Monday, 14 August 2017

Happy Anniversary

Radio Caroline
The UKs first ofshore radio station
began broadcasting Easter 1964 and

changed music radio forever.
There are two significant anniversaries being commemorated this week. The first event is the 70th anniversary of independence for India and Pakistan; the second is the 50th anniversary of the passing into law of the Marine Offences Act 1967.

While the first of the two probably has more international significance, it's the second that most affected me.

If you were a young teenager growing up in the early 1960s, the opportunity to listen to the music of your choice was severely limited. Records were expensive to buy; a standard 45 RPM single cost around 7 shillings (£6.72 in today's money) and an LP would cost up to £2/10 (£42 today). That was quite a lot out of my £4 a week wages. Then the equipment to play it on was equally expensive by today's standard.

The only access to music for most of us was the radio and in 1963 and at that time, there was very little air play of pop music; more or less nothing during the day and just a few programmes on in the evening, maybe a couple of times a week.

There was Radio Luxembourg but that only broadcast in the evening and the quality wasn't very good; it was broadcast from the Duchy of Luxembourg and relied on it's signal being reflected to the UK via an unreliable ionosphere.

"The Egg"
My Philips 834A wireless in 1965.
Suddenly in 1964 there was Radio Caroline. I think I discovered it by accident, trawling the airwaves on my trusty Philips 834A wireless. I inherited it from my Uncle Peter and all my friends called it "The Egg". I had a huge aerial strung the length of the garden plugged into it, (you needed something like that to get a decent signal from Radio Luxembourg) and I would like to spin the tuning dial from time to time and see what else I could pick up.

Anyway, here was a radio station playing non stop music all day; it was only daytime up to 6:00pm to start with, but it plugged the gap while I waited for Luxembourg to go on air.

The Huge popularity of the new (pirate) radio station, as they were soon to be called, brought a number of imitators and eventually there were a several of them bobbing up and down in the North Sea, each with varying degrees of success.

What made it even better was the fact that now, all sorts of bands could get air time as well, as the pirate stations broke the monopoly then held by the big four record companies; at that time these were Philips, Decca, Pye and EMI. If you were an artist and didn't work for one of them, you might as well give up as Radio Luxembourg played nothing else. Even the limited music coverage by the BBC was restricted to this seeming cartel.

It has been argued that this opening up of the air waves by pirate radio paved the way for the tidal wave of independent record companies  and new bands that emerged at this time.

The bad news is that the government really didn't think that people being able to listen to the programmes they wanted to hear was a very good idea and soon set about putting a stop to it. Up to then, radio broadcasting in the UK was governed by the 1949 wireless and telegraphy act which stations like Radio Caroline could circumvent by operating from ships in international waters.

Using a number of excuses including the claim that they caused a hazard to shipping and that their broadcasts interfered with other legitimate radio stations, they set about creating new legislation which would make it illegal for British citizens to service the stations; this would include supplying them with goods or services or advertising revenue. Technically, it would even be illegal for UK citizens to broadcast from them as well which meant that all the DJs would be breaking the law, although this was never enforced. It was even argued that under the terms of the new act it would be illegal to listen to them.

To be fair, some of the people running these new stations didn't exactly cover themselves in glory and there were a number of very nasty incidents culminating in an altercation in the house of Oliver Smedley (Radio Caroline's operator) between himself and Reginald Calvert (operator of Radio City) over a unpaid bill which resulted in Smedley's death.

Eventually, the act became law on 14 August 1967 and most of the stations ceased broadcasting on that day, leaving the original Radio Caroline with the medium all to itself again.

Several of the pirate DJs were recruited by the BBC for it's new station (to be called Radio 1, as it still is to this day) and the format was typically BBC in that their Board of Governors (made up almost exclusively of old white men (as it still is to this day) made sure that it upheld the true conservative traditions of the institution.

Records like "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, (since used for decades as the theme tune for "Top of the Pops" and "je t'aime" by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, (since used a theme tune in a children's toy commercial) were banned as being not fit for the ears of impressionable youth.

This wasn't the end of the story of course. Radio Caroline continued to operate for a number of years and in fact, still does via the internet. You can find them by clicking here.

There was also a vigorous campaign to get radio deregulated. A number of pressure groups were set up and I remember wandering around Woolwich with a group of friends recruiting support for one of them.

As you know, eventually all that campaigning paid off and young people today have a huge choice of stations to listen to, broadcasting every musical genre under the Sun and no, the sky didn't fall.

WARNING - Do not listen to this record. No! No! No! It will leave you hopelessly corrupted.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Round the Houses

How to get from Abbey Wood to Charing
Cross according to Transport for London.
On the Transport for London website you can find what they call a "journey planner". You type in your starting point, your destination then when you want to leave or arrive and it tells you how to get there.

