Sunday, April 09, 2023


Gemma Rolfe, 12, was killed when the car she was travelling in with her stepfather was hit by a stolen van in Slade Green, on May 19th, 2003. The Metropolitan Police have launch a "cold case file" on the crime. Next month will mark the twentieth year since the twelve year old was killed whilst a passenger in her stepfather’s car whilst travelling along Slade Green Road. Their car was hit by a stolen white Austin Maestro van and Gemma was killed – she was cut out of the wrecked Suzuki Vitara, but did not survive the ordeal. The driver of the stolen van then made off, and has never been reliably identified, and it is thought that some local residents may be concealing his identity. The Police have never closed the enquiry and are using the twentieth anniversary of the crime to re – launch the appeal for witnesses to come forward and tell  them who the hit and run driver was. In an interview in the London Evening Standard, Kelly Dunkley, 20, who has a 14-month-old daughter with Gemma’s brother Kye, started the campaign #JusticeForGemma and has had re-tweets from actresses Patsy Palmer and Daniella Westbrook. She said: “It’s a stupidly long time to wait. People know who did it and they haven’t come forward. It would have been Gemma’s 21st birthday last year and I’m 21 on February 1 so Kye is always reminded of her.” Gemma’s mother Janet Robey, 46, said she hoped new information about the tragedy could be uncovered after previously running into a “wall of silence”. The accounts assistant said: “The ideal scenario would be for someone to come forward who knows something. It has been 10 years, there are people out there who might have kids of their own now and might think ‘why didn’t I come forward before?’ “We have just tried everything. Every year I go down to Slade Green and put Gemma’s name up in flowers. The day I stop doing that is the day I get justice for her. I re-live what happened every single day. She is in my mind 24/7. The instant pain when we lost her felt like someone had ripped my guts out. The raw pain is not there any more but I still re-live the accident.” Family and friends will mark the anniversary this year with a gathering at the spot where the 12-year-old was killed. The accident took place in Slade Green Road, near the junction with Canada Road, Slade Green, at about 7.15 pm. Anyone with any information should contact Bexley Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 

Back in September of 2020, plans were submitted to convert the Spice Master restaurant in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere into a block of flats, with the restaurant continuing to exist on the ground floor, but with a side extension and an additional two floors added to the building. There has been a gap of well over two years since then, and now it has been announced that works are due to start on the already consented application for alterations to the existing building with four flats above later this year. It is hoped that the works can be completed and a new restaurant opened on site in the spring of 2024. The upper photograph shows what the building used to look like in its original form, back in the 1970's. The lower photo shows an impression of how the refurbished and extended building will look when complete. The Coffee Tavern 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 has been the home of 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. 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; Back in May of 2017, the Spice Master was subject to some extreme vandalism; a group of six or seven youths tried to enter the restaurant; as it was close to closing time and the group were rowdy and very drunk, the owner refused to admit them. After some altercation the group eventually agreed to leave, but asked the owner to call them a cab. As the group were abusive, and in any case had not been customers, the owner declined. The group eventually left. I was informed at the time, from several sources that the yobs turned up at around 2 AM, long after the restaurant had closed, and proceeded to break all of the windows. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no prosecutions resulted from this criminal act. The restaurant also suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, and closed for good not long thereafter. What do you think of the plans to renovate and extend the restaurant and apartments? Email me at

