Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Beast is dead. Long live the Beast!

The photo above (click for a larger view) shows several of the concrete and stainless steel structures that line the roadside opposite the hideous fish sculpture on the roundabout at the junction of Bexley Road and Queens Road. The structures were erected at the same time as the fish sculpture, but have seemingly attracted none of the attention and comments as the fish; indeed I think many people are completely unaware of their existence, as their senses are so overwhelmed by the psychedelic mosaic in the middle of the roundabout, that everything else in the vicinity gets ignored. I don't actually know what the artistic significance of the pillars is, just that they obstruct the sight lines of drivers entering the roundabout, so whilst they are not nearly as visually arresting as the fish, they may actually be a greater hazard to driving. Please leave your comments below.

I have had a few Emails of complaint over the last couple of months; Maggot Sandwich readers who had not received their customary weekly Email reminders of the latest update were not happy they they had not heard from me since last October. The reason for this is simple; I had all my Email contacts stored on my Apple Mail client. When my old Mac died, the contact list was fully backed up on my external hard drive, including all my Email distribution lists. The problem was, you cannot read encrypted OS X files on another operating system (this is deliberate for security reasons). I tried scraping all my contacts off by connecting the external drive to my netbook running Mint Linux, but no dice - I was unable to read the files. I did have some contacts synched up with the web based BT mail client, which is what I have been forced to use in the meantime, but it was not the full list. Now things are back to normal. More on this story a bit further down the entry...

TV station E4 are in talks to make a movie version of their hit sci fi comedy drama "Misfits". They realise that the TV show needs to go out with a bang, as the locations used for the show are all around the Tavy Bridge part of Thamesmead, which is scheduled for demolition in the near future. There is nowhere else in the UK that has a similar look, so the producers are taking the decision to make a cinema film and hope that it has the same level of commercial (if not critical) success as was seen by the "Inbetweeners" movie a couple of years ago.

On Friday morning I received an Email from Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce. She has been in communication with Transport for London regarding the B12 bus service from Erith via Northumberland Heath to Joyden's Wood. Currently the B12 does not run on Sundays, which is a major inconvenience for anyone who does not have a car and needs to travel around the local area on a Sunday. Well, the good news is that TfL are carrying out a study which may well mean that the service is extended to run a service every half an hour on Sundays. In order to make sure that this actually happen, as many people as possible need to take part in the survey. You can complete it by clicking here.

On Tuesday morning I heard a thud, as something landed on my living room carpet after having been posted through my front door.  I picked it up in disbelief. It was something that I thought we had already seen the back of, a bit like gas lighting and rickets. It was a British Telecom phone directory. Who on Earth still uses the things? Why would BT send out thousands of paper directories that are mainly going to go directly into a recycling bin as mine did forthwith? I understand that older people may prefer to receive a physical directory, and they should be able to opt in to receive one, but for the vast majority of the UK population, it is an irrelevance and a waste of natural resources.  I have not used a telephone directory in at least the last fifteen years, and I suspect that I am not alone in this regard. People look stuff up on the web nowadays for all sorts of valid reasons. If you still want a paper directory you should be able to request one, but I can think of no argument to justify BT sending out the damned thing to all and sundry.

I have had an unexpected contact from my marine buccaneering past this week; suffice to say that I am unable to elucidate at present, but with the history I have with the person in question, future events could prove very interesting indeed. More as and when.

