Sunday, April 03, 2022


I took the two rather dramatic looking photos last week; it would appear that the long standing drainage problems experienced by the Erith branch of Morrison's have taken a turn for the worse. A large area at the junction of Appold Street and Wheatley Terrace Road has been dug up by engineers from Thames Water over the last few days. A whole section of drainage pipe work is being removed and replaced. This is linked to the serious drainage problems which have been experienced by Morrisons supermarket  for many years. If you have visited the Erith store, when you walk in the main entrance, there is a very strange musty, somewhat whiffy smell. Smell I am lit to believe that this is one of the symptoms of the serious drainage blockage which keeps recurring. Long term readers will be aware that I have highlighted this problem for over a decade. Up until now, Morrisons have done little other than book Thames Water to manually clear the blockages, but they have done nothing to address the underlying problems. It would seem that it long last something is being done to permanently resolve the issue. The blockages have been happening on roughly a weekly basis. How much money Morrisons management have spent on Thames water engineers coming to unblock. The drain is unknown. I would estimate that each visit must cost around £1,000. If you factor that over a 10-year timescale, the cost must have been immense. I also wonder if the frequent blockages have caused issues to the Thames Water pumping station also located in Appold Street.

Following my article last week on the removal of emergency alert systems used by elderly and disabled people when phone providers migrate from legacy analogue "copper wire" telephony to fibre optic digitally based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) systems over the next few years. One regular reader, and occasional contributor who wishes to remain anonymous has written the following article on the subject:- "I was interested in your article about the translation of BT Phones to a VOIP system.  One penalty of that is the current system (as you know) powers the phone lines from the BT end, without that power in a power cut situation the new system which needs to be connected to the Electricity Grid don't work. We have also experienced this with Virgin Media who provide our land line via their street side input. However, recently our landline stopped working (we had been warned about changes but not about disconnection).  When I called out an Engineer he discovered that the old underground cable network wasn't working for us.  So he applied a fix, which meant installing a Virgin Media modem into the house to provide the service. We were than given a long run of coax type cable around our living room to the virgin phone input located at the place they installed their telephone line into. At the moment that cable runs around the room behind settees and chairs, we hope to hide it under the carpet or along skirting boards in due course.  If we'd wanted the point moved to be adjacent to the point where the old Virgin Media input was, we would have had to pay an extortionate sum to have it done - as it was regarded as a new installation with resultant costs to us.  We declined to pay that charge. However, one bonus was that we were put onto an amended contract which reduced the cost of the phone line substantially. by two thirds. Who knew that a supplier is actually going to reduce your monthly bill by that amount? A friend of ours who has one of those pendants and who is also on Virgin Media for her phone had her pendant updated by the service provider free of charge so that it works with the new technology.   I suspect that they had pity on her as recently widowed, her pendant had been supplied for her deceased husband, now she needs it for herself.  A stroke of good luck for her as if she had required a new installation it would have cost a lot more on a new contract".

The upper of the two historic photos above shows part of the river front factory in Erith High Street once used by electronics manufacturer Burndept. This looks to have been taken shortly before the building was demolished; the former Erith Riverside Swimming Baths can be seen in the foreground. Burndept once had another, larger manufacturing facility located in the former Vickers-Maxim munitions factory in St Fidelis’ Road, off West Street and close to the railway line and where Bronze Age Way now runs through. The lower of the two photos shows the beginning of the demolition of the old factory, on what is now the Erith Riverside Gardens. Click on either photo to see a larger view. Burndept built all sorts of electrical and electronic devices, and did a lot of sub – contracting work for other companies. During the war Burndept produced military communication equipment until April 1941, when the Erith factory was almost completely destroyed by a German incendiary raid, forcing the company to relocate production to a former jute mill in Dundee. However, after the war, Burndept returned to Erith, where they set up business in Erith High Street and St Fidelis Road. During the 1960s, the company manufactured the SARBE life jacket beacon for the RAF and a number of Commonwealth and foreign air forces. The beacon sent an automatic and continuous transmission of a homing signal as soon as the life jacket entered the water. They also built mobile two way radios for industrial and commercial use. The St. Fidelis Road factory shared premises with Vox musical instruments, maker of the world famous Vox AC-30 guitar amplifier, as used by pretty much every major band in the 60’s and 70’s. in fact, Burndept made the chassis and cases for many Vox organs and amplifiers. By 1965 Vox and Burndept (who by this stage were largely owned by the same parent company) were pretty much different departments within the same umbrella organisation. Later, the Vox brand was sold off to Japanese musical instrument maker Korg, and it is now no more than a label. Burndept struggled on into the late 1970’s, until finally becoming part of the Ever – Ready group. All operations in Erith ceased, and the final Erith High Street factory was demolished - the demolition work can clearly be seen in the lower of the two photos above. Comments to me at

