Sunday, April 12, 2020


Erith Morrison's seem to have made some very good decisions as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic; as mentioned last week, the precautions taken to socially isolate customers and staff seem to work well, and cause minimum disruption to the shopping process. On the other hand, the store management have made some quite curious, if not completely perplexing decisions, as can be seen in the photo above - click on it for a larger version. The well used, popular salad bar has been closed and replaced with a large display containing crates of Prosecco. When one considers the requirement for all people to eat healthily, especially to maintain one's resistance to infection, it would have been thought that access to fresh vegetables and salad items would have been a premium consideration. On the other hand I can see that despite breath shields, the salad bar could be considered a potential vector for infection. Also, the salad and custom pizza creation area are relatively labour intensive, and with the need to have additional staff on the shop floor, directing customers to maintain a two metre distance from one another must involve making some pragmatic decisions; having said that, I am not entirely convinced that replacing fresh salad with a display of Prosecco bottles is entirely sending the right message to customers. What do you think? Email me at

On another food and drink related theme, Brewer Shepherd Neame has provided a much-needed boost for local hop growers this week, by placing a bumper order for Kentish hops. Following shifts in production requirements prompted by the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the Faversham-based independent family brewer has tripled its usage of Kentish hops. It has therefore just purchased an additional 4,000kg of Kentish hops from local growers to meet demand. In an article originally published on the Produced in Kent website, Senior Brewer Stewart Tricker said: “Shepherd Neame has always been committed to supporting local hop growers, and we typically use around 85% Kentish hops in our ale portfolio, which includes great British classic ales such as Spitfire. We also use Kentish hops where possible to provide a robust bitterness in its other more contemporary beers, such as the Whitstable Bay collection and Bear Island collection, while using more aromatic continental or American hops to provide the desired hop-forward aromas. Following the Government decision to close all pubs last month, our current operational focus is to continue production at the brewery and maintain sales to supermarkets. The majority of these orders are for premium bottled ales, so we are now focusing our efforts almost exclusively on beers that use Kentish hops, such as Spitfire and Bishops Finger. This temporary change in demand has therefore resulted in an increase in our usage of Kentish hops.” The large order placed by Shepherd Neame offers much-needed support for the Kentish hop growers, many of whom have seen a collapse in demand from brewers following the closure of pubs. Chief Executive Jonathan Neame said: “Hops are an intrinsic part of Kent’s heritage, and Shepherd Neame is proud to have been based in the heart of hop country for more than 400 years. We are committed to supporting local businesses, and we hope that our order will go some way to helping Kentish hop growers in these extremely difficult times.”

