Sunday, January 17, 2021

The testing station.

I took the photos above yesterday morning - click on either for a larger view. They show a group of rather damp and bedraggled medical staff ready to test visitors for Covid-19. The staff were on site outside of the (currently closed) Energie Fitness gym in Erith town centre on Friday from 9-3, Saturday from 9-3 and today from 9-3. I saw a few locals getting tested on Friday when I passed the location, but due I feel to the utterly appalling weather on Saturday, when It rained heavily for most of the day, the test centre staff spent most of their time standing around for visitors who just did not turn up. I did also notice that the facilities for their use were scant, to say the least. A couple of flimsy gazebos which did nothing to block the driving rain and the bitter wind blowing straight off the adjacent River Thames. It also did nothing to preserve the privacy and dignity of any visitors being tested; those I saw being processed on the Friday were mostly older people - any who were potentially infected with Covid-19 really should be in the warm and dry, not drenched with rain and blown by a gale. I had expected the test centre to be a portakabin or similar solid structure suitable for use in a harsh winter - not a couple of flimsy garden gazebos. It felt like the authorities were merely "box ticking". What do you think?

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the New Cross Fire. Darryl of the excellent 853 Blog has written a piece about the anniversary that you can read by clicking here. The New Cross fire, when 13 young people were killed in a fire which started during a party they were holding in a house at 439 New Cross Road on the 18th January 1981. Much has been written about the fire and how it started. The commemoration made me think back to a conversation I had less than a week after the incident occurred. I was sitting in my English class at school, and the teacher was late arriving. I was sitting next to a chap called Adrian, whose cousin had been one of the victims of the fire. We talked at length, and he told me a story I have never been able to forget. I cannot verify the accuracy of his account, but I have since spoken to a couple of other people who lived in New Cross at the time, and it would appear to be consistent with their own experiences. Adrian told me that the party had been high spirited but not too rowdy; at some point an older man in his mid twenties turned up and successfully managed to gate crash the party. Eventually the man's boorish and drunken behaviour got him chucked out of the house - apparently there was an argument on the doorstep and he eventually went on his way. Adrian alleged that the man later returned with a Jerry can of petrol and set fire to the house, killing 13 party goers in the process. Popular rumour at the time was that members of the National Front had been behind the killings, and that they were racially motivated. Many in the Afro - Caribbean community had long felt ignored or even targeted by the police, who were able to hide behind the sus law to disproportionately target young black males. It suited local feelings at the time to be able to pin the blame on an external group of high profile racists, and gave the community a bugbear against which to unite. It has since been posited that the event was a cornerstone to the creation of an identity for young black Britons. You can read an essay on the subject by clicking here. The story continues; what I was also told was that the arsonist was actually caught and interrogated by the Metropolitan Police within a few days of the fire. He was then released and disappeared. Adrian said the reason for this was the man was a member of the Yardies, and also a high level police informer. The police were so frightened of losing control of the Yardie gangs in London, that they were prepared to overlook the murder of thirteen teenagers in order to protect their secret intelligence source at the time. I related this story to a friend who lived in New Cross at the time of the fire; he said "You know what? I heard exactly the same thing". Again, I have no way of knowing the truth of the account, but it certainly seems to be consistent with the situation at that point in history. Comments and feedback to me at

I have been giving some thought to the whole terminology of online journals, and what the names imply. Personally I am forming the opinion that the term “Blogger” may no longer be appropriate for the likes of Malcolm Knight, Darryl Chamberlain, or Richard of The Thamesmead Grump,  and indeed myself. In my opinion, blogging seems to denote the occasional postings of missives in a casual and inconsistent manner – a quick whinge about something to get it off your chest and into the world, whether the world is interested or not. Long term, regular postings in a consistent format that involves a considerable investment of time and effort, as well as a degree of subject research and accountability to the readership would seem to me to be more than mere Blogging. I would suggest that a more suitable term should be "community journalism". What do you think? Does it sound pompous and self-serving, or do I have a  point? Some readers are surprised at the amount of time I spend working on each weekly update of the Maggot Sandwich; on average each update takes around ten hours of work to research, write, edit, create web links and metadata for. Much of the time is spent in research – I try to ensure that I report on facts, not suppositions, and bearing in mind I am both reporter and editor this can on occasions be extremely difficult. I would solicit your opinions and suggestions. Answers on a postcard please, or better still, Email me with your thoughts to

