Archive for November, 2008
“I wonder if you know any pubs or restaurants that are open in Greenwich on Christmas Day for lunch. Everything in Blackheath is incredibly expensive.”
The Phantom replies:
I guess the problem is that few people want to actually work on Christmas Day if they can help it – and if they do, they want to be well-remunerated for it. I did it once and I hated it so much I swore I’d never, ever do it again. So restaurants do charge more on that day.
Right-ho – no Blackheath venues, then, which, I confess cuts down the list of really good eateries.
It’s been an interesting time trying to find out what will be open. I started with the places I’d actually choose to eat at for Christmas lunch, and worked out from there.
The Plume of Feathers, from its website, at least, has a Christmas menu but doesn’t appear to be serving on the day itself. Inside, too, is shut between the 23rd December and 2nd Jan. The Rivington closes Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Ditto the Greenwich Union. The Hill is open – but full. I was only able to find the test page for the Ashburnham Arms’s website and they weren’t answering their phone, but if they’re doing something, it may well be worth a look. The Cutty Sark uses that bloody awful telephone answering service supplied by beer comparison websites which I refuse to subscribe to, as does the Yacht, so I don’t know what they’re up to.
The Guildford would be my top choice. And it would have been anyway, even if all the others weren’t closed. I love that place – and the food. The proprietor is great – sincere and passionate about his place. The Christmas menu is here and comes in at £24.95 – I don’t know if there’s a Christmas Day supplement – but it seems pretty reasonable to me for three courses. Nougat ice cream bombe. Mmmm.
If you’re cool with Greenwich Inc, The Spread Eagle is open on Christmas Day, for both lunch and evening meal. Their menu is here and costs £35 or £42.50. Also the Bar du Musee, which has a choice of menu at £33. I confess I find the place soulless (it began so promisingly, but as it’s been taken over and enlarged and enlarged, until it’s developed an almost warehouse-like feel.) but plenty of people like it. The Trafalgar Tavern, which I would have expected to be a dead cert, is closed.
So there you have it -the bad news and the good news. The bad being that practically nowhere’s open – the good being that the one place that personally I would choose over all the others is open.
Good luck and Merry Bookings…
I’ve just found out about the ‘presence’ (their words, not mine) of LoCOG at the Pavillion Tea Rooms tomorrow (Friday 21st November) and Saturday. It’s too late to stick it in the Parish News and be sure it’s seen in time so it’s on the main blog.
To be honest timing seems a bit vague – I think it’s from 2pm but can’t be sure from what I’ve been sent.
What IS interesting is this, though:
“Greenwich Council are organising a public meeting to discuss all Olympic and Paralympic activity in the borough between 7pm-9pm on Thursday 4th December at the Indigo at the O2 Centre with Seb Coe, Cllr Chris Roberts, and a panel of experts to answer your queries. It is a ticketed event, but tickets are free, and they are obtainable from email@example.com tel 0208 921 6191.”
We need to keep up the pressure, guys. We’ll never be able to prove that the Olympic organisers would have been as careful as they could be without concerned groups and individuals forcing their hands but making as much noise as possible will hopefully bring enough attention to the issue that they will be obliged to do the right thing.
From what I heard yesterday on the news, they’re still determined to keep the equestrian events in the park. It’s our job to make it hard for them to mess up. To keep our eyes so firmly set upon those in charge that they don’t do sneaky things like setting up two companies – the first one to ‘deliver’ the Olympics, the second to ‘clear up afterwards’ (guess which one goes to the wall when they go over budget…) To make sure that Royal Parks don’t lose their nerve and cave in to pressure over heritage, envirnomental and cultural matters when dates get close and tempers get hot. To never let them get away with ANYTHING that will damage our park.
Warning. This could get nerdy, folks…
“Say, you don’t know about this thing with the chestnut blight? I’m really worried about the trees in the park, a lot of them seem to be hit by it. Do any scientist types know if it’s something that will move on, or will it kill the trees?”
The Phantom replies:
You alarmed me there, Sarah. So much so that I went out yesterday to check every chestnut tree I could find in the park. Of course it had nothing whatsoever to do with the lovely sunshine or the threat of cold-and-nasty for the next few days. This was Science. Obviously.
According to the BBC website, the alarming-looking ‘bleeding canker’ which is a nasty bark fungus, and the leaf-miner moth which make the leaves wizen and drop off, only seem to affect Horse Chestnut trees* but given the close proximity of horse chestnuts to the historic sweet chestnut trees* I wanted to make sure. I don’t think they’re connected genetically (I believe that the edible ones are more closely related to beech trees) but I’m no expert.
The blighted trees had reached Chatham and the Medway by 2006 which is when the BBC site’s dated, so I checked the RHS for symptoms to look out for. There are icky pictures of particularly bad cases on the BBC site.