I have written in the fairly recent past of the integral part The Red Barn pub in Barnehurst played in the resurgence of interest in traditional Jazz music in the UK in the decades following World War II. I have written in the past about the part played by musicians Chris Barber and George Melly, who played regularly at The Red Barn, but I have only touched on another, equally talented and influential Jazz musician. George Webb, who died on March the 10th  2010 aged 92, he was universally acknowledged to be the father of the postwar traditional jazz revival in Britain, serving as an inspiration to, and frequent band member with, the trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton. The movement George created, which grew steadily in the late 1940s, led directly to the "trad boom" of the late 1950s and early 1960s in which he also played a leading part, first as pianist and bandleader and later as agent and promoter. George Horace Webb was born in Camberwell, south London, on October 8 1917, the son of a music hall artiste. His earliest memories were of his father and uncle (the "Brothers Webb") rehearsing their act at home. The family later moved to Belvedere, and George took a job at the Vickers Armstrong armaments factory in nearby Dartford. When war broke out in 1939, he was already a skilled machine-gun fitter and thus exempt from the call-up. A keen jazz enthusiast and self-taught amateur pianist, George helped organise entertainment in the factory canteen and, in 1940, began assembling a group of like-minded young jazz lovers with the aim of forming a band. The intention was to play in the style of the early jazz masters, whose music they knew well from records. In 1941, the band acquired a name: "George Webb's Dixielanders", and a regular place to play – the downstairs bar of the Red Barn pub in nearby Barnehurst. Modelled on King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band of 1922 to 1924, their music sounded alien, even barbaric, to ears brought up on crooners and English dance bands. George was fond of recalling the band's first appearance at The Red Barn: "By the time we had finished the first number we were playing to about ten people, the other 50 having fled to the saloon bar upstairs." A sometimes pugnacious character, he once defended the band's honour from a mocking onlooker by striding off-stage mid-performance, landing a heavy blow, then returning to the keyboard. But the word gradually spread, and over the next six years jazz devotees converged upon their unlikely suburban stage to enjoy the unique experience of hearing jazz in the classic style played live. One such visitor was Humphrey Lyttelton, newly demobbed Grenadier Guards officer, first-year art student and aspiring jazz trumpeter. He sat in with the Dixielanders and was soon invited to become a permanent member. As the style took off in the postwar years, a growing network of venues, along the lines of The Red Barn, became established around Britain. There were features in the music press, occasional radio broadcasts, and even recordings. In 1948, with its members scattering in search of employment, the Dixielanders folded and George joined Lyttelton's newly-formed band as pianist. Partly as a result of George's pioneering work, Humphrey Lyttelton quickly found a new audience among the growing student population. In place of the beer-sipping aficionados of The Red Barn, his band played for crowds of youthful dancers at venues in central London, and later around the country. It also recorded prolifically, with George's effervescent piano often featured. He was a small man, with tiny hands, which Humphrey Lyttelton said reminded him of a pair of kittens, scampering up and down the keyboard. In 1951, observing the growing popularity of revivalist jazz, George thought it a good moment to branch out into promoting jazz events. The most successful of these were the Sunday night sessions at the Shakespeare Hotel, Woolwich, which played to packed houses until the early 1960s. In 1955, George joined the staff of Jazzshows Promotions, booking bands and singers for the ever-expanding club and concert circuit. Leaving Jazzshows after 10 years, he set up his own management and agency business, numbering rhythm and blues groups as well as jazz bands among his clients. George barely touched the piano during these years, but returned to playing in the early 1970s. He toured Europe as accompanist to the singer Jo Starr and, in 1973, briefly formed a new version of the Dixielanders. In 1974 he took the tenancy of a pub at Stansted, Essex, a move which enabled him combine all his various activities. He ran the bar, booked the entertainment and sat in with visiting bands whenever he felt like it. In 1985 George gave up his tenancy and moved back to Belvedere, close to the scene of his early triumphs. On July 4th of that year he was guest of honour at the unveiling of a plaque at The Red Barn, commemorating his contribution to British jazz. He continued to promote jazz through his "Goodtime Jazz Festivals" and regularly attended the local Sidcup Jazz Club. Although officially retired, he resumed playing with gusto,  appearing as guest artist with many bands, formed several temporary outfits of his own, and was always the first to volunteer to perform at a charity event. In 1998 he took a prominent role in the celebrations of Humphrey Lyttelton's half-century as a bandleader. He continued to play with his "Band of Brothers" until the end of his long and colourful life.

