Sunday, January 01, 2023


I have received more emails in the last week on the subject of the forthcoming changes to the checkouts at Morrison's in Erith; apparently the Sidcup Morrison's has already converted to almost all self service checkouts, with only a couple of staffed checkouts. My sources tell me that there have been complaints from customers, and that one person reported that she saw at least one customer walking out. A source within Erith Morrison's spoke to me on the understanding that they would not be identified. The source said that some staff members are under threat of redundancy, and that staff morale was the lowest it had been in their memory. Now that word has got around concerning the changes to the store, I was told that several customers have expressed their concern over what they consider to be a retrograde step; as I have previously written, the Erith Morrison's senior management are not keen on the store going almost all self service with the exception of four staffed checkouts, but the changes have been dictated by the new owners - Clayton, Dubilier & Rice - an American private equity company. It is one of the oldest private equity investment firms in the world, but not an expert in retail management. As I have previously wondered, it is possible that they are unwittingly running the supermarket chain into the ground in order to maximise profits. Additionally, as reported in The Guardian, Morrison's private equity owners have asked hundreds of staff – from store managers upwards – to invest thousands of pounds of their own money in the business. More than 800 people have been asked to invest in the ailing supermarket in the past few months, with one well-placed source saying middle management level departmental heads had been asked for £10,000 while the directors of departments had been asked for £25,000 each. It is understood the minimum investment required to participate was £2,000. The source said that, while contributions were voluntary, some staff were annoyed about feeling pressed to make a cash contribution to an ailing business at a time when the cost of living was soaring. What do you think? Email me at

On a somewhat connected subject, when standing in a supermarket queue, or waiting to pay for my paper in my local corner shop, I am struck by the large number of women’s scandal magazines that are on sale. I am thinking of titles like “Take a Break”, "That's Life!", "Love It!", "Pick Me Up!", and a handful of others. Apart from having an almost compulsory exclamation mark in their titles, the other thing that all of these publications have in common is that they sell stories about personal tragedy in the same way that other magazines aimed at an almost exclusively female audience sell celebrity gossip and slimming tips. These magazines are marketed as light reading, something to be absorbed whilst lingering over a cup of tea, yet they are filled with disturbing, harrowing stories that would only be covered after the 9pm watershed if they were a television show. The design, format and colour scheme of all of these magazines are rather formulaic; They generally have a young, smiling woman on the cover, a sort of "girl next door" type. The rest of the cover is filled with boxes and banners in primary colours - a means of grabbing the attention of a potential buyer. The trouble is that the content of the banners is horrifying - life changing events such as murder, incest, acid attacks, crimes of violence and personal tragedy. The irony is that many of the stories involve crimes of violence against women, yet they are read by mainly women as light entertainment. They seem to be the printed equivalent of the old Jeremy Kyle show; I worry about the people who purchase these magazines. It strikes me that anyone who enjoys reading about the misfortunes of others probably has some issues themselves. I would be interested in what you think.