That behemoth of online computer security holes and unwanted malware, Adobe Flash has finally come to the end of its long and mostly un-lamented existence. As of Tuesday the 12th of January, support for Flash ended, three years after Adobe first announced plans for the application to go end of life. You can read details of why Flash has now gone end of life, how you can uninstall it from your computer, and a host of other frequently asked questions by clicking here. That page repeats Adobe’s assertions that the likes of HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly “have continually matured over the years and serve as viable alternatives for Flash content.” Throw in the fact that “major browser vendors are integrating these open standards into their browsers and deprecating most other plugins (like Flash Player),” and Adobe is content to let Flash become an ex-plugin. Adobe’s page also explains why you will see an error message if you try and run Flash content from now on:- "Since Adobe is no longer supporting Flash Player after the EOL Date, Adobe will block Flash content from running in Flash Player beginning January 12, 2021 to help secure users’ systems. Flash Player may remain on the user’s system unless the user uninstalls it". Software within the Flash application has been configured to automatically block it from running on or after the 12th January. Adobe has also removed previous versions from its site, and "strongly recommends all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems." Thus ends Flash, which started life in 1993 as a vector drawing product named SmartSketch, from long-dead company FutureWave Software. FutureWave turned SmartSketch into an animation tool called FutureSplash Animator. FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia in 1996, occasioning a name change to Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia started to distribute the Flash plugin for the web browsers of the mid-1990s, and it took off as publishers and users alike looked for content that offered more interactivity than was possible with early versions of HTML - video and interactive multimedia content did not work "out of the box" on early web browsers - Flash added a great deal of functionality - but at a price of a lack of stability and security. By the early 2000s, Flash was all-but-required to experience the modern web of the day. In 2005, Adobe, which by then had well and truly figured out that online content was going to be rather bigger than desktop publishing, acquired Macromedia in part to get its hands on Flash. Doing so helped Adobe to cement its role as the de facto standard for creative tools. Adobe also got an increasing security burden because Flash was not well built. Hackers noticed the plugin was the Swiss cheese of computer security – full of holes – and exploited the software mercilessly to infect victims around the planet with malware. After years of assaults, and the rise of alternatives, Adobe announced the demise of Flash in July 2017, saying support will be dropped on December 31, 2020. Browser-makers agreed to expunge Flash, and from 2020 onward warned users that running Flash was a very bad idea, and would not run it by default. Those users, by and large, cannot now access Flash content.

One of my occasional "Then and Now" photos. The upper photo shows Erith railway station as it appeared in the spring of 1970; the lower photo shows what it looked like somewhat more recently.  It is immediately obvious that the building has changed remarkably over the time period, and in my opinion it looks far better nowadays than it did back then. I believe that the way the station looks now is pretty close to what it originally looked like when it was built back in 1849. The structure on the front (to the right) in the 1970 photo appears to be a "goods in" depot for freight - I know that historically the station used to have a small branch line and an extra mini platform for the loading and unloading of sheep, pigs and coal, amongst other commodities. By 1970 this kind of freight was long in the past, and newsprint was the main load, though commuting into and out of London was very much on the increase - the days of most Erith residents working locally was decreasing. The focus of the station was already moving away from freight and onto catering for daily commuters instead. The station was (pre Covid lockdown) host to around 2,500 passengers every weekday - somewhat less at weekends.

