Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mi Amigo.

Not only did the garden fence at Pewty Acres suffer in the recent storms. but local business The Royal Alfred Premier Store in Manor Road lost some roof tiles and some lead flashing was damaged by the gales. The former pub, on the corner of Appold Street is in a very exposed position, close to the River Thames, and thus quite vulnerable to wind damage. The scaffolding was erected to make access to the roof possible for the workers who carried out the repairs, which apparently only took  a day to complete. The former Royal Alfred pub was converted into a large Premier convenience store with luxury apartments above in 2017. You can see my photos of the interior of the apartments by clicking here. Comments to

The photo above (click on it for a larger view) was taken a few weeks ago at The Bookstore Cafe in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. It was the first Jazz Lunch to be held, and as you can see there was an excellent turnout. Unfortunately all events at The Old Library are on hold, as is now the case for a great many locations around the UK at present. The Bookstore Cafe is currently not open to visitors, but you can order freshly cooked food to be delivered to your home, as the kitchen is open and working for deliveries only.  The Bookstore cafe is now available on Deliveroo:- The Bookstore Cafe - Opens at 09:00 - £0.99 delivery - £5.00 minimum - The Old Library, Walnut Tree Rd, Erith, London, DA8 1RS. All food is made with fresh ingredients, working with and supporting local producers. All profits generated by The Bookstore Cafe go towards maintaining The Old Library and The Exchange community programme.

Fake news is often used to promote fears. These fears are then used as a means of obtaining access to personal information and money. Fake news and scams have the same root. Before you believe what you are reading and whether you will make a decision on what you have read, you need to consider a number of factors. This especially true in the present situation, with many so called "experts" on the Coronavirus situation holding forth on social media. For example, this week hoax social media messages have spread fears that Coronavirus is being spread at petrol pumps. Twitter posts and Whatsapp messages supposedly from NHS nurses have been shared warning people to wear gloves to prevent "rapid spreading". Public Health England have dispelled the notion that petrol pumps specifically are a worry. A spokesperson said: "Petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces, although we do recommend people use gloves and wash their hands after using them." Many fake news spreaders have a personal agenda to promote. Sometimes interesting or gratifying or controversial facts, posts and memes are complete fabrications. The fact that tens of thousands of people have ‘Liked’ an article doesn’t prove that it’s true. (Though it doesn’t prove that it isn’t, either). The fact that one or more of your very intelligent and well-informed friends posted it isn’t conclusive proof that it’s accurate, either. Sometimes, very bright people fall for bogus messages because they want to believe them: for instance, because they fit with their political views, or offer some exciting gift, or refer to some threat that they don’t have the technical knowledge to recognise as improbable. Intelligence and omniscience are not synonyms. Sometimes, people just don’t care: they like the story the message tells too much to check it for factual accuracy.  The late scientist and philosopher Professor Carl Sagan produced what he called his “baloney detection kit” – a series of rules to employ when encountering any potential guile or manipulation. “1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.” 2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view. 3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts. 4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy. 5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will. 6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging. 7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them. 8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler. 9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate sceptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result. Certainly some very thought provoking principles. