Sunday, September 04, 2016

Bexley Brewery 2nd birthday.

Yesterday marked the second birthday of the Bexley Brewery, which is located in Unit 18 of the Manford Industrial Estate in Manor Road, Erith. Around a hundred people celebrated the fact at the party and barbecue which was held at the brewery. The Lewisham based Dacre Morris dancers did a display - in one dance involving several volunteers from the audience. Also present was Steve's Kitchen - a gourmet barbecue operation from Belvedere, who did a busy trade, as did the Kent Chilli Farm who had stall selling all sorts of spicy treats. You can see photos both above and below, which will give you an idea of what an excellent, laid back and convivial event it was.

Sidcup is now an up and coming area; after a few years in the economic doldrums, it seems to be picking itself up very well indeed. Only a few weeks after the news of the opening of The Hackney Carriage micropub, news has reached me that a second micro pub is opening in the town. It is called The Hopper's Hut, and you can see its website here. On Thursday evening Bexley Council granted the micro pub a full drinks licence, and it will be opening fully soon.The London Borough of Bexley has been at the forefront of the micropub revolution - the first was opened in Welling - The Door Hinge, followed shortly by one in Crayford - The Penny Farthing, and one in Blackfen - The Broken Drum. All we need is one in the Erith and Northumberland Heath area. I had originally suggested that a micro pub would be an excellent choice for the then empty unit originally occupied by Owens the Ironmonger in Cross Street, but subsequently that site has now been taken by the AGlory African store, which relocated to the larger premises from its previous store in Pier Road a few months ago. Would you like to see a micro pub in the local area? If so, where would you want to see it located? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

I have encountered something that I have not seen in twenty years of living in Erith. A "road" that does not exist on any printed map (or for that matter, on Google Maps). The "road" or more accurately a narrow path does contain two cottages at the far end, but unless you know exactly where they are, you would have little, if any chance of stumbling across it. The location is so well concealed that the two properties in question would make excellent homes for someone of a reclusive nature. The person who showed me the tiny passage that led to the two small houses described it as being the real life Erith equivalent of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. As to the location of the mysterious passage that leads to the two cottages, I am going to keep the details a secret for others to discover; all I will say is that it is less than five minutes walk from Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. 

