Archive for February, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt

Sunday, February 28th, 2010
Easter Eggs by Anna Cervova

Remember when you were a kid and all hens’ eggs were white? Some of them had little lions stamped on them (very carefully, one presumes) but they were white all the same. Brown eggs were a novelty.

Now it’s the other way round. Apparently market research shows we think that white eggs are somehow ‘manufactured’ and brown ones ‘healthy’ so the white ones have gone the way of the dinosaurs. I confess it’s not something I think about on a day to day basis, but it’s proving to be a problem for Maggie. She says:

“I’m organising some Easter activities for children. One activity will be decorating eggs – but where can you buy white eggs these days? All the supermarkets sell brown ones but you need white ones for dyeing and colouring.”

You do indeed. Can anyone think of anywhere round Greenwich where they still sell white eggs?

Crime Figures

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Here’s an interesting little chart showing official crime figures in the borough. Either, generally, people have stopped reporting or figures really have gone down – which is a plus.

Over the months we’ve talked about drink-related crime (most of which seems to happen in St Alfege Passage) but although there’s no figures that show which offences are alcohol-fuelled, in general ‘violence against the person’ is actually down a little from last year, as are nearly nearly all other kinds of offence. Burglaries, especially, of all kinds seem to be fewer (though still plenty enough to be getting on with.)

Having said that, there was one more homicide than last year, ‘gun enabled’ crime is up and sexual assaults other than rape have gone up considerably (I wonder if some reclassification’s gone on there so they can say rape is down? God, I’m cynical. Soz…)

There’s a place on the map where you can click to get individual ward figures. They’re a bit random-feeling as they’re done slightly differently as number of crimes per 1000 of population, so it’s hard to work out exactly how much actually went on.

The Big Bang

Friday, February 26th, 2010


I’ve been waiting for months for the controlled explosion of the silos at the old Syrol site – I knew they were coming (though not exactly when) but I’ve had so much on my plate recently I clean forgot.

I didn’t even remember when Lucy asked yesterday if anyone had heard an explosion. It was just when finally getting to peruse some local blogs that I discovered this on the site.

Sounds like there are still two to go – so maybe I won’t miss them…

A Use For The Rotunda?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Rather slow off the mark this morning, folks, thanks to a tedious hacking incident with Twitter. Apologies to anyone who discovered rather more than they needed to about “The Phantom’s” love life…

All fixed now, I hope – thanks to everyone who let me know about the security breach.

But onto happier things. You may remember Robbie, who plays with local band The Mores. Well, he’s getting married to his ‘Amazonian photographer’ (what an image that conjures up…) and wants to have the wedding somewhere around Woolwich.

I don’t normally cover wedding-venue questions on the main blog any more, since they got so frequently asked that they’ve got their own page these days, but something he’s been saying intrigues me.

He says ” I have been dealing with Major Gleeson on the matter of hiring the Rotunda for our party. All was going well, we went to have a look at it, he seemed fairly excited by the idea, saying nobody had ever done anything like that before (that’s what I like to hear!), and thought it could be done.

He came back with a fairly stiff figure for the hire charge, but we managed to swallow it, until today when he called to say that the fire regs guy had just had a look, and would only allow us to have 60 guests in there! No good. So I am currently trying to negotiate some sort of fire safety situation with the army, possibly hiring a fire engine to sit outside for the day, but it is looking like it might be a shade too pricey for us.”

Before I get onto Robbie’s next question, which of course, is about alternative venues, let’s just think about this.

A few months ago, I was very worried about the Rotunda, and I continue to be concerned about what will happen to it – when we discussed it before, we wondered if it could be done up and used for dignitaries during the Olympics – but using it as a wedding venue afterwards would bring in money to pay for its upkeep and give us that all important ‘legacy’ that everyone’s talking about. I know it’s not an obvious area for the type of people who can afford such places, but I suspect that word might get around and it could be a newly trendy spot (not least from Household Cavlary people…)

The reason why the fire safety guy must be concerned about it is, I presume, the somewhat fragile condition the place is in – but it it was given proper upgrades and facilities, it’s surely big enough to take more than 60 people – not least because of the space around it, now that the big guns are gone. It has a wonderful green area around it, it’s not that hard to travel to and it could make some serious cash for the Army, who own it.