As far as I can tell, the leaf miner just saps the trees, and makes them sick, but they can recover. And as it’s been a wet summer, they may have gone away anyway. The bark blight is the real baddie – and some forestry types seem to think it could be the next Dutch Elm Disease. There’s a rather alarming – if short on detail – map here that shows instances of the disease.
Obviously the leaves are mostly all dropped just now, so it was hard to tell whether they’d died because they’d been chomped or because it was winter. I could only look out for the nasty Bleeding Canker. I must have looked like some loony, staring up into trees, peering closely at the bark and muttering to myself but I couldn’t see anything that didn’t look like it shouldn’t be there (save the odd parrot…)
So yes – I think that it’s something to be on the lookout for – but personally I couldn’t see any problems up there yesterday. And because it only affects Horse Chestnuts (as far as I can find out) I don’t think it’s an immediate danger to the 300-year old Sweet Chestnuts.
*The Phantom’s Scientific Chestnut Identification Field Guide:
- Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum, if you want to get down, dirty and latin…)
The classic conker trees – you can tell the difference by looking at the leaves – they’re much bigger and look sort-of hand-like (to me, anyway…) They have ‘candles’ in the spring – pink and white, and they come up with big shiny, inedible conkers in autumn, in little hard green spiky cases. They’re the ones you bake in vinegar and tie on bits of hairy string then smash into other kids’ vinegar-baked arsenals (though you’re probably not allowed to do that kind of thing any more due to H&S regs…)
They’re nothing to do with:
- Sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa)
Those big, gnarled-trunk jobbies that are getting in the way of an easy Olympics. The leaves are more spindly with crinkly edges, and even youngish trees look knobbly. But the big difference is in the nuts – they’re edible for humans. The cases are much spikier and look softer.When they’re on the tree, they look almost ‘fluffy’ from a distance. Don’t be fooled. Wear gloves to pick them up – they’re buggers for ripping your hands to shrebbons trying to open them.
If you can get there before the hoardes of Chinese grannies who suddenly appear out of nowhere armed with giant carrier bags every autumn, you can gather them and roast them on the obigatory ‘open fire…’ (make a cross in the bottom with a knife first or they explode.)
“There is a large area which has been demolished in Greenwich High Road between the abandoned pub and the petrol station near the corner of Blackheath Hill. Roughly opposite the’ Golden Chippy.’ Something very old has obviously been uncovered there as the foundations are visible and it looks like they have been carefully excavated. I would be very interested to know what this find is. I have asked people who live locally and have searched on the internet, but can’t find any information.”
The Phantom replies:
The problem with finding up-to-date news about digs, especially where commercial construction firms have been obliged by law to bring in the archaeologists before they can actually build anything, is that the information is pretty sensitive stuff. They have to get the historians in, but they’re hoping against hope that nothing of interest will be discovered – it’s not only very, very expensive for them to do at all, but if something fab is found (as with the tide mill at Lovell’s Wharf) then the building work can be held up for months – or even years – as the place is investigated.
In some cases, the find is so important that the entire design of the new place has to be changed – off the top of my head, I’m thinking about the extra thick glass panel that had to be built over the medieval charnel house at Spitalfields or, even more extreme, the entire layer-cake of new levels that had to be built under the Guildhall to envelop the Roman Amphitheatre. That one held up proceedings for years.
The last thing that companies want is for the public’s imagination to be captured. So although digs have to be done, they starve them of any publicity they can – and I’m not entirely sure that the information isn’t formally classified. Maybe someone can clarify that for me?
Certainly I can find no record whatsoever of any commercial digs at all in London that have been carried out in the past couple of years by the Museum of London Archaeological Service, though digs are clearly going on all over the shop. (The Olympic site at Stratford is a bit of a special case – in that instance, they’re desperate for any good publicity they can get…)
So yes – I’ve been applying a spectral eye to the gaps in the gates at that site myself (I’m assuming it’s part of the water works (?) but what it used to be is anyone’s guess) but I have no idea what they’ve found. I always find the best people to ask are the actual workmen on sites like this. I generally prefer the Bob-the-Builder types than the real archaeologists – they’re usually happy for an excuse to chat – but I’ve never seemed to be passing whenever there are people there to grill.
Maybe someone here knows what’s being dug up – it’s just possible local historians will have been involved and can give us some clues (if you fancy spilling some beans, guys, your anonymity will be preserved, as always…)
However, in the meantime, I have found an interesting site that you may enjoy while we’re waiting to hear some news. It seems that after two years, official site reports are published by the Museum of London Archaeological Service; here is the list of Greenwich results.
There I was, walking past those very ‘brazier’ holders outside Devonport House yesterday, when I actually noticed them. Brand new lamps – obviously part of the general tart-up of the grounds there – just not clocked before. So – those strange spiky bits were just brackets for lanterns after all. No braziers. Boo.