As I predicted recently, the plans for a theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsula - which have had multiple setbacks and delays - have finally been withdrawn. In a statement issued on Tuesday of last week, the project lead made the following announcement:- "In the best interests of the London Resort, we are withdrawing the current application; as a result of the classification of Tilbury as a Freeport which has meant revisions are required in moving the ferry terminal from Tilbury to Grays. We are working closely and collaborating with Thurrock Council on that matter". The theme park would have been the size of 136 Wembley Stadia, and potentially could have employed around 15,000 people. Recently the proposed site of the park was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England. Their opposition to the park development centred around a critically endangered jumping spider only found in one other place in the UK. The Distinguished Jumping Spider is incredibly rare. The species is a conservation priority, and has been placed on the UK list of Biodiversity Action Plan species. In the UK, the spider's only other habitat is the West Thurrock Marshes in Essex. Opposition also came from the Thames Crossing Action Group, who are strongly opposed to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Laura Blake, Chair of the Thames Crossing Action Group, said in an interview with website Kent Live:- "We like many have had serious concerns over the proposed London Resort. There was no way we could have supported London Resort whilst opposing the LTC, it would have just been too hypocritical.The reasons to object to both projects are just too similar, including how hugely destructive and harmful they would be, the traffic and congestion issues they would inflict, and the negative impacts to businesses, communities, and people's lives, health and well-being. We are delighted by this latest news, and hope that London Resort will come to their senses and not even attempt to resubmit their plans again, as there is no way the theme park should go ahead on the Swanscombe Peninsula or anywhere else round here. Huge thanks and well done to Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI and everyone else who has been fighting so hard! Together we are stronger!"

Welling resident and Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association committee member Sandra Fox and her husband Tony are staunch supporters of the Slade Green Food Bank. They have recently been recognised for their voluntary work in the magazine "Chat" - as you can see in the image above - click on it for a larger version. 

I don't normally feature, or comment on national news stories, as "proper" journalists cover thee far better than I ever could; I do make an exception this week, for reasons which will soon become readily apparent. As regular readers will be aware, I have featured local edible oil producer ADM Oils on several occasions in the past. Their factory in Church Manorway, Erith is the largest producer of cooking oil and low fat spread in the UK, and one of the largest in the whole of Europe, It is also one of the largest local employers. Several readers have alerted me to a story on the factory which is currently featured on the BBC News website, which you can read here. Thanks specifically to Miles, who was the first to bring the story to my attention. It would appear that the war in Ukraine is affecting the production of sunflower cooking oil at ADM Oils, and could lead to food shortages in the future. 

As regular readers will be aware, the News Shopper – which used to be a local paper, but is now little more than a regional one, has been suffering from a lack of readership and very low staffing levels for several years now. Many of the articles published both on the physical paper and on their website, are little more than click bait. For example, they are currently running an article which purports to be a list of Southeast London's best pubs. In fact, all the editor has done is get some very junior member of staff to go through the TripAdvisor website looking for entries of pubs in the region, and do little more than a copy and paste to create content for the paper. For anyone with any knowledge of the best pubs, certainly in the London Borough of Bexley, the published list is somewhat frustrating, as it is clear that the author of the article knows little. If anything about the subject. Subject. One clear example of this is that they say that the best pub in Barnehurst is the Red Barn, which is adjacent to Barnehurst railway station. It is not a particularly poor pub, but when compared to the  nearby The Bird and Barrel, an excellent micro pub that is operated by the Bexley Brewery, in my mind there is no competition. The Red Barn does have a significant place in musical history, however; it was the home to the resurgence of Traditional Jazz music in the 1950's and early 1960's. The pub was built back in 1936 and was home to local jazz band the 'George Webb Dixielanders'. George Webb, a worker at nearby Vickers, formed the band with his friends in 1944 and performed regularly at The Red Barn on Monday evenings. The pub is celebrated as the home of the revival of traditional jazz in Britain and jazz legend George Melly unveiled a plaque on 4th July 1985 to commemorate this. The pub still has the plaque and photographs of this event on display. His source material, like the Yerba Buena's were the early recordings of Oliver, Morton and Armstrong. The Dixielanders made some recordings for Decca as well as sessions for the small Jazz label. Trumpeter, Humphrey Lyttelton joined the band and assumed leadership. In 1949, the band made some historical recordings with Sidney Bechet. The Lyttelton band went on to record many sessions for the Parlophone label, eventually landing a top twenty hit with Bad Penny Blues. Incidentally, back in the 90's, I used on occasion to see George Melly at Charing Cross station, where he was probably waiting for a train to his home in Blackheath. I used to think his outrageous, lurid suits were part of his stage attire; this was not the case – he really wore them in public! You really could not miss him, even in a crowd of people. Comments to me at

