Wednesday, 30 December 2009

''No photos, we're a supermarket''

Supermarkets, what are they like? Very often, my choice of supermarket is governed by some small item that I want to buy and then the rest just sort of arrives in the basket. Very often this means mustard. I'm a bit fussy with mustard: the Colmans English has bite but not a well-rounded flavour, Dijon is ok as a standby but I prefer German- or Jewish-style mustard. I once got stopped at Geneva airport because of the tubes of mustard (Swiss mi-fort mustard comes close) in my hand baggage. Apparently, if they'd let me through with the mustard I could have applied it to my body and blown the plane up. Confiscated. But all this is another subject...

Back to supermarkets: Somerfields in Greenwich used to sell German mustard. They stopped. Sainsburys used to do an own-brand German-syle version. They stopped. Tescos in Surrey Quays used to sell a German mustard until a couple of years ago. They stopped. I've all but given up now, though I now tend to cycle to Waitrose in Beckenham just to buy their Tewkesbury mustard, which is usually a 10 mile journey. So I tend to buy 2 jars at a time. (Ok, I could go the the nearer Canary Wharf Waitrose, but that wouldn't be as much fun.)

And sometimes I just stop at any old supermarket on the return leg of a little ride. Just before Christmas I stopped at ASDA at Charlton. Now, there's absolutely no chance of getting decent mustard there - but there are also no hills or stairs before I get to the foot of my incontournable 67 stairs at home. Anyhow, having previously looked around in vain for a proper place to lock the bike and noting that their customers are generally the fattest I have ever seen - I decided to avail myself of the camera I had with me for evidence of their lack of facilities. So I took this one, because although the railing is not meant for bikes, it's all I'd ever seen.And then I set off round the corner where I'd seen a sign for motorbike parking and a very tidy smoking shed but nothing for cyclists. And I took 2 pics of that. However, some ASDroid having a ciggie took exception to me taking photos. He emerged from the shed and informed me that ASDA do not allow photos to be taken of ASDA facilities (OR LACK OF) or of ASDroids. Not being interested in the photo that he could conceivably have been identified in, I deleted it in front of him. I then told him that I was taking photos of ASDA facilities (LACK OF) and that if he wanted me to delete the previous photo he'd have to restrain me and call the police. At this point, he got out his phone out to call the police.

So I said, ''Are you going to restrain me?''
''No,'' was the reply.
''Oh well, I'll be on my way, then.''

And on my way I went. Here's the photo:So, scanning from right to left, there's a Disabled Parking sign with another sign attached ''Strictly no parking....Emergency Vehicles Only.'' Accompanied by strictly parked vehicles. Then there's the smoking shelter. Then there's the motorbike sign. And finally I discovered ASDA's bike facilities: a row of ''wheel benders'' beneath the motorbike sign. Note that they're being used in direct proportion to their utility. No one knows they are there and no one will ever use them - but they're not there to be used, are they?

Strange, if you go to the ASDA website, they have lots of stuff on how open they are - they even have a webcam of people wandering around the foyer of ASDA house, they have nothing, NOTHING at all about not allowing photos and menacing customers with calling the police for testing that much-vaunted openness.

Window into Asda

Openness and access - we don't want to do everything "behind closed doors"

Oh, well, there's another store on my ever-growing veto list. Come and get me, ASDA!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Writing on the wall

Here's a little seasonal graffiti from behind Telegraph Hill - I'm not quite sure where it is really - it's not quite New Cross, not quite Brockley and not quite Nunhead either. (Foxwell Street) Is it just me or should the 'Xmas has come' bit be underneath?

And here's some slightly older wall's fairly well known because it's still in pretty good condition
4/- is 20p in modern money. Paying back £40 at 20p a week must have taken forever. (Clarendon Rise, SE13)So what would happen if I asked for Daren Bread? (Or, considering it's been repainted ''askask for Daren Bread''). This one is on Avignon Road, SE4 - or is it SE14? - and I do not recall ever knowing that it was there even though I went to school just 100 yards up the road. A lot of the streets in this area were built by the Haberdashers' Company and many of the end houses still bear the metal plaques. Maybe it's Hatcham....

