Sunday, April 07, 2019

A 113th birthday.

Some great news to report this week; after a decade of what appeared to be fruitless campaigning, led by local MP Teresa Pearce, it has been announced in the last week that Erith Station is finally very likely to get step free access to the London bound platform, and other accessibility aids for the disabled and those with a child's buggy. The Department of Transport has announced a package worth around £300 million to upgrade a total of 73 stations around the UK in order to meet the requirements of the Government sponsored inclusive transport strategy. In an interview published in the News Shopper and also elsewhere, Transport Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani said:- "Transport is vital for connecting people with work, friends and family, but also to enable them to enjoy visiting some of the wonderful cultural, historical and natural sites across the UK. We want the 13.9 million disabled people in Britain to be empowered to travel independently, which is why I am delighted to announce this roll-out of upgrades across the rail network. Over the next five years these newly accessible stations will open up routes across the country, helping us move closer to a transport sector that is truly accessible." As long time readers will be aware, I have been banging on about the need for step - free access to all of Erith Station for many years. Erith is one of the stations that has been nominated for accessibility improvements, and just for once I think it is actually going to happen. If you have any information other than that which has already been published in the press, please let me know; Email me at

On a far less welcome note, last Wednesday the Commons Select Committee on Crossrail published a damning report on the state of The Crossrail Project, and the way in which the Government must explain exactly who is responsible for the huge time and cost overruns to the project. The Commons Select Committee chair has been quoted as saying of the project:- “Passengers were led to believe they would be able use new Crossrail services through central London from the end of last year. Instead, they have been badly let down by significant delays and cost overruns. It is clear that the delivery deadline of December 2018 had been unrealistic for some time. But the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited continued to put a positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes. Wishful thinking is no basis for spending public money and there remain serious risks to delivering this programme, with a revised schedule and costings for completing the work still to be agreed. Some £2.8 billion of extra funding has been provided for Crossrail but even that may not be enough. It is unacceptable that Parliament and the public still do not know the root causes of the failures that beset this project. Nor will we accept the Department and Crossrail Limited’s description of these serious problems as ‘systems failures’. Accountability in the use of public money is of fundamental importance. The Department should write to us urgently to explain what it, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited are responsible and accountable for on this programme, and set out clearly what consequences there have been for well-rewarded officials whose costly failures are paid for by taxpayers.” Quite. The whole project has been a series of unmitigated disasters. 

The Maggot Sandwich has now been online since July 2006; I have published the Blog every Sunday for nearly the last thirteen years without a single miss in all of that time. If you click on the drop down menu produced by the “Blog Archive” button to the lower right of this text, you will see a whole list of previous postings. There are a total of 660 individual blog updates; an average of one per week. I have been going through some of these old articles and have noticed that there are some missing images and broken links. Bearing in mind the age of the articles in question, it is not surprising there is a degree of “link rot”. Images I have embedded from links to other web sites, and links to articles posted online are now sometimes broken, or actually lead somewhere completely different to what I intended. The Blogger platform is not really equipped to monitor and prevent link rot, unlike Word Press, which is designed to always use canonical URL’s. Apologies if you surf around the history of the Maggot Sandwich and discover a faulty posting. To be honest it is now such a huge body of text that it has become practically unfeasible for me to police the content and stop things breaking. This is also one of the reasons that I have not updated the theme I use. If I update the theme, I will find every image on the website shifting to the left of centre. The reason for this is that the theme has a bug; when you embed an image, it appears to the right of centre by a few pixels. I have for ages manually edited the HTML script underlying the page to hack the image back to the centre – I have been doing this for so long that I now barely think about it. Any changes to the theme will correct the bug, and I will have nearly three thousand photos all appearing out of place. In theory I could edit the text an HTML editor, using a search and replace script, but I am certain I would end up breaking things – my HTML skills are pretty limited – I know just enough to get myself into trouble, and not enough to get out of it.