I truly hope that Robbie manages to work something out with the Major – the guy’s a good bloke, charged with an impossible task of protecting a truly unique building with no cash. If it works as a wedding venue once, perhaps he could be persuaded to petition for money as a long-term investment.

In the meanwhile, though, we have to assume that Robbie and his Amazonian Beauty (don’t you just long for them to have a Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed wedding – with the pair of them dressed as Theseus and Hippolyta, her being given away by Oberon, Titania being head bridesmaid and the Rude Mechanicals as the ushers? I’d pay good money to hear Bottom’s best-man speech…) have to make alternative arrangements.

I’ve already directed him towards the Phantom Shindigs page, but there may be a bit more thinking-cap required. He says:

“We are really desperate to have our wedding party somewhere in Woolwich, we think it is a fantastic area with so much potential, and we have a brilliant opportunity to get a large number of people to come and see the place.

I am really running out of ideas for suitably quirky places for us to have our party, we’ll be expecting around 200 people or so, and we don’t have too much time left, especially if the Rotunda isn’t possible.

We really don’t want to do anything that is too traditional, we have been trying to do something that shows how amazing an area this could be if people just use a bit of imagination, and realize it’s potential. If you can think of anywhere, however weird, indoors, outdoors, derelict, someone’s house, it doesn’t matter, I would hugely appreciate your thoughts.”

My first thought would be Peggy Middleton House – I don’t actually know what state it’s in just now I haven’t been to that area for ages – but if it’s a shell, it would be a great bow-out for the place – very grungy (good luck persuading the Council…)

Another, slightly left-field idea would be to contact the Council Film Unit and ask them what they have on their books – I bet they have abandoned warehouses etc.

Woolwich isn’t quite my area – but it definitely IS some Phantophiles’ manor – so – any ideas, guys?

The Phantom Falls Off The Curry Waggon

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Over the past couple of years the Phantom Waistline has been taking a bit of a beating, so a few months ago, I started to try to do something about it (eek). I’m not talking anything desperate, like running or anything, but I did make a bit of an effort not to eat curry every night. It’s possible you even noticed I stopped reviewing Indian restaurants for a while…

But let’s face it – that kind of thing never lasts. There are some times when only a good old fashioned British Curry will do. Scales be damned.

I hadn’t been to the Royal Nepalese for some time. It takes a long while to work your way round all the curry houses of Greenwich – and they change chefs or close more quickly than I can get to them (I mean – what is going on at Kerala Zone? Last I was walking past it, a couple of blokes were manhandling out a giant mattress covered in the most dubious-looking stains imaginable. An hour or so later, I walked back and the mattress was back inside, leaning louchely against the tables – still set for dinner. Ick…)

But back to the Royal Nepalese. Funny – I never really think of the place. It’s always there, and the last time I went there I enjoyed it well enough – I just never remember to go back there.

As soon as we walked in, we were treated like we were the only people in the place. Which, actually, we (almost) were. It was freezing, raining, and sleeting outside – a filthy night – which, I am sure, accounted for the fact that there were only two other people in there the whole time we were there.

There were a whole bunch of new dishes on the menu, which meant that we deviated from the Phantom Control Menu a little.

For example, the Lamb Achari, cooked with mango pickle and really rather tasty. And the Vegetable Karahi – a little on the sweet side, but still slipping down rather well.

To get the best choice of lots of flavours, we ordered a selection of side dishes rather than main courses. The best, by a long chalk was the Bringle Aloo (You say Brin-Jal, I say Brin-Gal…) whose aubergines had clearly been cooking for a very long time (mmmmm….) and just melted on my tongue. But the rest were lovely and, I’m afraid to say, we didn’t have much left over.

