Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Scrunch Test.

Feedback regarding the recently opened Riverside Fish and Steak restaurant has been uniformly good, with many extremely favourable comments regarding the decor, the quality of the cooking and the excellent, friendly service. Local resident Mrs. B wrote the following mini review:- "On Wednesday 14th December 2016 I visited the new restaurant in Erith, with my sister and brother-in-law, my daughter and her one month old son (who slept throughout the whole proceedings in his pram), for a late lunch.  When we arrived we were the only diners in there and had our choice of table.  We were warmly greeted by a charming member of staff who made us feel very welcome.  We weren't too sure about the background music but she quickly changed this to a compilation of our choice.  I had warm chicken breast on a salad, and the other three in our party had fish and chips.  There was a little bit of a delay but this was fine as we were enjoying chatting in pleasant surroundings, and when the food was served it was beautifully presented and delicious.  The desserts were a work of art and were wonderful.  Including drinks, the two course meal for the four of us came to just over £50, as far as I recall.   A few other tables filled up while we were there and I gather that there was a large group booked in for that evening.   I would definitely go there again, and I wish them every success". One constructive comment has been made - and that is that if you Google search for "Riverside Fish and Steak restaurant", the result that comes back is for the Riverside Fish Bar in West Street, Erith. This was reviewed a while back by Maggot Sandwich restaurant critic Brian Silk, and also got a glowing review. It seems to me that the new restaurant needs a proper web presence - a dedicated web site for the up - market eaterie, rather than just a Facebook page that it currently has. Image and corporate identity are an important factor to the success of any business. 

Bexleyheath made the regional and national news over the holiday period - but for all of the wrong reasons. A chap was standing outside of the Primark discount clothing store in Bexleyheath Broadway on Christmas Eve, when he noticed a rat in the shop, very close to the windows. He filmed it on his mobile phone and sent the results to the London Evening Standard. You can see the video and read the account of what happened by clicking here. What surprises me is that so many people are surprised by the incident. I am pretty certain that every single shop and residence in Bexleyheath has had rats or mice at some stage or other - as is the case everywhere in the UK and to be honest most places around the world. Rats and mice occur wherever humans are; they are two extremely successful species - it is said that in London you are never more than an average of twelve feet away from a rat - it is just that in most circumstances humans very seldom see them, as normally they are reclusive and secretive, and most of their activity is nocturnal. The rat featured in the story above is untypical in this respect, though its lack of fear of the human filming it may be readily explained; rats have very poor vision - they rely far more on their sense of hearing and smell. The Primark window display was very brightly lit, and it was dark outside - it is entirely possible that the rat saw little through the window, and any noises and all smells would have been blocked. In any case it is now academic; from the statement issued by Primark, pest controllers were soon called and the rat destroyed. 

On Christmas Day morning I was in a cab (a very nice, one year old Mercedes Benz E220 Estate) being driven along Manor Road, on a trip up to visit my Mum in Upper Belvedere. A scrote on an illegal off - road motorbike, no registration plates and of course no crash helmet came pelting up the other side of the road, towards the cab; the teenaged rider suddenly swerved as he lost control of the bike, and he headed directly towards the Mercedes with me and the driver as targets; the cab driver braked and swerved - miraculously avoiding a collision. Whilst the teenaged illegal rider would most definitely come off worse in the event of a collision, the £40,000 (with a couple of options) Mercedes would have been seriously damaged. The cab driver was understandably shaken up and very annoyed - he was a big chap, and I get the feeling that if he had not had me on board as a paying passenger, he would have turned the car around and gone on to chase the scumbag. Many of the local illegal bike riders belong to a large gang called Bike Life TV UK, which was the subject of a BBC documentary which you can watch by clicking here.  Bike Life TV UK are a notorious gang who operate all around the UK, but seem to have their primary base in and around Thamesmead. They not only ride en masse in public areas on unlicensed, stolen and uninsured motorbikes and quad bikes, usually whilst not wearing helmets. As I written in the past, the not wearing of helmets is a deliberate tactic – the Police will not chase a biker not wearing a helmet, as they are concerned for the safety of the non – helmeted biker. This is a difficult issue with many different factors involved – the trouble is the scumbags know that they are effectively immune from any form of recourse, as they wear masks with the deliberate intent of making themselves unidentifiable. This aura of untouchability that members of Bike Life TV UK have fostered has got to be forcibly changed. Members of the public are losing patience with the Police, who seem to be powerless to stop them. I know that in reality this is not the case, and certainly in Bexley, the Police have got illegal bikers as one of their three highest priorities. I feel that the problem in part comes from central government and the Metropolitan Police leadership, who effectively hamper the actions of the officers “on the ground” with excessively restrictive rules of engagement. What I really fail to understand is why the bikers are obsessed with wheelies – they seem to spend as much time as they are physically able to on their back wheel. Why? What is the point? It would be just as effective and considerably cheaper to have “I am a complete pillock” tattooed across each of their foreheads. Bike Life TV UK don’t just ride around intimidating other road users and pedestrians, I understand that some of their members are involved in other types of crime. I have heard it said (but not confirmed) that some gang members move drugs around Thamesmead and Plumstead using junior gang members as couriers. Body building and Mixed Martial Arts are also popular with gang members – I have also heard to date unsubstantiated rumours that they have a trade in illegal anabolic steroids. This might well explain the extremely violent nature and short tempers of Bike Life TV UK members – who may well be suffering from “Roid Rage". The London Evening Standard covered the gang and their illegal activities a while back. you can see the article by clicking here.

