Sunday, March 31, 2013


The photo above was taken recently outside of the Mambocino coffee shop / cafe in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. The whole of the shopping centre is plastered with "No Smoking" signs. You may notice that the rubbish bin on the wall is directly under one sign, and there is another to the left of it. The stains on the wall surrounding the bins are the result of smokers stubbing out a cigarette before throwing the butt in the bin (at least most of the time - plenty still end up on the ground). This is not to obey the rules, it is mostly so that they can light up a fresh cigarette. The anti smoking law is so blatantly flouted in the centre that even staff employed by the shops in the centre light up in the banned areas. The whole thing is out of hand, and the reduction in the number and quality of security guards patrolling the centre is such that I have even (on the rare occasions when a guard has been around) seen a security officer dragging on a fag outside of Wilkinson's. I really think the whole thing is unenforceable; I cannot for the life of me see the point in having a rule that is not enforced. It just seems pointless. There would appear to be neither the will, nor the ability to uphold the law. Your thoughts are welcomed - please leave a comment below.

Some time on Friday afternoon, Google Analytics informed me that the Maggot Sandwich had just logged its' 200,000th unique page view. This does not mean that 200,000 people read the blog, what it does mean is that over the course of the six and a half years it has been running, just over two hundred thousand different people have read it. I do get roughly 20,000 regular hits each month - sometimes a little more, at present slightly less. I was approached by a marketing company a while back, who tried to encourage me to take advertising on the site. I refused. If I took adverts or some form of sponsorship, I would lose my impartiality. The fact I am free to praise or criticise as I see fit is not something I would give up, so no advertisers, thank you very much.

Erith Blockbuster closed for good on Monday morning; although some stores were sold top Morrison's, and others have been bought by a venture capital group, the Erith store is now no more. The store has been emptied of the little remaining stock, and it now stands empty, though last time I walked past, the lights were still on. I hope that the corner unit gets taken soon, as it would otherwise be a magnet for vandals and metal thieves (often one and the same).

The popular press have picked up on a subject that I raised on my entry "The Electric Gasper" on the 24th February. The whole privacy issue with the forthcoming Google Glass project has finally been made widely known via the BBC News website. You saw it here first!

I use public transport daily; nowadays it is usually the overland trains and the Docklands Light Railway. Something that has been noticeable ever since the invention of the smart phone is the “phone hunch” – people sit, transfixed by their mobile devices, and usually oblivious to the world around them. I see young mothers pushing babies in buggies, oblivious to their offspring as they are preoccupied by the latest FaceBook status update. I am of the opinion that a prediction made by Albert Einstein has now already come to pass. Einstein said " I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots". On a number of occasions I have been in a conversation with someone, only for them to suddenly reach for their pocket, pull out their phone then proceed to ignore me for several minutes, without so much as a “by your leave”. I find it extremely rude, though when I have challenged this behaviour before, I have been met with blank incomprehension.  They genuinely could not see that their behaviour was rude and inconsiderate to those around them. A new psychological condition has been diagnosed by psychologists, it is known as “Phantom Vibration Syndrome” a stress induced condition where the sufferer incorrectly believes that their mobile phone is vibrating to alert them to a call.  You can read more about the recognised medical condition here. It would seem that a significant percentage of mobile phone users are in a constant state of anticipation – for a call, text or tweet from their extended virtual network of friends and associates, and this builds stress that can exhibit as the perception of phantom calls. Some of the worst stress effects of mobile phones arise through social habit. Despite the phones' promise of making daily life more convenient,  they often make things  more difficult. A study by Intel has found that one in five people admit to being wilfully late because they can reschedule dates and meetings at the last minute via mobile phone, and three-quarters say that mobile phone ownership has made them 'more flexible when meeting friends'  (i.e., they are wilfully late, but lie about it). My own conscious decision not to have a mobile phone has made me a bit of an unusual case; it does mean that I am always prompt for appointments, and never cancel at the last minute. Because I am very organised, I would say that there are only one or two times a year when having a phone would be to my advantage, which really is not a significant issue in my case. For me the upside is not being constantly bombarded with messages that I neither want or need, and also when I am at work I don’t have the distraction that so many people have. All in all, it works for me.

Did you know that Status Quo have made a full length cinema movie, which is being released in the summer? I didn't until recently either. It turns out to be a knock about comedy adventure. After watching the trailer, I cannot decide whether it will be a knowing, tongue in cheek bit of fluff, or one of the most dreadful movies ever committed to celluloid. Judge for yourself and let me know what you think.

