Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another sunset


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Bandstand for the 21st Century?

As you may know Plumstead Common used to have a Bandstand, it was located at the western end of the Common, near Blendon Terrace. The Adventure Playground now occupies the site. It was demolished in the 1970's apparently following arson attacks and vandalism. There is an urban myth that it was in fact dismantled and is lying in some forgotten council warehouse.

You may ask why am I blogging about this long gone and mostly forgotten relic of the Common's past, the reason is that I have an Idea and I want to know if people think it is a good one or have I in fact just gone quite mad?

My Idea, a new bandstand 'for the 21st century, I am not talking about some modern unused pastiche of a 19th century icon, but an open air performance space for the many communities of Plumstead. The Victorians knew a thing or to about making urban living civilised and bringing culture to the masses, hence among many other things, bandstands so why can't we update the idea for now and do something really exciting for the area?

I hope to get the PCEG involved and this is an extract of what I wrote to the chair, Nick Day:

' of the historical losses from the Common was the demolition of the Bandstand in the 1970's. But I have a vision for a 'bandstand for the 21st century'. It wouldn't be somewhere just for brass bands on a Sunday afternoon, (not that there is anything wrong with that, I think that would be fabulous in itself), but I was thinking more of a multi-use open-air community performance platform that could host music, dance, theatre, and even be a venue for a big screen during the 2012 Olympics.
I had a look at the 2012 website and in particular the pdf file on the cultural update on 2012
.... and I think if we move fast and can get local people enthused there is real potential for the funding of such a project, which I think would bring about a real legacy benefit for the area. It is also the kind of project which might just inspire the younger generation to participate....
..This may just be a pipe dream on my part, but I think it has the potential to be something really exciting. When I have travelled on the continent I have always been struck how even relatively small towns have cultural festivals, performances etc. often in a town square or similar central location, and I don't see why Plumstead can't do something similar.'

Now this is one thing where I would really appreciate hearing what people think, is it a good idea or have I just gone nuts?

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Marcus bought this the other day, 'cos he was thirsty, looks like wee to me, Marcus says it tasted like it too.
Mind you, I don't know how he knows what wee tastes like.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Great British Obsession

(House Prices, not the weather which is the other one!)

For most people house purchase is the biggest single financial transaction we enter into, so perhaps it is not surprising people take a keen interest in what they believe their home is worth, although I have never understood why so many people automatically think increased prices are a good thing. I am sure many of us get a warm glow when we hear our little pied-a-terre is worth a quarter of a million quid, but all that means is the next house up the housing ladder is probably £75,000 more rather than £50,000, well that doesn't strike me as much of a bonus (though if you are trading down, then that is). It is of course all right if your area is going up in value by more than the one you want to move to, but as for the poor sods trying to get on the housing ladder, my heart goes out to them, to get a house in Plumstead these days you need a joint income of at least £50,000.

I am not suggesting that falling prices are a good thing I well remember the misery of negative equity suffered by so many in the early to mid 90's, it's just one of those things, that really isn't as simple as, up good, down bad.
Nos 50,52 &54
In terms of the Plumstead market I think there is a bit of a boom going on, especially my end, nearer to Woolwich and the DLR. The 3 houses at the top of my road have all been sold over the last year and a bit, and are all a similar style, layout etc.
no 52. went for £172,500 in Feb 06, no 50 £182,500 in Aug 06, and no 54 was sold within a few days of going on the market last month so I expect it went for something near the asking price of £219,995. Of course, what this kind of fevered price increases tends to generate is a certain amount of greed in some people, as can be seen by the owners of the small rabbit hutch I look down on at the bottom of my garden, who are currently marketing their property at £245,000 and surprise, surprise, it is still on the market, unsold.

