Archive for March, 2009

Police Consultation

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

So – IS crime actually getting worse round here – or are we just persuading ourselves it is?

Whatever – Sarah has just told me about flyers being handed out today for a police “surgery” tomorrow evening, between 6.00pm and 7.30pm at West Greenwich House (on the High Street) where we can talk to ‘the team’ about our concerns.

Greenwich Barge House

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Ok, guys. I need your help here. I was reading a book last week, from 1975, which kept referring to the wonders to be found in ‘The Greenwich Barge House.’

The what?

The Greenwich Barge House. Which was, apparently, the home of all kinds of wonders in the ’70s. The book talks about its housing ‘an enchanting little model of the eighteenth-century ceremonial barge of the Shipwrights’ Company,’ which has a Noah’s Ark theme (apparently the Company’s motto is “Within The Ark Safe Forever.) On the roof of the cabin. gilded animals march along, two, by two.

The Barge House also housed examples of the wherries – ‘long, narrow and shallow in build – in which the Watermen plied for hire from the riverside stairs.’

We could do with one or two of those in a few months time. Stevie tells me that Pedalpower, the magazine of Greenwich cyclists, is bracing itself for a proposed eighteen-month closure of the foot tunnel. Personally, I find that hard to believe – I mean – how long does it take to replace a few tiles and add a cycle lane? Except that Tony of the London Cycle Campaign tells me they’re not putting lanes in, but barriers to stop cyclists. Now I’m all of a pickle – I have no idea what’s going on. And it opens a whole nestful of vipers where cyclists flame pedestrians and vice versa and this is a post about barges.

I reckon we’ve been given an outrageous closure time so that when we get a revised time that’s only bad, we’re all grateful. The foot tunnel is an official highway, and as such I suspect that we may well be entitled to a Barge Replacement Service. It will probably just be a shuttle on the DLR, but there’s no harm in asking for a nice boat ride. It could be manned by a waterman in traditional garb – scarlet knee-length skirted-tunic uniform with stockings and buckled shoes – that would cheer things up…

But back to the Greenwich Barge House. The great barges of the Livery companies (which date back to the times when the Lord Mayor’s Parade took place as much on the river as along the streets) are long gone, but I did at least manage to track down this model of the one with the animals on it at the NMM. I had a look, and couldn’t find it actually on show, but then very little ever seems to be on display at the NMM. I’ve never seen such a museum full of nothing.

I’ve had even less luck finding Greenwich Barge House itself. It was definitely around in 1975, as my book’s author is keen to tell me about the enlarged engraving of The Stationers’ barge on the wall of the entrance hall – again – now in the NMM’s hidden collection. I’m prepared to believe that it went when the peninsula was flattened to make way for the Dome – after all the Peninsula seems the likeliest place for such a place to be – but looking at Peter Kent’s drawing on the front of Mary Mills’s Greenwich Marsh – The 300 Years before the Dome, I can’t see where it could have been. Simon Jenkins says it was next to the Maritime Museum – but I can’t work out where it could have been there, either, given what’s there now.

Anyone got any clues – or even heard of the Greenwich Barge House?


Monday, March 30th, 2009

SoC also reminded me a couple of days ago (and I STILL forgot) to mention that the first ten minutes or so of this week’s episode Waldemar Januszczak’s series about Baroque architecture deals with Greenwich – mainly the Queen’s House and the ORNC, from what I could tell.

Indeed it may cover more than that – I don’t know because I didn’t manage to see the rest of it myself this week (a pal called at an inopportune moment and I’m not tragic enough (yet) to choose telly over humans. The day will come, I’m sure.)

So you and me both have a couple of days left to nip over to iplayer and watch it again. Find it here.


Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Akanksha asks:

“Do you know of any good beauty places that I could possibly get my eyebrows threaded in Greenwich please?”

The Phantom replies:
Hmm. This one’s not quite my area, ‘fraid – far too much pain involved…

Anita at House of Beauty (Blackheath Therapy Centre, 184-186 Westcombe Hill, 020 8305 1719) does eyebrow shaping, I believe, but threading is quite a specialist thing, I don’t know if she does that.

Maybe someone can recommend a threading-person, while I shut my ears and say “la,la,la…can’t hear you,” very loudly.

The Phantom Recommends

Friday, March 27th, 2009

If you don’t have a lovely, cuddly independent bookshop in your area, like The London Review Bookshop (good cakes if you’re ever in the Bloomsbury area) West End Lane Books (good contacts) or the very wonderful Daunts (fab selection and lovely architecture) – and let’s face it, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get another one now – what with the way modern publishing works, the internet and supermarkets – then what’s the next best thing?

Someone at the local Waterstones that actually gives a damn, that’s what.

Jayson has just started as the assistant manager at Greenwich Waterstones and, as a Greenwich resident, has started beefing-up the Greenwich and London section and making it much more prominent in the shop. He even tells me he’s had one book reprinted because he saw it was going out of print. He’s keen to stock excellent books about the area, and happy to hear suggestions.