I quite often pass by the piece of overgrown wasteland behind the London South East College -  Bexley in Walnut Tree Road. Bexley Council undertook to clear the land once the final phase of construction of the college had been completed. This has still yet to happen, and the area is absolutely teeming with rats. They often come out of the undergrowth and run along the path to the underpass, and they seem unafraid of people. I realise that destroying their habitat next to the college will only move the vermin elsewhere, but if they are not dealt with, I could see a situation with the college getting rat infested, which would be awful. I was reading an article on the BBC News website some time ago, which got me thinking. People in Cambodia and Vietnam regularly catch rats to be eaten – indeed there is a thriving cottage industry to supply the demand for rat meat.  Bearing in mind the profusion of rats locally, could an ecologically sound solution to the problem be to trap and kill the rats and then sell the meat on to the various fast food places in the area? It is most definitely organic and free range, after all? People already eat Grey Squirrel, which is also defined as vermin, yet they are treated as a minor delicacy, and are available to order in a number of posh restaurants and gastro pubs – and what is a squirrel? A rat with better P.R. I reckon that once seasoned , battered and deep fried, most people would not realise what they were eating was anything other than poultry – Kentucky Fried Rat, anyone? Rat Vindaloo? Shish Rat kebab with chilli sauce, salad and a pitta bread? The options are endless. Bearing in mind that it is said that you are said to be never more than four metres away from a rat when you are in Greater London, it does seem that we could be on the verge of both a culinary and pest control revolution. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

The uppermost photo above was sent to me by a regular reader and occasional contributor. It shows the infamous camper van that until recently was parked outside of the main entrance to Erith Hospital for many weeks; I reported last week that the van had finally been moved its owner, who left a pile of human waste on the road in the process. Unfortunately the van owner and his scruffy and untaxed (and thus by definition, uninsured) camper vehicle had not moved far. The van was then parked in Castleton Avenue in Barnehurst, and as you can see from the photograph, the van emitted a river of liquid excrement that was washed down the road. The photographer, along with several other local residents brought the situation to the notice of Bexley Council's Environmental Health Department. The photographer also mentioned in his communication to me that the stink coming from both the van and the gutter was absolutely dreadful. As of Wednesday morning the camper van was gone - and Council contractors Serco had been on the scene to clear up the noxious mess the irresponsible van owner had left behind. On Friday it was reported to me by another regular reader that the van had turned up illegally parked locally for yet another time. On the latest occasion the camper van was spotted (and photographed - see the lower of the three images above - click on any for a larger version) in a car park just off Alsike Road by Argali House in South Thamesmead. I am led to understand that the car park is owned by the Peabody Housing Association

The Association of Bexley Charities '78 is holding a Spring Fair at the United Reformed Church, Geddes Place, Bexleyheath DA6 7DJ (near the Broadway Shopping Centre) on Saturday 13th April 2019 from 9.45 am - 1.00 pm. Local charities will be selling, amongst other things, CDs, DVDs, Jewellery, Books, Cakes, Jams, Model Railway accessories, Collectables and Children's Games. Stallholders will include Alzheimer's Society, Bexley Branch; Bexley Downs Syndrome Group; Bexley Smile; Cats Protection, Bexley & District Branch; The Children's Society; Demelza Hospice Care for Children; Irish Community Services; Motor Neurone Disease Association; Dementia Carers Group, Greenwich and Bexley,

It has come to my attention that the planned Erith Fun Day 2019 has been cancelled by the organisers. Quite exactly why this has happened is currently unclear; if a reader has some insight into the unwelcome development, please let me know at the usual address - thanks!

The photos above were taken by me last night at the 113th birthday party for the Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. Both The Bookstore Cafe and the main hall on the ground floor were filled by visitors, and they were entertained by Don't Problem - a local jazz brass band who were absolutely excellent, very original, and also very loud! It was an amazing evening. You can see a full list of events that are to take place in the former library by clicking here. The Bookstore Cafe is open Wednesday - Friday 8am - 4.30pm; 6 - 10.30pm. Saturday 8.30am - 10.30pm. Sunday 9am - 4pm. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Many people may not realise that the cafe and bar is open in the evenings as well as in the daytime. If you fancy an evening socialising locally, I can heartily recommend the place. The Bookstore Cafe has a full drinks licence and serves a number of bottled beers from Bexley Brewery, as well as a range of wines, specialist gins and soft drinks. 

