Friday, September 26, 2008

Firepower Artillery Museum

A few weeks ago I went to the Firepower artillery museum at Woolwich Arsenal. I've been meaning to write about it for a while, so it's about time I got down to it.

Basically it's good, very good.

There's actually two museums in two different buildings opposite each other, so if you do go do make sure that you do both.

If I had to make a complaint about it I would say that some of the layout can be a bit disorganised. You can have seemingly unrelated items popped into the same display case next to each other, which can make it a bit confusing. However that's really only a minor niggle, and in a way it's quite endearing.

It's more of a museum of artillery, as the name suggests, than a museum about the Royal Arsenal. Though it does have a lot of artefacts and information about that aspect of it all.

All told a very interesting day out.

The Arsenal used to have narrow gauge railways criss-crossing it. I believe that this is a surviving wagon from one of them. I think it used to be over the river at North Woolwich but was moved over fairly recently.
A piece of the Iraqi Supergun and a gun shield that was shot at in order to test it's strength.
"Yes son you can have a cannon, but it's got to look like a cute animal!"
The main hall, lots of things!

They've also got the cannons captured during the Crimean War from was taken the metal that all Victoria Cross medals have been cast from. Unfortunately the photo upload now seems to have died, so I can't get anymore photos up...

Chocolate teapot or no teapot?

Now I've had my issues with my local councillors. Basically with 9 months of the new bin scheme and the streets still regularly littered with uncollected rubbish I'm pretty firmly of the opinion that they're about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

However spare a thought for the residents of Shooter's Hill, one of their Councillors Councillor Daniel Thorpe has been on holiday on Australia for the last six months.

I thought that it really took something for a prospective Councillor to stand before the people and say "trust me, I will work for you, I will represent you" and then to blithely ignore them as my terrible trio are want to do. However Councillor Thorpe appears to have taken that sort of behaviour as a bit of a challenge. He's taken contempt for his ward to a new level and skipped off out of the Country.

As if showing that level of disdain for those who voted for him isn't enough he then proceeds to really push him out front in the "I couldn't give a Monkey's Uncle about you" chart by also being on the following committees and panels and abandoning them too.
  • Best Value Review Team: Homelessness

  • Best Value Review Team: Libraries

  • Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel

  • Greenwich Council Joint Committee

  • Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Panel

  • School Teachers and Lecturers Joint Committee

What a thoroughly revolting example of public service.

And what do the Council do about him? You'd think that they might chastise him and stand up for the residents of Shooters Hill and those affected by the Committees that Councillor Thorpe has jilted.

Oh no, not Greenwich Council, they seem to be backing him.


You can read more about this story at the follow web sites:
News Shopper
The Last Boy Scout
Thurrock Gazette

It's quite nice to note that if you Google for "Councillor Daniel Thorpe" the Thurrock Gazette story comes up first.

Maybe he was trying to beat some of his fellows on Google too?

Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services and therefore the man responsible for the shambolic new bin scheme, has negative stories about him coming up in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th positions (myself and the last bus home).

Councillor Allan MacCarthy has my discussions about his lack of performance at number 4.

Councillor Janet Gillman limps in with a link to her lack of interest in Charlton at number 6.

Finally Councillor Gary Parker draws with Allan MacCarthy with one of my entries about him coming up 4th.

So Councillor Daniel Thorpe is good at something, it's a shame that it's not serving his ward.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There's a Charlton Residents Association...

...but not for the likes of me.

Local Blogger The Last Bus Home has been to a meeting of the Charlton Central Residents Association, read about it here.

I did hear about this group a while ago when Councillor Gary Parker mentioned that he had addressed them in an email that he sent to me.

However they didn't seem to have a very active web presence, I only found a holding page, and I soon gave up on them.

Well it turns out that they do exist, but they're only for residents of a very small number of streets in west Charlton. So why do they call themselves central? Surely "central" is the old bit around the Church? No idea...

Anyway apparently excluded, and so is the Last Bus Home despite living much closer to them than I do.

Councillor Parker was addressing them again and he admitted the problems with the new bin scheme and blamed them partly upon "management of the services".

Well the manager of the services is Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services. So if there's a management issue isn't it his fault? If so what the hell were the Council doing sending him on a free holiday out to China? Well I say free, the chances are that we paid for it.

Also bear in mind that the Neighbourhood Serivices team that deals with waste collections is severely understaffed and wants to tackle the residents that foul our streets but can't as it's "political".

So the Council understaff them, send their boss away on a holiday, tie their hands when it comes to enforcement and then seemingly blames them for it.