I’m not going to pretend that this is modern Asian/Indian fare. It’s traditional ‘British’ Nepalese curry – but sorry – that really hits the Phantom spot. I loved it. Nouvelle Cuisine, Schmouvelle Cuisine. And while you can always put swift, attentive service in an empty restaurant down to boredom, I got the feeling that they would be like this whatever the state of their table plans. I had a good time (though the pictures on the wall are as creepy as ever.)

At the end of the meal, they offered us a liqueur on the house – presumably to make us come back . To be honest, I can’t imagine drinking creamy spirits after a curry (I had the same thing in the Mehak recently (well, obviously, not that recently, ahem…) – they brought me a Baileys - very kind but – yeuch! Is this a latest fashion among Indian restaurants?) I passed on the offer – but points to them for offering.

So, why am I wittering on; not writing a proper review about this today?

Well, I’m afraid it’s an excuse to write about a new Greenwich club I like the look of. Greenwich Curry Club is a bunch of curryphiles who are working their way around the Indian (and otherwise) restaurants of Greenwich and reporting on their findings in blog-form.

They’re happy to welcome new friends to their ever-expanding membership (and waistlines, which, Daniel, who told me about it, tells me is no excuse.)
Check ‘em out and join in, perhaps, on their next outing in March…

Travellin’ Light

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Couldn’t decide whether to put this in the Parish News or not – but hey – here it is on the main blog.

The picture above is of Ethel the motorhome. She belongs to Buddy and Bushka the dog (looking out of Ethel’s window.) She currently lives in Devon but Buddy needs to move it closer to Greenwich for the summer – from next month until around September.
Buddy’s called all the nearest camp sites that offer storage but they are all full and have long waiting lists. He’s wondering if there’s anyone out there in Phantomland who would have space for it on their land or property? He’s happy to pay but it will need to be somewhere safe.
I can’t imagine there are many people who have spare, safe land just standing idle in Greenwich – but you never know…

German Moore

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Following on from yesterday’s post about the Henry Moore missing from Greenwich Park, apparently in the ‘care’ of the HM Foundation, Elaine sent me this pic of another Moore in pride of place on the lawn beside the Art gallery in Bielefeld in Germany. Peeping through is Madeleine, age 6. Her four year old brother Eric’s playing with her in the next pic.

As Elaine points out, “they obviously have a more relaxed attitude towards their art in Bielefeld.” Perhaps they have a more cultured class of thief. I suspect it’s more likely that scrap metal prices aren’t so high.
Of course it may just be that the Henry Moore Foundation haven’t managed to get their sweaty paws on the Bielefeld sculpture yet. Or that the good burghers of Bielefeld didn’t just roll over at the first signs there might be an issue with security.

But it is time to get the Greenwich one back. Seems like there’s a bit of a head of steam building over this – I heard the Friends of Greenwich Park on the Today Programme yesterday demanding it back. Personally, I think if we don’t get it back by 2012, we won’t get it back at all.

Moore No More

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Gregor asks the not-unreasonable question:

“Now that there’s a Henry Moore retrospective on at the Tate, Greenwich’s own empty plinth feels a little emptier. Does anyone have any idea whether the Henry Moore foundation will ever return the statue to the park?”

The Phantom replies:

You know – even the mighty Today Programme had a feature on this this morning, Gregor. It would seem that the Henry Moore Foundation has got such a bee in its bonnet about it that it’s taken it away ‘for safekeeping’ i.e. so no one ever gets to see it again.

Apparently the insurance cost became prohibitive – but I don’t really get why – I mean the park is locked at night, the thing must weigh a ton – who’s going to steal it? Besides – how can you insure something like that? It’s not like it could be replaced.

I don’t know when it’s coming back, but it’s the place Moore himself chose for the sculpture – and the plinth looks pretty damn silly without it.

Maybe we should be using the Olympic Panacea to get it back.

Remarkable Occurrences of Greenwich (1)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

If I’m ever bored (which is, frankly, rare these days, damn Real Life) then a quick leaf through Hasted’s History of Kent can be guaranteed to come up with some extraordinary fact or other.