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of an event that has largely been forgotten, but that had a major impact on radio broadcasting in the UK and Europe at the time. It is forty years since the Radio Caroline ship, the Mi Amigo sank in a North Sea storm. The rescue of the crew by the RNLI was so hazardous that the coxswain of the lifeboat was awarded the RNLI's highest honour. The story of the sinking, and the subsequent heroic rescue was told by one of those involved - the DJ Stevie Gordon, who related his memories to The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. Stevie writes:- "During my time on board Radio Caroline, we worked around the clock in shifts. But little did I realise what was in store for me that March afternoon in 1980 as I headed for my cabin and my usual siesta. “Every man has his 15 minutes of fame” and mine were soon to begin. “You'd better get up, Stevie. We're off the anchor”. Tom Anderson didn't seem unduly worried and indeed our ship, the Mi Amigo, had lost its anchor before and been adrift on several occasions. Not when I was on board though! I was up in a flash and hurried upstairs to find out what was happening. There was a heavy sea but we were used to that and the radio station was broadcasting normally. However my first glance outside showed me that we were not at our usual location. There should have been seven or eight crew on board. The make-up tended to be three or four English DJs, two Dutchmen who read the news and presented a live breakfast show for the daytime service aimed at Holland and Belgium, a transmitter engineer, a cook and occasionally a sailor. However, due to a mix up, although all those who were due shore leave had been taken off, there was only one replacement. Hans Verlaan was on his first tour of duty and had only arrived a few hours earlier. That left just us three Brits who between us knew the ship inside out, and the ship's canary. Looking back, I can see that, with the usual complement, lives could very easily have been lost but at that early stage none of us had any idea how the affair would end. “We'd better get the emergency anchor down!” Tom Anderson again and, yes, he knew how to do it. He had been on board the previous time it was needed. There seemed to be no immediate danger so I told Tom I would, as a courtesy, notify the coastguard but not until the ship was once again at anchor. He made his way forward to the bows and my other English colleague, Nick Richards, went downstairs to see if there was any water in the bilges. There wasn't, but that was the only good news! Tom Anderson was in trouble. The reserve chain was not wound around a drum or stored in a locker but lay in an untidy heap in the forepeak. The anchor itself was mounted above the chain on a slide and secured in place by rope binding. Using a large knife Tom had slashed through the ropes but, instead of sliding into the sea, the anchor sat stubbornly fast on the slide. Watching from the bridge, that was the first time I became aware that this time things might not go as smoothly as before. I could see Tom struggling to get the anchor free and I knew just how easily he could get swept overboard with it. The weather was steadily deteriorating but, just for a moment, there seemed to be a chance. Slowly at first, the reserve anchor was beginning to move. Tom had time to get clear. There was a rush of the chain, the anchor went down and the ship was no longer adrift. Time to notify HM Coastguard. My call was immediately answered and, although at first the fact that we had moved was not known, our new position over a sandbank close to a busy shipping lane was soon confirmed. Then an unexpected question! “We've got a lifeboat out” the coastguard told me. “Do you want to come off?” Surprised, I gave him an assurance that all was well. The ship was back on anchor, I reported, and there was no need for anybody to leave. That information was accepted but I was again told that there was a lifeboat standing by in the area. The six hours since I had been called from my bunk had disappeared. The time was now 9pm, low water, and the Mi Amigo sat ever so gently down on the seabed. For the first time in nearly three days the ship was lying quietly, there was still no water in the bilges, and there was time for a cup of tea. We could now see the lifeboat about a mile away at the edge of of the sandbank and, although we didn't yet have any idea how quickly our situation would change, we would soon be very grateful that it was there. The tide turned, the sea began to rise and once again there was movement in the ship. But what on earth was that awful banging? As the ship rose and fell with the tide, it was banging loudly on something which caused a series of shudders right through the vessel. (Probably what was left of the first chain was trapped between the hull and the seabed.) “There's water in the bilges. We'll need the pump running”. Nick Richards was as confident with the engine room as Tom had been with the anchor. Well, let's hope everything goes alright this time, as well. But the water continued to force its way in to the bottom of the ship. Nick had three very fast pumps running and the water was soon over the bilge plates, which meant the ship had taken in about two feet of water stem to stern. Watching from my station on the bridge I saw Nick making his way along the deck towards the engine room door suddenly waist deep in a breaking wave. I knew then that we would have to abandon ship. Neither of my English colleagues disagreed with my decision but, before we left, the radio station had to be closed down. None of us thought that the ship might be lost forever. We were more concerned about what could happen to the radio equipment if it got wet. Especially if it was still turned on! We were leaving because that was the sensible thing to do. Tom and I made our way to the studio, and Nick went to the transmitter hold to switch off there. We left our new Dutchman in the mess room out of his depth in every way. In a brief final message I told our listeners what had happened and why we were leaving the ship “... hoping that the pumps can take it” added Tom. And my final words: “from all of us for the moment, goodbye and God bless.