Some readers who have been following the Maggot Sandwich for a long time may recall my account of back in the mid 1980's, when I worked for Sidcup based computer retailer Silica Shop in their outlet in Lion House in Tottenham Court Road, London. I did not realise it at the time, but being involved in the then still relatively fledgeling home computer industry was to influence me to this day, but I digress. One day, I was chatting to two blokes in the Tottenham Court Road store when they invited me to come and visit them in their studio a couple of roads away; during my lunch break I visited the basement in a large and quite impressive stone building. The guys welcomed me into a darkened room filled with cigar smoke and all sorts of high end electronics that I could not identify. They then showed me a few clips – probably not more than thirty seconds of computer animated footage and asked my opinion. I was blown away – it was better than anything I had ever seen (to be truthful, at that point I don’t think I had seen much CGI – it was a very new field back then). After a few minutes chat and a horrid cup of gritty instant coffee I was shown out. I was impressed, but did not know what the footage was for. A few months later I was watching a music programme on TV (It may have been The Tube – I cannot recall) when I mentally stopped in my tracks – the CGI footage was being shown. It was the video for Dire Straits – Money for Nothing. I was gobsmacked – I had seen the making of one of the most famous music videos ever, from a band that were at the time pretty much the biggest on the planet. The video company was - and is called Framestore. They are still one of the market leaders in computer generated imagery for TV and film. The system I had seen being used to make the "Money for Nothing" video was called the Quantel Paintbox; the Quantel Paintbox and its pressure-sensitive stylus were groundbreaking pieces of technology when they were released in 1981, but they had their limitations. The huge 14-inch platter hard drive could store 160MB of data, enough for just over six seconds of video at 25 Frames Per Second. Longer pieces required playing out each frame to tape before wiping the hard drive, a risky process that resulted in staff working eight-hour shifts around the clock to minimise cockups. The Quantel Paintbox and its multi-frame follow up Harry—which could store up to 30 seconds of footage and manipulate multiple frames of animation at once—would come to dominate the TV industry throughout the 1980s and early '90s. Framestore, the company a chap called Mike McGee cofounded with Sir William Sargent in 1986, is the visual effects house behind Walking with Dinosaurs, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Gravity, to name but a few. Framestore's sizeable reputation has seen it expand to New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal, but its home in London remains surprisingly understated. In the 1990's Walking with Dinosaurs was commissioned by the BBC just three years after the 1993 release of Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking Jurassic Park, as part of an ambitious remit to raise the bar in science programming. Jurassic Park cost $63 million to make, and it featured just six minutes of CGI for its two-hour running time. The BBC needed three hours of back-to-back CGI at a fraction of the cost. After looking to the west coast of America to realise its vision, the BBC turned to Framestore and its head of computer graphics Mike Milne. Milne generated three shots showing how, with simple models and natural history filming techniques, the cost of the CGI per second could be brought down. At a total cost £6 million, Walking with Dinosaurs wasn't cheap—it remains the most expensive TV documentary ever produced at a cost of £37,654 per minute—but this was still more cost-effective than anything the US visual effects companies could offer. Following the release of Walking with Dinosaurs in 1999, the series won two BAFTA Awards, three Emmy Awards, and a Peabody Award. It also made Framestore one of the most sought-after visual effects companies in the world. Its work on the TV adaptation of Gulliver's Travels, in which actor Ted Danson was filmed against a blue screen to create a dramatic sense of scale, netted the company a Primetime Emmy award, the first awarded to a company outside of the US. Framestore went on to win an Emmy every year for the next six years for its work on shows like The 10th Kingdom, Walking with Beasts, and The Ballad of Big Al. Numerous BAFTA awards and, finally, an Oscar for "Achievement in Visual Effects" for The Golden Compass followed. Today there are over 18 different departments in a typical visual effects studio. Concept artists and sketchers create the drawings from which 3D artists and animators create digital renderings. A physics team works entirely on simulations that try to replicate the intricate movements of cloth, water, and hair—elements that are extremely time-consuming for animators to recreate. Others work on the fire, smoke, and mists of a digital explosion. A rigging team creates the skeletons for 3D models, giving them the digital muscles they need to move realistically. At the end of it all, sat in pitch-black rooms, are the lighting and digital compositing teams, which take green screen footage of actors and layer it on top of computer-generated backdrops, while lighting artists make sure that every pixel is precisely lit to the director's specifications. When I look back at the handful of scruffy blokes chain smoking and drinking dreadful instant coffee that I encountered when I visited Framestore, I would never have guessed that they would become one of the most important and respected visual effects houses in the world. Below is a short video documentary about the Quantel Paintbox and the machines that eventually succeeded it. Do give it a watch.