Friday, 16 June 2017

Lesnes Abbey

During the 1980s I lived in Belvedere and often used to visit Lesnes Abbey Woods, either to walk the dog or to explore the wildlife that could be found there. After the 1987 storm which saw hundreds of trees blown down, the opening up of the ground to daylight saw an explosion of new plants and flowers that I hadn't ever seen before. 

This is what triggered my interest in nature and I would spend many happy hours identifying and recording the new plant life that had appeared. Eventually, and with the help of the newly formed "Bexley Ranger Service" I managed to set up a conservation group and we would go out on Sundays to carry out conservation work in the woods. When I moved away, I passed the group on to others and as far as I have been told, the present volunteer group working in Lesnes Woods dates back to that original one.

The Bexley Ranger Service didn't last all that long; the rangers themselves were all qualified conservationists and the Bexley councillors who oversaw the project never really got the hang of it. As far as they were concerned, the rangers were nothing more than glorified park keepers who should be wearing uniforms with peak caps, going round telling people off for breaking the rules. Attempts at genuine conservation work were often prevented for seemingly bizarre reasons; one of the councillors wouldn't let them carry out Rhododendron eradication work because she thought the flowers looked pretty. 

Eventually, they all left to find proper jobs elsewhere.

Anyway, I have been following the progress of the redevelopment of the woods and Abbey with some interest and took a visit to the Abbey a couple of days ago. Here are some of the pictures I took.


Panoramic view of the Abbey and gardens


One of the entrance points, this one is from Abbey Road.




There are several areas of wildflower meadow that have a wide variety of plants.


Although the nicotine addicts have to make their mark as well. Walking around the site, I started counting the number of cigarette filters on the ground but eventually gave up: it was spoiling my enjoyment of the park.








Some views around an about. I do like the way they have redesigned the site of the old flower beds, this looks much more interesting.




There were major delays in the construction of the new resource centre and cafe. My understanding is that a number of significant archaeological finds delayed things for quite a while. I don't suppose it helped that the original company hired to do the work went bankrupt half way through the project. It is looking good though. I didn't take any pictures inside as there seemed to be some sort of meeting going on.


I understand that Councillor Craske still plans to remove all the dog waste bins from the Borough. I don't know if this is still the case.


I saw this fellow in the process of being sculpted; nice to see it finished.


There is now water level access to the old fish pond which is now described as a dipping pond.



I was going to Photoshop the litter from this picture but then thought 'someone has gone to all the trouble to put it there so they must want to see it.


And of course, not forgetting....................................




The Black Mulberry tree has been fenced off to protect the roots and to discourage people from climbing on it. I must admit, it does look a lot healthier. It grows the way it does because it was planted against the wall of the old farmhouse that stood on the site. The tree grew towards the light, hence the extreme angle.



Some thoughts on the election result.

During last years London Mayoral election, the Tory party ran a campaign of vindictive personal attacks on the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan with ever increasingly hysterical claims about how disastrous it would be for London if we elected him. It backfired on them in a huge way and they got suitably trashed.

You would think they would have learned their lesson but instead, they ran an almost identical campaign against Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 general election and, unsurprisingly, finished up with a similar result. So why do it?

The reality is that they didn't have much choice. They could hardly campaign on their own policies - selling off the NHS and removing welfare benefits from pensioners and the disabled was never going to get the public flocking to the polling station to vote for them; and that's before they even had any real discussion on the decriminalisation of blood sports or why Theresa May had taken over 25,000 Police Officers off our streets, or why she had reduced our armed forces to pre-Napoleonic War levels, etc., etc.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Some information about the party that will be ruling Britain for the next five years - the Democratic Unionist Party.

The party which once championed a cause called "Save Ulster from Sodomy", they actually make UKIP appear moderate. Their party strongly opposes same-sex marriage and has been instrumental, along with the Catholic Church in ensuring that Northern Irish women have to travel to the UK if they need an abortion.

