Archive for April, 2009


Thursday, April 30th, 2009

A few days ago me and some friends were having ye olde ‘favourite-words-in-the-English-language’ discussion. Putative. Caoutchouc. Milt. Ytterbium. Gubernatorial. You know the sort of discussion.

My favourite word – well – maybe not my best word, but my desert-island word is Kitten. Here’s why.

Meet Grey Boy Kitten. His dad is Big Max of Devonshire Drive; his mum is Tiny Ruby.

Boy Kitten, and his sister Brown Girl Kitten:

are looking for a home. Currently all is harmony in Devonshire Drive, but Kate is worried that keeping these adorable little bundles of fluff might cause fur to fly in the long run, and is reluctantly saying goodbye.

“They are very well brought up and are cuddly and litter trained,” says Kate.

“We want them to stay in Greenwich so that we can checkout where they are going and so that new owners can come and check on us. We don’t want to sell them but do want to be sure that they go to good homes and are happy.”

So – is there anyone out there who is dribbling at the thought of the pitter-patter of fluffy feet? If so, drop me a line and I’ll pass your details onto Kate…

Here’s another pic, just because I can. It’s my blog and I’ll post kittens if I want to. The third fluffy chap in this picture has already found a home.

Medical London

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Richard Barrett/Mike Jay, Wellcome Collection £15.99

I went to listen to Richard Barrett as part of a day of London lectures at the Bishopsgate Institute on Saturday. Looking as though he was only just out of short trousers, this jolly young cove entertained and fascinated, inspired me and made me laugh. A lot. It was only at the end of his talk I realised I didn’t really know what he’d been saying.

Perhaps that’s why I never got to go to Cambridge, which is where Barrett’s a lecturer. But I’d enjoyed his talk so much (yes – I know that sounds mad – but it really does seem possible to enjoy something hugely and only realise later that although it made sense at the time, it remains a mystery to a tiny Phantom brain…) that I really wanted to get to grips with his subject – London Bodies.

So I headed for the groaning stall of London books lurking at the back of the conference room in search of his newly published magnum opus, Sick City.

My decision to spend £15.99 was helped by the fact that his book has to be one of the most handsomely-produced volumes published in a long, long while. And yes – I was seduced by its sheer gorgeousness. The Wellcome Trust, a very wealthy organisation, has clearly poured cash into this project and the result is sumptuous.

Its cloth-bound hard case contains no less than eight items. Barnett’s paperback Sick City, of course, which I’m currently enjoying a lot (and understanding, btw), despite its being perfect-bound (I hate perfect-bound books), a hardback gazetteer, Anatomy of the City, which contains medical gems to visit in London, from museums to blue plaques, statues to curiosities and things that just aren’t there any more, and six fold-out walking tours complete with funkily-drawn maps (by the excellent Strange Attractor guys), links back to Sick City for extra information and instructions for easy use.

What clinched the deal was the medical walking tour of Greenwich, which meant I couldn’t leave the set behind.

It’s a very do-able tour and although a couple of the landmarks seem – well – a little spurious, considering the medical bent the walk’s supposed to be taking (I’m guessing that Barrett also included a couple of things that tickled him, for the sheer joy that he could – something of which I approve of course), it contains enough stuff that most local people wouldn’t know to make it a good Sunny Sunday Afternoon jaunt.

It takes you from Deptford to Blackheath via Greenwich town centre and highlights for me included the Dreadnaught Hospital and the birthplace of Sir John Simon (though I’m still looking for the “excellent” visitor centre at the Cutty Sark – the book presumably went to press before they replaced it with that tiny gift shop…)

I don’t know whether Waterstones have got this yet, but I thoroughly recommend it. Apart from being excellent value for money, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, full of facts and visual interest – and it will look great on your bookshelf.

Greenwich Market Consultation Yet Again

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Folks, I seem to have been sleepwalking. There I was assuming that Greenwich Hospital Trust were ‘consulting’ us before submitting their formal plans when all the time those plans are already with Greenwich Council, pending approval.

I thought we had time. We don’t.