Still it's easier than admitting that, in the end, it's the fault of the Council and the Councillors themselves.

We'll soon be entering our second year of the new scheme and sites like the one below are still a weekly occurrence.

True enough after a week or so of it being like that it does get cleaned up but they're still not talking to the people who are doing it. They would rather spend what cannot be an inconsiderable amount of money doing extra collections than really get to grips with the problem.

Open House Biggin Hill

Last Sunday I was involved with the Open House event down at Biggin Hill. I didn't do an awful lot, in fact I did what felt like very little in comparison to many of the other volunteers but never the less I was there on the "other" side of the fence.

They were doing an event to highlight the role that the airfield had in the Second World War and to show people some of the things that remain from that time.

The original plan was to have people taken through a "time tunnel" in one of the bomb shelters and when they emerged they would be back in the 1940s. There would have been a RAF re-enactment group, a Spitfire parked up, a tour of a few bunkers and then a simulated air attack.

Things didn't quite work out that way.

The "time tunnel" didn't happen, the bunker was full of paint and other nasty chemicals. The real hardworking volunteers spent hours on the Saturday trying to clean it out but it was just decided that it wasn't safe, so scratch that idea.

Then the Spitfire was late, it had a flat tyre and engine problems. So the early people didn't get to see it. And then when it did turn up a Jet popped out of a hanger and started having various tests done upon it. The result? Well it had to be squished up near the re-enactors and the people couldn't get to the pillbox, sleeping quarters and final bunker where the simulated attack would have happened. Oh and the pyro guy got stuck in traffic so the early people didn't get the attack either.

It was still a great day though.

Visitors were first taken to a WW2 C-Pen (a C shaped walled area to park aircraft in) and given a talk on the airfields history. Then they went past the re-enactors who gave them a shortened briefing as if they were pilots about to go on a raid to Dieppe. The re-enactors had set themselves up in front of one of the last remaining, if not the only remaining, ready room on the airfield. That was where the pilots would sit drinking tea and waiting to scramble and intercept incoming bombers.

Later visitors then got to walk around a Spitfire.

Then it was off to another set of re-enactors who had set up an anti-aircraft post. After that it was off to visit a pill-box, the sleeping quarters and finally the E-Pen (like the C-Pen but E shaped, it could hold two aircraft).

The weather was lovely and the visitors just kept on coming, the scheduled lunch break didn't happen. In the end I believe over 500 people put in an appearance. It was great to see the level of interest, and it was quite moving to watch some old veterans talking to the re-enactors about their memories and sharing some great stories with them.

The state of the ready room was a bit of a sad affair though. Apparently it's a listed building, but the owners of the airfield have no intention of refurbishing it and it's being left to fall apart. They have, allegedly, offered it to the re-enactors who could move it to another site on the airfield. But it would remain on the airfield, and owned by the airfield, who after it's all refurbished could then do with it as they please.

It's a shame to see one of what can only be a very few such buildings just being left. Hopefully something can be worked out and it won't just fade away.

Anyway I'll close with some photos and an advance notice that a similar type of day will quite probably happen next year. So if you're at all interested in that period of history then get yourself down there.

If you're interested the Spitfire is the Pride of Kent and it's a Mk IX that was built in 1944, you can read about it here

The E-Pen

The re-enactors giving their briefing.

The re-enactors, some period vehicles and the ready room.

Looking from the AA Post to the re-enactors.

The Spitfire finally arrives!

Being this close to it as it taxied along was just amazing.

A final posed photo.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Greenwich Heritage Centre

Last week I went to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, it's next to the Firepower museum on the old Woolwich Arsenal.

It was fantastic, for reasons I'll expand on shortly. However I will briefly get a negative issue out of the way, and then I can be all positive and glowy, which will be nice.

As I walked up to the Heritage Centre from the river path I went along the side of the building, I then came across this:

It's a memorial to those conscripted for National Service and it was put up by the Council. Which is all well and good, but isn't it in kind of an obscure place? Why not put it on the front of the building where more will see it? It just didn't strike me as very fitting.

And now back to the positive.

At the Heritage Centre there's a small but informative museum about the history of the area mainly focussed upon the Arsenal and Docks.

There was a lovely information board about a residential area called the "Dustbowl", a 1900 visitor noted that "the male inhabitants are bullies, dock and waterside labourers, costers, hawkers and tramps. The women are prostitutes."

The police only entered the area in pairs and officially it was out of bounds to the soldiers from the barracks, "the military patrol can capture and confine any solders found there. But nevertheless the low class solder goes there."

And they say this area can be rough today?

