Sunday, June 02, 2013

Erith Riverside Festival 2013.

As you can see from the photos above, this years' Erith Riverside Festival was a great success, with a very good turnout indeed, unlike last year, when the abysmal weather, including almost horizontal rain, drove people away to leave the event a washout. Through lots of hard work and dedication, and some luck with the weather, the event was back with a bang. Local schools, charities and voluntary groups all had stands, including one for FORGE (Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith), who are almost single handedly responsible for the gardens still being there at all. If certain members of Bexley Council had their way, the gardens would now be multi story flats, and Erith would have lost its' title as the only place in the whole of the London Borough of Bexley where you can get access to the River Thames. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.
The last photo (below) shows two very prominent local residents. To the left is Malcolm Knight, blogger, campaigner and rightful scourge of Bexley Council. He almost single handedly holds the council to account for its' actions on his excellent website - Bexley is Bonkers. To the right is Gary "Tadge" Taylor, the man responsible for organising the Riverside Festival, and a tireless worker for the local community. Tadge does not seem to get the credit he deserves for all of the work he does, which is often funded by himself (as typically Bexley Council have very deep pockets and very short arms when it comes to funding anything in or around Erith).  Congratulations to him on organising a very successful, fun and well attended 2013 festival. I happen to know that plans for the 2014 festival are already under way. The man never stops!
Whilst I was on Erith Pier watching the clearance work by Thames 21 a while back, I got talking to four chaps, who were all some way past retirement. One of them regaled us with a story that harked back to the mid 1960’s. Apparently there was a murder in a property that used to stand on the site of the town houses in Rutland Gate (off Erith Road). Apparently a man murdered his wife; he decided to bury her in the back garden. He dug a small pond and secretly buried her, wrapped in a distinctive dark red floor rug. Once he had done this, the story goes that he took a ship to the continent from Erith Deep Water Wharf (what is now the site of Morrison’s) and when it got into the middle of the North Sea, he jumped over the side, taking his own life. Eventually the authorities caught on to what had happened, and the body of the wife was exhumed from her under – pond grave. Once the investigations were completed, the red rug was given a thorough clean, and then had pride of place on the floor of the office in the old Erith Police Station! I know a chap who was a police officer in the Erith station in the mid 1980’s; I asked him if he knew anything about the story, and if it had any basis in truth. He had not heard the tale, though he did comment that knowing the black humour of a lot of coppers, he would not be at all surprised to find that it was true. If you know more about the story, or have information about the background, do drop me a line; indeed, I am interested in any tales about the areas’ past – the more scandalous / controversial the better!

I know that some sections of the popular press have been getting quite upset over the price of computer printer toner, and it is indeed a complete rip – off. I think that they were missing a trick, however, as there is something that is an even bigger con; I know it is something I have mentioned before, but I do feel strongly that it needs to be revisited. Why is the cost of men’s wet shaving razor blades so extortionate? Some are close to £10 for a measly four blades. The materials involved in their construction and the labour utilised is minimal – the production lines are almost completely automated, and the materials are high quality, but there is little metal involved in reality. The only conclusion that I can come to is that the reason razor blades are so eye wateringly expensive is that the companies that produce and sell them seem to have the market completely sewn up. They charge so much just because they can. I think the only solution to this would be for a new player to enter the market to produce blades of an equivalent quality and durability (don’t get me going as to how quickly blades wear out – you are lucky to get four shaves out of a blade, nothing like the month of use that the manufacturers’ claim) at a fraction of the cost. I cannot believe that this would be technically or financially impossible. It takes someone with the kind of business expertise and audacity that have caused Ryan Air to overturn the short and medium haul air travel industry, to be able to challenge the big players in the men’s grooming market.  I bitterly resent being held over a barrel when it comes to shaving. On a side note, does anyone have a clue why there are no mousse or gel hair removal products targeted at men? A facial “Immac for Men” or similar might be an interesting product. I don’t know if there are any technical or medical reasons why such a product could not be brought to market. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please leave a comment below. All comments will be moderated and published within 24 hours of receipt.

Word reaches me from a usually reliable source that the shopping experience in Welling High Street is shortly due for a fairly substantial change. Rumour has it that the large Tesco store is due to close. Welling Tesco has never really done the level of business that was expected of it. I think this is at least partially due to the large Morrison’s store that opened directly opposite around a year before the Tesco’s opened its’ doors. In that year, local shoppers who had maybe not experienced Morrison’s got to try the Northern based supermarket chain – some may have changed supermarket allegiances at this point. Others, like me, just plain don’t like the corporate beast that is Tesco. On top of this, Tesco are due to take over the site of the current Bexley Council Offices in Bexleyheath, to build an absolutely huge hyper – store. I imagine that the corporate bean counters at Tesco may well have looked at the results for the Welling branch and seen that although it was not doing spectacular business, it was still ticking over and likely to take trade away from a new store only a mile and a half away.  I reckon that this is the most likely scenario for a closure of the Welling branch, though it will be a bit of a spectacular failure from a local trading perspective. My sources have indicated that the Welling building is to be taken over by Wilkinson’s as one of their flagship stores for the entire South East. At present this is all rumour, albeit from an impeccable and reliable source; as always, time will tell.