The following appeal for help has I understand been published previously on social media. I know that a substantial number of my readers do not use Facebook and the like, so I felt the story would be of interest to many:- "Music Studio that provides free recording & musical development services to mental health patients is being forced to close. For nearly 30 years Abbey Music Studios (AMS) in Abbey Wood (London SE2) has provided a music hub for local artists, bands and producers for rehearsal and recording purposes, and for musicians and interested visitors from all over the world. It has also provided free recording and group sessions to local NHS patients and other individuals with mental health and learning difficulties.  The Studio building is within the grounds of Goldie Leigh Hospital and now the Oxleas NHS Trust who run the Hospital have given the Studio notice that its lease will not be renewed and that it must close by 9 May 2023.  The Trust say they want to use the building for other purposes. This is despite there being several other large, un-used buildings within the Hospital grounds, some of which have stood empty for over 30 years.  The closure will be a devastating blow to the livelihood of those who work at the Studio, and will remove the vital role the Studio plays in providing services to mental health patients and to the local community. The Studio building was completely derelict, vandalised, flooded and unusable when AMS took it over in the early 90s.  The gaping holes in the roof of the building were repaired at the expense of AMS who have invested thousands of pounds in renovating the building and fitting it out with state of the art, made-to-measure, recording equipment, and rehearsal rooms. The NHS Trust paid no funds whatsoever towards the renovation of the building, but they now want to take it back in its current condition, with no offers of compensation or alternative accommodation.  The Trust seem to be happy to put an end to local mental health patients’ free music sessions which  AMS have provided for nearly 30 years.  Patients are able to play/learn musical instruments, record their work, rehabilitate and socialise in a safe and friendly environment. This also helps them from becoming institutionalised.  The patients’ local Carers have always been delighted with the service the Studio provides. They understand the benefits that music can bring to those with mental health issues, but that understanding does not seem to be shared by the Trust’s managers.  This is a service which should be embraced and developed, not discontinued. Of course, the Studio also provides a very beneficial service to bands, singers, DJs, etc, in the local community and beyond.  Thousands of musicians have cut their teeth at AMS since 1994, and developed their craft to a professional level.  Users of the studio include Mark Shaw (lead singer with Then Jericho), The Upsetters (Lee Perry's backing band), Jaz Ellington, and various members of bands such as Squeeze, T'Pau and Nine Below Zero.  The Studio also provides a service to producers and sound editors. The soundtrack to the 2021 Abba Exhibition at the O2 London was produced at the Studio, as was the recent Forever Young charity single for Ukraine. AMS does not want to close, so please help us fight the closure by signing the petition to Save Our Studios (SOS) and by also asking friends to sign and share". You can read more about the campaign, and also sign the petition by clicking here.

Some time ago I highlighted the Radio Shack catalogue website. Someone has scanned every single page of all the U.S Radio Shack sales catalogues over the years, and put them on line. Some kind soul has done something equivalent for the UK on Flickr. They have scanned in every single page of the Argos catalogue from various years in the past and posted them online. The photo above is from the hifi section of the 1976 catalogue. I find it interesting to see how there is surprisingly little mention of Japanese brands; at that point most of the companies were British or American - Ferguson, GEC, Fidelity and Decca are now all but forgotten brands, but back then they were big, well known high street names. You can see the whole catalogue selection online by clicking here. What strikes me is that most consumer electronics have become far cheaper in real terms nowadays than back then. I notice when looking at wrist watches, the prices in 1976 are about what you would expect to pay nowadays. When one factors in price inflation and wage rises, things back then were pretty expensive compared with today.

Another anniversary has come up this week; did you know that the humble wine box is fifty eight years old? The Australian invention, known over there as a “goon”, has been occupying wine drinkers fridges since it was first developed back in 1965. The wine box actually owes a lot to the space race and NASA. The bladder that is located inside the cardboard outer box is made of a material called Mylar – or more correctly, Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate. This form of polymer was originally invented back in the mid 1950’s by American chemical giant DuPont, for use in early spacecraft. The inert, tough and flexible plastic has since found hundreds of uses in everything from drum skins, the magnetic media in recording tape and computer floppy disks to tiny flecks of it being added to nail varnish to make the varnish “sparkle”. It is a very versatile material that is tasteless and impervious to liquids and gases, thus making it an excellent choice of material to form the wine containing bladder that sits within the reinforcing cardboard box. The clever concept of the wine box is that the Mylar bladder collapses as wine is drained from it, so air does not seep into the container  - which would cause it to begin oxidising and would seriously shorten the shelf – life of the wine once it was opened. As it is, wine inside a wine box remains drinkable for around six weeks once the seal has been broken. Having said that, I don't know of anyone who has managed to make a wine box last anything like as long as that! At one time wine boxes were thought of as being suitable only for student parties and barbecues; nowadays the quality of wine found in boxes is far higher, and they have achieved greater social acceptability.

The end video this week is a short promotional film from the Dartford Ukelele Club, who describe themselves thus:- "Join our vibrant ukulele community and experience the power of music! Our inclusive club welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds to connect, learn, and boost their well-being through playing ukulele. From jam sessions to our annual Ukulele Festival, there's always something exciting happening. And at just £5 per session, it's a fun, easy, and affordable way to learn a new skill and uplift your spirits. Don't wait, join us today and become the ukulele superstar you always dreamed of!" Comments and feedback to me as usual at

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