Sunday, February 15, 2015

Riverside Baths redevelopment.

The photos above were taken by me on Wednesday evening at the London and Quadrant exhibition to show local people the development they propose for the old Erith Riverside Swimming Baths site. The event took place in the refectory of Bexley College in Walnut Tree Road. I anticipated that I would be at the exhibition for little more than twenty minutes, but ended up staying there for over ninety.  I must admit that I arrived at the venue with somewhat of a preconception of what I was about to see. I was under the erroneous impression that the site was to get a single monolithic low – rise tower block, but this is certainly not the case. London and Quadrant hope to build a low – rise block, but they also hope to construct a number of three and four bed town houses both behind and to one side of the main block. To be honest, it does not look too bad, though the exterior design of both the apartment block and the houses does to my mind at least look like it is going to date quite quickly. You can see an artist’s impression below this paragraph - click for a larger view; one thing several visitors to the exhibition noticed was that whoever put together the graphic did not have any local knowledge. As you can see, a black car is shown travelling down Erith High Street from the East to the West – everyone in Erith knows this would be impossible, as the road is one – way from West to East! Nevertheless, it will be interesting to hear what feedback London and Quadrant get from the event. I know that some people were concerned about the proximity of the Walnut Tree Road electricity substation, which I understand takes power from Essex via large cables that run under the River Thames and feeds the power from them into the National Grid. This structure will be pretty much next door to the proposed new development, and from what I have been told, there is absolutely no prospect of it being relocated, as it forms part of the regional power infrastructure. The former swimming baths site is actually somewhat larger than it appears when viewed from the High Street; a corner of the space actually exists behind the car park of the Running Horses, which many locals may be unaware of. One thing I discovered during a couple of conversations I had at the event was that I did find out one thing of interest. London and Quadrant were the organisation that originally submitted a proposal for the Thames Gateway Project back in 2010 – the notorious plan which showed the Riverside Gardens being built upon. This was what prompted the formation of FORGE, and the campaign to preserve the gardens. It turns out that it was a mistake at the printer – London and Quadrant at no stage wanted to build on the gardens – it was a cock – up with the printer using the wrong file; by the time they realised it was a couple of weeks later and thousands of leaflets had already been distributed.  I was told by a London and Quadrant senior executive that the gardens and the scenic view across the river was the reason they wanted to build on the swimming pool site in the first place, and that they would hardly shoot themselves in the foot by building on that very view! I think many locals are justifiably cautious about the development, wondering if it could be "creeping redevelopment" with the Riverside Gardens merely being a further, future phase. Opinions in respect of the height of the tower block, the provision of a children's play area, more off - road parking and the colour of the bricks used in the structure have already been fed back to London and Quadrant. There will undoubtedly be more on this subject in the weeks to come. Leave a comment below, or email me at if you have feelings on the subject.

On Monday evening I saw something that made me want to bite my tongue; I knew however that if I said anything I would have most likely got a barrage of abuse. I was standing in the queue at a checkout in Morrison’s. There was a couple in front of me; they looked to be aged in their mid-sixties, and were expensively dressed. The man pulled out his wallet to pay for the contents of their trolley – he had eight or nine debit and credit cards, and inside the wallet was a white address label type of sticker – and written on it were the PIN numbers for each of his cards, along with the three digit number on the reverse of the cards. I could not believe someone would be so stupid as to record the PIN numbers of all of their cards and to keep the information in the same, easily stolen place. He was obviously worth a bob or two, and it was an open invitation for a mugger or pickpocket to steal from him. Not only that, but if he did have his wallet stolen, any money taken from his accounts using the legitimate PIN number prior to his reporting the theft would not be refunded by the bank or credit card company. Madness.