Word processing has become so ubiquitous on personal computers that many people don't realise that originally "Word Processors" were dedicated hardware machines, operated by trained users; they were not general purpose computers, but instead all they did was edit and print text. In the early 1980's this began to change with the invention of relatively affordable personal computers. At this point many software companies created word processing programs for a variety of proprietary platforms, most of which started to quietly die off as the PC began to dominate the computer market place. The dominant word processing program for personal computers in the 1980s was DOS-based WordPerfect. Microsoft Word for DOS, which had been released in 1983, was an also-ran. That situation changed dramatically with the introduction of Microsoft Word for Windows in 1989.  By 1993 it was generating 50 percent of the word processing market revenue, and by 1997 it was up to 90 percent. Clearly there was something extraordinary about Word for Windows. Part of its success was due to Microsoft’s marketing acumen. But it was also a stunning technical achievement, and its ability to run on ordinary PCs created the first popular vanguard of the new graphics-oriented style of document preparation. Remember, this was a time when a typical personal computer might have an 8 Mhz processor, 1 megabyte of memory, a 20 megabyte hard disk, and a floppy disk drive. How did Word accomplish so much with so little? It was down to some extremely clever programming. At that point in time, most word processors - like WordStar and Wordperfect 5.1 (remember those - I do!) were not capable of displaying the document on screen in the same manner that it would finally be printed on paper - this caused all sorts of problems - the only way you could tell what your document was going to look like was to print it out - which could cause a lot of wasted paper, if your document was an academic thesis, or a chapter of a book. The emergence of WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) word processors changed all that. The screen showed what the final document would look like, and keyboard commands you used changed the look of the text, not a programming script. One of the first such programs was BRAVO, created in 1974 by Butler Lampson, Charles Simonyi and others at Xerox PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center, for the groundbreaking Alto computer (I have written about the Xerox Alto back in July 2011 - you can read all about it by clicking here). Simonyi later said, "It was clear that quite a beautiful editor could be written for the Alto. Remember, the Alto had a black and white bitmap display. It had a mouse. It had an un-decoded keyboard. It had all the ingredients that are necessary for WYSIWYG. And, of course, then the network came around. The laser printer was coming alive. So all the components were there, except for the software…. We set out to write an editor and we finished it about three months!" Like much of the other innovative Alto software and hardware, BRAVO was never sold as a commercial product. After nine years, Simonyi was frustrated by Xerox’s inability to turn great ideas into products. “I lost faith in Xerox’s ability to do anything” . In 1981 he left and joined Microsoft to lead a team in creating application programs. The first, already in progress when he arrived, was the spreadsheet Multiplan, a VisiCalc competitor. Simonyi was well-suited from his Xerox experience for the next assault on the competition: to unseat MicroPro’s popular WordStar word processor. He hired Richard Brodie, a brilliant programmer he had first hired in 1979 at Xerox PARC. The fact that Brodie had no college degree wasn’t an issue; Brodie said later that “He asked me some programming questions and he liked the way I answered them.” In the summer of 1982 Brodie began working with others at Microsoft on a word processor to be controlled by a mouse. It was finished just over a year later, in October 1983. “I had pretty much a free hand. It was a pretty small program, and I was familiar with word processing from my work at Xerox PARC with Charles.” It may have been a “small program” but it had some sophisticated features, including support for style sheets, multiple windows, footnotes, mail-merge, undo, and the proportional fonts that the newly emerging laser printers would be able to use. Microsoft founder and president Bill Gates was impressed. “One thing that just blew Bill away was an optimization of the display speed. We actually formatted as you typed. Every time you inserted one character, the screen would update to show exactly what was going to be printed.” Free demonstration copies of Microsoft Word for MS-DOS were bundled with the November 1983 issue of PC World magazine. But it received mixed reviews, in large part because it was so different from what most people were used to. The 1984 BYTE magazine review said it was “clever, put together well, and performs some extraordinary feats, but extremely frustrating to learn and operate efficiently. …Word’s developers seem to be trying to completely reinvent word processing.” That is precisely what they were trying to do. Although it was inspired by the earlier work at Xerox, few people outside the research community had been yet exposed to the new regime that would eventually predominate. Microsoft Word brought WYSIWYG to the masses. Over the next years Word was continually improved. The first version for Microsoft Windows was released in late 1989 at a single-user price of $495. It received a glowing review in Infoworld that didn’t flinch at the price: “If your system is powerful enough to support Microsoft Windows, at $495 it is an excellent value.” This might seem quite strange now, when $495 would have been more like $1000 in modern terms, but you have to remember that this was an era when the cost of commercial software running on a business PC was often far higher than the cost of the hardware itself. It is ironic that Microsoft Word is now the defacto standard for word processing, even though Microsoft continually changes the way that formatting data is stored in each version of Word. This means that in years to come, it may be impossible to read or print out documents produced in older versions of Word. Personally, if you would like to try an alternative to Microsoft Office that is one hundred percent file compatible, but is free and open source, I would highly recommend Libre Office which is available for free download for the Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux operating systems.