An early build of the successor to Microsoft’s’ much derided and very unpopular Windows 8 has “leaked” onto several file sharing sites. Normally when this happens it is the manufacturer deliberately releasing a very early build in order to garner feedback from enthusiasts and early adopters. The next version of Windows, currently named Windows Blue is available for download from a number of shady an disreputable sites (no, I am not providing any links, the chances are you would end up with a hard disc full of malware and other junk if I did, and I don’t want to encourage illegal downloading anyway).

I reckon that Erith is the cheapest place to purchase residential property of anywhere within 30 minutes train journey of London Bridge station. There was a bedsit for sale on the Robinson and Jackson website that was on offer for £49,950. OK, it was not exactly large or well appointed (actually it was a squalid little shoe box of a place), but it was relatively modern, close to Erith Station, and a real foot on the property ladder for someone. It got taken off the estate agent's website pretty quickly, so I can only assume that it got a buyer very quickly indeed.

When standing in a supermarket queue, or waiting to pay for my paper in my local corner shop, I am struck by the large number of women’s scandal magazines that are on sale. I am thinking of titles like “Take a Break”, "That's Life!", "Love It!","Pick Me Up!", "Full House!" and a handful of others. Apart from having an almost compulsory exclamation mark in their titles, the other thing that all of these publications have in common is that they sell stories about personal tragedy in the same way that other magazines aimed at a mainly female audience sell celebrity gossip and slimming tips. These magazines are marketed as light reading, something to be absorbed whilst lingering over a cup of tea, yet they are filled with disturbing, harrowing stories that would only be covered after the 9pm watershed if they were a television show. The design, format and colour scheme of all of these magazines are rather formulaic; They generally have a young, smiling woman on the cover, a sort of "girl next door" type. The rest of the cover is filled with boxes and banners in primary colours - a means of grabbing the attention of a potential buyer. The trouble is that the content of the banners is horrifying - life changing events such as murder, incest, acid attacks, crimes of violence and personal tragedy. The irony is that many of the stories involve violence against women, yet they are read by mainly women as light entertainment. They seem to be the printed equivalent of the Jeremy Kyle show; I worry about the people who purchase these magazines. It strikes me that anyone who enjoys reading about the misfortunes of others probably has some issues themselves. I would be interested in what you think. Please leave a comment below; all comments are moderated and published within 24 hours at most.

Did you know that there are only two industrial buildings in London that have Grade 1 listed status? One is Tower Bridge, and the other is the pump house at Crossness Sewage Works. The ornate Victorian structure was designed by engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and architect Charles Henry Driver. It was constructed between 1859 and 1865 as part of his redevelopment of the London sewerage system. The pumping station was an essential part of the clean up of London’s water system, and led directly to the elimination of many water borne diseases, notably Cholera, which prior to this time was a significant killer. If you have not visited the pumping station, it is a cathedral in cast and wrought iron. The charitable trust that runs the building and that is nowadays responsible for restoring the giant boilers and pumps to a working state have just announced the schedule of days where the pumping station will be open to the public in 2013. The first event takes place on Sunday, April 21, from 10.30am to 5pm, and will be a local history fair with exhibitors organised by Bexley Civic Society. There will be another four steam days until October, but at the time of writing the exact dates are not yet available. The place is well worth a visit, whether you have an interest in engineering, architecture, local history or films and television. As I have mentioned before, the pumping station has been used as a location for both TV and films – the recent Victorian drama “The Crimson Petal and the White”, the first Guy Ritchie directed “Sherlock Holmes” movie (the opening sequence where Lord Blackwood is about to perform a human sacrifice in what looks like a Masonic temple was actually filmed in the centre part of the main pump hall). Many other films, such as the first Tim Burton directed “Batman” and the first “Alien” film also used the place as a major location. What is both interesting and ironic is that Sir Joseph Bazalgette is the great – great grandfather of TV producer Sir Peter Bazalgette, the person who brought us programmes such as Ground Force, Ready, Steady Cook and Big Brother. There is a running joke in the media industry that whilst Joseph Bazalgette was responsible for removing excrement from the home, Peter is now responsible for introducing it!

Erith based graphic design consultancy 4Q Graphix are looking for an office in or around the town. If you know of any spare office space suitable, and at a reasonable cost, please let Mark Smallcorn at 4Q Graphix a call; their details, and a bit about the company are below - click for a larger view.