DUP environment spokesman, Sammy Wilson, along with Donald Trump and most of the American Republican party believes that climate change is a hoax. They actually made him their environment minister.

Mervyn Storey, the party's former education spokesman believes that creationism should be taught in schools as a science subject. Creationists believe that the world and everything on it was created at 9:30am on Thursday 23 October 4004 BC and that dinosaurs lived at the same time a humans, as it says in the Flintstones.

One of their MPs, Trevor Clarke believed that you could only contract HIV if you were a homosexual and it fell to a local charity to make him aware of the facts.



They come from everywhere.


I've just had my first hit from Turkmenistan. I get pageview entries from many countries outside the UK, most of them from the US but a good smattering from the rest of the world. I'm not really sure why, I suppose some of them are just bots but it would be nice to know for sure.

Also, my first search using the Dalvik browser which is a discontinued bit of the Android operating system used in earlier versions of Android such as Kit Kat.

According to webwiki, my blog is the 745,983rd most popular by rank and in the next few days I will have reached my 30,000th hit. Given that my blog will be four years old in September, I have to wonder why I bother with such a small fan base. The trouble is, whenever I stop publishing for any length of time, I keep getting messages from people asking where I have got to and when am I going to write again. I may not have many fans but at least they are loyal and it would be a shame to disappoint them.



Friday, 9 June 2017

THERE NOW FOLLOWS A STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE THAMESMEAD GRUMP REGARDING THE RESULT OF THE GENERAL ELECTION.


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Monday, 5 June 2017

In the spirit of my recent promise not to comment on the forthcoming general election, here are some comments on the forthcoming general election.



Five reasons Why you should not vote for the Liberal Democrats.


The Liberal Democrats want the British public to be allowed to vote in a referendum on whether they agree to the Brexit terms negotiated by the government.

Are they totally out of their freaking minds? 

The last time we had a referendum, we voted to leave the EU; which is precicely what happens when you allow ill-informed and gullible members of the public to make important decisions about the nation's future. And now they want to do it again.

Let's make it absolutely clear, the terms of Britain's relationship with the rest of Europe, and indeed the world should be decided by government ministers and government ministers alone. The British people should not, under any circumstances have any say in what those terms are.

A vote for the Lib-Dems would hand ordinary people the right to a say in their future: this must not be allowed to happen. The only way to prevent this is to vote for the Torylabour party.

However, don't anyone say I'm not even-handed when it comes to passing on information about our local candidates so, in alphabetical order we have:-

Tory Government record
speaking for itself
Edward Baxter (Conservative). I don't know anything about Edward Baxter that can't be obtained from a standard Google search so there's not much point in repeating what readers can easily obtain for themselves. As to Tory policy generally, their record speaks for itself (as Amber Rudd rather foolishly said on Question Time). I'm not a fox so at least they don't seem to want to actually kill me although if my Wife still has her disability benefit by the end of the year, I'll be surprised. One thing they have promised to do is implement the Naylor Report which will result in all the assets currently owned by the NHS on behalf of the people being sold off to private businesses; the majority of which are foreign based so they won't have to pay any of those pesky taxes that you and I are burdened with.

Ronie Johnson (UKIP). Ronie has been trying to get elected in Erith & Thamesmead for some time now. To be honest, it doesn't really matter what he stands for personally as he is never going to be elected and even if he was, UKIP are as disorganised a bunch of half-wits as they have ever been and trying to get a cohesive policy out of them about anything at all is pretty unlikely. Apart from still chanting "Out, Out Out" they don't have much else to say. I think a lot of them have run away; they're really like a bunch of naughty schoolboys who thought it would be a good prank to set fire to the science lab and are now watching the whole school burn down. Much of their support came from disenchanted BNP supporters and I wonder if we might see a resurgence of support for them now that UKIP is disappearing up it's own fundament. According to the Bexley Times, which I'm shamelessly plagerising to write this post, "he's campaigning for Australian-style boarder controls" although I don't think he's talking about lodgers.