It's an almost old-fashioned area - a little removed from any major shopping centre, there are still a good number of corner shops/off licences that have survived where many others in London have been converted back into housing. And there are also a fair number of car repairs places still surviving even though it's a mostly quiet residential area.

To judge by the old garage sign on the house wall there has been a garage here for some time. Just below the M.O.T. sign on the house front, there is a small Haberdashers' Company plaque painted over in white.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bike bits

Ghost Bikes
There is now another ghost bike in place where Stella Chandler was fatally injured by a left-turning HGV in Greenwich. ( Junction of Woolwich Road/Trafalgar Road and Vanbrugh Hill/Tunnel Approach Road.) In the past, it has been Greenwich Cyclists who have put these bikes in place and, although I could find no reference to this at either the site or the web address (, I'd guess that they were the ones who put the bike there. All in all, I'm still distressed that this accident appears to be such a mundane everyday event that there was no coverage in the national or local press, local radio. are the only people who picked up the news after reading about it in a local blog but even now, 10 days after her death, their article still reads ''Cyclist seriously injured after being hit by lorry.''
One junction along there is another ghost bike placed in commemoration of Adrianna Skrzypiec*, who died in a hit-and-run variation on the theme in May 2009.

And there would be another one in Greenwich Park, Greenwich Cyclists put one there after the death of Lennard Woods, July 2007, but the park authorities objected. You can't have tourists learning our dirty secrets, can you? The press photo below shows it:
The musycle
3) Cycling can get to be a dispiriting business sometimes. So to cheer things up a little, here's a tune played on bicycle parts to crack your Christmas nuts to....

Cycling on thin ice
Today it was quite possible to find yourself on sheets of the smoothest of ice. I discovered today that when you put your foot down on ice it slides one way and the bike slides the other way. This is not particularly elegant.

Strange winter visitors
The icy weather brings odd creatures out onto the roads in Greenwich Park. This feller was perfectly happy to get out of his cab for a photo, but became a little dischuffed when I had to turn down his request for a charity donation (for a charity not for him, I mean) because I didn't have any money on me. So if you manage to spot the Pearly King of St Pancras (which shouldn't really be that hard) make sure you put in an extra coin for me...
*UPDATE (02 01 10) : I noticed on New Year's Day that Adrianna's ghost bike had been removed. JUST the bike had gone so it's not as though family and friends had decided to remove all reminders of her death.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Santa wars breaks out (again)

I've no idea who started it but it now seems to be a bit of a tradition in East Greenwich: come the season of Advent and the Christmas lights hit the house fronts. Mauritius Road seems to be the street with the most houses illuminated:

But it's round the corner in Christchurch Way where it begins to get a bit more heavy duty.

But I think this is the house where it all started off - and they don't seem to be showing any lack of enthusiam after all these years.
And to think that I was going to come home with some photos of those St Alphege's Advent windows.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sssh! Cylist down.

I'm feeling a little sickened. No, more than a little.

On Monday, I read on the Greenwich Phantom's blog that there had been a development in the death of Adrianna Skrzypiec who had been knocked down and killed by a hit and run HGV in May this year. Apparently, after over 6 months someone has recently been charged in connection with the death. I'm hoping this means the police have found the HGV driver but, in truth, I don't know any of the details.

Two hours later, I read on the same blog that there had been another Greenwich/cycle/HGV/woman accident at the next junction along that day. From accounts it looks like another left-turning lorry dragging a cyclist under its wheels, this time where Woolwich Road meets Trafalgar Road and Tunnel Approach Road meets Vanbrugh Hill.

Later, picked up the story from the Greenwich Phantom and put up a few lines to the effect of ''woman hit by further details.''

Today, I went back to the site and learned from the people who had posted there, that the woman, called Stella, a 66-year-old retired careworker, had died on Thursday, 10th.