Simple enough you may think, but for some reason it really doesn't like British Rail and will do everything it can to plan your journey without using the train, even if it makes it longer and far more difficult.

I wanted to get from Abbey Wood station to Charing Cross and needed a train time; simple enough you would think, but you wouldn't be taking account of the TFL journey planner's little idiosyncrasy.

For those of you who don't know, to get from Abbey Wood to Charing Cross, you get on the train at Abbey Wood and get off again at Charing Cross. The journey time is 43 minutes and takes you directly from station to station.

Not if you use the journey planner it doesn't. First, you get on the train at Abbey Wood (fair enough so far) but you get off again at Woolwich Arsenal. Why you need to get off the Charing Cross train to get to Charing Cross they don't explain but anyway, you now need to transfer to the DLR and go to Canning Town. Once at Canning Town you transfer to the Jubilee Line tube to Waterloo. There you change again for the Bakerloo line to Charing Cross. At Charing Cross you will find the train you got off of at Woolwich and which arrived 8 minutes earlier.

The mind boggles.

And Another Thing

I've stolen this picture from the Note
Machine website. The ones at Morrison's
look like this only there are three of them.
Morrison's in Thamesmead Town Centre have replaced their cash points with different ones. Originally, they were owned by individual banks but these new ones seem to be run by a company called "Note Machine". 

The problem is this new company doesn't seem to think anyone wants to take money out of them and they are always running out of cash. This is a pain and needs to be sorted out.

Other than that, it's a good idea for them all to be the same. I would see people waiting for their own bank machine to become available and regular users would always know to avoid the HSBC one in the middle as half the time it would either swallow your card, not give out any money, or both at the same time. When there is actually some money in these new ones, at least they work.


While I am sitting here writing this blog, I am watching some poor delivery man struggling past my window with crates and crates of bottled water that he's delivering to a neighbour.

I see this sort of thing all the time. When I'm visiting my local supermarket, I will often see someone wheeling out a trolley full of the stuff. It's mostly the Africans doing it; it's an African neighbour that's getting today's delivery. These people don't seem to realise that in this country, the tap water is safe to drink; in fact, it's probably safer that the bottled stuff which in most cases is only filtered tap water anyway.

I know some people claim that they are put off by the smell of chlorine you sometimes get although I can't smell it in our tap water, but all you need to do is invest in a filter system of your own for just a few pounds and save all that plastic, and transport cost.

Looks like it's time again for my favourite presentation -


I decided to take myself down to Erith Pier and catch some pictures of the Sun going down but mis-timed it and got there too late.

Grabbed a couple of shots anyway plus a few pictures of the Erith Lighthouse Garden Party which was just starting to wind down as I arrived. I didn't have a ticket but they let me in anyway.

The Erith Lighthouse also has a Facebook page listing all their events which you can access by clicking this link.

A view from Erith Pier looking North-East

A view from Erith Pier looking West.

The last few remaining party goers at the Erith Lighthouse Garden Party.

The band doing it's stuff.

Erith Lighthouse.

I was heading back to the car and took this picture of the Erith Playhouse with the newly restored White Hart pub next door; very nice it looks too.

Although I didn't see him there, I'm pretty sure Arthur Pewty will have attended the Erith Lighthouse event and will be covering it in his next Sunday edition.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Die große Lüge.

Muslims taking over the bus
Yesterday I posted an article describing how a bunch of German Neo-Nazis were taken in by a hoax Facebook post about refugees getting free sex from prostitutes, paid for by a local council. They thought it was true even though the post itself had "Hoax Story" spread across the top of the page in big red letters.

You wouldn't think they could get any dafter but you'd be wrong. 

The Norwegian English language news blog "The Local" has reported a story about a mischievous scallywag by the name of Johan Slattavik who posted a picture of some empty bus seats onto a Neo-Nazi, anti-immigration Norwegian Facebook page calling itself "Fedrelandet Fikigst", that's "Fatherland First" in Norwegian (although you already knew that). His comment accompanying the picture was simply "what do people think about this?"

In a perfect example of people seeing what they want to see, they decided these empty seats were women dressed in burkas and posted enraged comments, with remarks like "frightening" "tragic" and "scary". One commentator was worried that they may have "weapons and bombs" under their garments.

It was Adolph Hitler who coined the phrase "Die große Lüge" - which means "big lie". (You knew that as well of course).

His reasoning was that if you told a really big lie people would have to believe it because they could never believe you would make something so outrageous up. In this case, Johan Slattavik didn't even have to make anything up, he just left it to your imagination.

Speaking of which. How many of you saw a bus full of women dressed in burkas? Go on, admit it.