Candidate 105950
Claudine Letsae (Green Party). Claudine is a "Woman of Mystery"; no-one seems to know anything about her. The Green Party website doesn't even seem to know anything about her either other that she appears to be candidate No. 105950, and I am reduced to stealing what information I can from a Bexley is Bonkers article written by Malcolm Knight who actually took the trouble to go to the local hustings meeting on 28th May; I might have attended if I had known it was happening but then again, maybe I wouldn't. In any case, it's just general "let's do good" stuff so not really worth bothering with. Click the BiB link if you're interested. The trouble is, saying anything nasty about the Green Party is a bit like kicking a kitten. They do, in truth, have about as much political savvy as a kitten, but it still seems cruel so I'm not even going to mention Unicor..............

Doro Oddiri (Independent). Describing himself as "easy going, with liberal political views", one has to wonder why he isn't a member of the Liberal Democrats. Doing a Google search produced a News Shopper and other news accounts of him suffering serious injuries in a road accident in 2010 but there is nothing else about him.  Again, with no other sources of information, I am going to steal from my favourite, previously mentioned sources. Not only have his liberal views not endeared him to the Lib-Dems, he is actually quite scathing about them: they must have done something that has seriously upset him. Other than that, his rather simplistic approach to most of the world's problems, quaint though they are, will not be enough to cause me to vote for him.

Temi Olodu (Christian People's Alliance). A unilateral disarmer and anti-abortionist. As he wasn't at the hustings meeting attended by Malcolm Knight, I can't steal any of his copy so, doing my own research, I can't find much about his political opinions. Having said that, I really don't like the Christian People's Alliance. They seem to attract all that is worst in religious bigotry although it was the UKIP candidate David Sylvester who claimed that UK storms were caused by Gay Marriage.

Teresa Pearce (Labour). I can't really think of anything bad to say about Teresa. I have met her once or twice, generally at Royal British Legion Remembrance events but I've never had any other dealings with her. She seems to take an interest in local affairs which goes beyond the usual requirement of an MP. As far as The Labour Party generally goes, I support most of their policies but still remember the last time they were in power. Tony Blair's slavish support of reckless American foreign policy strategies, the Toryesque unwillingness to tackle tax avoidance by large corporations or it's desperate attempts to be anything other than a Tory party with a conscience still makes me highly suspicious of them. Although, to be fair, I don't see Jeremy Corbyn suffering those sort of policies much.

Simon Waddington (Liberal Democrat). Simon's election leaflet has just arrived as I am writing this although I can't say I'm much better informed as a consequence. First, they want to legalise drugs. This is never going to happen; not only is any chances of legislation going to be blocked by an unholy coalition of religionists, do-gooders and of course, all the crooked individuals in government and law enforcement agencies who do very nicely on the bribes paid to them to look the other way. There is also the huge lobby against de-regulation from all the vested interests that need the drugs trade to be illegal. Vast amounts of money are spent by law enforcement agencies trying to combat the trade. The amount they spend on equipment and materials, premises and the like is estimated to be around $100 billion a year worldwide according to "Count the Costs", a pressure group dedicated to de-regulation. How accurate this figure is may be open to question but it cannot be far wrong. Plus the hundreds of thousands of people who would be out of a job. I used to be a member of the Lib-Dems as I have recounted in earlier posts but finally lost patience with them when they refused to support a House of Commons vote which would have given the public a vote on the new terms of our EU membership. Ironic, that they seem to have changed their minds about that.






Thursday, 4 May 2017

PRINCE PHILIP RETIRES



Buckingham Palace has announced that Prince Philip is to finally retire, aged 95. Fair enough I suppose. I was thinking of doing the same thing when I'm 95.