I had some excellent reader feedback from the article last week on AM Stereo radio – the great media format that was successful in the USA, Japan and several Commonwealth countries, but never got off the ground in the UK, despite the best efforts of a failed offshore radio project. BBC 5 Live still delivers appreciable audiences on AM as do Talk Sport and Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin AM). The national scale of those stations adds bulk to the UK AM total listening hours figure, but one imagines that the costs of transmission and the Ofcom licence fees mean that the owners, UTV and Bauer, can see the day when they wouldn’t trouble to contest their AM licences. DAB alone would work better for them. Radio 4 boasts a clutch of FM and DAB transmitters, but its prize possession remains its powerful 198 Long Wave transmitter, beaming out from an antenna slung from the 700' high masts at Droitwich. The closure of that would be for the BBC would be extremely unpopular with the core Radio 4 audience.  It may be apocryphal, but it is suggested that this dusty transmitter relies on valves which can no longer be replaced. (Actually this is untrue – the Russians still  make the huge ceramic RF power valves that could replace those in the Droitwich 198 kHz Long Wave transmitter). The fact is that whilst AM services are being retired, the predicted rise of DAB just has not happened at anything like the extent the powers that be would have wanted. Ironically, listening figures for Internet radio have in many instances exceeded the number of listeners to DAB, especially as many people listen on the move using 4G / 5G on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Many European governments would love to sell – off the VHF FM band as well, but for many people FM is still the radio waveband of choice – signals are reliable, receiving equipment is cheap and widely available, and unlike DAB, FM portable receivers can run for ages on batteries. AM analogue services may be well on their way out as far as the press is concerned, despite stations such as Radio Caroline on 648 AM broadcasting very successfully on the band, but analogue FM still also has years of life in it, and in my opinion may well outlast the never very popular DAB. What do you think? Email me at

The blue plaque pictured above (click on it to see a larger image) is mounted on the wall of The Royal Victoria and Bull pub and hotel in Dartford. The pioneering steam engineer and mining expert Richard Trevithick died in the hotel (at that time known just as The Bull) back in April 1833. He had been lodging there for some months. Following a week's confinement in bed he died on the morning of 22 April 1833. By this stage in his life, he had been declared bankrupt; he was penniless, and no relatives or friends had attended his bedside during his illness. His colleagues at Hall's works (where he has been an engineering consultant) made a collection for his funeral expenses and acted as bearers. They also paid a night watchman to guard his grave at night to deter grave robbers, as body snatching was common at that time. Trevithick was buried in an unmarked grave in St Edmunds Burial Ground, East Hill, Dartford. The burial ground closed in 1857, with the gravestones being removed in the 1960s. A plaque marks the approximate spot believed to be the site of the grave. Another plaque lies on the side of the park, near the East Hill gate, and an unlinked path. Richard Trevithick, was born in Illogan, Cornwall, in 1771. He was educated at Camborne School, but he was more interested in sport than academic learning. Trevithick was six feet two inches high and was known as the Cornish giant. He was very strong lad and by the age of eighteen he could throw sledge hammers over the tops of engine houses and write his name on a beam six feet from the floor with half a hundredweight hanging from his thumb. Trevithick also had the reputation of being one of the best wrestlers in Cornwall. Trevithick went to work with his father at Wheal Treasury mine and soon revealed an aptitude for engineering. After making improvements to the Bull Steam Engine, Trevithick was promoted to engineer of the Ding Dong mine at Penzance. While at the Ding Dong mine he developed a successful high-pressure engine that was soon in great demand in Cornwall and South Wales for raising the ore and refuse from mines. Trevithick also began experimenting with the idea of producing a steam locomotive. At first he concentrating on making a miniature locomotive and by 1796 had produced one that worked. The boiler and engine were in one piece; hot water was put into the boiler and a red hot iron was inserted into a tube underneath; thus causing steam to be raised and the engine set in motion. This was not a practical design, as without a firebox, the steam pressure could only be maintained over very short journeys. Even when this problem was solved, he encountered more issues with the rails on which his steam engine travelled - at that time the rails were made of cast iron, rather than rolled steel, and they were very brittle as a result. In the summer of 1808 Trevithick erected a circular railway in Euston Square and during the months of July and August people could ride on his locomotive on the payment of one shilling. Trevithick had plenty of volunteers for his locomotive that reached speeds of 12 mph (19 kph) but once again the rails broke and he was forced to bring the experiment to an end. Without financial backing, Richard Trevithick had to abandon his plans to develop a steam locomotive. Trevithick now found work with a company who paid him to develop a steam dredger to lift waste from the bottom of the Thames. He was paid by results, receiving sixpence for every ton lifted from the river. Trevithick found it difficult to make money from his steam dredger and in 1816 he accepted an offer to work as an engineer in a silver mine in Peru. After some early difficulties, Trevithick's steam-engines were very successful and he was able to use his profits to acquire his own silver mines. However, in 1826 war broke out and Trevithick was forced to flee and leave behind his steam-engines and silver mines. He was a good engineer, but it is generally accepted that he was an exceptionally poor businessman. Although inventors such as George Stephenson argued that Trevithick's early experiments were vital to the development of locomotives, in February 1828, the House of Commons rejected a petition suggesting that he should receive a government pension. After this, and several other misguided schemes failed, Trevithick was forced to seek paid employment at the Hall's engineering works in Dartford, where he later died whilst lodging in the pub.