Rather than prices, what concerns me more is some of the wider issues, around housing. All the parties agree we need more of it, especially in London and the South East as this is the only long term answer to the problem of affordability, but then comes the problem of where. Nobody seems to want it where they live, the cry goes up of the Thames Gateway, but then you end up destroying unique habitats such as the Erith and Crayford marshes (more about these on a subsequent post), and you are also building on a floodplain which is a whole other can of worms.
But the lack of suitable new housing (whether for sale or rent) leads to other problems, one of which is HMO, or houses in multiple occupation as the jargon goes, as Plumstead has relatively low prices (by London standards) it is a target for buy to let purchasers, some of these houses are rented to families, which does not change the character of the area, but some are let off room by room to individuals. Now I am not having a go at every one who rents a room we all need somewhere to live, but this can cause problems, one is that it leads to a transient population with no roots in the area, it puts pressure on things like car parking, such houses are frequently not looked after, and there are often problems with noise. One house in my street was so comprehensively trashed that it is still vacant today.

The problem with HMO!
Another problem comes with the shortage of social housing for rent, there is so little available that when something does come up it goes to those in the 'greatest need', but what really pisses me off is that those in the greatest need are frequently people who have deliberately been irresponsible and the people who suffer are those who act reasonably manner. By irresponsible I mean people who choose to have child after child, while expected the state i.e. me to pick up the bill for their upbringing and accommodation. While others who are on a relatively low income, but choose not to breed until they are in a position to afford to do so are stuck on council house waiting lists. A little while ago Margaret Hodge was vilified, I think quite unfairly, for suggesting that established British families should have their long term residence in this country taken into account when social housing is being allocated, in my view failure to do this just gives oxygen to far right groups like the BNP, who can prey on peoples feelings of unfairness.

Not sure of the answers to all of these questions, but I do know they need to be answered.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

PCEG and stuff

As loyal readers will know some time ago I joined The Plumstead Common Environment (keep having to resist the urge to add 'al' at the end, must be something psychological at work there) Group, because I was fed up with the state of the Heavitree Close garages.
Well, after much delay, a painting by cleansweep, another graffiti attack, a wait for some paint, another wait for it to stop raining and I have finally done what I said I would do and paint the wretched stuff out.
So now all I have to do is keep on top of it and paint it out as soon as it appears. One of the current solutions to the problem is to get the little monsters to paint it out themselves if they get caught, but I would prefer a more radical solution, and that would be for local people to go round and paint our own tags all over the houses of the offending brats, that way we can all see exactly who is to blame and I bet a few more parents would have a better idea where their little darlings are. I think my tag would be ageing avenger.

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arthurpewtys.... has reached its centenary, it is 100 posts old, and by coincidence, with this post sibonetic has reached its half century! Do have a look at arthurpewtys.... as it is always an entertaining read, this week Hugh recounts the tale of the not very bright chav thieves in Morrisons, Erith. He also wants a new camera, though I think his pics are really good with the one he has got.

I myself am quite happy with my new Fuji which I took my Tour de France pics with. If has anti-shake and and rechargeable lithium battery and that will do me. It is also on special offer at the moment, though it is currently £10 more than I paid.

A while a go I did a little post about Marc's course on web design at Greenwich Community College . Well the site is now up and running so have a look and if you have a Plumstead pooch then send Marcus a few details and a pic and he will immortalise your pup on the web.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This is how sad I can be!

Last Night I was having a look at the London Bloggers website, which for those of you who don't know is a site which lists blogs according to the tube/overground railway map, and I thought it would be fun to see how many blogs are listed at each station and see who the most prolific blogers are. So I thought I would limit my search to the local area, I had a look at Greenwich/Bexley. I started off with the raw figures, which had Greenwich on top with 30 Blogs, followed by Blackheath 18, Woolwich Arsenal 15, Abbey Wood 14, Charlton and Plumstead on 11 each, Maze Hill 10 Westcombe Park 7, with the other stations in the area on 4 or fewer the lowest being Bexley with absolutely no Blogs at all.

Now this is where I started to get really sad, as it occured to me that I was not measuring like with like and some stations are busier than others, so I looked up the passenger numbers on Wikipedia and divided that figure by the number of blogs at the station. This changed the positions somewhat with Maze Hill moving from 5th to 1st place with 54,000 passengers per blog, just pipping Greenwich on 55,000. Plumstead storms into 3rd place (68,000), with Wescombe Park 4th (72.000), little Woolwich Dockyard which didn't even figure in the previous top 10 is 5th, equal with Charlton (76,000), Blackheath falls to 7th (110,000), Woolwich Arsenal is 8th (135,000), Erith 9th (144,000) and Abbey Wood completes the top 10 (157,000).