An announcement from the local Police:- "Please see below for all local Police Safer Neighbourhood Surgery/Street Briefing dates for January and February 2017 for the North End Ward in JAN/FEB 2017 are listed below:-


I got a copy of the popular book "Radio Caroline - the true story of the boat that rocked" for Christmas, and I sat down and read it in a single sitting (I am a very fast reader - the book is 256 pages long, including quite a lot of photographs). It was written by a chap called Ray Clark, who worked for the station in the mid 1980's - a couple of years or so before my time. I would recommend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in offshore radio, or indeed social history over the last fifty or so years. I feel that the book does have a few flaws though - in my opinion in covers the 1960's in minute detail, recounting quite a few stories I had not heard before. However the subsequent chapters covering the 1970's and 1980's feel somewhat rushed, and I feel that a lot more detail could have been included; I have stories that I feel would have added to the enjoyment of the reader, and I am pretty certain that the same could be said from many other former members of Radio Caroline staff. There is most definitely scope for a revised and extended version of the book in the future. Incidentally, should you be interested, you can see some of my photos from my time with Radio Caroline by clicking here. I also came across an edited, off - air recording of me doing my early morning radio show during a force 9 gale with thirty foot high waves battering the ship, which someone has uploaded here - click to listen. And yes, I do sound about twelve years old, I agree! Comments below, or Email me at

