Sunday, March 29, 2020

RAF Nightingale.

I took the two photos above - click on either for a larger view - on Tuesday lunchtime, in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Most, but not all of the shops were closed; now pretty much everything is now closed. Much public transport is now ceased, including trains on the Dartford via Greenwich line to Charing Cross, and London City Airport is shut - news reaches me that it is set to become ‘RAF Nightingale’ as it closes to all but military traffic. The Airport is situated next to the Excel Centre in London which is being converted into NHS Hospital Nightingale to treat COVID-19 patients and ease the pressure on Hospitals. The temporary hospital will have 4000 beds across two wards. Supplies have already started to arrive at the hospital, and it is expected that Royal Air Force (RAF) C130 Hercules, C17 Globemaster and Airbus A400M transport aircraft could utilise London City Airport to bring in supplies for NHS Nightingale and potentially even transport patients. London City Airport is a challenging airport that requires a steeper than normal approach and shorter take-off and landing rolls, something the RAF is well used to doing in theatres such as Iraq. I have seen a couple of Hercules transport planes flying over the Thames at Erith this week, no doubt practising landing at the airport. One other transportation facility has closed very quietly - and for a reason I will now outline. The Emirates Air Line cable car, which runs over the River Thames is from what I understand, unlikely to reopen after the current virus pandemic is over. This is a tacit admission of something that observers have been aware of since the cable car opened – it is not, as then London Mayor, and now Prime Minister Boris Johnson originally stated, an integral part of the transport system for London, instead it is a tourist attraction, designed to get more footfall in the South East of London – which apart from Greenwich has historically not had the number of foreign visitors that other parts of the capital enjoy. As a commuter service, the cable car is slow, unreliable and expensive – the Jubilee Line which runs under the river is a far more convenient and speedy (not to mention cheaper) alternative. Boris Johnson called it an infrastructure project to be able to claim part of the funds from central government; but in reality it has always operated at a loss. There is absolutely no way the numbers of passengers on the cable car can even be servicing the interest on the debt – and word has it that Emirates are keenly aware of the deleterious effect their sponsorship of the “white elephant” is having on their corporate image. the only time you see people using it are in the school holidays, when parents take their offspring for a jaunt across the river and back – apparently the small number of users mainly don’t stay on one or other side of the river, but return almost immediately to the side that they started from. This reinforces the assertion that the whole thing is a failed tourist attraction, rather than a serious way for Londoners to get around town. If the Emirates Airline Cable Car had been built next door to The London Eye, I have no doubt that it would have been  a massive attraction, and a great success – the problem is that it was built in the wrong place, going from nowhere to nowhere over an industrial park, a scrapyard and a few warehouses on the way. The Coronavirus situation has given the operators a way to back out from the enterprise whilst saving a little face at the same time. What do you think? Email me at

