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.