Next week will mark a key event in the history of Erith. The much heralded regeneration of the Larner Road housing estate will begin. On Friday the 5th April, demolition of the seven large tower blocks will commence; all of the high rise elements of the original estate are being razed to the ground; the replacement £100 million plus development will consist of low rise accommodation and some conventional housing; part of which will be put on sale. The remainder will be administered by the housing association. The building programme is quite ambitious, and the construction workers will have a tight schedule to keep, as the first new houses are due for completion in 2015. A special viewing area will be set up for local residents to watch the demolition work as it happens; I would hope to get along there at some point over the weekend to photograph the work for posterity. The Friday commencement of demolition will be heralded with a party – A group of acrobats will be performing, live Zulu music from the Majuba Drummers. There will also be t-shirt painting, magnet making, a photography workshop and cinema showings of The Ballad of Larner Road film, that I featured on the Maggot Sandwich a couple of weeks ago. I won’t unfortunately be able to make this party, as I will be at work, and shortly after work I will be covering the 8th Bexley Beer Festival at its’ new venue – the Old Dartfordian’s Club in Bexley Village. I hope to have photos of the festival, ready for the next Maggot Sandwich update on Sunday. One of the breweries that will be exhibiting their wares at the festival is a brand new one. The Caveman Brewery is located in Swanscombe, and brews beers for a number of pubs and clubs around North Kent and beyond; their beers are even stocked at the prestigious Bricklayers Arms pub in Putney – consistently voted as one of the best pubs in the country. You can see the Caveman Brewery website here.
I took the photo above yesterday afternoon, dodging between snow and sleet showers. I have to say that I cannot recall it ever being so freezing cold at Easter before. The weather really is getting everyone down. Anyway, Erith Pier is host to a number of commercial ships on an almost daily basis. Generally they tie up for a day or so, before heading off to places unknown. Quite often the crews take advantage of the close proximity of Morrison's supermarket, and they have on several occasions been seen pushing trollies full of food along the pier and onto their ships. To my knowledge, this is the only place on the River Thames where a commercial ship can moor and the crew go shopping. Even the River Police have been seen going for a quick all day fry up in the cafeteria in the supermarket. Talk about a local service. I'm hoping to be able to make an announcement about the pier in the near future, but for the meantime, I need to keep my own counsel. Keep watching this space over the coming weeks.

I have heard consternation expressed that Belvedere Police station is reducing the hours it opens to just three a week. Many people seem to be unaware that it has been a public facing police station in name only for many years; most of its’ main functions are now undertaken at Bexleyheath Police Station, and I think it will not be long before the building is sold off to try and refill the Metropolitan Polices’ drained coffers. The hard fact remains that apart from being asked to produce motoring documentation, many people around the country don’t ever visit their Police station. In Erith, we have the Police office, next to the Farm Foods supermarket. It is not open to the public, but is a place where the various Safer Neighbourhood Police teams are based when not actually out pounding the beat. There are no cells or interrogation rooms in the building, just an office and storage facilities. This is the way that the police will be operating for the foreseeable future, reflecting the austerity the government is bringing to all public services. Having said that, I do detect an element of “do as we say, not as we do”. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a high level meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall as part of my job. I wrote a bit about it back then; what I did not say was that once I had got through the first two layers of intense security that surround the building (and pretty much all of Whitehall, for that matter) I was guided into an inner courtyard in which twenty Jaguar saloon cars were parked. It was obvious that they were government owned cars – they all had very similar registration numbers, and they were all less than a year old. After looking on the Jaguar website, the cars I saw, with the options they had, would have retailed at approximately £90,000 each. Whilst I am sure that the government would have got a bulk discount, a roughly £1.8 million bill for a bunch of ministerial Jags during a recession does strike me as “one rule for you, and one rule for us” and certainly sends out a mixed message. Personally I think Ministers should use public transport like the rest of us (with the added bonus that when they realised how horrendous it can be, they might be better motivated to actually get it improved!)

The ending video this week was sent to me by Alan, who (correctly) thought that it would appeal to me. The video was taken during the Earth Hour light switch off, it shows thirty remotely piloted UAV's equipped with LED lights. They are flown in formation to create the Starfleet insignia, as part of a promotion for the forthcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness movie. Very cool indeed.


  1. Actually, I have to pull you up on listed 'industrial' buildings, as a mile or so up the road from Crossness is what is described as

    "The western part of the Royal Arsenal has now been transformed into a mixed-use development by Berkeley Homes. It comprises one of the biggest concentrations of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings converted for residential use"

    I have looked through the list and this is, it seems, the case.

  2. From my understanding the only grade 1 buildings are the Admiral's house and the Georgian terrace - which are residential. Information came from the Royal Artillery Museum - a friend is a trustee. Obviously I only go by what I am told and read, so your mileage may vary. Bottom line is that whichever way, Grade 1 industrial buildings are a rarity.