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly a report from Barnehurst ward:- "Another week has passed on Barnehurst Ward with no burglaries reported. Unfortunately though we have experienced a number of Incidents where vehicles have been targeted. These incidents range from criminal damage to theft from motor vehicles. On Friday 29/03/2019 In Fairford Avenue overnight a window was found smashed and a door to the vehicle had been forced however nothing was taken. In Colyers Lane on Monday 01/04/2019 overnight personal items were stolen from a vehicle, there was no damage caused. There were two further separate Incidents In Northall Road on Monday 01/04/2019, personal items were taken from both vehicles. In Parkside Avenue oil had been thrown over a vehicle, this occurred overnight on Tuesday 02/04/2019. Most recently in Merewood Road, again overnight there was a theft from a motor vehicle with personal items taken. Can we ask Coordinators to spread the word to ensure residents are double checking their vehicles when locking them and not to be leaving valuable items in vehicles even if they are hidden and out of sight. The team have started distributing Smart Water to the residents in Beverley Road. Smart Water is a useful tool to deter burglars and reduce crime. Please join us for our next community contact session at Barnehurst Golf Course on Tuesday 09th April 2019 at 1pm where we are open to discussion and happy to offer crime prevention advice". Belvedere ward:- "There have been reports of ongoing anti - social behaviour (ASB) by a group of teenagers at Asda in Lower Belvedere. The group have been observed being verbally abusive to staff and security guards within the shop, throwing different items around inside the shop, being verbally abusive to customers and also throwing rocks at the front of the shop after being challenged by security staff. Certain members of the group have been overheard in conversation saying the one was in possession of a knife. SNT officers have since visited the store in order to view CCTV images in an attempt to identify those responsible. Over the course of the last week, there have also been reports of a similar nature (youths acting in an anti-social manner) from residents of Coleman Road, Essenden Road and Sainsburys in Nuxley Road. Each of these locations were visited by the team and CCTV viewed. We have ascertained that the same group has been responsible for ASB in each of these areas of the ward. Thus far, we have been able to identify 6 members of the group and are working toward identifying the remaining members – the group were stopped and spoken to by officers on Wednesday and all were searched with a negative outcome. There was a recent burglary in Eardley Road in which it is reported that a group of 5 males were seen to approach a property, gaining entry by forcing the front door open. A substantial amount of money and several items of Asian gold jewellery were then taken from the property before the males left the area in a grey coloured vehicle. Our next Community Contact Session is taking place on Wednesday 10th April at Starbucks, Clydesdale Way from 1pm". Bexleyheath ward:- "The team have been busy increasing Smart Water coverage on the ward. Wenvoe Road almost has full coverage as we are hopeful this will be complete this week. Once we have finished with Wenvoe Road we will be starting Swanbridge Road next, as well as completing street a week on the same road. There has been one Burglary within the last week as this took place at Eskdale Road and occurred in the early hours of Monday 1st April 2019. Unknown suspects have broken into the shed firstly and used a tool from the shed to break into the conservatory. Various items were taken including the occupants vehicle which was also stolen. The team are actively patrolling Drug and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) areas as stop and searches were conducted at the Marriot hotel car park, as youths were smoking cannabis at the location. We will continue to patrol ASB hotspots as well as increasing our smart water coverage and street a week coverage". Crayford ward:- "Unfortunately we have had two burglaries in Crayford this week. It was noticed that a front door was open in Ridge Way on Sunday 31st March at 10.40 and became evident that the door had been forced open. The house is under renovation and at this time the owner does not know what may have been taken. The other burglary occurred in the early hours of Saturday 30th March in Heathview Avenue, the external lamp was damaged and a blunt instrument was used to force entry in to the property. The resident was away from home and at this time it has not been confirmed what has been stolen. There have been vehicles stolen in the last week. A white Ford Transit, number plate DV62CRK was stolen between 17.10 on Sunday 28th March and 6.30 on Monday 29th March from Bourne Road Trading Estate. A white Mercedes sprinter number plate RV65VXE was stolen from Crayford Way between 16.00 on Sunday 31st March and 07.00 on Monday 1st April. Between 22.00 on Sunday 31st March and 4.40 on Monday 1st April a white Mercedes Sprinter YG65KFF was stolen from Halcot Avenue. On Monday 18th March a Honda was broken in to whilst parked at Century Wharf at Crayford Creek, the lock was broken off the vehicle and a clear footprint could be seen within, items were stolen. On Saturday 30th March at 13.30 it was reported that two Males in a van drove down an alleyway in Eardmont Close and entered a rear garden and took tools and work equipment, this was captured on CCTV. On Sunday 31st March a silver Ford Galaxy Titanium was damaged whilst parked in Iron Mill Lane. Tool marks were seen on the window and the frame bent back, the handle had been forced off. A shed window was broken in Dale Close between Friday 29th March and Monday 1st April, there was no signs of forced entry. A silver Ford Focus was criminally damaged at 00.30 on Tuesday 19th March, it is believed the suspect is known to the victim. On Tuesday 26th March a resident found a large knife hidden in their front garden in Halcot Avenue and handed it in to police. The team have been busy patrolling and several people have been searched for drugs and weapons. Our ward panel meeting took place on Thursday 28th March, the ward promises were set for the next three months. We will continue to deal with Anti-Social behaviour at Town Hall Square and Town Centre and in addition will deal with anti-social behaviour (drugs and alcohol) in Waterside Gardens. We will continue with community engagements and regular patrols. By all means come and speak to us or contact us by telephone or email if you have any concerns that you would like to raise about your neighbourhood. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111 should you wish to make police aware of criminal activity anonymously. We will be at Crayford Library on Friday 12th April between 11.00-12.00 for community contact to discuss any concerns you may have and give crime prevention advice". Erith ward:- "First of all Erith SNT has a new full time PC, that takes us up to 2 PCs and 2 PCSOs this is the most we have had this year, Also the brilliant HHW team have signed up another NHW member in Erith . No burglaries this week we are pleased to say due to having a couple over the last few weeks. We have been patrolling the hotspot areas in both uniform and plain clothing, hopefully this has been having an effect. It is not all good new however, we have had a 2 theft from and 2 theft of motor vehicles".