Huge abundance of skilled British workers
will become available after we leave the EU.
The European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are two of the major organisations planning to leave the UK after Brexit. 

Good riddance too. We can show old Johnny Foreigner that we don't want him coming over here and employing decent British workers who would be better off working in ASDA warehouses; they of course will have a lot of vacancies once we send all the East Europeans back where they came from.

They won't be clogging up our hotels either; the BBC reckon that the two agencies alone account for up to 40,000 hotel stays a year; that's a lot of empty rooms that will now be available for British people. Won't be able to afford them of course as I don't think ASDA pay as much. 

Other companies we will be glad to see the back of include Hiscox, JP Morgan, Standard Chartered, UBS, MJ Hudson, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Diago Drinks Company, Goldman Sachs, Lloyd's of London and Microsoft. Apparently, according to the UK games industry trade body UKie, around 40% of the industry is considering relocating out of the UK as well, but that's only a couple of thousand companies and frankly, who needs them?

If any of you are starting to think voting to leave may have been a mistake, here is David Icke explaining why it wasn't.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Gott im Himmel

This rather sinister looking Facebook page 
set up by a group of University researchers is 
designed to mimic the notorious Nazi 
propaganda newspaper  of the 1930s 
"Völkscher Beobachter" (People's Observer).

Here in the UK we have British Fake News Network (bit of a clue in the name there) whose outrageous stories turn up on my Facebook page with depressing regularity accompanied by hysterical comments from people who have been fooled by them.

We can take some comfort that it's not only British social media users that fall for obviously fake stories from satirical websites. 

Please ignore the "Fake News" headline,
everyone else did.
This BBC report describes how a group of researchers from Hohenheim University in Germany set up a fake Facebook account, "Der Völks Beobachter" in order to post inflammatory news reports, including the one shown on the right which said that asylum seekers were getting free sex with prostitutes, funded by the local authority.

It isn't clear what it was they were actually researching unless it was the seemingly bottomless pit of human stupidity but whatever it was, they had a huge success with it, with their stories being read and shared thousands of times.

Even having a banner across the top of the page reading "Fake News" in large red letters didn't seem to put anybody off. Not that it should.

Stop nicking my stories
you bastards.
There is currently a debate in Germany about a recently introduced law which could fine social networks if they don't remove illegal hate speech or fake news. The new legislation doesn't make it at all clear what they mean by "fake news" and at the moment it could include articles posted by satirical websites such as The OnionThe Daily Mash, Southend News Network and of course, the aforementioned BFNN.

To be honest, I rather think that my old mate Joshua Bonehill-Paine (who I haven't spoken about for a while, what with him being banged up in the clink and all that), might have a claim for plagiarism, given that the stories on Der Völks Beobachter could have been lifted verbatim from the pages of The Daily Bale although, with the Daily Bale, you are actually supposed to believe them; as of course; many people did.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


Part of a penalty notice issued to homeless
people in Oxford
Any of you following the story of how Tower Hamlets trading standards department tried to fine a five year old girl £150 for selling lemonade without a permit will be pleased to know that it's not only London council officials who are lacking in any common sense.

Hot on it's heels comes this next story, this time from Oxford City Council who think it's a good idea to fine homeless people £2,500 for leaving their belongings in shop doorways.

While I can see the need to do something that could cause a fire hazard, I have to ask myself  the question "does it make sense to threaten someone who is homeless, has no money or assets with a financial penalty for breaching local by-laws?" The answer of course is "yes", because that's what the regulations say you should do.

The fact that your threat is completely meaningless, cannot be enforced and will have no effect doesn't matter. What matters is that you have complied with the regulations by issuing the threat and, to those in authority, that's all that matters.

The picture illustrating this piece is of an actual homeless person selling the Big Issue in Oxford although by now he's probably been chased off his patch by a criminal gang. Those of us living in Thamesmead know that all the Big Issue sellers around here are Romanian millionaires.


I stole this picture off the Al jazeera website
because it rather sums the place up.
According to my Google search, Venezuela is "a country on the Northern coast of South America with diverse natural attractions". 

According to Wikipedia, it became an independent country in 1830.

According to the Thamesmead Gump, Venezuela is a tin-pot Latin-American banana republic that's hardly seen a day's peace in all it's nearly 200 year history.

It has been constantly torn apart by a succession of revolts, revolutions, constitutional crises, assorted attempts at democracy which have usually ended in economic collapse, presidential impeachments, corruption, embezzlement, often all at the same time.

So why, I ask is the news media full of stories about the latest round of riots, demonstrations and yet another election? It seems to be headline news in all the main media channels and I have to question why we are suddenly so interested in the place. The BBC for instance, can't stop talking about it.

Perhaps we're planning to make it our new main trading partner after Brexit, who knows?