The London Borough of Bexley has ranked very favourably in two recent polls - if which the results are to be believed are somewhat of a mixed blessing. Firstly, the borough comes nearly bottom in the number of reported knife crimes over the last year. The borough with the highest number of offences since June is Southwark with 348. Croydon is in a close second with 343 and the boroughs of Westminster and Lambeth are joint third with 327. At the other end of the scale, the boroughs with the lowest number of knife crime offences are Bexley with 88, Kingston upon Thames with 53, and Richmond upon Thames with 50. Earlier this year London's mayor Sadiq Khan revealed that nearly a quarter of all killings and more than half of shootings in the capital are linked to gangs. Speaking at a People's Question Time event last month, where Londoners can ask him questions directly, Sadiq Khan said that London was bucking the national trend of knife crime, which he says is on the rise across the country at higher rates than in the capital. He added: "There's a direct link between deprivation, poverty, alienation, lack of opportunities and an increase in youth violence, including knife crime. In London we've had to face massive cuts in our police numbers in the last twelve years, massive cuts to youth clubs, and massive cuts to council services." The statistics show that these crimes are also rising outside the M25, with knife incidents in the West Midlands increasing from 3,299 recorded offences to 4,958 and in Greater Manchester there was a rise from 3,297 offences to 3,563 offences. The data was calculated by analysing incidents police responded to over a nine-month period from October 2021 to June 2022. It shows that knife crimes fell during the pandemic and have remained below pre-Covid levels. In the year ending March 2020, 55,076 offences were reported. It is thought that the primary reason for the decrease is due to a 27 percent drop in robberies using knives. The second figure that is of particular local interest is the result of a study by online estate agent Zoopla. The Zoopla analysis shows that most of the biggest rises were in outer London boroughs where buyers can get far more for their money. The shift to hybrid working also means they do not get saddled with such high commuter costs as in the pre-pandemic era. London’s cheapest borough Barking and Dagenham enjoyed the biggest rise in property prices in 2022,Average prices rose by 6.6 per cent to £339,100 in the east London borough as buyers sought out affordable housing options amid the cost of living crisis, the figures from property portal Zoopla reveal. The area has also been boosted by public transport improvements such as the extension of the London Overground to Barking Riverside where thousands of new homes are being built. The Zoopla analysis shows that most of the biggest rises were in outer London boroughs where buyers can get far more for their money. The shift to hybrid working also means they do not get saddled with such high commuter costs as in the pre-pandemic era. Second was Bexley with a 5.7 per cent rise to £403,800, due to the opening of the Elizabeth Line in Abbey Wood, followed by Havering (5.5 per cent to £428,900) and Sutton (5.2 per cent to £445,800).

The photo above shows Belvedere Railway Station. The station, and a number of others on the North Kent Line have attracted some unwelcome publicity over the last couple of weeks. Fare dodging is a criminal offence and could lead to a prosecution if convicted you are at risk of getting a criminal record, paying compensation for skipped fares, a victim surcharge, and prosecution costs - on top of the £1,000 fine limit. This still has not stopped some people from not paying their fares and one TikTok user has compiled a list of the ones he thinks are the 'top stations you can bump in London'. User quincy_smf posted a two-minute-long video explaining the stations he thought were the easiest to get away without needing to tap in or out and are subsequently losing rail companies a lot of money. First on the list was Woolwich Dockyard. The station is only served by Southeastern trains and is in zone 3. Quincy said "everybody knows, if you live around Woolwich you know you don't get off at [Woolwich] Arsenal, you get off at Dockyard and walk back."At number two, Deptford Station. The revamped station is pretty on the eye but Quincy believes they won't be recouping their money back in fares due to the fact "nobody taps in or out". The station is served by Southeastern trains. At number three is the aforementioned Belvedere Station. Sandwiched between Abbey Wood and Erith, Quincy says that "everybody knows that there is nobody there, it's a free yard unless they randomly try to swarm it, which sometimes does happen but on most occasions, Belvedere is a free yard". The video was posted as a joke on TikTok but fare evasion is a criminal offence. Mandy McGregor, TfL's Head of Transport Policing and Community Safety, said: "Revenue from fares is vital for investment in safe, clean and reliable public transport, which is why we take fare evasion extremely seriously. We have over 450 revenue inspectors and 500 security and enforcement officers across our whole network, who work to keep people safe and enforce the rules around travelling without a ticket. Everyone should feel safe when travelling and we encourage anybody who has experienced anything that makes them feel unsafe to report this to us or to the police."