I don't know how long Reptilians normally live for, David Icke doesn't say in any of the books he has written on the subject as far as I am aware (to tell the truth, I haven't actually read any) but I may be wrong.

Anyway, I met Prince Philip briefly in 1968 while serving in the Royal Air Force at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire. 

A poor quality image of a Type 12
Imperial War Museum
At the time, RAF Wyton was home to most of the RAFs photographic reconnaissance capability and I worked in what was called "The Factory". This was a building away from the main base and which housed the main facility for processing and interpreting photographic film. The two main pieces of equipment were 5 Type 12 film processors which developed the 9" film from the large cameras and a type 11 film processor which dealt with the 70mm film from the smaller tactical cameras.

One day we were informed that Prince Philip was going to make an "informal" visit to the station. 

Prince Philip was generally well regarded by the armed forces; our calling him "Phil the Greek" as we tended to do, was actually far more an affectionate term than a discourteous one.

Having served in the Royal Navy and a combat veteran, he was seen as more "one of us" than the other royals who just dressed up for the occasion. There was also a fairly high opinion of his sense of humour in those days before everything anyone in the public eye said was put through the "politically correct" mill.

Me (background) and my mate Ron Bevan working on a Type 11
This wasn't at the Factory but somewhere in Germany.
Came the day of the visit, there we were, standing to attention next to our designated machine, looking very competent in our spotless white coats and hoping to God that the films we had running through the machines didn't break (which they had a tendency to do from time to time).

Prince Philip, looking very regal and attired as a Marshal of the Royal Air Force got to me, looked at me, looked at my Type 11, looked back at me and said "going all right then?" which I thought was very gracious then moved on. I managed to stammer a "yes Sir" before remembering I was supposed to say "yes, Your Highness" but by that time, he had already found something else to look at and I didn't think I should chase after him to correct my faux-pas. The Station Commander who was in the following train winked at me as he went past so I suppose I did all right. I imagine he was hoping to God the film didn't break as well.



AND FINALLY...................................


The most utterly mind blowing second hand car commercial ever.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Me with my Mum and Little Brother Martin
in the garden in Wickham Lane in around 1955.
I'm the one with the garden shears and the intense expression.
I'm currently in the process of writing an article about my childhood home in Wickham Lane, Abbey Wood. It was inspired by a picture posted on Facebook a while back of an elderly couple standing in their back garden a couple of doors along from my Grandparents address.

Researching a particular incident in my childhood has taken me to the Heritage Centre in Woolwich and a long trawl through copies of the Kentish Independent dated around the early 1960s.

Reading the stories published in these early issues, I was reminded just how little some things have changed over the intervening years, and also, just how much.

Many of the stories have a depressing familiarity to them: Loutish behaviour by juveniles, dodgy estate agents, drunks crashing cars, complaints to the council about new roads/houses, worries about what the Russians are getting up to. There is even an ongoing debate about an EU referendum (this was about whether we should join rather than leave). Anyone going to sleep in 1961 and waking up today might wonder if any time had passed at all.

Then again, there are some aspects to the stories, when you look at the pages in more depth, that make you realise just what a strange place the past is.

Attacks on Police Officers are regularly reported; I don't know if that is because such stories were deemed to be more newsworthy then as now but there was hardly a week went by when another case was being reported.

The aforementioned juvenile delinquents were more likely to be sent to Borstal rather than the current policy of getting a social worker to tell them off. The massive influx of immigrants had only just gotten going so crimes committed by one would get special attention although the miscreant would be described as "coloured" not "black", which was considered rude.

A couple of the stories that featured regularly brought back some interesting memories. 

The Autostacker


The Woolwich Autostacker.
Photographer unknown
Anyone living withing 10 miles of Woolwich and over 60 years of age should remember the Autostacker.

This £102,000 nine storey, fully automated parking facility, designed by J.A. Sterling of the WW2 Rhine Bailey Bridge fame and built in Beresford Street on the site of an old cinema, was intended to hold up to 256 cars.