“And then the four of us were upstairs at the door opening out onto the deck. The time to go had arrived. However there seemed to be no chance of the lifeboat coming alongside. The sea was much too rough. As the Mi Amigo rose on a wave, the lifeboat seemed to disappear in an adjacent trough, and then vice versa. Every time he tried to approach us only the extraordinary skill of the coxswain prevented his lifeboat from smashing into the Mi Amigo. A first attempt to leave from the stern was quickly found to be impossible. If we were to get off, it had to the usual way over the side! Coxswain Charlie Bowry brought his lifeboat up as close as he dared. For a brief moment the two ships stood quietly side by side and Tom and I bundled Hans Verlaan into the arms of the waiting rescuers. After his shaky start in the business, Ton Lathouwers (these days he prefers his given name) went on to become president of Sky Radio and a billionaire! However moments after we had passed him over to the lifeboat the raging sea had pushed the two ships one hundred yards apart. Nobody else was getting off just yet. We looked at each other and then, with a guilty start, Nick asked “What about Wilson?” The ship's canary was named after an earlier Prime Minister and we couldn't just leave him to his fate. Nick flew back into the mess room to get him. Then, once again, the lifeboat managed to close in but this time Wilson in his cage was first across followed immediately afterwards by Nick Richards. That left Tom and myself, and the weather was still getting worse. Quite a few minutes passed before the lifeboat managed to fight its way in and then there it was and it looked good! We couldn't both go. In case of an accident, one of us had to remain behind. Everything happened very quickly! The lifeboat was coming alongside. Tom and I turned to look at each other. “Go on then!” I told him and helped him on his way. No heroics on my part. It just seemed the thing to do. After all, I was the senior announcer even if he had worked for Caroline longer than I. But now I was alone. Too late to wonder if I had done the right thing. I was standing on the top of the deck rail, hanging on for dear life to a stay attached to the broadcasting mast. And there I remained until finally the lifeboat managed one last time to struggle alongside. Charlie Bowry had of course been making numerous attempts, but the storm was too severe and kept pushing him away. But, some twenty minutes after Tom had been snatched to safety, there they were again. Still grasping the stay, I reached out my other arm. Strong hands clamped around it like a vice. I was safe, and my few minutes of fame generated by the attention of the world's press and other media were about to begin". Footnote: daylight revealed that the Mi Amigo had sunk on the edge of a sandbank but part of the antenna was still above water. RNLI Coxswain Charlie Bowry received the RNLI's highest award for bravery for the rescue. Many at the time thought that this was the end for Radio Caroline, but this proved to be very far from the truth. The next chapter in Caroline's history was about to begin.

Radio Caroline returned to the air in 1983 with a huge and very impressive ship - the former side trawler and ice breaker the Ross Revenge, which between 1983 and the hurricane of 1987 boasted a three hundred foot tall antenna mast, which was the highest free floating marine structure in the World. The Ross Revenge remained at sea until November 1991.  My time on board was towards the end of the station's time based at sea. You can see a photo of a very young me above - click on the photo for a larger view. Any semi clandestine organisation tends to attract eccentric characters, and Caroline was no different. In the greater scheme of things, my involvement with Radio Caroline was relatively brief – some people from the time, such as station manager Peter Moore are still hard at it today. My own time with Radio Caroline was between 1988 and 1992; You can see a handful of photos by clicking here. I have a couple of hundred others that are not yet digitised. Initially I was involved with a group of friends who helped run the shore side of the organisation, and arranged for secret supply deliveries to be made covertly to the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge, which was anchored fifteen miles off the Kent Coast, opposite the North Foreland