Archive for September, 2008

Cutty Sark Ballsup

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

So, it would seem that it was all an accident after all. Someone left an industrial vacuum cleaner on for two days and a couple of security guards sloped off to a cafe for a kip, missing the beginning of the fire.

You can read about it here. What I wonder, though, is what will happen to the insurance money, if it can be proved that the fire wasn’t deliberately started. I guess they can sue the Italian makers of the vacuum – but it could be argued that leaving in on for an entire weekend wasn’t the best of ideas. The security guards could be rounded up and sent before the beak – but it’s unlikely that they’d have the sort of money that the insurance would be covering.

I hope I’m worrying unnecessarily. I do a lot of that.

An Aztec Gem

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Vanbrugh Hill

Here’s a place you either love or hate. I’m not talking about what goes on inside, but the building itself. Where it stands now, it looks a bit incongruous as its friend, the monster that was Greenwich District Hospital, has now gone and it sits between Victorian villas and a giant hole, but it was once, not so very long ago, part of a 1970s vision.
Admittedly it wasn’t a very good vision. I only know one person that mourns the architecture of that dead hospital, with its streaked grey concrete walls, forbidding brutalist walls and yellow-stained chimney. It certainly isn’t me. For me that hospital, however handy practically, had absolutely nothing going for it aesthetically.
But this little building…
This building I like. Yes, it’s seen better days – I’m sure when its architect drew it’s “artist’s impression” for the first time, it had Ancient Babylonian window boxes with cascading flowers from every level, rather than a couple of overgrown pot plants and some dead ivy, and the entrance hall is decidedly shabby. The nasty carpet tiles inside and solid concrete stairs drag it down, but just look at that exterior.
I seriously doubt the same architect who created the monstrosity next door designed this, though curiously, it’s been nigh-on impossible for me to find anything out about either of the two buildings. It’s as though both places have been or are to be expunged from the popular memory – as though that 30-odd years never happened. I’ve found NO records so far at all.
I love this building because there is something of the Aztec about it. That great stepped pyramid shape, the way it delves below street level – hell – even that service-room on top looks like some kind of ancient altar.
I’m sad that this building, I am told, is for the chop. This is one modern building I’d like to keep. Instead of pulling it down, I’d like to celebrate it. Redecorate inside; reinstate those Babylonian window boxes. Spend the cash saved on pulling it down and rebuilding on extra health services or frivolous touches. How about a reclining figure of Chris Roberts at the temple entrance, like those Mexican figures…
There are few modern buildings around Greenwich that have real architectural merit. Certainly, for me, the hospital didn’t, and I’d be only too pleased to see the nasty complex in West Greenwich that houses Somerfield levelled. But I’m not one for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This one, this one, I believe, has earned its place…

Tell The Phantom…

Monday, September 29th, 2008

When Benedict sent me this pic, I thought he’d sent me one of his holiday snaps by accident – it looks like Rome or Florence or somewhere else equally exotic. It’s actually the top of St Alfeges, taken this weekend at sunset and it sort of sums up the time of year we’re at. Fabulous weather – the like of which we could only dream in the summer months, but the birds know better. If you look closely, the starlings are gathering. Yes – autumn is drawing in. The mornings are misty-moisty, but the afternoons are glorious. I love this time of year.
Which makes it all the more galling that your Phantom was away this weekend and missed what must have been one of the busiest bunch of fun events we’ve had so far this year. The Cultural Olympiad began, The London Bubble were performing, Bearspace were doing sundry exhibitions, concerts were going on all over the shop – hell – I could even have seen Charlton play for a fiver, I discover from Friday’s GreenwichCard missive, which I’ve only just seen this morning.
Admittedly I had fun getting away this weekend, but I can’t help feeling that I really missed out on good stuff back in Greenwich.
So, for a change, I’m not going to write about things I’ve done, but ask you what YOU did. Did you go to any of the events? Were they any good? Do you have any pics I can see?
I’d love to hear about what I missed. I like to torture myself…

More Wedding Bells

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

I had hoped never to have to write about wedding venues again, but Lorna’s still not convinced by the Phantom Shindigs page, and I can sort of see what she means. Besides, it does give me the excuse to use this pic I took last week of a jolly mode of wedding transport outside The Trafalgar Tavern.

Lorna writes:

“My boyfriend has just (finally!) proposed, and we want to get married in Greenwich and have our reception in Greenwich too.

I’ve read through all the information on your site (and all sites online it seems!) about weddings in Greenwich, and I’m still a bit blurry on what we could do to make our wedding ‘extra speicial’.

So I wondered if you, or your readers had any thoughts on what their idea of a perfect Greenwich wedding would be, or if they have been to an extra special wedding in Greenwich and why it was so!