So, having cycled quite a lot recently - including along that stretch of road - and knowing all about the blind spots that lorries have, the scenario is fairly clear. Lorry can't see what's in blind spot but goes there anyway, anything caught in the lorry's sweep path goes unnoticed - and all too often, unliving. I'm no good at statistics, but if my memory is correct, out of the 9 cyclist fatalities under the wheels of HGVs in London this year, 8 of them have been women. Apparently, according to statisticians, 8 out of 9 is not significant. (Do we have to allow more to be killed to make it statistically valid?)

This death, Stella, retired careworker went almost entirely unnoticed by the media. The BBC haven't covered it, the South London Press haven't. I take from this that it's no longer a story - it's just collateral damage. The juggernaut must roll on and the press isn't interested.

Why a lorry might be turning up Vanbrugh Hill anyway is a mystery - there's absolutely no reason because it's quiet (and steep) residential street. The only business that might need deliveries up there is the Vanbrugh Arms (though that's not how to get there) or to the Seren estate. More likely in my head, though, is that the driver had had enough of waiting in snarled-up traffic heading into Greenwich and was making an impatient bid for a way round the blockage.

At this point, the worldseems to divide into two: those who blame the inexperience of the cyclist straying on the left of a truck and those who blame the truck driver, who is apparently allowed to obliterate a section of the road to their left without being expected to take proper care about what is in the vehicle's sweep path.

And I've seen arguments about this on cycling websites - the risible sentences passed down to lorry drivers versus the naivety of cyclists. And while they argue....

Convex mirrors placed at lights would be cheap - they would work as outboard wing-mirrors for the truck so they could see down the length of their vehicle and also allow cyclists to see whether the advanced stop line has been taken up by vehicles, which routinely ignore them. They would remove the apparent assumption that lorries can turn into spaces without being able to see what might be in the vehicle's sweep path. The ''I couldn't see'' plea would be met with ''did you look?''

Inexpensive and it could save lives. Or do we just say ''shame?''

UPDATE: 15:00 14 December. I visited the scene of the fatality this afternoon and met a cousin and a friend of the deceased who were there to place flowers (photo above) in memory of Stella. The cousin had no more information other than that the police aren't saying anything. have still not updated the news - the site's headline still reads as it did in the beginning ''serious further information'' despite the report author having twittered ''Oh no, commenter on says the lady cyclist involved in a road accident last week has died.'' two days ago. But at least they began to cover the story which is more than any local, national press or media have done.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Well, well, well...

Walking along Giffen Street yesterday I saw a brace of our estate caretakers peering down through the fence into the ground where land is being cleared for the new Tidewell* school. ''Admiring a hole in the ground?'' I quipped. But what they were looking at was this:

Three circles of old brickwork in different sizes had become exposed after perhaps centuries in hiding. Reassuringly, the excavators seem to have done a pretty careful job once they had been uncovered - none of that ''Quick, get rid of it before an archaeologist finds out!''

I wondered whether they might have been kilns or the bases of small chimneys but it appears more likely that they are the remnants of old wells.

I gather that they are now waiting for archaeologists to come and inspect. According to the caretaker I spoke to this morning, he'd been given an approximate age of a couple of hundred years.

*Writing Tidewell instead of Tidemill was a purely unconscious rebranding - and it's not as though I don't know the school; I know it very well.

UPDATE: And now it's gone. I passed by this morning - one day later - and the exposed remains had been completely buried by at least a metre of soil. They must have done that only hours after I took the photos above. I've no idea whether archaeologists had been and gone or whether the workpeople had quietly swept it under the carpet so that they could get on with their work. Whichever, this little part of Deptford's history made only a fleeting reappearance before being reinterred - a relic of the past standing in the way of the future.

Monday, 23 November 2009


Ok, moving swiftly on (temporal) from Time, or moving up (spatial), I'm now in a minor quandary about the spatial dimension.

