Thursday, May 31, 2007

Italo Svevo

While sitting in Chu & Cho's Tapas Restaurant on Charlton Church Lane many months ago I noticed that the house opposite has a blue plaque it. That usually represents that some "important" person lived there at some point in the past.

It turns out that an Italian (well sort of, he was born in Austria) author by the name of Italo Svevo lived there from 1903 until 1913.

Click here for more information about him.

My favourite tale about him is his inability to give up smoking and his request for one final cigarette on his death bed, he promised that it truly would be his last one.

As a footnote it's very pleasant to write about something nice for once, I meant to do this last week but then there were those things with the car parking changes and the Red Bull air race.

Charlton Average, not just there for the bad things in life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Free Family Day at Firepower (oh and the Red Bull Air Race)

Greenwich Council have just seemed to announce a free family fun day at the Firepower museum in Woolwich and some other events to celebrate (is that really the right word?) the Royal Artillery leaving Woolwich.

Click here for all the information.

For me that's a cracking one days notice. Did I miss the announcement? Well they only sent out the email about it today (I'm registered to receive e-alerts from the Council). I'm sure that it's not been up on their web site for very long either.

A quick peak at the source of the news page throws up two dates, "issued" on the 21st of May and "modified" on the 25th. It looks like the e-alert was issued on the modified date so I'm thinking there's a good chance that it was sent to the web site on the same day.

Thanks Greenwich. How much notice do they think that families need to plan bank holiday weekend activities?

So what about the Red Bull Air Race?

Well wouldn't this be a great way to inform the public about it and the free tickets for Community Groups (see this story)?

In part the Council agrees with that. It sounds like there will be some form of Council information desk/display/something where "you will also find information about the Tour de France and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games."

No mention of the air race though, and no mention of those free tickets that the Council have been given. Where have they gone and why aren't they telling us about them?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Red Bull Air Race

The Red Bull Air Race is coming to London, to the Greenwich Peninsula to be precise.

Click Here for their web site. For details on the London race go to the Race Calendar menu option.

While there I saw something interesting:
10% of all general tickets will be given free to local residents of affected boroughs (Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets).

I've got a new copy of the Greenwich Time paper from the council and they mention the air race with no mention of those free tickets.

The Red Bull web site continues:
Greenwich Council will be organising the distribution of their allocation of tickets. If you are a resident of the London Borough of Greenwich please contact Michele Ingram on 0208 921 6405 or by email at in order to apply for free tickets.

So I call them up and it turns out that they're giving the tickets first to "community groups" and then if there's any left the general public might get them. No mention of which groups are getting them. I'm a member of the local community living about half a mile from the river where the race will happen and will most certainly be "affected" by it. However because I'm not a member of whichever community group that's getting the tickets I've basically got no chance.

Newham and Tower Hamlets on the other side of the river are just doing a lottery type thing to assign their tickets which seems so much fairer.

So where are the tickets actually going?

Why didn't the Council mention them in Greenwich Time and encourage groups to contact them and apply for them.

How many members of the council will be getting in free?

Monday, May 21, 2007

HMS Exeter

On Saturday HMS Exeter sailed up past Greenwich on it's way to be moored alongside HMS Belfast. She's due in Newquay on Thursday so if you want to see her you'd better be quick, that is if she hasn't already gone. I wish I knew when she'd be making her way back past Greenwich as it would be quite a sight.

As a quick bit of history it's worth knowing that HMS Exeter is the last warship still serving that saw action in the Falkland Isles.

Parking Restriction Changes

I don't want to seem to be hard on Greenwich Council, I really don't, but sometimes they make it oh so very hard to be nice about them.

They're introducing changes to the parking restrictions in my area. The council know that live in one of the affected roads as I pay them an awful lot of council tax for the "privilege". They also know that I've got a car as I've got a residents parking permit.

So how did I find out about these changes? Did they write to me personally? Perhaps a mass mailshot dropped though my door?


They tacked up a notice on a lampost.


Basically the effect to me is going to be that when I visit a friend near Maze Hill I won't be able to leave my car there overnight, it's going to be a different zone. That's kind of fair, the zone I'm in (CW) is huge.

What will have an impact is that they're taking away the free parking bays around me, so if someone wants to visit me and have their car here during the permit hours (Mon to Saturday until about 6.30pm) I'll need some visitors permits. Which of course the council charge for. Well I think that they charge for them, I just tried to search their web site to check but the search is broken. See! They seem to make every effort to be rubbish.

The notice was put up on the 9th of May and you've only got until the 30th to object. The stealth tactic of trying hard not to tell the residents what's happening might actually work.

