Sunday, 31 January 2010

Recyled memories

Part 1

Caroline's Miscellany has just posted an article about Witcomb Cycles, ex of Tanner's Hill. It got me thinking about them. I remember buying a second hand Witcomb bike from them back in the days. It was white, not particularly light and, surprisingly for a Witcomb bike from Witcomb's it had had the serial number ground off it. When that bike got nicked from outside the Duke, many many years ago, I went back to the shop to sort out the insurance that I'd bought from them at the same time. Ernie was only going to let me use the money to buy another Witcomb bike. Annoyed at feeling like a captive customer I contacted the insurance company and they paid me the money very quickly, very few questions asked.

Looking back it strikes me as being a carousel. Sell 2nd hand bike plus insurance, nick it (or buy it from the thief, no doubt with a deductions for the frame grinding) and then get the bikeless customer to buy another one from them with the insurance money. And once I was out of the shop, they could get back to selling my old bike...

So they've gone and moved to Wales while old Ernie is celebrating his 75th wedding anniversary in Bexley.

Their website is still promising to go online late in 2009, their blog seems to have had most of its photos removed, so the business is clearly not going according to plan. But while I was looking around, I came across this old (early 70s?) short film about them. Made by the Central Office of Information for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of a series ''This week in Britain,'' it shows the workshop-cum-shop, the road outside, still open to traffic. At the same time, it give a curious - nostalgic for some - cultural view of the world as it was. Towards the end of this 5 minute film, you see the presenter cycling up Hyde Vale - well, failing and dismounting actually. Their bikes are so good you can't get up onto the heath via the gentlest hill in West Greenwich....

If you've got 5 minutes.....Witcombs

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Part 2

Last week, while cycling down on the Woolwich Road, I came across something I'd never seen before. On the site where Stella Chandler, the cyclist killed under the wheels of a HGV at the bottom of Vanbrugh Hill at the end of last year, there was an accident reconstruction under way. A team of officers, equipped with the actual truck, the actual bike, as well as cameras and a theodolite, were painstakingly working their way through how the accident had happened. In fact, as I was coming in the opposite direction, the first thing I saw on the other side of the road was a cyclist almost under the front wheels of a truck.

I slowed, stopped and crossed over the road. There, Stella's sister plus friends and family were watching. I spoke to her sister. Though she didn't give her name, I think it is Eileen. She explained to me that she'd been there for 2 hours already and she was happy to talk at length about Stella. She was 67, a retired careworker who still visited the people she used to care for. Living near the bottom of Maze Hill she found that hill too steep to get up on her journey to Charlton so she took the lower Trafalgar/Woolwich Road to get to Westcombe Hill because it was a gentler way of getting up to her Charlton visit. I mentioned that I had been shocked by the lack of press interest and she told me that the Mercury had run an article on her a couple of weeks ago. I don't have a hard copy of the article, but this is the online version (Mercury)

So, unusual among deaths involving bikes and lorries, Stella was caught under the front wheel of the lorry. And the bike was undamaged, though I can't imagine how it got away from the lorry when the rider was under it.

But that's a strange strange job for the policewoman riding the bike in the reconstruction: getting on a dead woman's bike and manoeuvring it virtually under the wheels of the tons of steel that killed her.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

New East Greenwich...

....Now not even Old New East Greenwich but Greenwich Peninsular. As part of my ride every road project, I cycled up to the Pilot Inn, a Fullers House, on a little remnant of a road that used to be Ceylon Place, though I doubt it's still called that. Nice to note that it is a bike friendly establishment - though really bike friendly pubs should be up a good hill (work up thirst) so that leaving the pub requires the least amount of effort and the greatest amount of wheeeee....

Ample bike parkingAnd above and just to the left of the door, there is a plaque, giving the date it was built and where it was built....Ceylon Place, New East Greenwich, 1801
It was good of C17 builders to think of putting a return address on the building, in case it ever managed to get lost. Though if you look for it on you won't find it any more. They call it River Way, not that it goes to the river. (Much like Kay Way, the truncated mouth of Straightsmouth in West Greenwich. Shouldn't Ways go somewhere when you could call it River Close - from rue close, which gives us a bit of a clue that it's a dead end for motorised traffic? And, coincidentally, the river is close.

Rather mysteriously, though, it doesn't seem to appear on Wyld's ''A New Topographical Map Of The Country In The Vicinity Of London, Describing All The New Improvements, Metropolitan Boroughs And Parish Boundaries c1872'.'' Nor is New East Greenwich anywhere to be seen. So 71 years after it was built, all that was mapped was a couple of buildings to the east of Over Brickfield.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

On the 24th day of Christmas...

...the council left a tree...
I've no idea how long the tree in Giffin Square will remain there. About three years ago, it stayed around until late March. Towards the end it began to smell really good - a rich sweet aroma of sap - which became more fragrant as the tree withered more and more. It became a personal symbol of the contempt Lewisham Council shows to Deptford - and also of Deptford's instinct for creating something attractive out of that neglect. But to be fair, this year, they haven't even taken up the Lewisham centre tree either.
I'm going to make an effort to see how long they remain in situ this year.

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Ok, I got tempted out on the bike again after 13 days without a ride, by sunshine, mild weather and dry roads. After about 3 miles and a mild hill, I realised that Santa had stolen my muscles, and decided to have a wander around around a radial route - it's part of a project of cycling on every cyclable road around where I live, gradually spiralling outwards. I noticed an old ''faded London'' type wall advert in Brockley that I'd never noticed before.
This one is next to the church car park at the bottom of Wickham Road at the junction with Brockley Road.