So far with our venue research (the usual – Queen’s House etc) we’ve found that the venues are WAY too prescriptive on what you can and can’t do, and you have no freedom with suppliers etc. We’d ideally like a church wedding followed by a marquee in the park, but of course, Greenwich council won’t allow that – but clearly the Olympics is fine! ;o)

So, any thoughts, random ideas, advice would be gratefully received!

Our only stipulations is that it’s held within walking distance from Greenwich town centre and would work for around 120 guests! Winter, summer, spring, autumn all sound great to me, and I’m having HUGE problems deciding! We don’t have a budget yet – so the sky is technically the limit!

I think the key is not knowing what CAN be done in Greenwich – we only seem to know what CAN’T be done!”

The Phantom agrees that many venues seem to be extremely prescriptive – it was something that came up again and again when I was writing the Shindigs page – the dreaded “allocated wedding planner,” the stipulated “approved caterers” and the vast rules and regulations. Some of them I can understand – if the venue’s of great historic value, for example, but most just seem to be trying to squeeze as much cash as possible from the happy couple.

I would be terrified by the thought of an alotted wedding planner – the images that dance before my eyes cow me just to think about it. And many venues don’t seem to even consider giving you a quote without forcing you to go through one of these scary people. They may dress it up as ‘customer service’ and ‘added value’ but IMHO the venues have realised it’s more difficult to back out after you’ve had a huge quote if there’s a designated human who has created a wedding plan ‘just for you. It would be a tough bird indeed that would happily rack up wedding planners and play them off against each other to get the best deal.

You say that you want a church wedding. It certainly ends the agony of trying to find a civil venue for the ceremony itself, which is fraught with problems – the venues have to pay so much for a licence that they often insist on your holding the reception there too – which racks up the costs. I know you say that the sky’s the limit, budget-wise, but weddings are hideously, hideously expensive and people add a couple of zeros onto costs as soon as they know something’s for a wedding.

You should find basic details on churches on the Shindigs page – if you’re not a churchgoer at the moment, it might be worth considering attending a few services for some churches; others are less fussy.

I confess to be rather glad that Royal Parks don’t allow marquees in the park – they’d be a permanent fixture, but that does mean that marquees are out, especially if you’re keen for it to be within walking distance of the town centre. The only place I can think of that regularly has marquees is The Fan Museum, and that’s such a pretty garden it seems a shame to stick a whopping great tent over it.

Depending on when your wedding is planned, i.e. if it’s from Spring 2010, you could see at what stage the Cutty Sark will be (notwithstanding any more accidents.) I get the feeling it’s going to be a stunning venue – a quick call to the Cutty Sark Trust might see you as one of the first people to use it.

My problem is that I really did rack my brains for the Phantom Shindigs page – if there are other venues within walking distance of the town centre, I don’t know about them. But maybe someone else here will.

I know that it’s a really special day for you, but don’t get carried away, like a friend of mine, who is getting married next year. She has been planning it since last year, and every time I see her she’s worrying herself to a frazzle over some detail. That’s two years of agony for one day. After all, it’s two people saying they want to be together for the rest of their lives. The rest is just packaging.

Comings and Goings On Trafalgar Road

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Methers has just spotted the dodgy-looking bar under the Plaza looks just about to open. But will it feature the much talked-about pole dancing? It’s unclear as yet.

But I have a theory. The council’s so Olympics-crazy just now, I’m beginning to wonder whether they misheard when they were asked for the licence – and thought the club wanted to put on pole-vaulting. Now that would be a novel idea, though perhaps unwise in a basement…
I did note that the ex-Chinese restaurant upstairs from it is now up for sale as an ‘investment opportunity’ for a luxury apartment. “Plenty of wardrobe space for dirty macs…”

By the by – did anyone actually see the amusement arcade’s sign before it lost half its letters – or did it always advertise AMU ENTS? I don’t recall it ever having the requisite number of letters.
Methers also noted the new shop that’s opened where the rudest cobbler in London Town closed a couple of months ago. I can’t really tell what it sells – whether it’s antiques/curios or gifts or even upmarket junk – I haven’t been in yet, but the selection of phones in the window is a bit of an eye-popper, and it lends a spot of brightness to an otherwise drab row.

That shoe mender may have been the rudest man on earth, but I do now face a small problem. Where in Greenwich can you buy bootlaces these days (the sort you put in your shoes, not the sort Mr Humbug sells, natch…)

One thing’s for certain. Trafalgar Road isn’t sitting still. Shops are opening, even if not all of them are quite what some people would choose. La Salumeria’s opening a cafe in the back; the Trafalgar Cafe is now reopened after making itself smaller (to shoehorn a flat upstairs – probably worth more than the entire business.) Maybe things are looking up?