While a much of the content of the proposal is tolerable – and some of it’s even okay – if, like me, you find the loss of those Edwardian buildings in Durnford Street (so that they have extra rubbish-bin space – hardly a great excuse to demolish history) and the removal of the classic cobblestones in favour of bog-standard paving an unacceptable part of the deal, then you need to act now.

Paul has kindly forwarded this link that goes directly to the application. At the bottom, you can click to go to an online comments form

Ignore the first bit that asks for a reference number (unless you have one, of course) and click on the bit just underneath that says “If you do not have a reference number…”

The form can be submitted online.

I think it’s sneaky that the proposal only talks about “Demolition of the existing 1950′s core market buildings, ” failing to mention the much earlier Durnford Street buildings, and also says nothing about GHT quietly removing the cobblestones, which are so much a (literal) part of the feel of the place.

It’s up to you of course. You may disagree and think I’m getting obsessed here. But if you don’t, then now’s the time to act.

Greenwich Hospital have not been entirely up-front with us here about the gradual seepage of our history, bit by bit, but it’s not to late to at least put up a fight. Greenwich Council could easily insist on the reinstatement of cobblestones and the retention of the Durnford Street buildings as a Section 106.

Wedding Planners

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I can’t believe I just typed that title. Wedding Planners are a breed who creep the hell out of me. Hence the gap in the Phantom Weddings Section that Brian and Ruth have discovered.

I’m a hands-on kinda Phantom and I have never ‘got’ the concept of ‘planners,’ wedding or otherwise. But Brian and Ruth need suggestions for someone to work with, preferably based in Greenwich, so I’m asking you. Have you used a planner for your Happy Event? Were they any cop?

Crowd Control

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Annabel asks:

“I was wondering if you know which film is being shot in the grounds of the Royal Naval College this week, looks like a Golden Compass or Harry Potter type of thing?”

The Phantom replies:

We really do need a mole in Greenwich Film Unit to keep our curiosity sated. I really don’t know what’s going on there today. If I can get all my work done I’ll try to pop over to find out.

In the meanwhile I had to giggle when Chris told me he’d passed the filming himself. He didn’t know what it was either, but he says:

“I heard the director shout “Action!” Five secs later he shouted “Cut!” Then had to explain to everyone “When I shout ‘action,’ that’s when you start to do what we told you to do.” They’re all gonna have a very long day.”

So – clearly a professional set up then…

Anyone who gets there before me do let us know what the latest extravaganza is…

Street Furniture (4) More Bollards

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

We just don’t see what’s under our noses, do we? I thought I’d trained myself to be more observant, but I’ve just received a “1 out of 10, must try harder” note from my Phantom Muse for missing these bollards just outside Waterstones.

Stephen spotted them – though even he had the humility to admit that he had walked between the St Alfeges Passage Cannon and the Lewin Gate concrete jobs, specially in order to photograph bollards and walked straight past these.

There are five of them – and if they’re not original cannon, they have definitely been based on this splendid concept of early recycling.

What other Greenwich street furniture is still out there to be discovered, I wonder…


Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

All day tomorrow, this year’s slowest marathon ‘runner’ will be making his way through Greenwich.

There are some people for whom being told they will never walk again is just a red rag to the proverbial. Phil Packer lost the use of his legs when he was injured by a rocket attack in Basra last February, which only made him determined to do the marathon this year.

He’s going at a rate of two miles per day – the most his crutches will allow, and today he’s ‘enjoying’ the rather damp hospitality of the Woolwich and Charlton roads.

He begins his long trudge through Greenwich, from the five mile mark around the A102m flyover, past the six mile marker outside Theatre of Wine and onto the seven mile stop at Deptford tomorrow, collecting for Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre.

If you see him, say hello – he can do with all the support he can get…

Ghurkha’s Inn

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

17, Columb Street SE10 9HA 020 8293 5464

Okay – so I finally made it to Gurkha’s Inn, thanks to so many of you recommending it.

I had been there on the very first day it opened, but the service (and the food) was so chaotic that I didn’t think it was fair to judge it on such a ramshackle affair. Trouble was, I wasn’t that bothered to try again, so it took some time to make it back.