On the subject of parking I've just seen this question on the council's web site, "what if I need a courtesy or a ‘hire’ car?" Click here for the full answer but in brief until you've arranged a temporary permit "you need to make alternative parking arrangements." So if my car breaks down and I get a courtesy car when do I put it until the ever so efficient parking people give me a new permit? They've just taken all the free parking away so I think I'm stuck.

Thanks, again.

Click on the image below to view a larger image on which you should be able to read the meat of the changes.

Cutty Sark Fire

I checked the news this morning and was shocked and saddened to read that the Cutty Sark (the boat, not the pub) has been on fire.

You can read about it here.

I feel quite sick that there's now a susipiscion that it was done deliberately.

However there is some light at the end of the tunnel. After getting the boat to Greenwich over the weekend I took some friends up to see the Cutty Sark. There's some gaps in the fencing around it through which you can peek inside. For those that don't know the ship is being renovated, they've taken away the masts and a lot of the hull. Therefore pretty much all you could see was a corroded iron skeleton, there didn't appear to be much for the fire to damage. The news report above seems to confirm that, the fire looked a lot worse than it was.

I hope that initial assessment is right and that no serious lasting damage has been done. I miss not seeing her masts towering over Greenwich and it would be a true loss if they were to never return.

Edited to add: I've just seen the reports on the BBC about this. Thankfully the team involved in the restoration didn't seem too concerned. Yes there's been damage, yes it will take time and money to repair but they reemphasised that a lot of the wood and artifacts had already been removed as a part of the process. The reporter also pointed out that the damage that you can see is mainly to the structure they'd build over the ship so it looks a lot worse than hopefully it is. My fingers are crossed.

Another Update:Click here to see an updated from the Cutty Sark Trust. They say that some of the ironwork has buckled which is worrying, they're still assessing the damage but the tone still doesn't seem too bleak. I hope that the continuing assessment doesn't throw any huge unexpected problems up.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An unfamiliar view of the familiar...

I got a boat the other day from London to Greenwich, I was with friends and it seemed like a great idea. It was.

The boat was a City Cruises one and we sat in the open upstairs deck. There was a commentary from someone as we were going along and while light it was pretty informative and entertaining.

The only downside was the cost, £7 or so. However I think that for not much more you can get a return or an all day ticket so if you're having a whole day out it's not too bad at all.

It's definitely a lovely way to view the city and it was much nicer than getting a train.

Anyhow as we approached Greenwich I took a snap of the old Naval College, I've walked past it many times but it was great to see if from a different perspective.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Tunnel (again)

The story over the tunnel continues with a debate over it in Parliament last night.

The Debate
The ever on form Greenwich Watch on the subject
SEL Blogs view

The way I see it a lot of it boils down to this statement from Robert Neill the Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst.

"We have also discovered that on 12 January—the Minister kindly confirmed this for me—TFL discussed with the Highways Agency the potential cessation of the contraflow. It claims that it also discussed it with the London borough of Greenwich, which is where the tunnel comes out, although the people there are by no means the most affected by the decision. In fact, the London borough of Greenwich says it has no record of any such meeting or discussion taking place. Someone is not telling the truth—and my money is on the London borough of Greenwich being right."

So in Parliament he's calling TFL liars. Surely there's got to be a response.

I really want to get to the bottom of this, there's a lot of spin and conspiracy theories floating around about the closure of the tidal flow lane. Amidst all that we've got TFL and Greenwich Council coming out with fundamentally disagreeing statements on how it came about.

And why is our local MP, Nick Raynsford, keeping so quiet on this issue? In fact he wasn't even there. You've got MPs from areas some distance from the tunnel feeling compelled to comment on what this is doing to their constituents yet the local MP won't even put in an appearance yet alone give a comment.

I really don't want this to become a political blog, I'm not a Greenwich Council basher at all but something smells really bad here.....

Maryon Wilson Animal Park

The Animal Park, or Children's Zoo some call it, is a real hidden treat of Charlton. Well I thought it was pretty well hidden, I was delightfully surprised when I stumbled upon it while out walking one day.

They've got a number of animals including things like sheep, ducks and, best of all, deer.

It turns out that tomorrow, Saturday the 19th, they're having an open day (click here for more info). It's a shame as I'm going to be out and about in town doing non Charlton and decidedly non average things. Otherwise I probably would have popped up there, if only to see the birds of prey thing they've got going on.

If you'd like to know where the park is click here.

It's been a while since I've been up there so I should go again and take a camera with me, I think it's really rather nice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dramatic Change at the Station!

Well it's pretty dramatic if you've ever tried to buy a ticket from the ticket machine at Charlton Station when it's raining. It's a touch screen machine and one it's got wet it's really unreliable. I've tried various tactics from the "stab it until your finger hurts" to "rub it gently" to try and buy tickets, it either takes a long time or it just plain wouldn't work.