After the extensive article last week on Russian spy and Bexleyheath resident, the late Melita Norwood, I had the following Email from Les, a long time Maggot Sandwich reader:- "Interesting Maggot Sandwich this evening and I was interested to see your article on Melita Norwood. My family bought the Newsagents Shop in Long Lane owned by one of two brothers George and Henry Cowell [we had already bought George's shop in Midfield Parade in 1971] and thus 'inherited Mr and Mrs Norwood'. I was introduced to the couple who lived at 34 Garden Avenue by Henry and what to expect, firstly as you stated we delivered those 32 copies of The Morning Star, and had one other Customer that took one single copy a day. We also had the Post Office in the shop and we would always comment [and had been told by Henry] that Melita Norwood regularly sent Letters and Parcels to Russia and other countries to 'behind the Iron Curtain' and although no proof we would always say that she was a 'Spy' [Many a true word is spoken in jest!]Whilst researching the Melita Norwood piece, I came across another story which made for fascinating historical reading. One of the types of information the KGB frequently asked Melita Norwood to obtain in her role as the most dangerous female enemy spy ever to work in the UK was NATO weather reports and sea condition information, especially for the areas in and around the Scandinavian countries. It was never made clear why Soviet spymasters ever wanted this information, but a recently released account has suddenly made the whole subject somewhat more clear. The story is a little surreal, but entirely true. In the 1930s famine stalked the Soviet Union. The key question was how to feed the people. Thousands of words have been written about Soviet agriculture and farming but there was much less known attempt to increase food production that strangely is still having a profound effect on the natural world today. This far less well publicised project was to relocate hordes of giant Red King Crabs (Paralithodes Camtschaticus) from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the north Pacific to the Arctic Barents Sea off the coast of European Russia, giving the local people a rich source of easily caught, delicious and nourishing food. Josef Stalin ordered thousands of baby crabs be moved 3,000 miles by road from the Soviet Far East to the western end of the Soviet Union. The state of the Arctic roads and less than reliable motorised transport in harsh Arctic conditions meant very few of the tiny young crabs arrived safely — most died on the journey. The plan failed. There was a second attempt to move the crabs in the 1960s and this time much quicker and more reliable air transport meant the job could be completed. This time large, mature and healthy female crabs were moved and they started to flourish in their new more westerly home. As they became established they not only provided essential protein for Soviet people but also a lucrative export product. Tinned Soviet Chatka crab was available in British shops and provided a valuable source of hard currency to the Soviet Union. It was delicious, nutritious and relatively inexpensive. This crab relocation may have seemed a good idea on the face of it, but as so often when humans seek to interfere with nature the consequences are potentially dire. Time and time again we have discovered that moving species can go badly wrong and the Soviet experiment with the giant red king crabs was no exception. Now, half a century later, we have huge populations of very large invasive animals from foreign waters completely taking over the local ecosystem and devouring everything in their path and leaving the bed of the ocean a barren waste. The real size and scale of the problem started to come to light a decade ago when Arctic fishing organisations were reporting the sea beds and local wildlife being greatly affected by the presence of the crabs and fearing the local cod numbers being affected. Today millions of these massive crabs, once only native to Alaskan seas and the north Pacific, are advancing relentlessly along and down the Norwegian coasts, devouring almost everything in their path. Reactions to this spread of the crabs are varied. Some fishing communities in northern Norway say the crab, among the largest in the world, has already had a devastating impact. Others welcome the giant red king crab, saying its delicious taste and size — the crabs can grow to 22 pounds (10kg) and measure five feet (1.5m) across — make it an extremely lucrative catch. Here in Britain seafood gourmets are paying as much as £40 a kilo for the delicious crab’s meaty legs. Red King Crab is replacing lobster as a top dish in expensive seafood restaurants and the once cheap and cheerful Russian tinned crabmeat is reaching the kind of prices people once paid for caviar. Conservationists, however, are worried. The WWF Norway says the crab’s population has increased six-fold in 20 years. The environmental group puts the current population at least 12 million in the Barents Sea alone. The group says that any economic benefits derived from this population explosion may be vastly outweighed by the long-term cost to the marine environment. For instance, WWF Norway says it is concerned about the impact of the crab — which has no natural enemies in Arctic waters — on the capelin, a fish considered central to the Barents Sea food chain. The crab is now reported to have reached the Lofoten Islands, about a third of the way down the Norwegian coast, having migrated some 400 miles since the early 1990s. Its spread is much faster than anyone anticipated. In its native north Pacific, where seabed competition is tougher, red king crabs have already ventured as far south as northern Japan, which is on the same latitude as southern European countries. Scientific predictions about just how far south it will reach in Europe vary widely. Some say just south of the Arctic Circle, others predict it will reach the British east coast and still others believe as far as Spain and Portugal. WWF Norway says the Norwegian government’s management policy towards the species has been to maximise population size to increase potential catches, while ignoring the possible consequences for the marine environment. Considering the importance of the Barents Sea as one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems, this policy is certainly short-sighted and might be gambling with the future. In 2003 Norway and Russia agreed to double the total annual fishing quota to 800,000 crabs. Unrestricted fishing for the species is also happening in certain areas. Strangely the US Alaska fishery for the same crab has declined and catching the severely reduced US stocks is now tightly regulated. Will we be able to stop the red king crab’s relentless march southwards from Russia and Norway? Do we even want to? This particular crustacean has proved such a successful species when it comes to occupying new areas of ocean and demand for the delicious crabmeat will only continue. I suppose one could at least partially lay the blame for this unexpected explosion of non - indigenous crabs into Europe at the feet of Melita Norwood and her spying on NATO climate and sea condition reports, but I feel this might be pushing things just a bit too far.

The graphics above were taken from a brochure published back in 1933 for various kinds of houses and bungalows that were being built at that time on what is now called the Mayplace Estate in Barnehurst. You can download a complete PDF file of the entire period brochure by clicking here. I have chosen to display one of the more typical property designs (and yes, if you compare my graphics to the original brochure, I have extensively digitally cleaned up the images for use above). The Mayplace Estate was aimed at professional, middle class customers - this can be seen not only by the (for the time) relatively expensive prices of the houses on the estate, but by the fact many came with the option of a garage - only the wealthy owned cars in the 1930's. On top of this, the publicity material shown above mentions the Barnehurst Golf Club - which back then would only have been open to members of a certain social standing - having said that, it was the first golf club in the country to admit women as members. 