We all know where the meridian is - it's that imaginary line that runs through the long room in Flamsteed house (or maybe I got that wrong) and to help tourists - or Greenwich's proud heritage - they've helpfully marked it out on the forecourt, on the pathway immediately below and on the road down to the King William Gate - you can even become at one with this wonderful landmark as you go to the public conveniences.

And yet...and yet...I've got this digital Ordnance survey map and the meridian (for mapping purposes) is not where they tell us it is. Have a shifty at the two red dots in the image below:

(You might need to big it up in a clickety-click kind of way to see the points.) The point over to the left/west is pretty close to where we all know the meridian is. And yet, my digital map tells me that this point is longitude W 0.00180046. And if I tell my OS map to stick a point on 0.0000000 (which should be right to quite a few decimal places!) around the same latitude, it sticks a point 0.08 of a mile to the East - this is the second red point. The old reservoir to the south is west of the heritage meridian and east of the OS meridian. And of course, the Wolfe statue is also sitting somewhere in the middle. (I've only just noticed that the name Wolfe very conveniently has a W at the beginning and an E at the end. Perhaps we should go for a Wolfe meridian....) It's curious really. Greenwich is the one place where you'd expect to be able to find the damn meridian. But it's not that easy. Or is it?

(Any expert who happens to randomly arrive on this page will probably reliably inform us that, due to the vagaries of the Earth's rotation, time is now measured with a series of atomic clocks in Paris, amongst other places, and that the meridian moves around depending on whether the Earth is in a rush or taking the leisurely approach to planetary rotation. However, this complicates things even more - we'd then have a heritage meridian, an Ordnance Survey meridian and a notional meridian that moves about....)

This time and space business really can be confusing!

Though it's not all getting more and more complicated - I was chatting with my clever program-writing mathematically-competent brother the other day when I confided in him that I had no idea what an algorithm was. So, I've just asked a mathematician, there's me expecting a volley of algebraical theorems and....this was his reply:

''OK, it is just a step by step procedure such as "wet hair, shampoo, rinse, repeat until done"

Wow, so it's that easy! He may have skipped a couple of details, of course...but I'm just going to file it as one minor mystery solved.

Minor mysteries (1) - THE TIME SIGNAL

Is it just Radio4 that gives that ''pip-pip-pip-peep'' time signal? Anyhow, listening to an exceptionally long series of pip-pip-pip-pip-pip-peeps last night I got to thinking that you only know when the hour has arrived because it's a longer note. But, here's the rub, you only know that it's a longer note when it hasn't stopped as quickly as the previous ones did. So you're only going to know when that times comes after it's come. In other words, you're late!

It would be so much easier to change the pitch of the penultimate note: A A A B A. The lead-in As would give you the rhythm, the B (a higher note) would tell you that it was the last pip before the hour. And then you'd get the time much more accurately. Because this, for some reason, is held to be important.

A A A B A is only an idea. You could just as easily change the B bit.

pip pip toodle pip!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Where do bikes belong?

Since getting exceedingly fed up catching the bus to work, waiting in the cold, never knowing when I'm going to arrive or whether I would be spending the whole journey listening to some edgy schoolboy's rap music droning tunelessly on, I got myself a cheap new bike in April. Since then I've done 1600 miles in a mixture of commuting, weekend runs and evening fresh air runs. I've also done a fair bit of reading cycling blogs. And one of the things that becomes striking very quickly is that there is an awful lot of debate about where bikes should go. Many motorists believe firmly that bikes shouldn't be on the road. Many pedestrians believe just as firmly that they should go on the road - usually with the law on their side.