The new cover seems to work pretty well. Unfortunately it went about about a day late last week. On the Wednesday there was travel chaos around here as the tunnel was shut. The roads jammed up and buses were going nowhere, so many people were trying to catch the train to get where they needed to be. So a lot of people needed tickets. And it was raining. Lo and behold there was a massive queue inside the station as people tried the machine without any luck.

Thankfully the ticket office was actually open, all too often the staff seem to nip off home at about 5pm (they're meant to be open until about half 7, see here, I should chase that up), leaving the machine the only hope.

Did the huge queues last Wednesday prompt the hasty order for a shelter? Or was it SE Trains finally pulling their finger out and trying to offer a genuine service to us poor "customers"?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Changes to the bin collections in 2008

The rumours that I read about a while ago appear to be true. Changes are on the way to the way that Greenwich Council deal with our rubbish. Read about it at the Council's web site.

Well in theory I think that's a good idea. With one flat still vacant here my recycling bin was stuffed full after two weeks. Over the last week I produced about a quarter bag of non-recyclable waste, some of which was organic so would go into the green bin under the new scheme.

I do hope that they give some clear instructions as to what sort of bin or bag we can use to pop waste into the organic bin with. They can't just expect us to tip it in. Fingers crossed they'll either give us some new bags to use or say that any biodegradable/compostable bag can be used.

Anyhow in theory it's a very good plan. It might also stop people throwing recyclable rubbish into the general rubbish bin which seems an easy and unresistable temptation for some people around here....

On a very personal note I do wonder what will happen to the bins on match day. At the moment fans fill them with all manner of rubbish as they pass them by with no heed to what they're meant to be for. Will I be held liable for this? There's no room off of the road for both of the bins so at least one will have to remain there.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bar 38 @ West India Quay

After the Museum in Docklands, see previous entry, we were hungry and went looking for food. Bar 38 just down the quay was the place selected and in we trotted. I've been to Bar 38 for drinks a few times and in my opinion it's a trendy bar that's a tad overpriced and overbusy. This was the weekend though and the area's much quieter so in we went.

In "gastro pubs" I'm often never quite sure how it works, do you wait to be seated? Should you order at the bar? We went in and grabbed a table and then I had to hunt down a member of staff to find out how the food worked. It turns out you do order from your table rather than the bar. Once that had been sorted out, and I must admit I was a tad impatient and anxious as to what I was meant to be doing so maybe someone would have come over soon enough.

Sausage and Mash and Steak and Ale pie were ordered and arrived promptly enough.

I was keen on the Sausage and Mash, always a favourite of mine in a nice pub. A bit lacking on the gravy but the sausages were very nice with a generous portion of Mash.

The Pie didn't seem to be quite as good. It had only one decent sized chunk of steak in it which I happened to nab when I was offered a taster, the rest were much smaller and therefore in an inverse proportion to my guilt. Once again there wasn't quite enough gravy but it was admitted that what there was was very nice indeed. The Broccoli that came with it were done just right in my opinion, the orderer considering it an evil vegetable and not wanting it, cooked by crunchy.

So the food was on the good side of things.

I had some beers, which were fine. However my companion ordered a Woo Woo cocktail and was rather let down. It tasted a bit watered down, lacking in colour as well as flavour. A shame as she was looking forward to it.

It was rather pricey, the drinks especially, but all told it wasn't at all bad.

Oh and they've got almost unisex loos, a shared hand washing area with ladies and gents on different sides, still confusing when you first walk in and are desperate not to go the wrong way....

The Museum in Docklands

Over the weekend I took myself over to the Museum in Docklands at West India Quay. In theory it should have been a nice and easy journey, as the seagull flies it's only a mile or two. However one broken down bus, getting out of the wrong end of Canary Wharf Station and walking there in the rain made it somewhat more epic. A more epic tale story that will go untold was my quest for pudding on the way home....

Anyway, the museum.

I like my history and I really like my London history. So it's a bit of a surprise that I'd never been to this museum before. It aims to cover the history of the Docks, London and the River since about Roman times.

So what did I think? Well it was heavy on the information but light on the artefacts. I can read about things online or in books, to me a museum is meant to be somewhere I can see things. If I can touch things too that's even better, I really like getting tactile (in a nice way) with history. It seems to make it human and bring it closer. They had a whole lot of information but to be honest looking back not a lot of things to see.