in an area of sea called the South Falls Head. I made several secret supply runs on a variety of vessels – invariably these would set out from places such as Strood Pier or Ramsgate Harbour at the dead of night, laden down with fresh drinking water, food, technical supplies, new records, letters from listeners and most importantly, magazines and newspapers for the crew to read. At the time I was working as a trainee quantity surveyor for a very prestigious London company. More and more of my time was being taken up with Radio Caroline activities, to the point where I realised that I was going to have to give up the day job – which was not such a big step, as I was struggling with my surveying exams, and had already realised that life on a building site was not for me. I jacked in the job, and six weeks later I found myself on board the Ross Revenge. I had a dual role. In the daytime I was to project manage the complete repainting of the ship from stem to stern (I had encountered a very wealthy Radio Caroline fan who owned a large commercial painting and decorating business West of London, who was happy to supply the organisation with roughly £10,000 worth of high quality marine paint), then at night I hosted a radio show featuring album tracks and various quirky news items. I was fortunate that this all happened in the long and glorious summer of 1990 – the weather was excellent, sea conditions for the most part were calm, and life was good. I have a host of stories from my time with the station – many of which sound decidedly far- fetched, though in those cases I have photos from the period for proof! Several people have suggested that I write a book about my experiences, and maybe sometime I will. To be honest, quite a few other Radio Caroline staff have written books over the years, and I wonder whether I would actually contribute anything worthwhile to the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at sea on the Ross Revenge, and still keep in contact with my old boss Peter Moore from time to time (being honest, working for Radio Caroline is a bit like working for the Mafia – you never really leave). Nowadays, though the station has retained and restored the historic Ross Revenge, it broadcasts mainly online from land based studios located in Strood High Street. Coincidentally, there was a story published this week in The Sun about Radio Caroline and organised trips to visit the Ross Revenge, which you can read here.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "We are pleased to report there has been no burglaries  on the ward over the past week. There has also been no reports of vehicle crime which is really good news. Barnehurst Officers assisted with a Licensing Operation on Barnehurst Ward. The operation was aimed at identifying drug dealers and users of cocaine. Drug testing kits and drug dogs were used to identify potential offenders who were searched accordingly. Arrests were made for possession of drugs. A number of residents from Holmsdale Grove received smart water kits over the weekend. Holmsdale Grove residents were offered the smart water due to the alley ways that run round the rear of the property's. In the past burglars have used these alleys to gain entry to property's with less chance of being seen. Lastly we regret to inform you, due to COVID-19 all community contact sessions will be cancelled as from today". Belvedere ward:- "The office have just had an email from a resident in Belvedere to say - 'Just had two cold callers at the door claiming to be from ‘Money Saving Expert' or ‘Money Expert' to talk about bills during the virus. It's a scam trying to get people to switch energy suppliers. Don't entertain them. They clearly have nothing to do with the well known website by that name'. I also had one of these cold callers knock on my door on Tuesday afternoon and in the evening in Northumberland Heath. It is uncertain as to whether this is a scam or not, but there will always be those who try to profiteer at times like this". Bexleyheath ward:- "Tuesday 10/03/20 Theft or Purse Stolen whilst in M and S Broadway. Wednesday 11/03/20 1745 – 12/03/20 0730 Theft From Motor Vehicle Upton Road. Wednesday 11/03/20 1500 Theft of Purse Stolen whilst in Charity Shop Broadway. Thursday 12/03/20 0105 Theft from Motor Vehicle Broomfield Road. Monday 16/03/20 0825 - 0845 Theft of Phone Belvedere Road. Monday 16/03/20 1415 – 1630 Theft of items from locked locker The Gym, Broadway. Monday 16/03/20 1620 Theft of items from locked locker The Gym, Broadway. Monday 16/03/20 1445 – 1630 Theft from locked locker The Gym, Broadway. Please be careful and do not take valuable to The Gym, Bexleyheath Broadway, as there has been a spate of thefts from the locked lockers". Crayford ward:-"There was an attempted burglary in Marden Crescent on Tuesday 10th March at approx. 