £20 million to complete, and will begin construction in January 2013 with the aim of having the first students move in by the start of the new educational term in September 2014. I gather that the new building will house just under five hundred local students. Erith Town Forum, and indeed just about anyone I have spoken to regarding the campus move have been fully behind the project – the whole thing is a win / win for all concerned. The students get a swanky, state of the art learning facility with far better public transport links to all parts of the Borough, and central London via the nearby Erith Station. Traders in the town centre will have around five hundred willing new customers to serve – I reckon one of the biggest winners will be the Town Kebabs opposite the hideous fish sculpture roundabout – they have been struggling ever since Tease (formerly T’s) nightclub closed down a few years ago. A gaggle of hungry students would be almost guaranteed every lunch time. Other businesses in the town centre will also benefit from an increased customer footfall as well. I just hope that the criminally underused old Erith Library building will be re-tasked as a study centre; currently it sits empty, its’ function as a library being now undertaken by the airless and characterless new building in Erith High Street. Bearing in mind the Carnegie building in Walnut Tree Road is directly opposite the new campus site, it would (to my mind at least) make perfect sense to make good use of it, and to put it back to its’ original purpose of proving learning to the people of Erith. The other part of the win / win scenario is that the whole new campus build project is cost neutral – the selling off of the old Tower Road site to property developers to build new houses will cover the expense.

Several times recently I have mentioned the Olympic torch relay, and explained the real history of it – of how the Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels conceived the torch as a symbol of the spirit of Nazi youth – and how the torch ceremony was first performed at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Well, last Tuesday morning the story was covered on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2. It was amazing how many listeners thought that the torch ceremony was something hundreds of years old at least – such is the power of synthetic legend. Last week I posed the question as to whether it would be morally hypocritical of me to photograph the torch relay as it makes its’ way past Pewty Acres on the 22nd July, bearing in mind the dark history of the torch, and what the symbolism actually meant. Well, I have had a detailed and very thought provoking deconstruction of the quandary sent to me by regular Maggot Sandwich reader Scotty. To paraphrase his take on things, would I have felt morally repelled by the Apollo space programme to land humans on the Moon and return them safely to the Earth? After all. Doctor Wernher Von Braun, the man behind NASA’s rocket engineering programme was a former Nazi who helped the Nazis develop both the V1 flying bomb, and more importantly the A4 rocket, commonly known as the V2. These weapons caused death and destruction both in the South of the UK, and in the last stages of the war, in The Netherlands and Belgium too. Just because something is developed by evil does not make the thing evil in itself – it is how it is used that counts. After pondering this nugget of wisdom, I have decided on balance that I will photograph the event, as it is something contributing to the history of Erith. Hopefully nobody will try and nick the torch for scrap whilst it is in the area.

This weeks' video clip comes courtesy of Darryl of the excellent Charlton based 853 blog. He was one of the first people to try the Arabfly Dangleway, and whilst doing so he shot some good high definition video of the event. Watch below and do please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. I'd thought about us going on a trip on the cable car (despite not liking heights, especially in something fast moving), but viewing the video clip I'm not sure if it would be worth while - and if you have disabilities, how fast do you need to be to hobble off? - reminds me of non stopping ski lifts.
    You get good views of local areas simply travelling over the Q.E bridge - or, Olympics allowing - standing at the top of Greenwich Park.
    A friend once flew us in a Cessna from Biggin Hill to London and as we passed over our house I would have willingly done my first parachute jump just to get out!

  2. I only got into The Big Bang Theory last year – it seemed to typically wise-ass American for my taste when skipping channels. But then I watched just a couple of episodes and got right into the characters – it’s an excellent ensemble piece supported by very clever scriptwriting. They have just agreed to another couple of series so there is that to look forward to. But I do miss having any top quality american dramas around – where is the next Sopranos or The Wire?