The Maggot Sandwich football reporter, Brian Spurrell has some encouraging news this week:-


Holbeach United    2          (Dube 3, Duffy 70)
Erith & Belvedere   3          (Walker 13, Miller og 34, Marsh 100)

FA Vase Fifth Round, 14 February

Erith and Belvedere FC made club history in Lincolnshire yesterday, reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Vase for the first time.  An outstanding extra-time winner by Adam Marsh, described by manager Matt Longhurst as “a goal worthy of winning any game”, took them into the last eight, where they host North Shields on 28 February - two rounds from Wembley! Holbeach, of the United Counties League, had an almost identical league record to Deres in the Southern Counties East, so a close tie was to be expected.  But it began with a calamity for Deres - a long goal-kick from Nick Conroy fell for Livo Dube, catching Deres keeper George Kamurasi in no-man’s-land as he advanced and lobbing him from 30 yards.  1-0 to Holbeach after three minutes. The lead lasted just ten minutes until a well-worked move saw Adam Marsh set up Byron Walker on the left-hand side of the box, who controlled the ball expertly and slotted past Conroy to equalise. Kamurasi’s kicking looked distinctly nervy for a while after this, and Danny Spencer nearly capitalised on one dodgy clearance, but the giant Ugandan has few peers as a keeper at this level and soon proved his worth with outstanding saves from Jamie Clarke and Jake Duffy, while at the other end Alfie May and Allan Matthews just failed to get a final touch in a scramble. It was Matthews who set up the goal that put Deres ahead on 34 minutes, but with little Deres input – his cross was headed back to the keeper by Kern Miller, who held his head in his hands as the stranded Conroy missed the header and the ball rolled into the net.  Despite Dube’s shot just wide just before half-time, Deres looked comfortable in the lead. The second half produced fewer chances but still an engrossing game.  Deres were 18 minutes from victory when a defensive mix-up saw the ball cannon off a defender into the path of Duffy, who made no mistake just inside the box to make it 2-2.  Duffy set up Miller for a chance soon afterwards which went too high, but 33-goal striker Alfie May came closest to a late winner on 86 minutes when his dipping shot was tipped over the bar by Conroy. Holbeach had shaded the second half, but Deres stepped up a gear in extra-time, and the tenth minute brought the best move of the match.  Substitute Ben Wilson was released down the left wing and sent over an inch-perfect cross which was met on the volley by Marsh.  An emphatic shot bulged the net to cause mayhem among the Deres team and on the bench. Deres were able to defend from the front for most of the remaining 20 minutes, and frustrated Holbeach went down to ten men when substitute Matt Nolan was shown a red card for clattering Sam Groombridge.  The Deres defender suffered a painful ankle injury, but with all three subs having been used, tried to return to the fray in the manner of Monty Python’s Black Knight missing a limb or two; he had limped five yards onto the pitch when the final whistle went. The Deres are thus in the last eight of a national competition for the first time since the FA Amateur Cup of 1945-46.  The Vase is a successor to the Amateur Cup (scrapped in 1974): not quite an equivalent competition but some of the cast are the same.  At the same stage in 1946 E&B beat Eastbourne, whom they beat in the first round this season; and the Amateur Cup was dominated by north-eastern teams, who have won five of the last six Vase finals.  North Shields are tournament favourites and will be very tough opposition in a fortnight’s time.
Holbeach United - Conroy, Anton, Parker, Warfield (Gibson 69), Miller, Spencer (Cartwright 19), Beeson, Duffy, Steadman, Clark (Nolan 60), Dube.
Deres - Kamurasi, Matthews (Minter 87), Craig, Richmond, Groombridge, Johnson, Hales, L. May, A. May, Marsh (Parkinson 120), Walker (Wilson 66)
Attendance - 265 Thanks Brian. could it be our local team will make it all of the way? Brian will be covering developments; expect an update from him in the coming weeks.