This week marks the thirty fifth anniversary of the first IBM PC going on sale. Looking back, the launch of the original PC was a real revolution in computing, but this all actually happened as a bit of an accident – IBM never expected the PC (the original model was actually named the 5150, but most people nowadays are not aware of this). It is fair to say that the IBM PC 5150 turned out to be one of the most influential computers ever invented, and its descendants are still used by billions of people on a daily basis. Not bad for a machine that almost never happened. The machine almost never happened as when it was first mooted that IBM was going to build a PC, a senior executive reportedly asked the simple question: “Why would anyone want to take a computer home with them?” But IBM at the time was struggling financially, and its leadership had not failed to notice that many of its competitors were already selling minicomputers, as well as microcomputers from the likes of Commodore, Atari, Tandy and Apple. IBM was late to the game and it knew it. It developed the IBM PC 5150 in just twelve months. It was widely rumoured that IBM did not expect to sell many of these machines, and it was reported in the media that IBM only ordered 40,000 machines to be made. The IBM PC 5150 proved to be a sales success, and it rapidly became the most influential commercial computer system of all time. Indeed, by the end of 1982 IBM was selling one PC every minute of the business day. That was despite a hefty price tag. Pricing in 1981 started at $1,565 (£1,209), which was the equivalent to $4,073 (£3,148) in 2016.  On top of this high price, the machine was not exactly cutting edge. The 5150 boasted a 8088 CPU, 16K of RAM, expandable to 640K, and a colour graphics adapter. It included a monochrome IBM monitor, and also came with the option of a floppy disk or if you could not afford that, a cassette system. No hard disk drive was even an optional extra at launch – third party units became available (at huge additional cost) sometime later. Even by the standards of the early 1980’s, the original IBM 5150 PC was slow and expensive – but it had the badge “IBM” on the front, which counted for a huge amount – there was a contemporary saying “nobody gets fired for buying IBM” – and this proved to be true. On the upside, it was beautifully made out of very high quality materials, and it was supplied with what many regard as the very best keyboard ever. It also came with unparalleled technical support and maintenance – something businesses then and now value highly.  Due to IBM’s rapid development of the 5150, it simply did not have the time to develop all the technology needed for the machine by itself. So the development team therefore opted to build the new machine mostly from existing “off the shelf” components. IBM opted to make the IBM PC an “open architecture” product. It even published a technical reference of the system’s circuit designs and software source codes. This meant that other firms could develop software and build peripheral components, and this is what changed the computing world. And soon other companies such as Compaq, Dell, and HP began to offer complete ‘IBM compatible’ PCs. Thus, the IBM PC rapidly became the industry standard. Software developers concentrated on the most popular platforms, and this meant that the IBM PC became the computer with the greatest variety of software available to it. You may recall that this came at a time of a “perfect storm” – the release of the PC, and the creation of the World’s first Spreadsheet – VisiCalc – also the first “killer app” – people would buy an Apple II or an IBM PC just to run VisiCalc. You can read a full account of the impact that VisiCalc had in the early to mid 1980’s business and academic computer market by clicking here. That decision was a doubled edged sword for IBM, as it effectively lost control of the market; over the next three decades, competition in the PC market was unrelentingly fierce, which eventually led IBM in 2005 to sell off its PC manufacturing division to Chinese computer producer Lenovo. The IBM compatible PC transformed the world. Certainly nowadays a lot of work can be done on smartphones and tablets, but in reality PCs (desktops or laptops) are still used for heavy duty work. Some industry commentators have suggested that we are now living in a “post PC” world, and while it is true that PC shipments are currently in decline, it is still a massive industry that continues to be the bedrock for most businesses. The advent of hybrid devices such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 also suggests that the PC is continuing to evolve. But the PC is here to stay. IBM didn’t invent the personal computer, but the IBM PC 5150 certainly heralded the dawning of the computer age in many offices and households around the world. Happy birthday PC!

There was a Police helicopter hovering over Pewty Acres for nearly half an hour on Wednesday evening. It was using its powerful "Night Sun" searchlight. I guessed at the time they were probably looking for something in the River Thames, and I was correct. There had been reports of a person in the river, close to Erith Pier. Gravesend RNLI, a Port of London Authority harbour launch, the Met Police marine unit and a National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter were all involved in a search for what seemed like a very long time indeed. This all reinforces my idea of an RNLI substation located at Erith Riverside Gardens, as I have postulated on several previous occasions. 

The photo above shows a small parcel of land on the corner of Napier Road and Wellington Road in Belvedere. It is one of the small piece of land that Bexley Council want to sell off to raise some cash. Local residents have objected to this; they say that their parking, privacy and quality of life will be greatly affected if the sale of the green land goes ahead. In an article in the News Shopper this week, the piece of land is described as being "200 metre"- no details of in what dimension are given - lazy journalism and poor editing. As you can see from the photo above, the parcel of land is actually tiny, just about large enough to build a single house on. One local resident in the same article says:- "I take my dogs there for walks at night and if the patch was gone, then I’d have to walk them up these steep roads which wouldn’t be good for me. I’d also fear for my life if I had to walk my dogs to places that I’m not too sure of because I’m getting older and I can’t defend myself. It would be much safer to keep that green patch. If whoever buys the land builds flats, then the development will be looking down on our homes. There would be more cars and the parking here is quite tricky already, and this would make it worse.” 