If one walks down Walnut Tree Road in Erith, opposite the historic Old Carnegie Library, there is a large piece of waste land in front of the main entrance to The London South East Colleges - Bexley main building. Bexley Council had undertaken to clear the land once the final phase of construction of the college had been completed. Now, several years later, the land is still overgrown. As a consequence, the area is absolutely teeming with rats. They often come out of the undergrowth and run along the path, 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, they will only breed and spread. I was reading a historic article on the BBC News website earlier in the week 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. You can read the story here. 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 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 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. Do leave a comment below, or Email me at

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Overnight on Saturday 9th Jan there was a report of a theft from a motor vehicle along Twigg Close Erith, number plates were stolen. Also reported on Saturday 9th Jan in the morning between the hours of 10:30 am & 10:50 am along Twigg Close, a car window was smashed and a purse was stolen from inside the vehicle. On Sunday 3rd Jan between the hours of 2 am and 7 am along Chipstead Road Erith – access was gained to the victim's vehicle and items taken from within. On Monday 4th Jan at just after midnight along Westfield Road Bexleyheath – the victim had noticed someone inside their vehicle with the vehicle lights on but did not make off with the vehicle and had left the scene". Belvedere ward:- "There was an attempted theft of a motorcycle in Elstree Gardens at the end of last week, the suspects of which were unsuccessful in their attempts as they were chased off by occupants of the address before Police were called for assistance. The team has been concentrating our patrols around Picardy Road as we were receiving numerous reports of anti-social behaviour by groups of youths gathering and causing disturbances – in particular seemingly targeting Shabs newsagent. We are pleased to find, having continued these patrols and with regular visits to the newsagent to offer support, that these incidents appear to have stopped. We continue to patrol Picardy Street and in particular Mary Slessor House, where we have been contacted regarding several groups gathering in the communal stairwell to use drugs. Whilst we have not observed any groups at this stage, we will continue our patrols and urge residents to contact the team with any information that they can offer". Bexleyheath ward:- "There have been no reports of burglaries on the ward, which is good news. Overnight on Saturday 9th January there was a report of a top window conservatory reported smashed at the rear of the property. A vehicle was reported stolen early hours in the morning on Monday 11th January from outside the victim's address along Erith Road Bexleyheath. A car window was reported smashed between the hours of 5 am and 6 am along Heversham Road Bexleyheath on Tuesday 5th January. A bag was snatched off from an elderly female containing her purse whilst they were shopping on the Broadway on Tuesday 5th January, suspect was seen running to a vehicle and then driven off. This was about 10 am in the morning". Crayford ward:- "We are really pleased to report that there have been no burglaries on Crayford ward in this last week. But we have had four vehicles stolen.  A white Honda CBF125 with the registration of LN10 SFJ was stolen from the driveway of a property in Whitehill Road, it had been chained up and the owner still has the keys.  It is not known exactly when the bike was stolen as the owner was unwell and hadn’t left home at all. On Sunday 10th January between midnight and 8 am a white Jaguar with the registration DE65 ZZR was stolen from the driveway of a property in London Road.  There was glass on the driveway. Also on Sunday 10th January believed to be a similar timescale, a black Range Rover number plate OY66 PHO was stolen from the driveway of a property also in London Road.  The owner still has keys but the vehicle used keyless entry technology. Between 14.00 on Sunday 10th January and 08.00 on Monday 11th January a red Vauxhall Zafira Club MPV with the registration of EN55 FHV was stolen from Ridge Way, it had been left locked and secured. Please see for further information about keeping your home and vehicles safe and secure.  