Over the last few years I have occasionally mentioned radio stations – both legitimate and otherwise that I have worked for in one manner or another. I have always had a deep interest in radio – even when I was at primary school, I would find old radios and pull them apart to try and work out what made them tick; at one stage I managed to convert an old Bush valve receiver into an amplifier / speaker for my bedside transistor radio – even if it was only to listen to Ed Stewart on “Junior Choice” on Radio 1. When in secondary school I started to listen the land based pirates which you could find all across both the Medium Wave and (what was then termed VHF) FM bands. The early 80’s were a formative time for unlicensed broadcasting – at that point little government thought had been given to widening commercial licences, and things such as community stations and special event licences just did not exist – with the notable exception of Radio Thamesmead, which at that time was available via cable only to residents physically located in Thamesmead. All sorts of pirate stations broadcast from whatever high points they could find – usually the roof of a tower block – radio signals on the FM band travel in straight lines, so the higher up the transmitter / antenna are, the further the signal can theoretically travel – though other factors also come into play. My own favourite stations at the time were Alice’s Restaurant, and later Rock FM, which broadcast out of the Epping / Hainault area. Another station – which only came on during Monday nights was called Imagine – it played melodic rock and electronic music from bands like Tangerine Dream. When I was in the 6th form at school, I worked Saturdays at independent computer store Silica Shop in Hatherley Road, Sidcup, and so was not at home to listen to the various other pirate stations that broadcast on Saturdays. A friend handed me a cassette he had recorded of a pirate station that he said sounded like nothing he had heard before. I listened to the tape and was doubly astounded; firstly the station sounded very slick and professional – they had jingles and sound effects, and even had hourly news bulletins. Secondly, I recognised several of the voices as being people I knew, including one who was a school teacher of mine! I said nothing and carried on with the Saturday job. Sometime later when I had left school, I bumped into several of the people whose voices I had heard on the tape – typically we met in a pub – the Fox in Upper Belvedere (which back then was excellent, unlike now). One thing led to another and I was invited up to the studio. The station was called Radio Lumberjack, and it was run from a large semi-detached house in Bexleyheath. Most of the upper floor of the house had been converted into a main studio and a newsroom / production facility. Unusually for such a setup, the transmitter was located in the studio itself. Normally land based pirates would have a small, low powered UHF link transmitter which sent a hard to track signal to a much more powerful VHF FM transmitter located on the roof of a nearby tower block; the thinking behind this was that the authorities could easily track and confiscate the main FM transmitter, but the low power link signal was far harder to detect – thus meaning it was less likely for the studio to also be raided – though this still was a danger. I later found out that the reason the chap behind Radio Lumberjack was unconcerned about the possibility of being raided was that his day job was as a member of the Department of Trade and Industry Radio Investigation Service – the pirate radio hunters of the time! He knew well in advance of any possible raids, and any documents pertaining to Radio Lumberjack promptly got “lost”, so the station got no official investigation at all, and operated with impunity for several years. Having such a “mole” right at the heart of the opposition proved invaluable later, when a number of Radio Lumberjack staff became involved with Radio Caroline – but that is a story for another day. Radio Lumberjack broadcast an eclectic range of music, interspersed with comedy sketches and novelty jingles. I soon became a regular presenter, hosting the evening album music show between 8pm and midnight – allowing pretty much all the other DJ’s to disappear up the pub. The humour on Radio Lumberjack was pretty surreal – much of the comedy material was written by the station staff. There were many spoof adverts, with commercials for fictional companies such as “Bethlehem Motors – car faith healers – save money and save your soul! With one simple low cost prayer, we can have your vehicle back on the road”. “Tacky’s Nightclub, with your host, Bland Groover”. Also, “Gaskets motor spares – suppliers of neo Georgian suspension, arc brake lights and stained glass windows”. Best of all, a commercial for the Thamesmead Tourist Board, with a cod salsa song “it’s the place for fun, it’s the place for sun, come to Thamesmead – go on day trips to all the popular holiday destinations like the Belvedere Rift Valley – home of the world famous earwig farm; enquire at the Thamesmead Tourist Board office – the little green hut behind the bike sheds in Thamesmead High Street!” It was all very slick and professional; the chap that ran the station was a big fan of Kenny Everett, but had his own unique style. Each presenter had their own introductory jingle – mine started with an incredulous voice – “oh my God.... It’s Arthur Pewty!” followed by the sound of Stuka dive bombers, explosions and collapsing buildings, accompanied by a massed band of Daleks screaming “Arthur Pewty, Arthur Pewty!” It was all very over the top and wacky. My pseudonym came from the meek and mild insurance salesman Arthur Pewty from the famous Monty Python sketch about the marriage guidance counsellor. When I first started my evening show, I racked my brains to think of a suitably surreal and silly name for it. I had already got my nickname, and recently I had read a history of 1960’s offshore station Radio London, where John Peel got his big break into radio. John Peel had a show called “The Perfumed Garden” where he played a lot of hippy music and recited poetry sent in by listeners (some of it toe curlingly bad, but I digress). I thought that my show needed a really surreal title, so, as a play on “John Peel’s Perfumed Garden”, “Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich” was born. I was part of Radio Lumberjack for a couple of very happy and memorable years, and made friends that I still have to this day. The station naturally ran its course, and in time some of the more dedicated members – the station owner included became involved in Radio Caroline. That is a story for another time.

Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Association have recently made the following announcement:- “We are pleased to announce that working together with Officers from St Michael's Safer Neighbourhoods Team in Bexley that we have managed to achieve full Neighbourhood Watch coverage in St.Michael's Ward. This ward, the first in Bexley and one of the few in London to achieve total coverage, now have all of the 56 streets on the ward covered by Neighbourhood Watch, with around a thousand residents signed up. Sergeant Bryan Young, head of the St Michael's Safer Neighbourhoods Team said: “When I joined St Michael's ward over a year ago, one of my commitments was to reduce the fear of crime in Welling. I thought that one of the best ways to do this was involving the community through increasing Neighbourhood Watch and community contacts. My team have worked really hard from the beginning of October when I set the task of getting every road on the ward covered by Neighbourhood Watch. As part of The Met Police's Operation Shine Campaign, my team leafleted every one of our 56 streets and spoke with many residents and as a result, I am proud to confirm that we now have 100% Neighbourhood Watch coverage on the ward”. Dana Wiffen, head of the Bexley borough Neighbourhood Watch Association said: “We are pleased to announce that St Michael's Ward is the first in the Borough to reach 100% coverage this is largely due to hard work of St Michael's policing team who have canvassed hard on our behalf although it would have not been possible without the full administration back-up of our Neighbourhood Watch office, so well done to Claire Tack and the team of volunteers for also making this possible and ensuring that all those that said yes at the time of the police visit still wanted to continue a week or two later. Inspector Paul Sanders said: “As the Inspector for the area which includes St Michaels ward, I am really proud of what has been achieved here. The police team have gained the support and trust of the public and have secured 100% Neighbourhood Watch coverage. This is a fantastic achievement and I am incredibly grateful to those residents who have made this happen. St Michaels enjoys low crime levels and a joint police and community effort will ensure it stays that way and becomes even safer”. This will hopefully now act as an incentive for other police teams in Bexley to work towards the same goal, already Sidcup, Blendon and Penhill are working in this way with monthly roadshows”. As many readers may know, I also run a large Neighbourhood Watch group; if anyone is thinking about getting involved with Neighbourhood Watch, and is not sure how to get started, please drop me a line and we can have a private chat. It is not difficult, and you can really make a difference to local safety and security. It can also help to foster an old – fashioned sense of community, with an added benefit that many insurance companies offer better rates to both house and contents insurance in areas where there is an active Neighbourhood Watch presence.  Drop a line to

Several news sources have announced that the maximum limit for NFC equipped debit card cashless payments (sometimes known as “bonk and pay) is to be raised from £20 to £30 this coming September. Personally I am concerned by this – for many people £30 is a substantial sum of money. To be able to “spend” or make a transaction of up to this amount simply by being in proximity with a suitable reader is something that has long worried me. When the contactless cards were first issued the maximum limit for a non – PIN number payment was set at £10; the banking industry has long lobbied for this to be increased. The problem is that contactless technology is not 100% reliable, and it also has a history of security vulnerabilities, as I have described in the past. Just like when Chip and PIN was introduced, where the onus on proving the transaction had / had not occurred was transferred from the bank to the individual, the responsibility for the security of your bank account is biased strongly on the side of the banks – basically any transaction that happens on a “bonk and pay” card is the responsibility of the card user, not the bank. Getting refunds from swipes made in error, or where a fault occurred can be extremely difficult. There is also the issue of non – Pound sterling transactions not being limited to £20 (£30 in September) due  to a fundamental fault in the way the limit rules are enforced. Personally I think that swipe to pay is not for me – I have a bog standard “Chip and PIN” card, which might be slightly less convenient in certain limited circumstances, but it is a whole lot more secure - unless you are the gentleman I mentioned earlier in this posting, of course! If your bank sends you a contactless card which you might not actually want, you can contact them to replace it with a standard card. This is a service that the banks don't advertise, but do offer if asked directly. I asked for a standard card when my previous bank debit card turned up with contactless payment enabled, and when my current card arrived in the post at the end of December, I was anticipating having to visit my branch to ask for a replacement – my concerns were unfounded; it would seem that the bank had made note of my preferences and sent me a bog standard card – a nice touch.