Favourite Front Gardens (13)

Friday, September 26th, 2008

We’ve been a bit slow on Fave Front Gardens this year – presumably the weather’s not really inspired people as much as usual. But Benedict told me about one in King George Street which is as lovely as it is simple. He sent me these pics to prove it.

This little cottage could be in a little provincial town, but it isn’t. It’s in the centre of Greenwich and a reminder that you can get a little bit of the countryside pretty much anywhere. There are a few perennials in there, but for the show, they’ve concentrated on just a couple of annuals – big, floppy poppies and sweet peas, which act as a very neat ‘net curtain.’ A profusion of summer, to remind us that yes, we did actually get a bit of one…

More Equestrian Stuff

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Laura’s just sent me a link to Andrew Gilligan’s feature in the Standard today about the Equestrian events at the 2012 Olympics. Just passing it on, folks…

I’m A Celebrity Get Me In Here

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Ruth’s got an interesting question, which I guess we’ve all been tempted to ask at some point. She writes:

“My mother in law has been trying to find out how people get to live in Broadbridge Close Alms Houses, in Blackheath Standard opp. Gambardella’s. Or if indeed they are Alms Houses. Her mother used to work for Morden College many moons ago and she was wondering if she would be eligible for one of the places but can’t find out anything about them.”

The Phantom replies:

We have a wealth of almshouses in Greenwich and Blackheath, many of them absolutely gorgeous, some hundreds of years old, pretty much all of them ever so slightly secretive. Trinity Hospital and Morden College especially, seem to be from another era, behind closed doors and high walls.

But I have heard that with some at least, it isn’t as hard to get in as I had always assumed. I can’t remember who told me now, but the Hatcliffe Almshouses in Tuskar St, or so I understand, are relatively easy. And Queen Elizabeths Almshouses, run by the Drapers Company will consider you if you merely live in the borough or Lewisham and need a spot of help. Find them here. But Morden College? I did a little digging…

According to one of the only documents I can find on the web (loads about the history and architecture, very little about practicalities), on the Archives in London and M25 area site, the flats at Broadbridge Close are indeed one of several satellite buildings belonging to Morden College. There are also flats at Kidbrooke Grove, St Germans Place, Vanbrugh Park and Ralph Perring Court.

The original people for whom the almshouses were built were ‘poor Merchants…and such as have lost their Estates by accidents, dangers and perils of the seas or by any other accidents ways or means in their honest endeavours to get their living by means of Merchandizing,’ but the document goes on to say

” After World War One, a shortage of ‘decayed merchants’ led to further changes to membership conditions and the College now provides accommodation for women (as non resident out pensioners since 1908, and residents since 1966) and married couples (since 1951). Since 1700 more than 4,648 people have been College beneficiaries. Provision is also made for a group known as outpensioners, who do not require accommodation, but are in financial need.”

I had some difficulty tracking down Morden College; not, I suspect, because it’s actively trying to be secretive, just that it’s not terribly web-savvy.

I eventually found its entry in the register of the Charity Commission. There is a postal address, telephone number and an email. I tried the old wheeze of using this to find the website – it’s merely a reserved domain.

My suggestion would be to give them a call – the address is:


Telephone 0208 858 3365

or drop them an email –

Let me know how you get on… is another site you can try – the link’s currently broken though, as I discovered when I tried to find Trinity Hospital.

The Deadly Kacia Tree Of Olde Greenwich Towne…

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Benedict, you were moaning that there haven’t been enough pictures recently, so this one’s for you…

I was sent this fabbo comic a short while ago, (among others, all of which are wonderful) and I was put in mind of it when I was walking down Old Woolwich Road one darkening evening. There, peeping out from behind a high wall, was – OMG – surely not? The deadly Kacia Tree of Bandar!

Could it be that those lethal smells we’ve been blaming on the drains in Lassell St are actually – heavens – the Kacia tree itself? Or are they merely portents of what is to come when the poisonous purple plant finally blooms.

Will the vicious vegetable murder us all? Can the Peninsula Pong be traced to a backstreet in Greenwich? And does the Phantom actually wear a mauve all-in-one ensemble? Tune in next week, folks, to find out…

Cultural Olympiad

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Funny – since I decided to write about how rubbish the NMM are about letting us know about stuff going on, I’ve received this from three different people. None of whom are actually from the museum, of course.

This Saturday and Sunday as part of the Cultural Olympiad (about which I’m not sure how I feel, but that’s a discussion for another day) the NMM will host a couple of days of free arts events and workshops. I’d normally put this on the Parish News but since it’s a bit late, it’s here.

Saturday is Behind the Scenes at the Observatory.

Sunday is the vaguely-titled “Greenwich Lives.”

Find out more about it here