Now for a little bit of good news; if anyone has travelled in or around the De Luci fish roundabout in Erith recently, it will have been abundantly apparent that the crash safety barriers that line the road around the entrance to Bronze Age Way have been in a very sorry state for quite some tine. The barriers have been impacted by numerous vehicles, leaving them bent and battered - and giving little to no protection to passing pedestrians. Local Councillor Nicola Taylor sent me the following update regarding the forthcoming remedial works:- "I have at last got a date for the cleaning, gully cleaning and replacement of the bent railings, it has taken nearly 2 years of pushing! A lane closure will take place on 13th/14th May for all the works to be undertaken safely.  I attach some pictures of the railings that I took this week which show how bent and mangled they are after a number of RTA's. I know that the Deluci mosaic statue by Gary Drostle has mixed reviews but as it is considered by many as a landmark for our town it is important the roundabout looks as nice as possible. I have been pushing for the road to be closed and cleaned and maintained for nearly 2 years now so I am really pleased we finally have a date scheduled". Nicola goes on to comment on Fraser Road - which will be the site of increased double decker bus activity, when the 180 bus route is modified and extended, as I have previously written. Nicola comments:- "After many emails going to and fro I have found that Fraser Rd was last inspected in Nov 21 and that no maintenance works are scheduled for the road which would suggest that they consider it to be able to sustain the additional traffic. I am told that it will mean " approximately 200 more vehicle movements at the location per day albeit passenger service vehicles".  The road will continue to be monitored as part of the usual inspection cycle taking into account the additional traffic going forward".

On the first of April, Apple had its 46th birthday. Whilst nowadays it is a technology giant worth billions, its early years were somewhat rocky and uncertain. Today Apple is in the third act of its story. Back in the 1970s, it had its exciting first act, then it went through turmoil in the 1990s for its second, before ultimately becoming the textbook American success story. You can start a multinational, multi-billion dollar company in a garage. It's not as if starting a company was the obvious move, however. In the mid 1970s, Steve Wozniak had designs for what became known as the Apple I computer, and his friend Steve Jobs had designs on selling them. Steve Wozniak, better known as Woz would have given them away to anyone interested, Jobs would not, and even so, even Steve Jobs did not set out to make a company. Instead, both of the Steves first tried very hard to sell their ideas to the existing firms they either worked for then or had worked for. Woz was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard at the time, and he managed to get senior engineers to examine his design with a view to HP buying them. Not only did they agree that it was workable, they also recognized that it could made cheaply — yet still they passed on it. Woz's ideas didn't fit with what they thought a Hewlett-Packard computer should be. Atari felt the same. Jobs attempted to get his old employer Atari interested in what would become the Apple II, but he too was rejected. Except that Atari's Al Alcorn put Jobs in touch with venture capitalists, and the road to forming a company was begun. When they did formally found Apple, it was with another Atari engineer, Ron Wayne. He would famously design the original, immensely ornate Apple logo, and then he would even more famously leave the company before it took off. It's just that he left even faster than you might imagine. The three men officially formed Apple on April 1, 1976, and Ron Wayne resigned 12 days later. He'd been offered ten percent of Apple, but chose instead to be bought out by Steve Jobs for $800. That would later be increased as the far more experienced businessman Mark Markkula came on board in 1977 as an investor. Under Markkula, the Apple corporation officially bought out all three of the original partners, for a total of $5,308.96. For legal reasons, Wayne got a third of that despite having already left. That was the very start of Apple - a corporation which nowadays is one of the most influential and profitable in the world. Even when they first started in the rented garage, Steve Jobs came up with the following statement about their then fledgeling company - "People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities". To this day, Apple is known for how well it presents its products, how carefully designed the packaging is. Today, that is still part of what makes Apple, Apple. And it was there, written into the company, right from its very beginnings.

The end video this week is a bit of history - it is an amateur shot film, featuring a visit made by the Queen to Bexleyheath back in July 2005. I have to admit that prior to seeing this video, I did not know that the Queen had visited locally. You learn something every day. Comments to me at

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