A new business is moving into Welling High Street, just as Tesco are (allegedly) contemplating moving out (who says I don’t plan these things?) A new “micro pub” has recently opened. The Door Hinge is located in what was formerly an electrical goods store on Welling High Street, in the area between the Welling United / Erith and Belvedere shared football stadium and the main part of Welling. The pub is a “one man band” at present, and is open for limited hours (currently Sunday 12-3, Tuesday to Thursday 3-9, Friday and Saturday 12-10 and Monday closed all day, but this may be subject to change). It specialises in real ales served directly from the barrel, and has no music or television to distract the visitor from its’ main concern – serving the highest quality ale to discerning drinkers Please note that The Door Hinge does not serve lager.  Plans are afoot to extend the bar area, as the place already gets filled to capacity at times.  A “proper pub” is good news; after all the borough has so few decent pubs that any new concern is a welcome addition; on top of this, when one considers the number of public houses that are going out of business and being converted into flats or shops (such as the Trafalgar in West Street, Erith, or the Stile and Winch in Boundary Street, Erith, (which is now a Tesco local store) it is good to see an independent local businessman try and reverse the trend with an ambitious new venture. Hopefully The Door Hinge will be a great success; pubs can still be profitable and not run on the Wetherspoon “pile it high and sell it cheap” approach, as has been proved by the excellent Robin Hood and Little John, who also plow their own furrow, yet run a very successful pub. I will be visiting the Door Hinge in the near future – purely in the course of research, you understand. I will write a review once I have got my feet under the table in the place. You can see another reviewers thoughts on the pub here. The Bexley Times also wrote about the place here. One thing almost all micro pubs have in common is that they don't serve Lager, and many have signs in their windows, with the acronym "NFL" - which stands for No Fizzy Lager (or something fairly similar!) Personally whilst not a lager drinker, I do recognise that there are some very well produced Lager beers; the image and reputation of the whole lager beer genre has been seriously sullied by the gassy and chemical laden, massed produced brews such as Foster's and Stella Artois (better known locally as "wife beater"). Still, you pay your money and take your choice.

I have written on many occasions that I personally have no time for social media websites. I am not anti them in general, I just don’t have any personal interest in them. The Maggot Sandwich is my primary outlet in the online world, and I am very careful as to exactly what I publish. Many people are less cautious, and the stories of people going for job interviews only to find themselves confronted with photos of their drunken antics that the prospective employer has pulled off FaceBook or Twitter are legion. It seems that the general public are beginning to clock onto this at long last; the total number of active accounts on FaceBook has dropped by a little over ten percent in the last year. Users cite concerns over privacy and the selling of their data to third parties, along with intrusive advertising and being strong reasons for terminating their accounts. In a sense it is difficult for FaceBook – on one hand they are a publicly listed company with shareholders to satisfy (and let’s not get started on their legendarily disastrous stock market floatation).  On the other hand they famously say “FaceBook is free, and it always will be”.  This means that they have a limited selection of revenue streams, and the most obvious of these is online advertising.  I reckon that FaceBook is on the downwards spiral now, just as MySpace, Friends Reunited, AOL, MSN and CompuServe before it had a heyday that eventually expired. I am deeply suspicious of all “walled garden” services such as those just listed. A free and open web seems far preferable to me. I would be interested in readers thoughts on the matter. Please leave a comment below.

Poor old Crayford has been taking a right old battering over the last few weeks. First the town centre suffer catastrophic flooding caused by a major water main bursting. The flooding was so bad that the entire retail park was out of bounds for the best part of a week, and all the buses in the area had to be extensively re - routed. The financial harm that it must have done to local businesses must have been serious. Only a handful of days after the final repairs had been made, and the clear up completed, when another mini crisis hits the town - the discovery of yet another World War II munition - in this case a twelve inch mortar round, was discovered by builders. The area was cordoned off after the builders scooped up the round and put it in a bucket of water(!) For reference, never ever touch any suspected explosive device - call the Police, who will call in the Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team. Apart from moving it, putting it in a bucket of water was also a mistake. If the device had been fitted with an electrical fuse, the ingress of water could have caused a short circuit and detonated the mortar round. As it turned out, the thing was inert and of no danger to anyone - but it took an EOD Officer to be able to determine this. More disruption that the area could really have done without.