They also had some artifacts that were found that were found at the Roman Settlement west of Maryon Park, that's not far from my house. I knew that the camp and/or fort existed but it's fascinating to actually see things that your neighbours from 2000 years ago left behind.

After the museum I found the best part of the centre, the research room at the back. Basically it's a library of books, local newspapers and photos of Greenwich. Best of all the staff were amazingly helpful. I was looking for any photos of Charlton and they got me boxes of them out and then made copies of them for only 10p each. I've since seen the woman who seemed to be in charge on a documentary about ship wrecks in the Thames and she's a local historian. So it's not just workers in there, they're skilled and knowledgeable workers!

I managed to find some photos, which I believe that I can't post up because of copyright, and some old maps of the area. I actually bought all the maps they had of Charlton and then some of other areas for local friends.

I'll be posting some more soon about the maps and photos I found have to show.

I believe the Heritage Centre is connected with the Council, they certainly have a page for them on their web site. I know that I knock the Council a lot but they are doing a great job with the Heritage Centre, I would love to see it expanded!

If you're at all interested in your area then get down there and have a look around and then do talk to the staff.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jim Wintour's Cleaned Up!

Unfortunately I don't mean the streets, instead of sorting out the problems with the "new" rubbish scheme he's been off on a nice trip to Hong Kong, presumably paid for by us.

He was sent by the Council to observe the equestrian events in Hong Kong during the Olympics.

Quite what horses have to do with the man who's meant to be in charge of keeping our streets clean is a bit beyond me. Maybe horses are his hobby, he's got to have some interests in life after all and clean streets clearly aren't among them.

Considering that he's also failed in his main responsibility you'd have thought that giving him a trip to Hong Kong is the last thing the Council should be doing. Giving him the sack might be somewhat more appropriate.

Perhaps the Council has done this to make up to him. After all Waste Services have said that they want to enforce the new bin scheme but can't as it's getting "political". Perhaps Jim's been frustrated at having his hands tied by the Council and the trip to Hong Kong was given to him to make up for it, or to shut him up.

How do I know this?

Well Councillor Andy Jennings the Conservative representative for Kidbrooke and Hornfair emailed me. This is what he had to say...

I was the councillor who obtained the details about the costs of the Greenwich China trip. For your information the six were

Councillor Roberts, Leader
Councillor Fahy, Cabinet Member
Mary Ney, Chief Executive
Frances Dolan, Director of Culture & Community Services
Ray Gerlach, Head of 2012
Katrina Delaney, Head of Communications & Community Engagement

Regarding the costs, the £14,000 was on flights alone. The Newham costs included accommodation and subsistence as well.

You may also be interested to know the answer to one the questions I asked, given the response…

8. Which members of the group will be visiting Hong Kong during the trip?

None. There is a separate Official Observer programme for Hong Kong for the equestrian events. LOCOG allocated one place for this to Greenwich Council and Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services is undertaking this task.

I am currently formulating a response to the chief executive’s responses and will publish on in the next few days.

So the Council spent far more than £14,000 on getting the six Councillors to Greenwich. And how much more on top of that did Mr Wintour's vacation cost us?

I wonder what would happen if I were as efficient at paying my Council tax as Mr Wintour is at keeping Greenwich clean. Would I get a free holiday seemingly completely unsuited to my skill set too?

Edited to add: Someone called Steve commented on this story and of particular interest he said "Greenwich Council didn't pay anything for accommodation etc, for as reported in all local media the costs of this were picked up by the local authorities in Chongwen."

So the total cost to Greenwich was £14,000, I wonder why Newham didn't get the same deal.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Council's trip to China

The News Shopper web site has ran a story about Greenwich Council sending six representatives over to China.

In a way that sounds fair enough, we are going to be a host borough for 2012.

But then you read that Newham sent only four, and those went cattle class where as Greenwich Council (or us tax payers) stumped up for Business Class seats.

Then consider also that Newham has the Olympic Stadium and village, which surely gives them more of an interest in the games than Greenwich.

So Greenwich paid £14,000 to fly six people out.

Newham paid £9000 to fly out four.

News Shopper named three of Greenwich's representatives as Council Leader Chris Roberts, Councillor John Fahy, and council chief executive Mary Ney. Who were the other three I wonder?

Did we really need to send more than Newham?

In these times when so many of us are tightening our belts did they need to go Business Class?

Greenwich Council, promoting equality and quality of life for all, especially themselves (yeah I said that on the News Shopper site, but I like it so I'll re-use it).

It's this sort of thing that makes me lament the passing of Greenwich Watch.