But I owe all of you who recommended it a vote of thanks – it really is very good indeed. Since it was an eat-in rather than a takeaway, I didn’t stick to the Control Menu, but tried a variety of dishes, including Chef’s recommendations (I’m never really sure what that means, except that if they can’t get those right, heaven help the rest of the menu.)

It’s a much brighter place than the old Millennium used to be – that felt positively gloomy at times – but they’ve not gone for anything too outrageous in the styling – it’s more ‘classic’ than contemporary, I’d say, with giant ceiling roses and magnolia walls.

To be honest, I didn’t really notice the decor when I first walked in though – I was greeted as though I was an old friend – even though they didn’t know me. Other people who came in clearly were old friends though – and regulars to boot, judging from the handshakes and the swiftness of ordering…

One of the problems I’d had that first time was that although my party had been the only ones in the restaurant, it had taken half an hour to get even a glass of water and and a couple of Kingfishers to the table, and well over an hour to get starters. This time, even though there was a respectable number of tables filled, the service was swift and friendly. Poppadoms brought to our table without asking (which were so crispy I just had to order some more…) and drinks also brought nice and fast.

On reflection, we probably ordered too much. We ordered it all as one course and everyone dug into everything, but the portions are generous and we struggled to eat it all. The Chef’s platter of sundry meat was rather ‘colourful’ but tasted absolutely fine. The other dishes looked a lot more natural and each had very clearly defined flavours (not always a given with Indian restaurants, I’ve found.)

Something I liked a lot was the addition of a couple of cloves to the ‘plain’ boiled rice. Not enough to overpower it, but just to give it a lightly aromatic touch, and to lift it to a delicate moment of its own.

We tried several of the Chef’s specials as well as the odd dupiaza for comparison. I found one or two of the Chef’s dishes a bit on the hot side – especially the Aloo Tama, which didn’t come with any of those little ‘chilli’ symbols that warn you not to put too much in your mouth at once. Ok. So I was a greedy Phantom and that first bite was a bit of a surprise, but once I’d dipped my tricorned head in a bucket of ice, I gobbled up the rest of it quite happily.

The dupiaza, which did come with a little chilli sign, tasted perfectly mild. Presumably anything would have done after that Aloo Tama…

Side dishes were utterly lovely. I particularly liked the Brinjal Aloo – but then I’m a sucker for anything with aubergines in it. The Bombay version was good too.

This is a nice, local curry house that I’ll be returning to. I’ll also test out the takeaway at some point and report back.

The website’s simple but says what it needs to. No online booking or ordering – but I don’t do that sort of thing anyway. Just talk to someone…

Live Bait

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I’ve just moved this from my review of David Ramzan’s latest book in case the poor fellow gets the wrong idea. Don’t forget you can ask questions directly by clicking on the links at the side of the page, folks.

But back to the question. Indigo asks

“If anyone knows where I can buy live white maggots in Greenwich? These are for my hens (maggots are a “treatment” for some crop problems), and I cannot think of even one fishing-tackle type shop still in existence here.

Pets At Home don’t have them (I asked). I know I can buy them on-line but one has to be able to guarantee to be at home to sign for delivery, as the maggots have to live – in a lidded pot, of course – in the ‘fridge.”

The Phantom is flummoxed. That’s the problem with big chains taking over an entire section of the market. If they don’t do it, then nowhere will. I’ll pretty much guarantee that Pets and the City won’t do it either!

I guess you need to look at places where fishermen congregate – protected waterways etc. I once saw a maggot vending machine (no, really) at a petrol station near a reservoir when I was filling up on a jaunt, but it was miles from here.

You might want to try the city farms – perhaps Woodlands or Mudchute?

Or maybe someone else has an idea? No cheap gags, now…

Allegro Tractorato

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Rod has kindly forwarded a priceless jazz gem courtesy of Greenwich Treasure, Billy Jenkins. This appears to be the first outing of the Tractor Quartet, but the drummer’s timekeeping has a consistency of which many bands can only dream.

Sadly you will probably not be hearing it exactly as I did – with the addition of a fifth band member – a percussionist in the form of a smoke alarm whose batteries are running down, punctuating the stops rather perfectly.