Many local residents, including cricket fans may not be aware that the very first three international cricket matches between England and Australia were actually held locally, many years before the Ashes tournament was founded.  The matches took place on what is now the Europa Industrial Estate. Adjacent to Erith Railway Station and Fraser Road. A contemporary newspaper report reads as follows:-  “20 September 1884: H H Hyslop's Xl v XVI of Erith and District. Then came 1884, when I was 10, and as a climax to the season, the news that the Australians were coming.  Great was the excitement, added to the fear that Spofforth, the "Demon", would paralyse the local batsmen.  As it happened, only four "Aussies" were included in a side brought down by Mr Hyslop, a friend of the captain of Erith, Mr Corbett, to meet 16 of Erith and district.  Spofforth was not one of them, but the quartet were formidable, being Palmer, Boyle and Giffen, a trio of tip top bowlers, and Blackham, generally considered to be the finest wicket keeper playing.  Two other well-known visitors were Godfrey, who often appeared for Sussex, and the Rev. A Carter, of the Yorkshire Gentlemen, whose antics when fielding caused much laughter. The district team went in first, and then came surprises.  Boyle, the bowler, was behind the stumps and Blackham, the famous stumper, shared the bowling with Palmer, and each in his unusual position distinguished himself, Boyle stumping four batsmen and Blackham taking five wickets for 26.  As Palmer collared ten victims for 17 with his easy action and deceptive deliveries, the total was a poor one of 51.  However, to everyone's surprise, the famous visitors did not do too well either, and had not Giffen, after a lucky let off at 4, gone on to 46, and Palmer 22 in good style, they might well have been behind.  As it was they reached 101.  The bowlers responsible for their poor display were Horner of the Surrey 11, who took four wickets for 26, and Parish, the local "demon" who also got four wickets at a cost of 32.  The 16 went in again, but fared no better, losing seven for 28, Haywood, the Eltham "pro", getting 17 not out.  This time Boyle bowled and bagged a couple, but Palmer was still the most destructive with 4 more victims, his complete bag being 14   11 bowled, 3 stumped. Some features of this match have remained vividly in my mind over a period of 57 years, especially the mastery of Palmer over his opponents, for he seemed to get a wicket whenever he liked.  During an interval he came to the railings, chatted with spectators and impressed them with his charming personality.  He asked me if I played and when I stammered "Yes" he said, "Then, my boy, always play the game and always be a trier." I was the proudest kid in Erith that day, and ever after I rejoiced in Palmer's success in Australia.  Palmer remains in my memory as one of the finest bowlers I have ever seen, both for action and effectiveness. 1 May 1886: - Erith and Australia v Bickley Park and Kent. On May Day, 1886, a quartet of "Aussies" were again in Erith, playing for Erith and Australia v Bickley Park and Kent   high-¬sounding titles both.  Blackham was one of the four, but instead of Palmer, Boyle and Giffen we had S P Jones, Evans and Garratt.  Harry Nuttall, who later kept wicket for Kent, was on the same side, but the opposing team was not an impressive one, the chief personality being "Nutty" Martin, of Dartford, who played for Kent from 1885 to 1899, and in that time took 979 wickets for the county   17 runs apiece.  He was considered one of the best left handed bowlers in the country, and on the one occasion that he represented England against Australia was the leading instrument in winning the game by taking 12 for 102. In the match I'm telling of, Erith and Australia batting first were well served by three of the Cornstalks, Jones 57, Evans 60 and Blackham 59.  Martin with five wickets was the most successful bowler.  Against a score of 244, the response was lamentable for facing Garrett, eight for 16, and Evans, three for 15, Bickley Park were helpless and were all out for 37.  To general regret Blackham again did not keep wicket, Nuttall officiating there.  Happy memories are conjured up when I think of "Sammy" Jones promenading the ground arm in arm with an equally light hearted Erith player. 3 May 1890: - H H Hyslop's XII v XVIII of Erith and District. Yet another visit from down under cricketers on May 3, 1890, when Mr Hyslop obliged with a team that included nine of that year's tourists, the most that ever played here.  There were Blackham, Boyle and Jones again, and Dr Barrett, Turner, Murdoch, Burn, H Trumble and G H S Trott.  In batting, Murdoch, who afterwards played for Sussex, was the best man, and Turner, known as the "Terror", was one of the world's outstanding bowlers.  Until our "Tich" of Kent beat it, he held the record for most wickets in first class cricket in a season.  Five other tourists, Lyons, Walters, Charlton, Ferris and S Gregory, watched the game. So Australia could have fielded a full side. Two others in Hyslop's XII were county players, Bacmeister, of Middlesex, and Fielding, of Surrey.  It will thus be seen that the 18 of Erith and district, who were the opposition, had a tough lot to meet. The best known in the local team was W Wright, a Notts "pro" who played for Kent for 12 seasons and in 195 matches took 727 wickets at a cost of 19 runs each.  Later, this same year at the Oval, I saw him receive the injury which sent him to St Thomas' hospital for six weeks.  It was a gallant attempt to catch Lohmann from a terrific return that he had his hand split. Another County man in the side was Bombardier Barton, who did little for Kent, but much for Hampshire.  He was a useful all-rounder and a superb cover point.  Two others, Roberts, for Hampshire, and Hunter, for Kent, had appeared a few times for their Counties.  By this time I was assistant groundsman (that sounds better than ground boy) and scorer for the Erith Club, so I was lucky enough to score in this match, to be photographed in distinguished company, and take an innings at the superb lunch when I scored freely. The 18 batted first, Barton played the best cricket for 21, Faulkner hit well for 32, and Hutchings delighted the crowd by smacking Turner all over the ground, one big drive laying the scoring tent low.  He made 35 in about 20 minutes.  Turner got most wickets but his cost 36.  The total was 156, sufficient to make a draw, as Hyslop's men got 128 for three, the scoring being very slow.  Barrett in particular being painful, his 50 taking 2 hours 20 minutes to make.  Trott 31, and Murdoch 22, were others who batted.  Barton took two wickets for 11 and was difficult to score from, Parish sent Trott's stumps flying to take the other wicket that fell.” The author of the cricketing memoir ends his recollections with the following comment: “The ground was beautifully situated where the beginning of the GEC works now stand. On one side was a wooded cliff, and underneath that was the narrow footpath that led to and beyond our old recreation ground, where other local clubs played their matches, men and boys' teams often jostling each other. About a year from the final appearance of Australian players here. Erith lost its ground, Fraser and Chalmers' works were built upon it, a deplorable change cricket¬-lovers thought, but they were powerless to avert it.  As a result the club dissolved, and by 1892, our recreation ground also having been built on, there was only the Working men's Club team in the place, and that, too, was defunct by the next year”. As many of you know, I am not a sports fan, but it is fascinating to discover, as I have done during my research for this weeks' entry, that Erith and the surrounding have been pivotal in the development of several now major sports. Football had much of its' origins in Erith in the early 1880's. Prior to 1885-1886, only Rugby Union was played in Erith - there were three clubs in the area; Star Rovers RFC played on Lessness Heath, near the Eardley Arms pub. Erith Raven RFC played on the recreation ground adjacent to the aforementioned cricket ground, and lastly, Erith Anglo - Normans RFC played on Faulkner's Meadow. This club had to be disbanded when the meadow was purchased, and the Nordenfeldt gun works was built on the site; no suitable alternative playing ground could be found for the club and it was wound up. In April 1885 Association Football was introduced to Erith by a gentleman called Bernard Beard, who came to Easton and Anderson's engineering works as manager of the boiler shop. A club was formed, called Erith F.C which played on an area then called Hartley's Meadow - which was located on the banks of the River Thames, just of what is now Lower Road. As a result of a personal dispute between club members,  a rival club was established called Erith Avenue F.C. At first, as they had no ground, they were forced to play all of their games away, but they later were successful in securing a ground in what is now Avenue Road. Meanwhile, Erith F.C relocated from Hartley's Meadow to Lower Belvedere. Several members of the team subsequently played for Woolwich Arsenal F.C, what was later to become the current Premier League Arsenal club. The present Erith and Belvedere club was founded in 1922 and had its' ground adjacent to Belvedere railway station for many years, until arsonists destroyed their main clubhouse and Park View stand in 1997. The club soldiered on for two years, using portakabins on the site, until they entered into a ground sharing arrangement with Welling United in 1999, which is still in place to this day.