And what do road planners think? Well, I think you have to say that they really don't know - some of them don't even seem to grasp the fundamental points - such as what a bike looks like...
Some of them think they should be mingled unobtrusively with the street furniture
Or given their own micro-traffic chaos systems of their own (here they can practice changing over from cycling on the left to cycling on the right in preparation for the day when we all change over.)
Others seem to think that the best place is to force them into the most dangerous place in the road - in the door zone with traffic to one side shaving the bike lane. Or to just paint lines in the road that drivers simply drive inStill others display considerable ingenuity in making sure that the lanes don't go anywhere at all

Other, more ingenious planners sidestep deciding where bikes should go by using both road and pavement (provided they don't lead anywhere or come from anywhere)

On a more local note, here's Tunnel Avenue in Greenwich - ticking box A for not going anywhere and ticking box B for doing it with no reason.
And where Plumstead meets Woolwich, three bike lanes come from nowhere and go precisely nowhere. The building behind is the Plumstead Radical Club. They clearly hold Radical Cycling Club events there. But this for chappie on Google street view, evidently doesn't really know what's going to happen to him when he reaches the epicentre...because radical cyclists are capable of appearing from three different directions and from nowhere at the same time. I'd be a little nervous too.
It really shouldn't be funny - but you have to have to give people some credit (and taxpayers' money) for coming up with designs that combine ingenuity with built-in inutility.

UPDATE 30 August 2010:

 This one solves the problem of cars driving in cycle lanes...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

There's a thief about....

A couple of weeks ago some beastie came along onto my 4th floor balcony and ate the roots of my basil, oregano and coriander. Whatever it was, it displayed no interest whatsoever in the foliage, just the roots. And yesterday, what did I see but a squirrel hanging around outside! I really should have taken more notice of the street signs they put up in the street below a couple of years ago, they were actually quite prophetic:

If I ever get hold of him, he'll have no idea where to look for his nuts!

And while I'm thinking about the signs that were put up for the Deptford 2007 exhibition, there's another few that seem to have foreseen post-Boris London.

Bye-bye bendy bus...
Playing Franny's cycling knight in shining armour and riding off in pursuit...

Designs and photo: (c) Sue Lawes & Lionel Openshaw :

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ha'penny Hatch gets a service

After a lazy stroll into the kitchen for the morning pot of tea this morning, I looked out of the window and saw the footbridge had been lifted. I've never seen it up since they built it. In the time it took me to find my camera and open the front door it had been lowered again - surprisingly quickly, though finding anything in here is never a quick job. Anyhow, I managed to grab this image.Seconds later it was almost back to normal:

And just a couple of seconds later, after a posse of hi-vizened engineers wandered up and had a leisurely peek about the place, everything returned to normal again. Even the guy who, at a guess, isn't allowed to practise his drums indoors made an afternoon reappearance, serenading pedestrians with his snare drum paradiddles.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Spider flight?

I know it's a bad photo but I'm hoping that it'll still be there tomorrow when I've had time to figure out how to focus my camera manually - this will mean RTFM!!

Meanwhile, it's that time of year when spiders become hyperactive. This one appears to have been very busy inventing the gossamer propeller right outside my front door. It's pretty effective for catching flies - but will it fly?

Update: Nah, the bottom part of the web was missing yesterday morning. The spider was still there, finishing off one of those fake-wasp drone thingies. Today, there are only a couple of strands. My spider has either taken off for newer pastures or been plucked off its web by a passing bird with a big appetite.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Disappearing industries

A while ago my dad was looking to replace his typewriter and found that they'd almost disappeared from the market. I think it would be even harder to replace a typewriter ribbon, and many people wouldn't even know what carbon paper was or what it was used for. Here, on the National Cycle Route 21, on an industrial estate by Lower Sydenham Station, is a factory whose fate was sealed by computers and printers.

Though the Columbia Ribbon & Carbon Manufacturing Co Ltd no longer seems to exist, the building is still in use - lights on, the odd door open from time to time - perhaps as warehouse storage, but the frontage, which displays a degree of assured confidence that makes it stand out from the rest of the light industrial units surrounding it, has prevailed. So far. Maybe it is under some kind of preservation order. Or perhaps the present occupiers are an industrial version of the hermit crab - happy to occupy the shell of a now dead animal.And, while talking about industrial buildings that stand out, just off the NCR21 there's also this one. It's on Ladywell Bridge, just by wartime the ''shelter for 700'' sign (see earlier blog - ''Shelter'')
This building also seems a million miles away from any similar enterprise - it simply stands out on its own.