British film director Ridley Scott has two major films coming out in the next few months - a sequel to the classic "Blade Runner", and "Alien: Covenant" - the sequel to 2012's "Prometheus" - the film I consider to the one of the worst that I have ever seen - and overall I am a big fan of Ridley Scott's work. Prometheus has not inspired me with confidence in what will be delivered in the next "Alien" film. Much had been promised with Prometheus, which was a direct prequel to the original (and many would say the best) "Alien", and as such I was expecting much - after all, he had set the bar so high with his 1979 low budget sci fi horror movie; he virtually reinvented the genre. I had heard some rather mixed reviews of the new movie, but I watched it with an open mind. To be blunt, "Prometheus" was a total mess. The story makes little sense, the cast telephone in their performances (with one exception, which I will come to later) and the characters act in a completely illogical manner. Without giving out any spoilers in case you have not already seen the movie, the film is a confusing and sometimes contradictory experience. The crew of the Prometheus are at the centre of the story, in a similar manner to the original "Alien" movie. Unlike in Alien, where the crew were basically a group of working class manual labourers - space truckers, if you will, who were forced by circumstance to work together to defeat a common foe; in Prometheus they are a hand picked elite group of scientists and engineers - the best of the best. The problem is that the crew of the Prometheus act like a group of unruly teenagers - they disobey orders, smoke dope, drink copious quantities of booze, and generally act in a shambolic and irresponsible manner. None of this helps the suspension of disbelief; much of the time you are left wondering "just why did that character do that? It makes no sense". It is not like there is a reveal, making the uncharacteristic actions clear. Another thing, when the crew come out of hyper sleep, the ship has just made orbit around the alien world. You would have thought that the first thing they would do would be to survey and map the surface, and check the atmosphere - either directly, or by using robotic drones. But no, they just pile in to land, and guess what? They come up directly on the destination they wanted - the alien base facility. The coincidence is laughable - they had an entire planet to choose from, and they picked the right spot first time. All it would have taken was a crew member to say something like "The survey drones have located some kind of artificial structure - we are going down to take a look". Later, when the crew enter the structure, it becomes clear that they do indeed have semi intelligent mapping drones - why do the humans have to go inside what is clearly a dangerous structure, when the drones can do it all for them? Weak plotting. I could go on, but I don't want to give away what little plot there is - in case you have not seen the film. I feel that there is a good film in there somewhere, but it needs some drastic re-editing; still, Scott is renowned for issuing cut after cut of his movies, as anyone who has bought multiple versions of Alien, Aliens and Blade Runner can attest. Normally I can suspend my disbelief during a movie, but with Prometheus I found myself shouting at the screen - with one exception, the characters continually act against their motivation. The exception is the character of David, the robot or "synthetic human". The role is excellently played by actor Michael Fassbender, who manages to impart a understated and subtle menace to the character; there is a very nice nod to the fact that the Alien and Blade Runner universes are one and the same. You will have to look carefully though - look for the scene with David's finger prints in macro close up. Overall I would still recommend you watch the film, if you have not already seen it; the photography is beautiful, and the CGI top notch, even if some of the special effects makeup is surprisingly ropey at times, and the ending of the movie is pretty much ridiculous. I understand that I am by far from the only person to find multiple faults with Prometheus - indeed I understand that one of the reasons that Ridley Scott has taken the best part of four years to produce a sequel in what was intended to be a trilogy was that he had to rework the story arc to remove many of the elements the audience found unbelievable or ridiculous. The trailer for Alien: Covenant does look far more like a "conventional" Alien film - which ironically may also turn off an audience who may well feel that the new film is just a rehash of stuff that has been done before. Time will tell - I would love for the new film to be great, but I am not holding my breath. The first Alien, and its sequel Aliens are amongst my absolute top favourite movies, and any new addition to the canon has a lot to live up to. 

As many readers will be aware, I am not a fan of Bexley Council - and I know that I am not alone in that sentiment. One area however in which they do very well is in their levels of recycling, which are amongst the best in Greater London. They have just published information regarding the disposal and recycling of Christmas based waste, such as old Christmas trees and wrapping paper. One piece of advice which was new to me is regarding how to test old wrapping paper to see if it is suitable to be recycled. They write:- "To check if your wrapping paper is recyclable give it the 'scrunch test' - if it stays crumpled it can also go into your paper and cardboard recycling container. Any wrapping paper which 'springs back' after being scrunched up is plastic based and cannot be recycled".  You can read more about what to do with your Christmas leftovers and rubbish by clicking here

The end video this week is a bit of a curiosity; it shows a trip to the least used railway station in Kent, the tiny and mostly unknown Swale Station - see what you think. If you have any questions or comments, leave a message below, or Email me at

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