I’m delighted to see this. Of course I’d like to see a lovely independent bookshop and before you remind me, yes, Maritime Books on Royal Hill is lovely – but it’s specialised – which is slightly different. So, too, are Greenwich Book Time which sells remainders and the second-hand guys at Halcyon.

Let’s get realistic here. We have someone – with clout – who’s prepared to go that extra mile for local people – and that counts for a lot in a world where chains usually just plough-along-quite-nicely-thank-you.

Now. Here’s the bit where The Phantom’s tricorn starts to strain at the band. In places where you sometimes see staff recommendations on postcards dotted around the shop, you may well start to see little “The Phantom Recommends…” postcards on some of the books – they will look like this:

They will be culled from the The Phantom Bookshelf initially (and yes, I AM slowly adding to that – but I’m doing it very unscientifically, working my way along the shelf, and it’s taking aaaages…) but I may well be doing a few specific reviews for Jayson. Needless to say, I’m not going to say I love a book if I don’t – the same rigorous Phantom standards will be applied to any reviews I write.

In the meanwhile, keep an eye out at Waterstones for a slowly-growing Greenwich section. Of course it can only ever be as large as there are books in print – and there are never enough of those, thanks to the economics of publishing (otherwise Olde Phantome’s Greenwich Almanack would have been out by now) but maybe, if a major chain is interested in stocking local books, more publishers will be prepared to take a punt at printing them.

I can only see this as a good thing. Here’s something I never thought I’d say. Go Waterstones…

Tourist Week

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Simon rightly points out that I should be reminding you about Greenwich Council’s Be A Local Tourist event which gives sundry money off things all week.

I confess I looked at it and wasn’t wildly impressed with the offers, but it’s wrong of me not to let you lot know about it. Simon pointed out that tomorrow there will be 25 DLR Rover tickets going begging from the tourist office and Thames Clippers are 2-4-1 on the daily roamer tickets. In fact, many of the attractions are two-for-one. That doesn’t help if you’re on your own. Maybe I should start a buddy-system for getting cheapskate Greenwich-lovers together to enjoy the freebies next year.

Other offers like the Picturehouse, giving non-members members prices are less interesting to most of us, I’m sure. I mean – if you’re a cinema-goer in Greenwich and you’re not a member of the Picturehouse, you’re probably too mad to be reading this…

Got A Grand To Spare?

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I get sent the strangest things. I guess it was a nice piece of lateral thinking that made an auction house in Dorset send me (and, I note from the public carbon-copying, sundry free-papers – I wonder if they realise I’m just a blog…) news of this painting coming up for sale on 9th April. I doubt they’ll get many customers gagging for it down Dorchester way.

And you’re wondering why I think you might be interested in this bucolic, early 19thC watercolour of a pair of jolly milkmaids chatting up a shepherd, aren’t you?
Well, if you click on the pic, you may just about be able to make out some fuzzy buildings in the background. These are, we’re told, Greenwich Hospital and the Thames, complete with sailing boats. The happy milkmaids are on Shooters Hill.
Personally, I can’t see any boats – unless they’re the giant white things that I assumed were the ORNC – but it’s quite a sweet painting. Big, too – 23″ x 33″. Dukes are, naturally, hoping for huge interest in Samuel Austin’s view of South East London before it was – well, South East London, I guess.
The estimate is between £500 and £1000. Dukes is optimistic – “we expect it could do considerably better.” They would say that, wouldn’t they.
The one thing they don’t include in the press release is any kind of detail on how to actually bid. Yours Truly thought that someone with an interest in Greenwich and in possession of a magnifying glass might be interested in this one, though, so here’s Duke’s website . Once you get there, I confess you’re on your own. The catalogue isn’t available yet…

Market Sign

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

No – for once I’m not going to bang on about “A Just Weight….” Vicky has just sent me a more recent, but, in its way just as much a part of our history now (since Sunday) as the old iron motto in the covered market.

If you’re like me you will have seen this sign – and yet, somehow, not actually noted it. I really only bothered to look at it closely when Vicky sent me the picture above.

It can only be a few years old, but it records part of the history of this site – I love the two halves of a globe* that have been incorporated into it – very appropriate for the Meridian town. Not sure what the palm tree represents, but it looks very pretty…
Does anyone know what will happen to this sign? I’d like to see it incorporated somewhere into the fabric of whatever goes up next. Let’s keep an eye out…
* The filthy old Phantom Webmaster has just pointed out that it doesn’t look like ‘two halves of a globe’ to them. I couldn’t possibly comment…

Happy-ish Endings

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Something else I’ve been talking about with Rod has been the ongoing saga of David Herbert and his fight against Greenwich Council to save his house. If you’ve been on Mars or something and don’t know the story, it’s that house that’s covered in scaffolding, all by itself in the middle of Creek Road, just up from the Lord Hood.

We’ve talked about this several times before – but what it boils down to is a proposed development where the houses around 258 Creek Road were demolished to make room for said construction work, but David Herbert had no intention of budging. He liked his house and didn’t see any reason why he should move for something that was hardly life-threatening – it was a block of flats, for dog’s sake.