Call me tragic. I’ve started realising just how fab our lamp posts are. Well – some of them, anyway. The ones that come from another time, when they weren’t just there to perform an illuminatory function, but to be decorative as well. I was wandering through the ORNC yesterday and it suddenly hit me, the sheer variety of the things. Some stand sentinel at entrances, others are simple columns with traditional Victorian-looking lanterns on top. Presumably most of them used to be gas lamps.
Don’t recognise this? No, nor did I. That’s because this one, despite being one of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) locally, is in the courtyard of Morden College and most of us never get to see it. It was sent to me some time ago (thank you, Anon) and I’m afraid it’s taken me this long to get round to it…
I know virtually nothing about the architecture of Morden College. The frankly tedious volume The History of Morden College, which I thought would end all my woes when I found it but is actually most useful as a cure for insomnia, says very little indeed about the building – more about the trust itself. Sadly it’s almost all I have on the subject and, although the far more readable Neil Rhind touches on it a bit, he refers readers back to The History.., which looks as though it was being written at the same time as his own Blackheath Village & Environs (2). I daresay he was being polite, leaving it to their own historian, but I wish he hadn’t been.
Admittedly the early political history of the college is fascinating (and if wagging tongues are correct, later political history too…) though perhaps not for a day dedicated to sundials.
1725 makes it five years before John Harrison would have created his first marine clock, so accuracy was a real problem – and a red-hot issue across the heath at Greenwich. All kinds of people were coming up with timekeeping inventions, hoping theirs was the most accurate to win the prize offered by the King.
The local dogs must have been delighted that the guys at Morden College decided to go with a sundial when they were getting a timepiece rather than that nutty idea some bright spark had of poking one dog at a certain time to see if the other one yelped.
Sundials have their drawbacks – not least the whole cloudy-day bit, but given what was on offer at the time, it seems a good choice. And even when it isn’t usable, it looks good.
Has anyone noticed if they ever open Morden College to the public, like Trinity Hospital does? Open House Day? Charity fetes? Guided Walks?
While I was going through my bookshelf, cataloguing it for the new page, a piece of folded card fell out which I’d totally forgotten about, but which, for its size, is a remarkable find.
Called, fairly unexcitingly, Holiday Geology Guide- Greenwich, it looks as though it’s a children’s thing – and yes, I guess it is intended for kids. The dinosaurs on the front, champing their way through primordial undergrowth where the Observatory is now, leaving a little gap for the Meridian line and with the ORNC and Canary Wharf in the background, are very kiddie-ish – but if you look on the back, they’re all genuine possible previous inhabitants of Greenwich (no gags, now, about where the dinosaurs reside today, eh?)
If you fold it out, there’s a sort of 3D-in-2D cut-through map of Greenwich from a couple of angles, showing what’s underneath it, geology-wise, how and when it was made and highlighting the really interesting bits, the best of which has to be the Greenwich Fault Line, created, apparently, at the same time as the Alps. How cool is that?
Even better, there are little notes on each of the main stone buildings memorials and other features, which tell you where the materials for each come from, including good stuff to look out for (little fossils, for example – snails, sea-lilies, corals, squid – or bits of them at least.)
The back pages continue the theme with photos, graphs and text, all actually interesting.
This is a single sheet of A3 card. But the information it holds punches well above its weight. I’ve included a widget for it from Amazon, because I’ve just learned how to do it, but it’s not the best place to buy it unless you have an order over ten quid. I got mine from the Visitor Centre, and it works out cheaper if you can drop by.
Heavens! Where did that come from? One minute I’m thinking about starting a little blog about Greenwich, the next thing I know I’m been blathering on for just over two years and a rather alarming 1000 posts…
I’ve been trying to work out what would be a good thing to do to celebrate being 1000 (or commiserate with myself for no longer having a life…) and, alongside vowing to get out more, I’ve decided to add a page to the blog. The pair of which may turn out to be mutually exclusive…
I often get asked where I find information about Greenwich – where to find resources, out-of-print books/maps etc. The bottom line is that it’s legwork – but I thought I’d try to cut out some of that legwork for you by giving you a lowdown on what’s on the Phantom Bookshelf – what’s out there and where to find it. (Hint for tomorrow – take a trip to the Amnesty International Booksale that Ros has just reminded me about…)
You’ll currently find the page here, but when a moment appears in The Phantom Webmaster’s stupidly busy schedule (which includes celebratory dinner for me tonight, tee, hee…) there will be a direct link from the front page.
This project is going to take me months, I’m afraid. I’ve been working on it for some time now, and I’m only about a third of the way through the stuff I own, let alone the stuff I know about. So if you’re interested in that sort of thing, keep checking it regularly – I will add to it as I go along. There are several sections, but each one is in alphabetical order by author.
But I’m not doing any more cataloguing for today. Today, I’m scoffing my 1000th Postday-Cake courtesy of Daisy Bakes, getting ready to celebrate chez Phantom Webmaster tonight – and raising a glass of Theatre of Wine champagne to all of you lovely folk who join me every day on my murky trips through this fantastic town.