A couple of readers have asked me how I am coping with the current enforced isolation; well the answer is not badly at all, thank you. I am set up to work quite easily from home, as you can see in the photo above. Pewty Acres has a dedicated office at the back of the house, which coincidentally is also where the Maggot Sandwich gets produced every week. My job can be performed entirely remotely via video conference and other collaborative software tools such as Jira.

The current forced closure of pubs, bars and restaurants has made me ponder. When the current extraordinary situation is finally over, and life is able to return to normal, there will no doubt be some outlets that will not survive; conversely there may well be some that wish to relaunch and to have a public offer that differentiates them from the competition. As regular readers will be aware, I am somewhat partial to a curry. How high street curry houses could return after the enforced quarantine might be dictated by having a different offer to their rivals. It did get me thinking; whilst the contents of the menu in most high street Indian restaurants are usually fairly similar, depending on the chef and the target market, the same is almost always not true of the drink available. It is almost without exception going to include three or four varieties of lager.  Apart from my personal preferences not including lager (too cold, too gassy, too tasteless) it strikes me as an opportunity for a curry house owner to do something to stand out from the crowd. Personally I think that real ale is a far better accompaniment to curry than lager is ; real ale does not fill you up with gas, for one thing. It tends to have a more robust, malty and hoppy flavour which works well with the strong flavours Indian spices create. I think the only down side with serving real ale in a curry house is one of shelf life. Once a cask has been opened, it needs to be used within three or four days before it goes off; I doubt that many curry houses would serve enough to justify it. I would like to hear your views on the subject – either leave a comment below, or Email me