The demolition of the surrounding houses was done without reference to No. 258 – and as a result the house started to collapse. Greenwich Council compounded it all by planting fast-growing trees. They admitted there might be a problem and went as far as to put up scaffolding, but dragged their heels about actually fixing the damage – presumably in the hope that the not-spring-chicken who lived there would just give up and move away.

As more and more scaffolding went up, though, David Herbert got more and more angry – and less and less inclined to move. Petitions, meetings, court cases, the lot – and all the time, he continued to open his ramshackle bookshop inside on an ad-hoc basis.

I visited the place every so often – and marvelled that anyone could live in a place like that – it seemed to lose another amenity every time I went.

But now Rod tells me that David Herbert has (temporarily at least) won his fight to have his house restored to at least some kind of habitable state. Rod saw a bunch of workmen outside and they told him that the Council has finally – five years after admitting fault – decided to underpin the house and reinstate some utilities – at the moment it doesn’t have running water or gas. Rod says ” I doubt that the work which is happening will do more that just stabilise the building and run in a few basic services etc, so the damp, the visible cracks in the masonry and the missing/warped floorboards etc will probably remain.”
All this sounds like good news – and I guess that I am pleased for David Herbert – he finally got what he wanted from the council and greedy developers. But I’m inclined to agree with Rod – is this really a triumph for the Little Man – or is David Herbert a victim of that old saying “be careful what you wish for – you might get it?”
Rod tells me that Herbert will get no compensation for his house being ruined and having to live in squalor for five years when all the time Greenwich Council admitted they were at fault. I’m pretty sure the guy hasn’t the kind of cash needed to fix-up this dilapidated, semi-derelict Edwardian pub – which will mean that an elderly man will be living in poverty even after winning his battle.

I’m with Rod when he says:

“It’s his life and his home, but part of me wishes that when the property market was at it’s height and the developer approached him to purchase his land (which is approximately 20-25% of the possible, available, Bardsley Lane area), that he had screwed them to the wall and negotiated a really outrageous price from them, because they were so desperate for the land, bought himself a nice comfortable little house and put the rest of the money in the bank.”

I tried to email David Herbert or his friends – but have had no response…

Beer – Foamy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

This, my friends, is a sneak preview, courtesy of Rod, of the vintage whisky casks that Meantime have acquired to age the super-strength ale they’ll be brewing at the forthcoming brewery/brasserie at the ORNC. It’s all exciting stuff – even for a non-beer-drinking Phantom – and not quite as far off, time-wise, as I’d assumed.

Just to confirm, it is going to be in the wonky building next door to the Pepys centre (so all those gags about drunk 18C workmen building things on the squiff weren’t a million miles off the mark.)

It is, of course, a World Heritage Site listed-building – which, although that means it’s an even fabber concept than just yer bog-standard microbrewery, also has the flip side that everything takes ages, while the place is properly excavated for archaeological treasure and conserved in manners acceptable to English Heritage. Of course, that’s a good thing – but it does mean that Meantime don’t get to move in until October.

From that point it’s going to take – well – it’s not completely clear but probably a few months to fit-out the place with a microbrewery where punters will be able to chat to the on-site brewer, drink beer brewed as near as dammit to the exact spot the old 1717 brewery was, eat food (I don’t know who’s going to be doing the cooking-side, but I’m assured that it’s not Greenwich Inc) and even, on occasion, visit the cellars where the remains of the old well have just been discovered.

Of course, just because they can’t move in yet, doesn’t follow that Meantime are standing still on this one. As you can see from Rod’s pictures they’ve sourced some wonderful old wooden casks from a distillery in Scotland, and they’re busy brewing the first batches of ale (apparently it needs to be aged for, like, ever, to get the best flavour, so the very first pints pulled won’t physically be able to be brewed on site, unless we don’t mind a couple of years delay in opening…)

There isn’t just going to be one kind of beer brewed at the ORNC. There will be all sorts – including some pretty deadly-sounding extra-long aged stuff, some more easily quaffed brews (though according to Rod that’s still longer than most brewers bother to age it) and some other, edgier, things such as what the newsletter coyly refers to as “experimental” beer. The mind boggles – just what does that mean? Are they going to try turning – oh – I don’t know – bicycle inner tubes – into alcohol or something? Maybe they could have a go at Greenwich Lambic Beer. Now that would be ‘experimental,’ given the microbes in the air round here….

Ah. I see – reading on, it’s “a programme of rediscovering historic brews and attempting to understand long lost brewing techniques from the days when London was the undisputed brewing capital of the world.” Yeah, okay – I’ll buy that. Experimental archaeology in the true spirit of the word…

Something else I notice in the newsletter – there will be a brand new Union Beer Club where (presumably for a not inconsiderate fee) “a select number of aficionados can guarantee a regular delivery of individually numbered bottles of the strictly limited quantities of beer that will be the output of the Naval College Brewery.”

So. It’s not all doom and gloom for Greenwich Town Centre, guys. I’m hoping Rod can supply us with some sneaky shots of the brewery itself soon, too, but in the meanwhile, here’s another peek at those barrels…