The last few years have seen a media phenomenon really take off, both on TV and cinema.  The reboot. That is, taking an existing popular TV show or movie franchise and reinvent it. The first show to go down this route was Battlestar Galactica which was successfully re – imagined in 2003 / 2004 and ran for four series. The original 1978 show was really aimed at children, and was campy and cheesy, exploiting the science fiction craze that had been started by the original Star Wars movie the year before. The rebooted show was most definitely not suitable for children; it was dark, gritty and more akin to “Band of Brothers” in space. It played down the technology to the point where it was hardly mentioned, and instead was far more character and plot based. There were no clear cut good or bad guys – even the Cylons (the original alien baddies) were sympathetic and nuanced, whilst still being malevolent. Something similar has happened with Batman and even the Bond franchise, to a high degree of success. The audience include people who were kids when they saw the original versions – as adults they still love the situations and characters, but the original execution is not credible to an adult – a reboot can circumvent this, if properly written and directed. *Update* - Since I wrote this piece earlier in the week (the Maggot Sandwich no longer gets written as a whole on a Sunday, as it is too long, complex and in need of lots of time consuming research nowadays - it now gets written bit by bit over the course of the week preceding its' publication), I see that the BBC have announced that Matt Smith is stepping down in his role as the Doctor, and that the producers are now looking for a new actor. This strikes me as an astoundingly good time for a partial reboot of the whole Doctor Who franchise. I have not watched the show for the last two seasons, and the overall viewing figures have been dwindling steadily for a couple of years. I have no problem with Matt Smith's take on the Doctor, I think he is a fine actor, and works very well with the material he is given; the trouble is the scripts have ranged from barely adequate to outright dire, and the stories have become little better than the stuff of soap operas. Stephen Moffat, who was an excellent script writer for the first few series when the show made its' return in 2005, has proved to be a woeful show runner. The series lacks drive and direction, and is now haemorrhaging viewers. Better for Moffat to hand over the baton to another producer at the same time as Smith moves on to pastures new. What do you think? Leave a comment below. The latest show to get the reboot treatment is one that does not surprise me. 1970’s ITV children’s Sci Fi teatime thriller “The Tomorrow People” has been remade as a big budget U.S TV series for the C.W network, and should be screened on Sky later this year. I have no idea what it will be like, but even my memories of the original version as a kid were not kind. The idea was excellent – a group of children and young adults who start to develop special powers as they hit puberty, and they become Homo Superior – the next stage of human evolution. They have super powers such as telekinesis, telepathy and the ability to teleport themselves at will – something they refer to as “jaunting”. The group use their powers to fight baddies and also keep themselves secret from the authorities – as they fear that if they become known, the government could use them as super soldiers, which conflicts with their strictly pacifist philosophy. The American reboot seems to follow the basic premise pretty closely, though by the looks of the trailer, the cast were chosen for their looks, rather than their acting ability.

On a similar thread, I was doing some research into the history of Chislehurst Caves this week; I knew that they had a very strong link to the 1960's and early 1970's London live music scene, and bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Status Quo all played on the small stage within the caves, not to mention my own Dad's skiffle band, the Stone Agers, who appeared regularly. Chislehurst Caves are not naturally occurring; it would be more accurate to call the place Chislehurst Mine, as it was originally a chalk and flint nodule mine, the earliest reference to which dates back to at least 1215AD. Pretty much everyone knows that it was a huge and impenetrable bomb shelter during much of World War II, but what is less known is that in the years shortly before the war it was Britain's largest mushroom farm! The caves have also been used as a location for a number of TV shows and some big screen movies, of varying budget and quality. The classic Doctor Who story "The Mutants", the spectacular flop that was the 1986 film "Biggles - Adventures in Time" and possibly most notably, the 1981 micro budgetted British sci fi horror movie "Inseminoid" were filmed mainly in the cave complex. "Inseminoid" was like a very low budget version of Ridley Scott's recent film "Prometheus" - a movie so atrocious I dedicated a large chunk of a blog update to pulling the abomination apart. "Inseminoid" is better than "Prometheus", as it can be excused a lot of problems, as it had a budget of less than £1 million and CGI had not really appeared in many films in the early 1980's, whereas by 2011, even with a budget of around £130 million and the latest in digital effects technology, "Prometheus" stank like a month old kipper. The end video this week is the full length feature film of "Inseminoid". There is a link to the last two weeks' videos of "Danger - UXB" which you may have already watched. The main protagonist / villain of "Inseminoid" is played by British actress Judy Geeson - who appeared in Danger UXB as the girlfriend and eventual wife of the main character, Brian Ash. The role she plays in "Inseminoid" is about as far away from the prim and proper WWII Army WAG as you could get in early 1980's cinema. Have a watch and see what you think - and just remember, every underground scene was filmed in Chislehurst Caves. Give it a watch, and feel free to leave a comment below.

1 comment:

  1. The murder you refer to was in fact in the early 1930s and took place in Erith Road, Belvedere (The house survives)The victims were the wife and daughter of the Assistant Education Officer for Kent. It is strongly believed he boarded a ship in London, and never arrived at his northern destination. Suicide was suspected. The story regarding Erith Police Station is Tosh.