As many locals will be aware, due to the engineering works carried out at London Bridge Station, there has been a hugely compromised and reduced overland train service on the North Kent Line. I avoided the line entirely by taking a pre - planned alternative journey. I picked up the 99 bus to Woolwich (which conveniently stops almost right outside of Pewty Acres) and at Woolwich I joined the Docklands Light Railway to Poplar, where I changed to the Lewisham bound branch and travelled a further two stops to my destination at Canary Wharf. During my alternative journey I passed underneath the infamous Emirates Airline Cable Car, more commonly referred to by locals as the "Arabfly Dangleway". As you may be aware, the cable car has been an abject failure, not attracting anything like the traveller numbers that it needs to break even, let along make a profit. The only reason for its continued operation is the huge amount of money ploughed into it by both Emirates as part of their sponsorship deal, and TFL. New London Mayor Sadiq Khan threatened to shut the line down during his mayoral campaign, branding it an “expensive vanity project” which costs the capital £5 million a year in subsidies. He has since stepped back from the threat after TfL pointed out ending the contract before 2021 would cost £20 million in penalties and loss of sponsorship. Now, after being unable to persuade commuters to use the slower and more expensive cable car to cross the river in preference to the direct Jubilee Line, TFL have applied for a licence to sell alcohol to passengers arriving for their ten minute trips on the Emirates Air Line, which spans the river between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. Under the proposals, champagne could be served from 10am to 1.30am every day from bars on platforms at each end of the 300ft-high crossing, which was launched by the former Conservative Mayor in June 2012 ahead of the Olympics. As well as serving alcohol the licence would allow the showing of films, play live music and host events such as karaoke and disco nights at the south terminal next to the O2 Arena. The move comes after figures released this month show that the £60 million “white elephant” link is used by just over 4,000 people a day despite having capacity to ferry 2,500 passengers an hour in its 34 gondolas. Docklands Light Railway submitted the latest application on behalf of Transport for London which has been under pressure to increase usage of the line, particularly among Londoners. At present it is mainly used by tourists - not really surprising, as the cable car goes from nowhere to nowhere over scrap yards, disused factories and industrial lorry parks. The terrible stench of rotting rubbish pervades the area from the waste transfer station that is directly under the route of the cable car. When I have passed it whilst on the DLR in the recent hot weather, the other travellers were gagging and covering their faces in revulsion at the pong - what the smell is like as the rising hot air takes the stench to the cable car cabins must be unthinkable. In an interview with the London Evening Standard on Wednesday, Robert Leftwich, who lives near the Royal Docks terminal in Newham, said: “The very idea of encouraging the sale of alcohol on the cable car reeks of utter stupidity and desperation. Is it really sensible to allow inebriated people to ‘fly’ 300ft up in the air, with doors on the cabins? Inevitably at some point someone will try to make a jump for the river below. This application seems simply a desperate idea to try and rescue what has unfortunately become a non-profitable white elephant.” Dr David Wilson said it demonstrated “an egregious disregard” for the welfare of children, public safety and the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour". London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said: “It seems that those running the cable car have the vision to run it like an expensive West End night club experience. Instead of providing some expensive tickets involving glasses of champagne for a few people the cable car should be run for the many as an affordable form of transport across the Thames. The Thames cable car was in large part funded by the taxpayer and its original purpose was to ensure daily trips across the Thames could be made by the widest range of people. It is time the Mayor of London finally got to grips with these issues and‎ decided what the future of the cable car really is.” The whole selling alcohol project is somewhat ironic, as it comes eight years after former London Mayor Boris Johnson banned alcohol from the entire TfL network of Tubes, trams, buses and the DLR. Not a very consistent approach I feel. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The end video this week is the latest animated short film from Simon's Cat. 

1 comment:

  1. The Wedlock Homes piece was fascinating. I note on the map they started in 1927 so they weathered the great recession - more than a lot of other builders. I gather they came originally from Barrow in Furness, hence the names of a lot of roads named after places in North Lancashire and Cumberland / the Lake District. I do remember that even as late as the early 1970's they had a small office above one of the shops on the Barnehurst shopping parade - presumably to mop up any outstanding claims or legal disputes. The care with which the houses were graded according to price represented somewhat sophisticated class segmenting when it came to buyers as well.