Regular readers will no doubt recall my musings on the empty former Port of London Authority building on the Erith Riverside Gardens, next to the wooden jetty that is used by Erith Rowing Club and others (see the photo above - click for a larger version). I had wondered why it has been left unused for so long – from my understanding it has water and power, and would make an ideal sub – base for the RNLI, who have major bases in the Pool of London and at Gravesend, but nothing in between. Another organisation that could benefit from the riverside office could be the Maritime Volunteer Service - is a uniformed civilian maritime training organisation and support emergency service in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1994 as a response to the disbandment of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service (RNXS). Volunteers follow similar rates and ranks, traditions, vales and ethos as the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy. The patron of the Maritime Volunteer Service is HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Honorary Rear Admiral, Royal Naval Reserve and Commodore-in-Chief, Maritime Reserves. The Maritime Volunteer Service has over 450 members in more than 30 units around the coasts and estuaries of the United Kingdom. The founding unit of the MVS was MVS Portsmouth. Each unit meets weekly for training which is put into practice afloat using a range of craft including powerful RIBs, launches, dories, purpose made rescue craft and even offshore training ships. One unit has even purchased a hovercraft to provide safety cover in shallow waters and mud banks. The MVS maintains strong links with the Combined Cadet Forces, the British Armed Forces, the Merchant Navy and other maritime organisations.  The aims of the Maritime Volunteer Service are:-  (1) To train people in nautical and maritime skills to recognised international standards. (2) To assist at maritime events around the country. (3) To provide a support emergency service both afloat and ashore in times of need. The nearest MVS units are in Putney and in Gravesend – once again, a unit somewhere in the middle would seem to be a good idea. Erith has a very strong maritime history and tradition; surely something of this nature would be a good idea? What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The Crossrail project is likely to make the most significant changes to the transport infrastructure of the local area since the Dartford tunnel first came into operation in 1963. It will halve the time taken to travel across London from East to West or vice versa, and it is likely to bring investment and new residents to areas that until now have been thought of as being undesirable. I feel that Woolwich is going to benefit greatly; ever since I was small, Woolwich has been touted as “the next big thing” – but for one reason or another it has never really taken off. I feel that this is now on the verge of change. The Docklands Light Railway terminus at Woolwich Arsenal station brought relatively wealthy residents to the Royal Arsenal development, though as I have written previously, it is a pity that so many of them treat the estate as a gated residence, and don’t venture into Woolwich town centre. Crossrail will bring more new people to the town, and with them, new money. General Gordon Square was given a much – needed makeover prior to the 2012 Olympic Games, and one of the historic buildings in the square has now been rebuilt and given a new lease of life. The former headquarters of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society have now become a very classy pub and restaurant, right in the heart of Woolwich. I have to say that I have not visited it yet, but hope to put this right in the very near future; reviews on the place are universally positive. The existing up – market pub / restaurant in the town is The Dial Arch, which is actually located on the Royal Arsenal site. It is a nice location and building, but in my experience the food is at best adequate, and very expensive in comparison with other local Young’s pubs such as the excellent Malt Shovel in Dartford. I know that The Dial Arch will have higher overheads than The Malt Shovel, but charging nearly double for the same meal is just too much. The Woolwich Equitable will provide some good competition for high quality food and real ale. I will review the place in the near future. If you have already visited The Woolwich Equitable and have thoughts that you would like to share with others, please get in contact in the usual manner.

To end this week we have a new Simon's Cat cartoon - always a real treat. This one is a Valentine's Day special called "Butterflies" - OK it is a day late, but who's counting? Comments below as usual.

1 comment:

  1. It would be much better if the architects designed a building more in-keeping with the Running Horses pub, and not the modern "try to be funky but fail miserably" sort of approach which seems too common nowadays. Traditional designs age better, have you noticed that modern buildings look drab and uncared for very quickly.