9.15, the victim was aware as they received a CCTV alert on their mobile phone. The rear door had tool marks on but entry was not gained. A pedal cycle left outside and unlocked at flats to the rear of Crayford High Street was stolen between 20.00 on Thursday 12th March and 09.00 on Friday 13th March. A catalytic converter was stolen off a Honda whilst parked at Tanners Close between 18.30 on Thursday 12th March and 09.30 on Friday 13th March. A wing mirror was stolen off a vehicle (description not given) whilst parked in Mill Place between 22.30 on Friday 13th March and 08.15 on Saturday 14th March. Another catalytic converter stolen off a blue Honda whilst parked in Ridge Way between 18.00 on Friday 13th March and 09.00 on Saturday 14th March. The rear number plate LV69KCC was stolen off a Ford Transit whilst parked at Kennett Road on Tuesday 17th March. These are uncertain times, we will not be holding community contact sessions for the time being but please be assured that we are here if you need us. In an emergency please call 999, for non-emergency calls please call 101 or go on line at We can be contacted on 020 8721 2584 if you would like to speak to one of the team directly, please leave a message if we don't answer and we will call back when we are next on duty. You can also contact us by email" Erith ward:- "For anyone concerned we are carrying on as normal covering Erith. This will even include working from home for extra hours if needs be. There is 4 teams that work out out of Pier Road police office and we will all work together to help each other out. Just to remind you, you can report non urgent crimes online this will free up our call centre for more urgent calls. Weekly Crimes of note report - Friday 13/03/20 Theft of Motor Vehicle Park Crescent. Saturday 14/03/20 Theft of Motor Vehicle Bexley Road. Saturday 14/03/20 Theft of Motor Vehicle Sandcliff Road. We are looking to see if any of these are linked. Monday 16/03/20 Burglary St Francis Road - entry to flat via front door number items removed. Monday 16/03/20 Theft of Motor Vehicle South Road".  Northumberland Heath ward - no report received this week.

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Theft of Motor vehicle Friday 13/03 Rainbow Road, Theft of Motor vehicle Saturday 14/03. Overnight on 15-16/03 there were 3 Theft From Motor vehicles recorded all on the Frobisher Road estate including Power tools taken from a van. Burglary between 7pm and 7.15pm on Saturday 14/03 at Wessex Drive. Rear patio door left unlocked and items stolen, the suspect was disturbed by the victim. Aggravated burglary on Manor Road at 1145pm Sunday 15/03. Victim was injured in the seemingly motiveless violent incident. CID are investigating. Reassurance visits and patrols have been made by SNT officers. PC's Mark and James have had 2 positive drug stop and searches with the relevant warnings given. This week's crime prevention has been based around moped crime. In particular the garage area behind the shops in Bridge Road was checked where stolen bikes are often found. All garage areas are being checked. At this moment, we are working as normal during the coronavirus situation except all engagement activities have been cancelled for now. We will try and keep you updated during this difficult and unprecedented time of any major news. In the meantime, please keep an eye out on any vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours". Thamesmead East ward:- "Lensbury Way Wednesday 11/3/20 6:30pm – 12/3/20 5:50pm Victim states Vehicle broken into by suspect/s an untidy search of glovebox nothing reported taken. No damage to vehicle seen. St Katherine's Road Saturday 14/3/20 7pm – Sun 15/3/20 1:30pm Catalytic Converter removed by suspect/s unknown from victims vehicle Honda Accord. Criminal Damage - Harrow Manor Way Saturday 14/3/20 5:30 – 6pm Victim reports hearing a loud bang downstairs when investigated the kitchen window in the property had been smashed by suspect/s. A brick was found on the front lawn". West Heath ward:-"One attempted burglary this week in Exmouth Road. This incident took place on Wednesday March 11th between 10.30 – 15.00. The resident came home to find the barrel lock on the front door had been tampered with. Her key bent as she attempted to put in the lock. Entry to the property was not gained. Theft of number plates from a vehicle parked in Hurst Lane. This incident took place between Monday 16/03/20 15.00 – Tuesday 17/03/20 -12.00. Theft of a black Mercedes from a driveway in Dryhill Road on Wednesday 18/03/20 at 01.30 when the tracker on the victim's phone was activated. There is no further information regarding the location of the vehicle at this time. The team have made three arrests this week so far, these arrests were made as a direct result of stop and searches. The arrests were for non-payment of fines, possession of an offensive weapon and possession of a knife".

The end video this week is pretty topical; it features American TV chef and expert in the science of food and cooking, Alton Brown, giving a demonstration in a very effective way to wash your hands. Comments to

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