It was opened to much fanfare by Princess Margaret on 11th May 1961 where the demonstration vehicle got stuck. Later that day when no lesser person than TV personality Fyfe Robertson arrived to cover it's opening for the BBC Tonight programme it still wasn't working.

It never moved again.

There is surprisingly little information about this temple to 1960s technology, you could have a look here, which is about as much as I can find. But to sum it up in just a few words, let's just say, 'think Titanic without the icebergs' and that should give you a good idea of what was going on.  The Kentish Independent of course had a ringside seat to the entire sorry saga and covered in in many issues.

There is a rather upbeat and subsequently over-optimistic report from the BBC about the Autostacker, made before it actually opened. The item reports that it was demolished a year after it was constructed and several other sources make a similar claim but in fact there were still reports of attempts to repair it in 1963 editions of the Kentish Independent and demolition didn't actually start until 1965. Click here for some pictures of the demolition, taken in 1966.

The Smallpox Epidemic.


Another story covered extensively by the Kentish Independent was about the Smallpox Epidemic. In 1962, Smallpox arrived in the UK for the first time in decades. It had been so long since the last outbreak that at first, it wasn't identified until those carrying the virus had infected many other people. The result was devastating and eventually dozens of people would die before the outbreak was brought under control. I remember queueing up with my Mum outside the medical centre in Plumstead to get my vaccination. Fortunately the anti-vaccine lunatic movement was going through a bit of a lull at the time so everyone got their jab. I dread to think what would happen if something like that happened today. You would have thousands of people refusing to be vaccinated, claiming that they would be protected by eating healthy food, rubbing homoeopathic ointment on their affected parts or praying to the Lord Jesus.

James Gilray cartoon depicting the effects
of the Smallpox vaccine.
Incidentally, anyone thinking that the anti-vaccine hoax movement is something new, think again. When Edward Jenner first started vaccinating people against Smallpox, the live Cow Pox virus used was believed by some to cause terrible side effects to people receiving it. There was a lot of opposition from the news media at the time with lurid cartoons depicting what would happen to you if you were vaccinated. One claim was that it would cause you to develop cow like characteristics (autism hadn't been discovered back then). The main opponents though were religionist extremists who believed that preventing someone from getting Smallpox was defying God's will. Not a lot different form the conspiracy theory nutters you get today.

The Classified Ads.


The classified ads were something of an eye opener too. There were a surprising number of jobs on offer, mostly in local industry, all divided into "jobs for men" and "jobs for women and girls" as was proper. Most unions at that time were opposed to equal pay for women and tried to keep some occupations exclusively male.

I had forgotten just how industrialised south east London was up the the mid 60s.

In the early 60s, the government decided to rectify the north/south divide in employment by offering financial incentives to companies who wanted to set up businesses in the north of England. What actually happened was that many of the firms operating in the south, and London in particular simply closed down their operation and moved it north. One by one, all the factories which ran alongside the lower road from Plumstead to Charlton closed down and left thousands without work.


Changes in shopping habits.


In 1961, most retail outlets were either department stores, which Woolwich had an abundant supply of, or small shops specialising in particular areas. In those days, you bought your groceries from the grocer, your milk from the dairy, your bread from the baker and your greens from the greengrocer. Woe betide any shopkeeper trying to sell anything outside their given remit. Then as 1962 turns into 1963, you begin to start seeing adverts for those new-fangled supermarkets.

With their huge customer base and economic clout, they were able to sweep away many of the restrictive retail practices that had limited choice and kept prices high for customers.

It was in this era that we saw pretty much the end of Retail Price Maintenence. This was a rather unsavoury practice, supported in law, where the manufacturer could set the retail price of their goods so there could be no competition between retailers. When the new supermarkets started ignoring the regulation and discounting anyway, there was a short, sharp battle between them and manufacturers which the manufacturers were never going to win. Futile attempts to refuse to supply offending retailers were simply laughed off. There was no way that any manufacturer could afford to lose that much trade.