The best bits are usually in the notes, added by Henry Drake in 1886, and which are only bettered for sheer exuberance by Sir Thomas Urquhart’s 17th translation of Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel. Sometimes there are only four lines of Hasted’s original to a (very large) page, the rest being taken up by Drake’s notes.

In a section marked “Remarkable Occurrences” I found this little entry:

“In 1273 a whale, 12 toises long, 5 toises in girth, was captured in Greenwich and taken to London Bridge to be cut up.”

My first thought was was ‘well – that’s not so remarkable – we still occasionally get lost sea mammals up the Thames – like this poor chap, which John found not so long ago whilst walking his dog. I wouldn’t click on the pic if I were you – it’ll give you nightmares, but it’s a stranded porpoise – very sad.

My second thought was ‘what the hell is a ‘toise?’

In finding out the answer to the second question, the first was answered.

A toise is a unit of measurement that dates back to pre-revolutionary France, or so Wikipedia tells me. It doesn’t help that the actual size of it changed over the centuries – exactly six pieds (feet)until 1812; exactly two metres between 1812 and 1840. (BTW I was tragic enough to check out the etymology of ‘tortoise’ at the same time – no relation…) But whatever measurement Hasted means, it was a big bugger.

Twelve toises long? That makes it TWENTY FOUR METRES. Okay – I’d call that remarkable.

Allotments – Again

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This has to be one of my most frequently-asked of all frequently-asked questions (along with cleaners and wedding venues…) “How can I get my green fingers on an allotment?”

To look at last week’s Greenwich Time’s double spread, you’d think all you’d have to do is call up the nice people at the council and arrange for a viewing so you could take your pick from the array of available plots.

Quite why they spend two pages telling you of the joys of allotmenteering when there aren’t any patches of soil available in the entire borough is a mystery to me. It only makes the council look bad for having sold them all off and insensitive for rubbing our noses in it.

The Council website reiterates a sorry tale for anyone living in Greenwich town centre. Not only are the very few sites totally full, but the waiting lists are so long they’ve been closed. And don’t even think about the Prior Street Allotments on the old railway line – privately managed and with the Waiting List of Doom.

Sadly Phantoms don’t get any favours – I’m hanging about, spectral spade in phantom paw with the rest of you.

There are one or two sites where you can go on the waiting list – but they’re way out in the further reaches of the borough – and at some point you have to ask yourself how far you’re prepared to (wait) to travel for a few spuds.

If you look at an old map from the turn of the last century, much of East Greenwich and the Peninsula were given over to allotment gardens, now lost to Progress.

I have wondered to myself if the council have no intention of doing anything with the old hospital site for a year or so, whether they could do some kind of short-let thing. The ground’s piss-poor but keen gardeners have a way – besides surely the council has access to a load of compost from our organic bins…

No, I’m not holding my breath either.

There are plot share schemes. I have my reservations about them, personally, but if you’re desperate, it’s worth a try. The most local one I know of is Transition Westcombe’s Patch Match programme – and you will probably meet some interesting folk along the way.

In the meanwhile, if you’re up the Deptford end of Greenwich, and you have a few hours on your hands, you might be interested in a different thing entirely.

Jonathan is a teacher at the Nursery at Grinling Gibbons Primary in Deptford. For the last two years they’ve run a rather splendid growing/allotment project in the spring/summer where the children have planted, grown and eaten a variety of vegetables between April and July. But he has a problem.

“The person who assisted us, a gardener, has gone AWOL and I could really use the assistance of someone with some experience of growing veggies etc. who wouldn’t mind spending an hour or two a week working with myself and some great 3-5 year olds,” he tells me.

“The upside is the chance to grow and eat your own produce or just to help out on a valuable project educating young children that a) all food doesn’t come from the supermarket and b) cooking and eating your own veg is great!”

He doesn’t tell me a downside, but I can guess. You’ll probably need to be police-cleared to the Nth degree. But if you enjoy getting soil under your nails, find the company of little children pleasurable and are keen to eat tasty school-grown veg, maybe the CRB check wouldn’t be so arduous after all…

Happy Waiting Lists, folks.