And because it always amused me how Lewisham Council's insecurity about its lack of history - because, let's face it, Lewisham is never going to be able to match Deptford or Greenwich - had led it to create its own fake city walls on the roundabout south of the shopping centre:Monumental pretensions....

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Back in October I wrote a post about spider flight - taking my cue from a spider's web outside my front door that looked like a propeller. After a while, I started getting Japanese spam on that thread at a rate of one message per morning - and they still keep arriving at around 4am each morning. To that thread only.

Then, this afternoon, I noticed that the same spamming was happening to one post on the Brockley Central blog. Sometimes it comes from the same website and it looks like it comes on a daily basis, though at around 8pm for them. I couldn't think why these two posts had aroused the interest of Japanese spammers when the only thing that I could find that they had in common was a reference to spiders! So, purely out of curiosity, I'm mentioning spiders to see whether it's possible to trap spiders on the web...

Here's some spider writing from just over the road from the Lewisham City Ramparts...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


After 10 days without getting out on the bike, due to aches and pains and ice/slicks incompatibility, I'd been getting myself ready for a ride. Now that the temperature is getting milder - hell, it's not even freezing now - I thought that this could be the day for a relaunch. So, lying in bed this morning, I found myself actually planning a ride. And then I looked out of the window. Ok, the ice had mostly gone, but this morning's winter instalment was a fresh coating of wet snow. A tougher person than me would have said, ''It's only a bit of slush,'' and would have got the bike down the stairs. And that's fine for tougher people but not for me. So, instead of smoking more and more roll-ups sitting in front of the computer, I resolved to walk to Canary Wharf instead. My (nominal) reason, apart from the obvious ''get out of the house and get some exercise'' one, for going there was to get some Tewkesbury mustard from the Waitrose that's secreted away in their basement. (Mustard is becoming a big motivator this season.)

Apart from the general quietness brought on by the acoustics of snow, Docklands as a whole seemed almost deserted and definitely muted. I imagine hushed conversations along the lines of ''If the bank relocates to Geneva, I'm going to have to take a big hit selling the apartment....'' and such forth. Of course, they're probably all just talking about Premier league fixtures and the Winter skiing trip but, as it seems such a world away from Deptford, I can only try to imagine.

On the way back, I took a detour round Asda (no complaints about their cycle parking - because although Asda do not seem to have a green sign for bikes, the stands are numerous and unmissable). I discovered, in passing, that they also have an ''Extra Special'' brand of Tewkesbury, and couldn't help buying another two jars. From there, I went round Mudchute farm. Some of the Mudchute area is almost rural - it seems both miles away from the financial centres and miles from the pretty urban parkland of Greenwich. You could almost imagine yourself in the (almost) countryside.
And here a llama stands before a cloud-shrouded city skyline with little care for the textiles futures market.Finally, on the way back before the 100 steps of the south lift of the foot tunnel, here's a photo of Trinity Hospital, looking as under-sized and dainty as ever next to the oversized brutishness of the old power station. And it's got itself a white topping for the day.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


In Greenwich Park today, a squirrel shuffled up to me in the snow, sniffed my boot, and began to climb up my trousers. I ended up brushing him off by the time he got above my knee. I was afraid he might be after my nuts.

One way of looking at it is to say the park squirrels are very tame. Another way of looking at it - probably equally valid - is that they have learned that the humans are very tame.

Anyhow, here's a bin-robbing robin...
And while the fauna's behaving strangely, here's some flora trying something even stranger...
This tree is growing above a first floor window of the Deptford Arms. No idea why. It's a tree of paradise, which somewhat flatters the Deptford Arms. And immediately over the road...

You can get boxes of anything here - but how can you ask for a box of COW FUKU without offending?

Friday, 1 January 2010

Cycling Limited Destruction

I have this strange cycling routine: whenever I come back from a ride I take in a new road or two so that I end up having ridden every ridable street for miles around. And then I realise that I haven't been up this cul de sac or that close. Here's one that I came across yesterday in East Greenwich - Peterboat Close, just by the Tunnel Approach Road. Virtually nobody will have cycled up it because nobody would have any reason to. And yet it's precisely up this sort of dead-end street that they're planning cycling destruction. Or at least they were.

Yes, obviously it started life as Summatoruvver Recycling Limited*. But the gate must have started falling apart at one stage and, true to their word, they've recycled the gate itself. The bit that was on the left has been re-welded to the right, with a spare panel thrown in for good measure. So what was the italic writing? What ends with -ial? Special Destruction? Facial Destruction? Racial Destruction? Given the general feel of the area, though, I'm going for Terrestrial Destruction. And, all in all, they've done rather a good job.

Down by the Thames this afternoon, I saw these waders. I got home, leafed through my AA Best of Britain's Birds (£3 from the remainders shop opposite the picturehouse) and failed to decide which kind of bird it was. To judge by the long, straight two-tone beak, I'd pencil in snipe, but as my ornithological knowledge doesn't even go as deep as these birds, I am therefore going to call it a Lew for the simple reason that it looks a bit like a curlew without the curl.**

*I just did my own research! If you take the last bit of the telephone number and stick it on the front plus an 020 to kick things off, and then google it, you end up discovering that it's Lombard Recycling Limited. It's still Cycling Limited Destruction to me though.

**I've just got round to reading my mail in Yahoo! and there was a reply from someone who knows a lot more about birds than me - they're black-tailed godwits.