A group of IT security researchers has proved that it is possible to break the encryption used by many mobile phone payment apps by simply measuring and analysing the electromagnetic radiation emanating from smartphones. “We show that modern cryptographic software on mobile phones, implementing the ECDSA digital signature algorithm, may inadvertently expose its secret keys through physical side channels: electromagnetic radiation and power consumption which fluctuate in a way that depends on secret information during the cryptographic computation. An attacker can non-invasively measure these physical effects using a $2 magnetic probe held in proximity to the device, or an improvised USB adapter connected to the phone’s USB cable, and a USB sound card. Using such measurements, we were able to fully extract secret signing keys from OpenSSL and CoreBitcoin running on iOS devices. We also showed partial key leakage from OpenSSL running on Android and from iOS’s CommonCrypto.” The attack can be performed easily and cheaply, the researchers noted. An encryption technique known as ECDSA (Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm) is used in many popular apps such as Bitcoin wallets and Apple Pay, and that’s why the researchers wanted to see if such an attack was possible. The challenge they took on was particularly hard, as ECDSA signatures are randomised. As mentioned before, the attack can be performed cheaply as it does not require any pricey and difficult-to-get equipment – quite the opposite, in fact. Small loops of wire acting as electromagnetic probes can be easily concealed inside various objects that come in proximity with mobile devices, such as phone cases. The phone’s power consumption can be easily monitored by augmenting an aftermarket charger, external battery or battery case with the requisite equipment. You can read a full account of how the exploit works by clicking here.  Be warned, it is somewhat technical! This kind of hack may be unusual and uncommon at present, but as with many of these kind of exploits, it is never long until the crooks find ways to make it easier, cheaper and quicker to undertake. You have been warned.

Readers may recall that a couple of years ago that I observed that whilst Liverpool never ceases to find excuses to celebrate The Beatles, and their links with the city, Dartford seems almost embarrassed to be the home of The Rolling Stones in comparison. OK, you have The Mick Jagger Centre, but that is about as far as it goes. Some years ago a campaign was started to get a blue plaque erected on Platform 2 of Dartford Station, to commemorate the place where Keith Richards and Mick Jagger first met on returning from buying obscure blues albums in Soho. They discovered they shared a deep love for the music, and the rest, as they say is history. One thing has changed though. A local company is running something called The Satisfaction Tour, which describes itself as “Join us on a fascinating and fun – filled coach tour of Dartford – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ home town. Discover where Mick and Keith grew up and met before the formation of the Rolling Stones, the world’s greatest rock and roll band. Tour guests staying at the Hilton Dartford Bridge Hotel will be collected from the hotel and taken to Dartford Railway Station, where the tour begins. The tour will then take you onto the places associated with Jagger and Richards early years, such as visits to their childhood homes and schools. Dartford Railway Station where Keith and Mick became reacquainted on platform 2 in October 1961; The hospital where they were born; Keith's teenage home; Holy Trinity Church where Mick was christened and Keith sang in the choir; Len Goodman's Dance Studios; Keith's childhood home where we visit the garden and his bedroom. Near here you will have the opportunity to stop for refreshments. Mick's childhood home; Wentworth Primary School where Keith and Mick first met; Dartford Technical College where Keith attended (now Wilmington Grammar); Mick's teenage home; Dartford Grammar School where Mick attended.” I would imagine that this would generate a lot of interest amongst foreign Stones fans, though personally paying a tour fee of £29.95 to stand on Dartford Station and then to look at Len Goodman’s dance studios (which incidentally are situated above a discount supermarket in Market Street, Dartford) has a somewhat limited appeal. I hope the tour does well. You can read more about it, and see some vintage photos of the legendary rockers if you click here.

Now for an additional feature which may become regular, depending on reader feedback. Bexley Fire Brigade weekly update. From Peter Curtin, Borough Commander for Bexley, London Fire Brigade:-"Over the previous 7 days there have been 22 incidents within Bexley borough that have required an attendance from the LFB. Of these 11 were false alarms and 6 were special services (3 x road traffic collision, 1 x flooding's, 1 x providing medical assistance, 1 x hazardous material incident). We also attended 5 fire calls, 3 were outside incidents including grassland and 2 refuse fires. On Friday we attended Morrison Supermarket James Watt Way Erith ward, where a youth had deliberately set fire to paper/cardboard in the shops toilet. The fire detection system sounded the alarm so minimal damage was caused. The final fire incident was on Sunday afternoon at a residential property in Jennintree Road Slade Green & Northend ward. This was due to a chip pan fire in the kitchen was overheated and caught fire. It was extinguished quickly reducing the damage caused. The residents were reminded of the danger of leaving hot oil unattended, even for a short time. The busiest wards were Crayford, Erith and Slade Green & Northend with 3 incidents, Crook Log, Longlands and Thamesmead East each had 3 incidents. During the current uncertain times regarding CoVID-19 we want to reassure the public that London Fire Brigade continues to provide a full emergency fire and rescue service to the capital. Our crews are practising Social Distancing where possible whilst still maintaining their operational training and fitness training when on duty. Our message to the community is to stay at home and practise social distancing".