At the other end of the scale, Bexley is still bottom with no blogs, next to them comes Welling where 1.6m passengers journeys a year only produce 1 blog.

Now there are 3 south eastern lines running through Greenwich and Bexley to Dartford and there is a clear heirarchy of blogging the Greenwich/Woolwich line has 106 entries, Blackheath/Bexleyheath 37 and only 11 on the Sidcup line.

The question is what can explain this, is it that pepole in Greenwich/Woolwich are more literate? Can people in Welling actually write? Maybe the bloggers exist, but don't think they live in London so don't list on London Bloggers, from experience there are a lot of people in Bexley, especially in the south of the borough who think because they have a Dartford postcode they live in Kent, I would suggest to them that they wake up and smell the coffee, you are in tne London Borough of Bexley, you elect members of the Greater London Authority and not Kent County Council. Perhaps there are computer literacy problems in Bexley so they are not online. Or is it that people on the Greeenwich/Woolwich line have more to complain about, perhaps we are a big bunch of moaners! and happy people don't feel the need to blog. I need explainations, any suggestions?


Plumstead has now established a clear lead over Charlton in the raw data, having added 2 blogs this week, taking it to 13. When adjusting for passenger numbers it retains its 3rd spot, but is now snapping at the heels of Greenwich and Maze Hill, with 57,000 passengers per blog. If one more Plumstead blogger takes the plunge and lists on London Bloggers then Plumstead will become the Blogging capital of Greenwich and Bexley. (thanks to erik-fuller for the update)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tour de France

Hits Plumstead High Street
Wait for it
Not yet
Nearly there
it's the leaders
The Yellow Jersey Fabian Cancellara

Now the pack

They keep on coming


Nearly over
That's the end of the pack
One straggler

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Day of the triffids?
(Japanese Knotweed)

The Knotweed is the big bright green clump at the top of the slope

At the councils Great Get Together, one concerned local resident came up to me on the PCEG stall and asked what was being done about the Japanese Knotweed, which was to be found on the western end of the Common, by St Johns Terrace. I of course stared at him blankly and asked if he wanted to join so he could bring the matter up at the next meeting (Sunday 8th July, St Mark's and St Margaret's Church Hall, 3pm), at which he baulked at the £4 cost of annual membership, so I guess he wasn't really that concerned about it after all.
It looks like bamboo, but isn't related. It blocks out completing native species, and forms a large 'monoculture stand'. Its organic waste forms a deep layer and prevents native species seeds from germinating.

It did however ring a few bells as I remember reading about some problems that residents of Chelsworth Drive and Tuam Road were having with said weed growing on waste land behind their homes.
The footpath on St John's Terrace has been completely overgrown by the Knotweed

I also then saw it mentioned in the management plan for Plumstead Common as something that threatened the biodiversity of the Common and that effort should be made to eliminate it. So in the interests of I science I decided to investigate a bit more. What I found out was rather scary. The plant is an absolute menace and is running amok in the UK as it has no natural controls such as insect, parasites etc. to keep it in check. It is deemed so hazardous and threatening to the environment that it is illegal to spread it under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. You can find out more about Japanese Knotweed here.
New shoots are already coming up through the footpath
and the roadway
I have to say if I lived in St Johns Terrace I would be rather concerned as 'The rhizome (posh word for roots I think) system may extend from a parent plant up to 7 meters laterally and to a depth of 3 metres'. That means that the roots for the problem plant can go over 21 feet sideways. So the weed on land looked after by the council can come under the road and footpath and up into your front garden or even your front room, damaging your property in the process. It is already breaking up the footpath on the side by the Common.
The footpath has almost disappeared
I will certainly be asking the Council what they intend to do about it when I go to the Council's Parks Friends Buffet on the 13th July.

How long before you get this?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

Had a bit of a blogging interregnum, because life suddenly went a bit manic, not in a bad way, not in a particularly good way, just didn't seem to get the time to blog. However got an unexpected evening off tonight, as I went to see my Dad last night and combined it with picking Marcus up from his day at his Mothers, so hey presto a Thursday with nothing to do but walk the dogs (or from the look of it take them for a swim) and blog.