Anyone remember Victor Value? I wonder what happened to them: pink stamps as well?


Looking at the prices on that Victor Value advert reminded me of something else that has changed a lot since 1961 and that's the price of consumer goods, especially electronic goods. Comparing the price of supermarket shopping is difficult as there isn't much indication of the size of the product.

Today, many goods manufacturers sell their products in unusual weights and sizes so it's easy to impose a (sometimes substantial) price increase by simply reducing the pack size. You see this a lot in things like washing powder - Surf, for instance, increased the price of their product by 25%, not by increasing the price but by reducing the pack size. Cans of beans currently weigh in at 410 grams. There isn't any valid reason for doing this, it's just so they can reduce the size again the next time they want to charge more without telling us.

I went on about it a bit in a recent blog.

Electronic goods though, that's a different story. In the Kentish Independent edition dated 27 October 1961, a electrical goods retailer was selling the top of the range 19" Philips Alpine television for just 67 Guineas. Before decimalisation, retailers would often price their goods in guineas. A Guinea was worth 21 shillings, or £1.05 in today's money. It ceased being legal tender in 1816 but it was the pre-decimal version of adding 99p to the end of every price to make it look like they were not charging as much as they were.

Anyway, back to the new telly. 67 Guineas would be worth £1429.90 today according to the Bank of England inflation calculator. You could buy a pretty impressive 4k ready, state of the art piece of kit for that sort of money if you went to your local retailer tomorrow.

In the summer of 1962, you could buy a Roberts transistor radio for 17 Guineas or £332 today. Remember, this was all pretty basic stuff by today's standard.

And then I was shocked by all the cigarette commercials: it's amazing how quickly you forget.


Image courtesy of Hugh Neal
Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich
Co-incidentally, as I was composing this piece, last weeks episode of Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich featured an item about the Silica Shop and shows where relative prices have changed beyond recognition.

Situated in Hatherley Road, Sidcup, this was the "place to go" for all your computing requirements during the 1980s. At that time, I was working as a freelance photographer and used to get all my films processed and printed by Patrick Haggerty's photographic studio a couple of doors down.

While waiting for my work to be done, I would browse in the window of the Silica Shop dreaming of the day I might be able to afford to buy anything they had for sale. Their 1980s advert that Arthur Pewty displayed shows a good reason why I couldn't.

The top of the range Atari Mega ST computer with a 14" colour monitor came in at an eye-watering £1498; that would be over £4000 today. Remember, all you got for your money was a keyboard, mouse and monitor. No hard drive (you had to load any program you wanted to use from a floppy disk every time), no speakers and a paltry 4MB of memory. I doubt you could spend £4000 on a home computer today, even if you added on every peripheral you could think of.




ON THE GAME


The lovely Monika, pictured here,
charges £1000 a night
Someone seems to be trying to tell me something. My Gmail account keeps spamming me with adverts for dating sites; not the main official ones, so to speak, but rather the ones that are just a cover for prostitutes advertising their services. No matter how many times I keep telling them that these ads are "inappropriate" (you do get a choice of reasons for deleting them), they keep on coming.

Now I have Facebook trying to "suggest" that I might like to visit Dior Escorts, a website advertising the services of young ladies who, for the right price, will escort you all night long. "High class call girls and sexy English escorts" they claim but all the profiles I looked at, the girls were east European.

It took me ages to realise what they were selling, I had to study the page for hours. You can study the page as well if you want but don't click on the link unless you are very broad minded.

I don't know how these people got to me but at least I can draw some comfort in knowing that they haven't managed to get my bank details yet. If they had, they would know there was no way I could afford the prices these girls are charging. I might just manage to be able to pay for a five minute knee-trembler with one of the skanks on Plumstead Corner if it was the best day I ever had; but even then, only maybe.