Over the last couple of years I have watched the heavy construction work that has been going on the North side of the railway tracks between Abbey Wood and Plumstead stations in preparation for the launch of Crossrail. The Crossrail trains will emerge from a tunnel just outside Plumstead station before heading Eastwards towards the new terminus which is to be built adjacently to the existing Abbey Wood station, where the existing building will be updated and combined with the new one, which will mark the end of the South Eastern section of the Crossrail service. The terminus and section of line described is going to cost in the region of £130 million, although this is only a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the truly massive infrastructure project, which  when completed will see journey times across London slashed dramatically, and Abbey Wood will be upgraded from a medium sized suburban railway station into a Crossrail terminus and the interchange between Crossrail  and the North Kent overland railway service. This should provide some much needed local employment as well as potentially stimulating the local housing market for a good couple of miles around. What amazes me is that the local papers have been announcing this project as though it is something brand new; all I can surmise is that they don’t travel by train very often, as they could have seen all of the heavy engineering going on as they went by on the overland train.
After a gestation period far longer than I had originally anticipated, the Beast MkII has now arrived at Pewty Acres. In the photo above you can see it in place on the work bench in my home office, alongside the currently defunct Beast MkI. The reason for the delivery delay was that it is a bespoke computer from Apple, although the exterior is cosmetically identical to an iMac you can buy off the shelf in somewhere like John Lewis, inside the case it is substantially upgraded with a faster quad core processor, a lot more memory, a hybrid storage drive, better graphics card and a few other tweaks and improvements over the standard offering. The upside is a screamingly fast computer with a display that is substantially higher in  resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels) than the HD standard, and a huge amount of fast storage. The down side was the eye watering bill I received! Still, if I was to divide the purchase price against the number of hours I will be using it over the next four or five years, it would work out as pennies. I have had several Maggot Sandwich readers query me as to why I would not build my own PC and install Windows 7 or Windows 8 on it. Well, that is a multi layered question, requiring a similar answer.  Firstly I only use Windows when I am being paid to – and that’s all there is to it. I am not going to justify or explain my decision, other than complying with my libertarian philosophy of “if it works for you”. If you get on well with the Windows family of operating systems, then that’s fine. It is just not my personal choice.  Why don’t I build my own PC? Well, for two reasons; ten or more years ago you got a considerable cost saving by self building a PC from components – indeed most towns around the country would have regular computer fairs where dealers sold computer bits and pieces from stalls, usually in a town hall or similar public building. I used to go quite regularly to the Congress Centre, off Tottenham Court Road for the weekly big London computer fair. These events have markedly declined in popularity in the last few years for a number of reasons: firstly the retail price of PC’s has come down in real terms, and it is no longer cheaper to self build; secondly the tower case – something beloved of the home builder, is nowhere near as popular as it used to be – many nowadays consider them to be ugly and bulky. The trend nowadays is towards laptops, tablets and smart phones, none of which can be built at home. The market has evolved and the home brew PC, whilst not actually dead, certainly smells that way. On top of this, there is a personal element of “coals to Newcastle” – I work in IT, mostly with enterprise wide applications and heavy duty databases. When I get home, the last thing I want to be doing is poking around with my main computer to get the thing working. With a Mac it is a bit like a domestic appliance. It just works. For example, to set up my new Mac, all I had to do was unpack it, plug it in, plug in my backup drive, turn it on and then select “restore from backup” from the on screen menu and then wait... and wait. Three and a half hours later my new machine was utterly identical in setup to my old one (even the same deleted files were in the on screen bin). In the restoration process the system had not only restored all of my files and applications, but where a later version had been released, it had upgraded them as well – and not just Apple programs – everything. Impressive, but that’s why you pay a premium for an Apple computer. It is not the hardware or software per se, it is the way everything is so integrated and elegant – “It just works”.  To top this, “under the bonnet” of the slick user interface, Apple OS X is a Posix certified Unix, and although most Apple owners don’t know it (and probably wouldn't care if they did), their machines can run literally thousands of native Unix applications without modification. A whizzy look and feel, accompanied by a rock solid Unix underpinning – you really do get the best of both worlds, albeit at a price.

I have been asked to publicise a request from an Erith based company who are looking for office space in town, and have asked me to pass their details onto the ever generous Maggot Sandwich readers, who may be able to assist. "Small office required in Erith area for Graphic Design company. 4Q Graphix is a small start up design agency who are in need of office space in the Erith area. Having established the business two years ago in Surrey the team are now trying to reduce the effects of a long commute from Erith to Redhill. If you know of any space currently available at preferable rates, please contact Mark:" If you have any office space available in the local area, and can help out Mark and his team of graphic and industrial designers, please do drop him a quick Email - you will be helping not only a new independent local business, but the whole local economy as well, so everyone benefits. You can visit the 4Q Graphix website here.