As readers may be aware, I was the victim of a "hit and run" incident with the rider of an illegal E-Scooter last February. I am not against the legalisation of these electric vehicles, but I feel that they need to have strong legal restrictions in their use. The current situation with thousands of E-Scooters in illegal daily use cannot be allowed to continue. Although it is legal to use a rented e-scooter on public roads and cycle lanes, the same cannot be said for the privately owned ones that many people may have received this Christmas. In a recent article, Lucy Coulson, from No5 Barristers' Chambers, commented on the expected popularity of e-scooters this year, highlighting the relevant laws which owners may not be familiar with. She said: "As they are classed as a motor vehicle, to hire an e-scooter you are required to hold either a provisional or full driver's licence and most hire schemes require you to be 18 or over. The law requires that users have insurance to cover any damage, but this is typically provided by the rental operators. Unlike privately owned e-scooters, the schemes allow users to operate the vehicles on public roads and cycle lanes, making them a common sight in many major areas across the UK. If you purchased an e-scooter as a gift this Christmas, you must ensure that it is only used on private land with the explicit permission from the owner. It is against the law to use it on public roads or paths, no matter if it's a residential area or a major city. If you are caught using an e-scooter illegally, the police may seize the vehicle and you will not be compensated." It was believed that the Government would be introducing legislation to fully legalise the use of e-scooters in the UK. It was hinted at as part of the Transport Bill which was referenced in the Queen's Speech in May earlier this year. The new driving laws are set to create a new vehicle category for powered light transport vehicles - which could include e-scooters. In spite of this, many public transport operators have banned E-Scooters on their services. The move means ten out of the 28 train operators refuse to carry private e-scooters, which are not permitted on public roads. Iain Peacock, head of safety at TransPennine Express, said in a recent interview: ‘Most of these devices are not approved for use in the UK and the batteries are often unregulated.’ Mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs and e-bikes, which are built to higher standards, are exempt from the ruling. Those bans followed action by LNER, Lumo, Grand Central and Transport for Wales, as well as restrictions by Transport for London (TfL) and the Tyne and Wear Metro. Anyone who flouts TfL’s rules faces a fine of up to £1,000. Gatwick Express, Great Western Railway, Southeastern and Thameslink still permit the devices. Recent casualties on the roads are piling pressure on the Government to take action, with more than a million privately-owned e-scooters used illegally. A coroner’s report last week into the death of Fatima Abukar, a 14-year-old girl who suffered catastrophic head injuries when riding an e-scooter, pointed out that the rate of deaths on the road had doubled in the course of a year. It said that the rate of enforcement had dwindled, and called for action to prevent future deaths. Abukar was travelling at a speed of at least 11mph and not wearing any safety equipment when she fell beneath the wheels of a minibus. The Metropolitan Police confiscated 4,000 scooters last year but only 1,100 this year after a change in policy was introduced in November 2021.

Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association have recently published the following guidelines in respect of the use of social media, and the negative effects that can result in its' misuse:- "Negative Effects of Social-Media. 1. Reduces Face-to-Face Interaction: When you are on social media more often, not only do you spend less quality time with people who are physically present in your life, but they will quickly get annoyed when you’re mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms instead of paying attention to them.Social media can be great for finding support when you aren’t able to interact face-to-face with those around you but, being physically present with someone offers a level of comfort and support that social media will never be able to rival. When we speak with someone face-to-face, non-verbal cues are just as important as what we’re saying. On social media, non-verbal cues are eliminated, making communication more complicated and causing misunderstandings, even between the best of friends. The best thing you can do (when possible) is to put down your phone and go out with friends or family. 2. Increases Cravings for Attention: If you’re wondering why social media is bad, the cravings for attention it causes is one big reason. Posting vague statuses on Facebook to grab others attention could easily become a nasty habit for people who use social media frequently. The never-ending competition for likes and notifications can consume you. The need for the type of attention known as belonging is a natural human phenomenon. It developed as a way to survive in groups. According to Dr Geoff MacDonald, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, “Attention is one of the most valuable resources in existence for social animals.” It ensures that we have a safe place to land if we ever need it. Unfortunately, social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, have taken this need for attention to the extreme by allowing us to request attention at any given moment by posting updates and photos. Unfortunately, as MacDonald points out, “When you present a curated version of yourself to the world, any approval that you get is not for your full and whole self.” On social media, we are getting attention for being a constructed version of ourselves, not our genuine selves. This leaves us receiving lots of attention and yet feeling, lonelier, and isolated than before, creating many negative effects of social media in our lives. 3. Distracts From Life Goals: It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in social media that people will neglect their real life goals. Instead of aiming for the dream job by obtaining useful skills, people tend to strive for internet stardom. Achieving goals takes hard work and a good deal of motivation. Social media allows an easy outlet to distract us when we don’t feel like putting in the hard work, and we can end up going down a path where we simply don’t get things done because it becomes too easy to find a distraction. 4. Can Lead to a Higher Risk of Depression: According to recent studies, the more people use social media, the more negative feelings they experience, including depression. This could be particularly harmful to people who have been previously diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It has been suggested that these negative feelings and depressive symptoms come from increased social comparisons and a lack of social interaction caused by spending more time on social media. If you’re beginning to notice that you’re feeling down on a regular basis, recognise that this is one of the negative effects of social media and that it’s probably time to take a break. Look Like Your 20's, Sleep Like a Baby, Be Energetic Like a child.It is harmful because it invades your privacy like never before. The oversharing happening on social media makes children a target for predators and hackers. It also leads to cyber bullying which affects any person significantly. 5. Relationships Are More Likely to Fail: No good comes out of online displays of jealousy and snooping. It may seem like an easy option when it comes to dealing with relationships, but in reality, it does more damage than good. In fact, studies show that the more a person uses Facebook, the more likely they will be to monitor their partner, which leads to arguments and crumbling relationships. If you genuinely value your relationship, stop constantly checking your Facebook, and plan a date night out—and maybe leave your phones at home. 6. Stunts Creativity: I can speak from personal experience that social media is the easiest way to stunt, or even kill, the creative process. Surfing social media sites has a numbing effect on the mind that is similar to mindlessly watching television. Creativity often requires intense focus or a relatively clear, relaxed mind. Social media gets in the way of both. If you’re looking for a creative solution to a problem, try going for a walk, meditating, or even discussing the problem with a friend. All of these will provide better results than taking to social media. 7. Encountering Cyber bullies: People feel too comfortable on the web and say things they wouldn’t normally say in real life. If you’re not the one saying horrible things, you’re still inevitably going to be exposed to it, which is one of the many negative effects of social media. Cyber bullying, whether it’s directed at you or not, will lead to more negative thoughts and likely a more negative perspective on humanity as a whole. Getting out in the world and seeing the random acts of kindness that people offer in real life is the perfect antidote to this. 8. Social Comparison Reduces Self-Esteem: It’s easy to present a certain persona on social media. Many choose to post gorgeous vacation photos or a post about their new baby, but what you don’t see is all the messy stuff in between. As we only see the good stuff, it can lead to social comparison. One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media.” What this means is that when we see others’ lives that we deem to be better than ours, our self-esteem goes down. If you’re still not clear on why social media is bad for mental health, the answer is that social media exacerbates the above problem by forcing us into constant social comparison, which will inevitably cause mental health problems and social anxiety, especially in young people. 9. Loss of Sleep: The light emitted from your various screens tricks your mind into thinking it’s not time for you to sleep, which can cause one of the most common negative effects of social media: sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep each night is already difficult enough without extra complications. One study on teenagers found that those “heavier social media use was associated with poorer sleep patterns.”The same is often true for adults who come home, crash on the couch, and spend the rest of the evening surfing social media only to find that midnight has come and gone. 10. Lack of Privacy: Between social media websites saving (and selling) your personal data and the whole NSA mess involving unsolicited government access of personal data including email, Skype calls, and so much more, it’s very clear that privacy and the internet don’t mix well.More and more, employers are taking to social media to review potential hires’ pages. Posting each and every thought could lead them to develop a negative perception, causing you to lose out on opportunities. The Bottom Line: When used correctly and sparingly, social media can be a great way to connect with others when face-to-face interactions are impossible. However, it’s important to know about the negative effects of social media and to limit the time you spend in the digital world in order to avoid getting lost there. Try cutting back on your online time and get out into the world again".

The end video this week is a slight departure from the normal format; it is a full - length comedy feature film from back in 1937. Back then it was a massive hit - the film is called "Oh Mister Porter!" and stars a comic actor largely forgotten nowadays by the name of Will Hay. I have written about Will Hay quite some time in the past, and will be writing about him in the near future - the reason for this is that I have a (slightly tenuous) family connection with him, which I will explain in due course. Comments and feedback as usual to me at

No comments:

Post a Comment