The Coffee Tavern shown in the two historic photos above used to be a prominent building located in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere (NOT Nuxley Village - no such place exists - it is a fictional construct dreamed up by out of town estate agents and has no historical relevance). The Coffee Tavern was one of the oldest buildings in the area. For the last couple of decades it as been the home of (the currently shut due to the lock down) The Spice Master Indian Restaurant. The building that the restaurant is located in has a lot of history. It was originally constructed as a Victorian temperance cafe called the Belvedere Coffee Tavern and Refreshment Bar – see the period photographs above - click on either for a larger version. I can dimly recall it as a “greasy spoon” type cafe when I was a child, growing up in Upper Belvedere. I never went in it, but would go past regularly. In the mid to late eighties the cafe building was extensively extended and remodelled, to the extent that the owners got into some rather hot water with Bexley Council planning department, as the original structure was a grade II listed building, and they altered it so much that it lost its’ listing. At the same time it was extended, it changed from being a rather scruffy looking cafe into a rather upmarket Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita, which seemed to be mainly  frequented by elderly Jaguar driving wide boys and their brassy wives. It was very popular at lunch times for people holding business meetings, and at weekends it was packed – especially for Sunday lunch when one would need to book in advance to stand a chance of getting a table. During the middle of this period, it was exposed by the News Shopper has having the worst kitchen hygiene recorded in Bexley to that date; the place was so bad that it was featured on at least one television consumer protection programme. This had the effect of killing trade off almost overnight. They cleaned the place up, and re-launched it the next year with a new name –“The Garden”, but people had long memories, and the trade did not return. One diner of the time told me ”It was nearly always empty and almost overly friendly with the service. We knew of its health and safety problems (but that was like a year before we'd started going there so it had cleaned up its act) and we had some lovely meals. We tended to use it as a "sod-it-we-can't-be-arsed-to-cook" night as it was local, quite reasonable and they had a tolerable/well priced wine list. It was nice enough but I'm not a fan of Italian Restaurants seeing as at home we eat a lot of Italian style dishes (pasta, lasagne, meatballs, Mediterranean salad etc) so I like to have stuff a bit different when I go out.  It was the height of mid-80's home decoration inside, if I remember rightly. Artex about 3ft thick and everything covered in fake Roman columns, plastic ivy and plaster statues with B and Q's finest wall-hangings and light fittings. Probably quite swish in the day but when we were there in the mid-90's it was a little tired and dated and not my type of thing at all”. Not long after this, it closed for good and lay empty and boarded up for quite a time.It was about at this time that I moved to Erith, and was less aware of the goings on in Nuxley Road than I used to be. The old restaurant building was again gutted and refurbished, this time as an Indian restaurant The Spice Master; the first competition for the venerable and long established Belvedere Tandoori, which was one of my introductions to high street curry eating back in the day. I did not try the new restaurant, now called The Spice Master for many years; I was working in the East End, and used to visit the legendary, and sadly now closed Sweet and Spicy a couple of times a week; I would also make regular lunch time trips to the Halal Restaurant in Mark Street E1 – which has been serving up genuine Bangladeshi food since shortly before WWII, and is one of the oldest continually in service curry houses in the UK. In many ways at this time I was spoiled for choice, and “ate what the locals ate”. Consequently I did become quite sniffy about ordinary high street curry houses and the food that they cooked. I felt that it was not “authentic” and was too engineered to suit a Western palate. In essence I had become a bit of a curry snob.  During this time, The Spice Master just curried on (oh the wit!) and our paths did not cross. Once I had moved on from the job based in the East End, the curry consumption drastically reduced, but I still had a degree of disdain for ordinary high street restaurants. Over the last few years I have come to realise that your high street curry is a thing on its own. It may not bear much resemblance to food you would eat in Bangalore or Karachi, but it has now been around for long enough to have created its own unique identity – it is what it is, and it is rightfully unapologetic. Most high street curry, whilst being called “Indian” is actually far closer to Bangladeshi cuisine, as most of the original restaurant owners came from Bangladesh, rather than India, but were quick to realise that in 1950’s / 1960’s Britain, most English people had not heard of Bangladesh, so a bit of inspired re - branding labelled the new food outlets as “Indian” restaurants.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Good news for Barnehurst Ward, there have been no burglaries over the past week. There has also been no reports of vehicle crime. The team have been out and about, due to Covid-19 we have been asking people to return to their homes, we would sooner police by consent than issue fines, we have patrolled open spaces, car parks and supermarket areas". Belvedere ward:- "The team have been carrying out several patrols of open spaces and parks throughout the ward in the last week to ensure that current government guidelines in relation to COVID-19 are being adhered to. We are pleased to say that for the most part, there do not appear to be any issues around this as most people are keeping distance from others and most people observed are walking dogs and not loitering in any particular areas. However, we have been advised that there are several younger people that have been using the basketball court area of Franks Park on some afternoons (which has been closed by Bexley Council). Whilst we have not been witness to this as yet, we would advise that if there are people using the equipment in any of our parks/ open spaces, that you should call 101 and let Police know. Our patrols will continue and anyone seen using equipment will be spoken to and dealt with as required. With regard to crime on the ward, we can report that there have been no reports of burglary since our previous update. There have been two reported thefts from motor vehicles around the Picardy Road and Fremantle Road areas – number plates removed from vehicles that have been parked in the street. Please continue to follow the government advice and remain at home unless absolutely necessary – for food, medical/ health reasons or to travel to work (if you are unable to work from home). If you do go out, try to stay at least 2 metres from other people at all times. Should you decide to go out for exercise, this can be done alone or with members of your household – do not meet up with friends or other family members". Bexleyheath ward:- "Sunday 05/04/20 Theft of number plates from a motor vehicle Rydal drive Bexleyheath. The team have been out and about, due to Covid-19 we have been asking people to return to their homes, we would sooner police by consent than issue fines, we have patrolled open spaces, car parks and supermarket areas. Please observe the lockdown and only leave your property for the following reasons: Stay at home, unless: * shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine * taking exercise – alone or with members of your household * for any medical need, or provide care to a vulnerable person * travelling for work purposes, but only where they cannot work from home. BBQ's and picnics in public places DO NOT constitute taking exercise." Crayford ward:- "Just two crimes to mention this week. The driver's window of a black Peugeot 208 was smashed on Tuesday 31st March at 22.21 whilst parked in Station Road close to the shops, nothing was stolen. On Sunday 5th April at approx. 16.55 a female was robbed. The incident began in Thames Road by the Ford garage, a male approached the victim and tried to snatch her phone. She continued to walk down to Howbury Lane and the male continued to follow her and snatched the phone, an iPhone 11 in a blue case. He is described as an IC3 male, aged 25-35 years with a pencil thin goatee, dark clothing and wearing a green helmet, he was riding a blue pushbike and headed away up Lincoln Road. The team have been out and about, due to Covid-19 we have been asking people to return to their homes, we would sooner police by consent than issue fines, we have patrolled open spaces, car parks and supermarket areas. We were made aware of a white transit van parked in Ridge Way that appeared to be abandoned, it was on cloned plates and the vehicle had been stolen from Sussex, it was recovered to Charlton pound". Erith ward:- "We have been out on the ward on foot, bike and van questioning anyone we see as to reasons for being out in this lockdown. Crimes on Erith are low at the moment, we haven't had a burglary all this week but that does not mean we are not still focusing on the normal jobs we do. We have been concentrating on areas that are still getting high motor vehicle crime. Stay safe if you need information from us send an email to" Northumberland Heath ward:- "Unfortunately there has been a report of an attempted garage burglary in Silver Spring Close on 02/04/2020 at approximately 23:30hrs.The suspects were seen by a witness and made off from the scene. Males were seen getting into a black Volkswagen Scirocco. There has also been reports of a white transit van with the registration plates covered up . SNT have also assisted OXLEAS this week in completing a mental health assessment on an elderly gentleman. The team have Officers patrolling the ward next week and will be focusing on the ASB hotspots. There hasn't been any reports of Drug activity or ASB within Northumberland Recreation Ground since the camera has been put up. Also the wall has been removed by the council with a new mental fence which has prevent local youths from congregating. Please see our tweets on @MPSNorthHeath where your see good stories, advice & information on COVID-19 also scam warning advice. I must remind everyone you should only leave home for essentials such as food or medicine, or to exercise".

 Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Late night on Friday 03 April someone tried to force entry into the rear of McColls – again! Fortunately entry wasn't made. The shop's head office will be asked to improve the CCTV set up at the back of the premises. We are aware that the weather is nice at this time but we urge you all to not keep going out for unnecessary reasons. Far too many reports are coming to our team, and indeed across Bexley, of groups congregating in parks and open spaces. This needs to stop. Anyone seen outside in a group will be dispersed and fines issued accordingly if necessary. Our officers will be patrolling parks and open spaces whenever possible. Please, stay safe". Thamesmead East ward:-"No residential Burglaries to report this week. Vehicle Crime - Drake Crescent SE28 on Tues 31/4/20 10 pm – 7 am Victim reports front number plate removed by suspect/s unknown. Mangold Way DA18 on Thurs 2/4/20 between 11:30 am – Fri 3/4/20 5 am Victim returned to vehicle to find number plates had been removed by suspect/s unknown. Southmere Drive SE2 on Thurs 2/4/20 10 pm Victim reports vehicle not been used for two weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions when victim went to turn the vehicle over it was noticed the back seat had been pulled down by suspect/s unknown who have gained entry into the boot and removed a parcel. Redpoll Way DA18 Tues 7/4/20 2:30 pm – 11 am victim reports both front and rear number plates removed by suspect/s unknown". West Heath ward:-"Another week with no reported burglaries. One theft of a black Mercedes from a driveway in Longleigh Lane on Friday 03/04/20 between the hours of 1300 – 18.20. One report of criminal damage to a classic VW Beetle in Bedonwell Road on Friday 03/04/20 16.30 – 22.30. The team have been busy patrolling parks, open spaces and conducting reassurance visits to local shops during this this difficult and testing time. We have received reports of groups gathering in Clovelly Road and playing football. We all have a responsibility to each other and our communities to stay at home despite the recent good weather we are currently experiencing. We wish you a happy and peaceful Easter, stay safe and keep washing your hands!"

The end video this week is quite topical. It features classic comedy drama show M*A*S*H and how scenes from the show can teach people today many vital lessons in avoiding infections such as Covid-19. Do give it a watch and let me know what you think by Emailing me at

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