Northumberland Heath ward:- "Another good week with no burglaries reported to us. One theft of a green/silver Kawasaki motorcycle from Parsonage Manorway on Saturday March 30th between 2.15 – 2.30pm. The lock was cut and the remnants of it were left on the victim's drive. Theft of a handbag in Frinsted Road on Monday April 1st between 0925 – 0940am. The passenger window was smashed in order to steal the bag which contained a purse and a mobile phone. Please remember to leave nothing on show when you leave your vehicle unattended and lock any valuables away, better still take them with you. One report of criminal damage to a residential property in Avenue Road on Monday April 1st at 4pm. A group of youths were seen trying to pull a “for sale” sign down, one of the group threw a brick at the window causing damage to brickwork under the front window. One theft of number plates in Avenue Road which took place overnight between Monday April 1st 6pm to Tuesday April 2nd at 09. 30 am when the owner returned to their vehicle to find them missing. We recommend using anti- tamper proof number plate screws, we have a number of kits in our office and are happy to provide them to anyone who would like a pack. One arrest on the team this week for a male in breach of a court order". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Slade Green Football Club located just off Moat Lane suffered a break in between Tuesday 26th - Thursday 28 March. Entry was forced into the changing rooms but nothing was taken. The football club no longer exists but board members still attend the venue to carry out regular checks. In a similar incident, the changing hut in the park at Hollywood Way had signs of an attempted break in at some time during Saturday 30 - Sunday 31 March. Entry wasn't gained but the team are doing regular patrols of these locations and others where there are similar buildings. An intruder has been gaining access to Bushey Court Sheltered scheme in Hazel Road at very odd hours. It is usually after 3am where he stays in the lounge area for a few hours before leaving. He gets in using a fire drop key but last week forced a door to get in. It isn't happening daily but we have good CCTV images of the male. Nothing is taken or damaged while he is there but reassurance visits and patrols are being made in the scheme. 1 positive stop and search this week. In Rainbow Road a male was found to be in possession of cannabis and is due back very soon for interview". Thamesmead East ward:- "Good News - A suspect who left behind property which was used to cause criminal has had said property sent for forensic examination - suspect awaits interview. A male currently in prison for motor vehicle crimes will be attending court whilst serving sentence - for similar offences to be taken into consideration". West Heath ward:- "West Heath have had 7 motor vehicle crime between 27th March and 4th April. Three vehicles were damaged, a vehicles windscreen and passenger window were smashed in Hythe Avenue on Wednesday 27th March, another vehicle's tyres were damaged overnight on Saturday 30th March in Axminster Crescent and another vehicles' passenger window was smashed in Chessington Avenue in the early hours of Friday 29th - Saturday 30th March. A vehicle was stolen from Shakespeare Rd overnight 29th - 30th March between 6.30pm and 7.30am and a Motability vehicle was stolen from Abbots Walk overnight Saturday 30th - Sunday 31st March without use of the key. In Amberley Road some aftershave and small change was stolen from a vehicle whilst on the driveway on Saturday 31st March between half past midnight and 1150am. There was also a theft in a dwelling in Stapleton Road where a watch was taken on Wednesday 27th March. Our last Street briefing held on Friday 29th March in the Hurst Estate raised several issues of suspicious activities for ward officers to address including a male sleeping in a Van".

The end video this week is a bit of a departure; it is a US History Channel documentary from some years ago which features the story of seafarer and explorer Alexander Selkirk. April 2019 marks the 300th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe’s world-famous story of Robinson Crusoe. The real life inspiration for this tale was Alexander Selkirk and, after years of being cast away on a remote desert island, he first set foot back on home soil at Erith

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