There have been times when I have whinged about the state of Erith’s roads, and I have in the past made a particular example of Manor Road, which gets more than its’ fair share of wear and tear, due to the high volume of commercial vehicles that frequent it on a daily basis. I have noticed over the last couple of months that the roads all around the town have taken a marled turn for the worse. Fraser Road, which runs by the large Europa Industrial Estate and up in to Belvedere and beyond is looking like the Syrian Army have just shelled it – the potholes are so deep and irregular. I was on a bus along the road last week, and it felt like it was being driven down the side of a canyon – and this was certainly no reflection on the bus driver, who was doing the best they could. The recent appalling weather has not helped of course. Any tiny cracks in the tarmac road surface get filled with water. When this freezes it expands, forcing the crack wider, then allowing more water in when the temperature rises, and then the destructive cycle continues. Bexley Council Highways department seem to be now suffering as a result of the budget cut backs; there is little money to spend on the roads, so their condition gets progressively worse. I am sure that local motorists are already presenting the Council with bills for suspension repairs and damaged tyre replacement. I may well prove that the road repair spending cuts prove to be a false economy.
I took the photo above (click on it for a larger view) a couple of weeks ago; it shows a couple of bulk freighters discharging their cargo of vegetable seed at the ADM oil refinery in Lower Belvedere. The seed will be converted into cooking oil. The Lower Belvedere factory is the largest cooking oil refinery in the UK. You may recall that I wrote extensively about ADM and the terrible smell that was coming from their plant last October. Fortunately they installed new filtering equipment and the dreadful pong was soon banished. They are a big local employer, and, after a consultation with the "Scores on the Doors" website, I see that their staff canteen is awarded a five out of five stars for food hygiene.

Bexley Council are carrying out a survey of local residents who use Lesnes Abbey Woods and the Abbey ruins historical site therein. They want to know what people think of the current provision of amenities for visitors, and in what way these amenities could be improved. When they have these results they plan on using them in a presentation to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to undertake the work in a phased period between 2014 and 2019. There are two versions of the survey, depending on your proximity to the woods. Here is the one for local residents. Here is the one for non residents.  Either way, it would be a good idea for as many people as possible to give their views on how this historic wood and park should be improved for the future, so feel free to participate whether you are local or not.

The have been revelations in the News Shopper recently about the number of mentally ill killers released by the Oxleas Health Care Trust in the wake of the Nicola Edgington court case; there have been nine killings in the last ten years by patients of the trust – a figure that is shocking by any estimate. I have no idea what the Memorial Hospital on Shooter’s Hill is like now, but back when I was a volunteer on WHBS: Meridian Radio - the syndicated hospital radio station based in studios in the Memorial Hospital, security for mentally ill patients in the place was extremely lax; even potentially violent and confused patients could often be found wandering the corridors unsupervised. From the press coverage of the Edgington case, it sounds to me that this lax security had not changed by much when she carried out her rampage at the war memorial in Bexleyheath Broadway, killing local resident Sally Hodkin in a case that shocked the country.  I somehow think that stable doors may now have been metaphorically shut, and security tightened; such a pity it required a homicide to get tight physical security.

After many years of knocking on local doors for people to pretend that they are out, the Jehovah's Witnesses are moving out of their "Kingdom Hall" in Fraser Road, and have put the place up for sale. You can see the advert here. The hall will almost definitely be taken up by one of the local "happy clappy" churches, as they seem to be the organisations with the cash to splash. The £450,000 asking price will almost certainly get beaten down a fair bit, but even so, it is a lot of property for the money. I must admit that I did harbour a vain fantasy of purchasing it myself in order to return it to its' original function, which was as a cinema. Looking at the interior photos, very little appears to have been done in terms of conversion, so returning it to its' original function would probably not be too difficult. The idea of "The Arthur Pewty Memorial Kinograph and non denominational worship workshop" (you pay, we pray - easy terms available) has a certain charm to it. I digress...

As I have written in the past, my guilty TV viewing show of choice is the excellent “Man versus Food” hosted by genial front man Adam Richman. As well as touring America’s diners and informal restaurants,  in each episode he partakes in an eating challenge held by one of the restaurants he has featured. It may be a volume challenge, such as eating a giant burrito, or 144 rock oysters. Alternatively it may be a spicy food challenge, where it is not the volume, but the sheer chilli heat that is the challenge such as a lava hot Phall curry. Richman comes across as a likeable fellow, and more often than not he succeeds in beating the challenges. Having said that, I have encountered a Canadian chap on YouTube who appears to be the polar opposite of the archetypal challenge eater. He’s a six foot blonde body builder and fitness trainer who goes by the moniker of Furious Pete. He holds a number of Guinness World Records for eating, and when you see him in action, you can certainly see why!  He’s regarded as the World’s greatest competitive eater, and on volume challenges he would beat Alan Richman hands down, time after time. Furious Pete would seem to have an Achilles Heel though – he’s not so good on the spicy food eating challenges, where Richman excels. Just how long (if ever) it will be before there is a public showdown between these two giants of gastronomic excess remains to be seen; in the meantime here is an example of Furious Pete in action.

1 comment:

  1. turning it back into a cinema would be great! Could show classic films and have a comedy club on a sunday.