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. No report from Barnehurst ward this week. Belvedere ward:- "On Thursday 12/03/2020 there was a car broken into on Picardy Road. The contents of the car were tipped out and loose change was taken. There have been quite a few reports of this nature whereby no damage has been caused to gain access to the vehicle and small things have been taken. Overnight on Tuesday 24/03/2020 to Wednesday 25/03/2020 another vehicle was broken into on Abbotswood Close, same as above, contents thrown about and loose change taken. There was also another theft from motor vehicle in Halifield Drive in the early hours of the Tuesday 24/03/2020. Similar to the above. On Sunday 22/03/2020 officers conducted another visit on a suspected brothel on Wilton Road. This was a second visit, first being in December 2019. In December the occupants were issued notice to cease the behaviour. This follow up visit was to check that issues had subsided. There was no clear evidence that the house was still being used as a brothel but enquiries are ongoing. Please do be considerate and follow government advice with regards to Coronavirus. Take note of government announcements and observe any laws that are put in place to protect you, your community and the country as a whole". Bexleyheath ward:-"Between Monday 23/03/20 at 1930 and Tuesday 24/03/20 0815 Theft of Motor Vehicle Long Lane. Thankfully our crimes have reduced this week whilst everyone continues to stay home. We have had some shop lifting this week which is not unusual given the area our ward covers but there are no more than normal". Crayford ward:- "Number plates stolen from a Vauxhall Astra on Wednesday 18th March whilst parked in Norris Way, CCTV showed the suspect's vehicle was also a Vauxhall Astra. Number plates stolen from a red Kia whilst parked in Crayford Way between Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th March. Fencing and weather boards were stolen from a property in Dale Road on 23rd March. Unusually low crime in Crayford this week. Please stay safe". Erith ward:-"This last week Erith team as well as officers from North End and Northumberland Heath have been patrolling all 3 wards explaining to people the need to stay indoors, Also visiting most shops and supermarkets reassurance for members of the public. You can get up to date on what the team is doing via looking at our twitter page @ErithSNT. Crimes of note: Theft - Thursday 19/03/20 Riverdale Road. Theft - Friday 20/03/20 Walnut Tree Road. Theft Morrisons Saturday 21/03/20." Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward - no report this week. Thamesmead East ward:- "Attempted Burglary Aspen Green on Sunday 22/03/20 5:00pm - 10:30am Monday 23/03/20 Suspect/s entered through the garden ,damaging a fence, outer pane of rear double glazed door smashed, no entry gained. Bazalgette Way Tuesday 17/03/20 4:30 pm - Friday 20/03/20 at 8:10 am An attempted burglary on a commercial premises. Padlocks broken no entry gained. Theft in a Dwelling Hinksey Path Saturday 21/03/20 11:08am 2 pedal cycles stolen from a garage Motor Vehicle Crime Dalberg Way Tuesday 17/03/20 7:00pm - 12:00pm Wednesday 18/03/20.Catalytic Converter stolen from vehicle. Kale Road Monday 23/03/20 10:00pm - Tuesday 24/02/20 01:00pm, number plates stolen, later found on a stolen vehicle and handed back to owner. Bayliss Avenue Tuesday 24/03/20 between the hours of 2:00pm – 5:00pm Motor vehicle stolen. Other Theft Hartslock Drive Wednesday 18/03/20 06:00pm – Thursday 19/03/20 06:00am, a 20 yard roll - on – roll off skip stolen from location. Criminal Damage Redbourne Drive Friday 20/03/20 12:00pm -13:30pm, lock damaged to communal entry door. Another Criminal Damage in Redbourne Drive Friday 20/03/20 2:14pm suspect smashed a ground floor window". West Heath ward:- "Good news this week! No burglaries or motor vehicle crime have been reported to us. This is a dramatic and worrying time for everyone during this period of uncertainty. The team are continuing to patrol the ward and it is very much business as usual in relation to stop and searches and day to day work. Please stay safe and well and remember to wash your hands regularly!"

The end video this week illustrates what happens when local criminal fly tippers are caught and  subsequently prosecuted. Comments to

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