As ever, stay safe and well". Erith ward:- "Crimes of note from the last wee - Thursday 7/01/2021 Theft of Motor Vehicle Erith Road. Friday 8/01/2021 Theft from Motor Vehicle West Street. Saturday 9/01/2021 Theft of Motor Vehicle Bexley Road. Saturday 9/01/2021 Theft of Motor Vehicle Erith Park. Tuesday 12/01/2021 Theft of Cycle Church Manorway. As we can see from the above we are getting a lot of motor vehicle crime". Northumberland Heath ward:- "The ward has been concentrating patrols on Horsa Road, Hengist Road, Brook Street, Carlton Road, the reason being a rise in motor vehicle crime at these locations. Please be mindful when leaving your car, that there are no valuable items on display or left inside your vehicle. The team will be conducting patrols and attending addresses if valuable items are on show in order to give crime prevention advice. Whilst on patrol on the evening of Thursday 7th, we found three male youths loitering in the park in North Heath Rec, these males were given strong words of advice and reminded of the COVID Lockdown rules. Please be assured that whilst out and about we will enforce this where applicable. Please make sure your teenage children are not breaking these rules, we will be bringing them home and seeking answers from parents. There have been no burglaries on the ward this week". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Our first update of the year and unfortunately we have had eight vehicle crimes across the ward so far this year. These include number plate theft, items stolen from vehicles and three vehicles stolen. Nearly all of these have occurred overnight. Once again we ask that all valuables are removed from your vehicles at all times. If you require anti-theft screws for your number plates, please let us know. We will be patrolling hot spot areas as and when we are on duty. There has also been a couple of attempted shed/garage break-ins around the Canada Road area. Please ensure your sheds and garages are secure. For any crime prevention advice, please contact us via email and we can send out all the relevant information. The team have had two probationer officers with us for the last couple of weeks and for the next couple too. This has seen an increase in Stop and searches in the ward with two positive outcomes where drugs were seized from the suspects. A male dealt with by PC Mark in Frobisher Road last May has this week been found guilty at court of several offences including drug possession, Public Order and Threatening behaviour. He has been ordered to pay over £200 in fines, given a Community Order and a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO)". Thamesmead East ward:- "Motor Vehicle crimes - Between the hours of 10:00 am on Tuesday 5/1/21 and 9:00 am on Thursday 7/1/21 a vehicle parked near to Harlequin House, Kale Road was stolen. Sidney Road On Thursday 7/01/21 at 10:48, vehicle left unlocked whilst the owner went to collect post from the house, a mobile phone was stolen, a male was detained and the property returned to the owner. A vehicle parked in Overton Road was stolen between the hours of 2:28 pm and 2:38 pm on Friday 8/1/21. The owner stated that he was not in possession of the vehicle keys. On Tuesday 12/1/21 between the hours of 00:00 and 7:00 am a vehicle locked and secure parked in Wolvercote Road was broken into, an untidy search by suspect/s, nothing was taken and no damage to the vehicle". 

West Heath ward;- "Good news this week. No burglaries or motor vehicle crime has been reported on the ward. The team held a virtual ward panel meeting on Saturday evening, our promises for the next quarter remain the same, burglary, motor vehicle crime and anti-social behaviour/drugs. Take care and stay safe. At 11.57 pm on Tuesday 12th, January two men started trying car doors in Berkeley Avenue (from the Normanhurst Avenue end). One neighbour informed 101. They walked into driveways backwards, presumably so their faces couldn’t be seen on cameras. Fortunately, the milkman came round the corner and it seemed to disturb them and they went off in the direction of Normanhurst Avenue".

The end video this week is a documentary on the life and works of senior KGB agent Melita Norwood - the most successful Soviet spy in Britain in the post war years, who stole British nuclear secrets and gave them to the communists. The traitor Norwood lived for many years in Nursery Avenue in Bexleyheath. Comments to me at

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