A highlight I do remember were two whale jaw bones, one from the docks and one from the river. That dated back to London's Whaling days (which I was surprised to find out about). They'd been used for some sort of building during their time ashore, one had holes bored through it and the other had rope marks scored around it. And you could touch them too. Fascinating. On the one hand quite sad, the cruelty of the Whaling "business". On the other a real piece of human history. Who had caught the Whale? What had they been used for? Who one day had enough of them and threw them in the river?

There was also an Iron Girder from a warehouse that had been bombed during WW2. The heat had been sufficient to melt the top half of it, and that needs quite a bit of heat. Little things like that hit home what it must have been like.

The museum ended with where my memory of the area began. The redevelopment of the docks and the LDDC. Once again lost of information and panels of reading. Still as said that's when I began to be aware of the area and how close to it all I was (I was a north of the river boy back then). Unfortunately the museum was closing and I had to rush through it.

The very good news is that your £5 ticket lasts for a year, so providing I can find it I can go back and finish it off. I often go to the pubs along there to meet friends so one night I'm sure I'll go back and check it out again.

To bring this to a conclusion of sorts it's a worthy museum. A big reason I got what I did out of it was because of my interest and history in East London, maybe others will get less from it than I. It could do with some more artefacts though.

Oh and there was a mistake in the WW2 section, E-Boats weren't submarines, they were boats. U-Boats were the sinky sinky ones.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going Against The Flow

Greenwich Council's official line about the suspension of the Tidal Flow lane in the Blackwall Tunnel until two days before it happened.

The fantastic Greenwich Watch web site have claimed that the council were in fact told about it in January. Keeping quiet about it would be bad enough but they also appear to have lied about it, which is appalling.

News Shopper have now also picked up on the story and are saying that they've seen documentary proof that TfL did indeed inform the Council in January as Greenwich Watch had claimed.

It would be easy for me to stick my head in the sand over this, I don't drive to work so in theory it doesn't affect me. However not only do the Council deserve to be called out over this but it may very be a part of a far bigger issue which does affect me, the apparent plans to introduce congestion charging in the area.

Anyhow please read the following links.
Greenwich Watch's Original Post
News Shopper's Story

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cho & Cho's, The Return

I returned to Chu & Cho's the other day, it's so local that it's very tempting. I was also curious to see if the original staff were still there at the weekend as I thought they might be. Well the answer appears to be no, which is a shame.

I did try the Thai meatballs which were OK, other far nicer things on the menu. They didn't have a whole lot of texture to them, maybe that's the point, but they didn't really float my boat. The sauce wasn't very flavoursome either. All told, a bit of a let down but not bad.

They did have a music evening planned for yesterday evening which was nice to see, at least that's continuing.

They also now server Tiger and Singha beer, which I guess was an obvious move.

A quick further thought on the dessert menu, it's now very akin to what you'd get in a Thai restaurant. I think there was fruit, a sweet rice dish and profiteroles. Thankfully I was once again too full to want anything further but it's a shame to know that my old favourites are now gone forever.....

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

National Tyres and Autocare Greenwich

I had to replace the rear tyres on my car the other day. Although it had a service coming up I had to go on a long drive and I'd been told a while ago that they were nearing the end of their life. Therefore I thought it best to take no chances and get the job done.

A quick internet search threw up National Tyres and Autocare ( at 157 Greenwich High Road. Not knowing much about cars the idea that they were a national chain seemed like a safe bet so off I went.

The service wasn't that great at all. The guy behind the counter was nice enough but they just seemed rushed off of their feet. I was told that it would take about 40 minutes to do so I said I'd take myself off for a stroll, to the Markets I went. When I got back the job hadn't been done, I don't think it had even been started. I sat there for about another half an hour while they did it.

If they'd have said "we're dead busy, it'll take an hour and a quarter" I'd have been quite content, more time to stroll around Greenwich which I always enjoy. Being told it would take a certain time and arriving back to find it hadn't been begun was a bit of a blow. Was it just me being there that made them pull there finger out and get it done? If I'd have sat there all the while would I have been done quicker?

Some woman came in who had it far worse than I. She'd been in a few weeks ago and some technical sounding part for her car had to be ordered. She said she had had a phonecall to tell her that it was in so she drove in to have it fitted. The guy said that it wasn't in stock and simply said he couldn't explain why it wasn't there. Eventually he offered two suggestions. One was that they only hold non stock items (such as this part) for a certain amount of time before it's sent back to the stores. Also the guy who phoned her no longer worked for the company, allegedly.

The price for me for two new tyres was £73 which I thought was pretty reasonable. Looking at the receipt it includes £10 for the "National Tyre Guarantee" with no explanation of what that is. Yes I should have asked at the time, I know..... I might give them a call and ask what it's all about.

So would I go back?

Well they weren't bad but I'd try for a weekday when they're not so snowed under with work.