Not done a proper entry since June 16th, only some photos and a' swot a tory piece' + the not very shocking revelation that the Tories are finally learning that they have to appear reasonable it they want to get elected.

Enough of politics and back to the Asian Mela of June 23rd, which was a bit of a washout if it had not been for the appearance of Hugh from arthurpewtys.... blog fame, (but more about Hugh later), and of course the Asian Wrestling . I was manning a stall for PCEG in an attempt to broaden its membership, to make it more diverse (my idea) and less middle aged, middle class and white. (not that I object to any of these things, being all 3 myself). So there was me sitting alone on a soggy field, managing to sell a couple of books and sign up 3 new members (all white, middle class and middle aged!). So if there are any young people from an ethnic minority with a working class background, preferably disabled reading this who have an interest in helping to look after Plumstead Common PLEASE join PCEG, so we can tick our demographic boxes, don't worry you don't have to be gay, we have got that one covered!
Six days later it was back up to the Common (Winn's, this time) for the Councils Great Get Together. Which weather wise was a bit of a let down, but I have to say was really well organised with loads of things to do, the entertainment was pretty good including 4 poofs and a Piano from 'Jonathan Ross' fame.

Only bit I couldn't stand was the Rap, I really think there should be laws against inflicting that rubbish on unsuspecting members of the Public. Managed to sign up another 9 PCEG members, not just middle aged people, bagged a couple of near deaths as well. I guess young people have far more interesting things to do.

Seriously there is a PCEG meting this Sunday (8th July) 3pm at St Marks and St Margaret's Church Hall on Old Mill Road if anyone is interested in coming along, it could be interesting as future plans for the Common are soon to be a hot topic as the councils management plan for the Common is to be put out to public consultation. I will probably write a separate post about this, but the plan is in confidential draft form at the moment.
Stop Press

Just had an e-mail from icesave to say they are putting the interest rate up on my savings from next Monday to 6.2%, so if you are with one of those shoddy traditional UK financial institutions which fails to pass on base rate rises in full to savers, I urge you to move your money. (I bet they increase your mortgage rate by the full amount, or more!). Stick the money grabbers where it hurts.

Plumstead and environs Blogs

There is a new blog on the block, well new to Plumstead (erik-fuller), which had a few comments on various Local blogs. Which got me thinking we ought to have a blog party/awards ceremony. On one level it could be a good excuse to get out of cyber space and into the real world! It could be a good excuse for a few beers (or wine or whatever your tipple!). Awards categories could include
Most elastic use of the English language, Post which induced the most comments of a homicidal nature, contributor most likely to be helping the Columbian rural economy, post most likely to enrage the local council, or Tories or whoever, blog most likely to get a Jazz cafe in Plumstead. (other suggestions welcome) For entertainment we could have the sibonetic v Last Boy Scout 'Handbags at Dawn' contest.
It could all culminate in the 'Blog of the Year award', indeed I am currently musing over my acceptance speech....'

'with thanks to Hugh, without his unfailing support and encouragement none of this would have been possible, to Nigel for his honest attempts to keep me on the straight and narrow. (wipes away tear) To t for his forthright promotion of kamikaze driving and bringing about sticky ends for chavs, to the Rev for his ability to make a comment even when the post was frankly rather boring, thanks to all of you who have made this award possible (dissolves into floods of tears) I love you all.'

erik-fuller's blog also alluded to the Common/high Street divide, which prompted me to make this comment, which I reproduce here,

'The whole up the hill down the hill thing in Plumstead is really quite amusing, when you add in Shooters Hill as well it starts to remind me of the 60,s sketch with John Cleese, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from TW3. With Clease on Shooters Hill looking down on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Peter Cook (from the Common) looking up to John and down on Dudley and Dudley knowing his place, (down on the High Street).'
It may have been Ronnie Barker and Corbett, my memory seems to be failing!! think I am having a senior moment!

Finally HAPPY 40th to top bloke Hugh, who was undone by a combination of the Rev (aka Ian), his Aunt Betty (in America) and the power of the internet, into letting slip his birthday was on the 3rd July.