Archive for July, 2010

The Phantom Is Away

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Folks – I’m taking a break just now. Will be back in a week or so.


Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Justine asks:

“This may seem like a strange question. I need some rope and thought perhaps you might know of a shop that sells rope in Greenwich (it being Maritime!)? I tried Nauticalia but they can only order rope that takes 2 weeks to arrive and they couldn’t recommend anywhere else to try.”

The Phantom replies:

Believe me – as far as questions go, this is nowhere near as strange as the one about elderly ladies and handbells I had recently.

Sadly for somewhere so steeped in ropey history – Greenwich was well known for rope and famous for cable – we’re pretty poorly served for string these days.

You don’t say what it’s for, but for general all-purpose rope, the obvious answer is B&Q or Wickes, but if you don’t want to do the chain route, try Standard DIY at the top of Westcombe Hill or Bert and Betty’s shop in Greenwich South Street.

As for proper ships’ chandlers, the closest I can find is Sanford Marine 45, St. Keverne Rd, London, SE9 4AQ, in Mottingham. Tel: 07948 608205. I had hoped there would be one around the back of Hope and Anchor Lane in Charlton, but I can’t find anything. Maybe someone at the Yacht Club would know?

East Greenwich Memories

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Nick asks:

“As an ex-Greenwich resident (now living in deepest Cambridgeshire, near the Norfolk border), I still wander around my home town, albeit with the aid of Google street view!

I’m wondering if some of your more senior readers can remember the shops that were displaced by the building of the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach, and the streets that were cut in two by it ?

I lived in Ormiston Road (Number 1 on the groovy map I’ve put at the bottom; click and drag it to see the rest…)  (just behind Westcombe Park Station) from 1956 until 1973, and I can remember the area quite well, but I’m wondering if some of your readers can add their memories of the building of the road ?

Here’s what I remember…….

Coming down Westcombe Hill from the Blackheath direction, the first shop you saw was a large newsagent and confectioner (I think) on the corner of Humber road. It is now split in two shops, a food and wine store, and a hairdressers.

On the other corner of Humber Road was a large shop (now a dry cleaners), which I think sold garden supplies, but my memory is faint on this, because I was always lured to the small shop next door, which was a junk shop, which sold lots of army surplus stuff, (2) which was in plentiful supply in the 1950′s and 1960′s. This is now not a shop at all, but seems to be a private dwelling. I seem to remember that the junk shop was run by an old(ish) man who was rather grumpy, which may or may not be due to the fact that he was often pestered by kids like me !

Immediately opposite was another corner, because Bramshot Avenue came out here, with a large yellow Co-Op store. This area is now grassed over. Further down on the left, on the corner of Station Crescent, was another tobacconist and confectioner, which is now a private house, painted pale yellow. Where the wheelie bins now stand in the front garden was a wall with chewing gum and cigarette machines.

On the other side of the railway bridge, little of the original Westcombe Hill Remains. Before the coming of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach, there was a disused railway line which ran parallel to the road at the bottom of the hill on an embankment on the right hand side, but there were also some more shops, of which I can remember a fish & chip shop on the left, and on the right a cycle shop, a greengrocers, and (another one of my favourites) a hobby shop which sold all sorts of stuff from toy models for boys, and DIY jewellery for the girls. This was the last shop on the right.

Of course, the very bottom of Westcombe Hill and the railway embankment and line is still there (3) – but it’s now called Farmdale Road, a road which was cut in half by the approach road. I wonder if any of your other readers can remember these streets before they were sliced in two by the approach road, and would like to share their memories ?

Oh, and one last thing, what is that rusting monstrosity (4) with the advertising hoarding in front of it, which faces the southbound carriageway of the A102 near the bridge (look at it on Google maps, both on street and satellite views) ?”

The Phantom is sure that many people remember this area in the 60s and 70s – not least, of course, the novelist Christopher Fowler whose memoire Paperboy deals specifically with the area around Westerdale Road – and being turfed out his home to make way for the new motorway.

If you’re talking about the Angerstein railway line, you’ll be heartened to know that if it was disused in the 60s and 70s, it’s operative now, as a goods line. There’s a footbridge that spans the motorway which has a little exit that nips across the railway into an alley leading to Fairthorn Road as well as its main exit onto what’s left of Farmdale.

As for the rusting monstrosity, I’ve often wondered about that one myself. Presumably a building project that ran out of steam? There’s a car pound there, though, I can tell you from bitter experience that local cars aren’t taken there. It must be policy to never impound vehicles somewhere that’s easy to get to – when mine was impounded many years ago while I was abroad, I had to trudge all the way over to Belvedere Industrial Estate, one of the most unpleasant places on earth. Presumably if you get your car impounded in Belvedere they put it in the Charlton pound just to add extra punishment.

But that’s enough bitterness.

A word about the picture. Somebody sent this to me about a year ago (I know, I know, I’m sorry – I’m a little bit behind…) and even worse, I lost the email, but when I got Nick’s question, I asked the mystery sender to send it again. Sadly I never heard from them, but Dazza saw it online somewhere (he can’t remember where) in March and has passed it onto me. I apologise for being utterly rubbish – but I think it’s worth repeating – if anyone objects, do let me know and I’ll remove it.

So. Now the sackcloth and ashes bit is over, I’ll explain what (if not who) it’s of. I think the baby is sitting outside the Angerstein Arms (5) with the old fire station in the background (still standing though in poor nick these days)  and a fab-looking corner cafe which must now form the northern end of the flyover.

Memories and thoughts on roads, babies and the rusting monstrosity welcomed.

Rock Lobster

Thursday, July 8th, 2010


I mean – I know it’s been hot recently but someone really needs to have a quiet chat with Peter Andre about Factor 50 (they might want to mention his washing powder’s a bit strong for delicate white fabrics  too…)

He’s surely not really this colour is he?

Still, at least they’ve propped him up – a few days ago his poster had collapsed from exhaustion inside its little glass case at North Greenwich Tube. It’s a tough life being a pop star.

Has anyone been to any gigs at the O2 recently? I haven’t been for aaaages – there’s just not been anything I’ve fancied on. Not even at Indigo 2. But you only have to see the hoards of people coming out of the Tube to realise it’s a complete goldmine (anyone else play the game of working out what the show is from the fans?)

I guess the Phantom pocket is kind of glad that stadium rockers don’t generally appeal  – though I did apply for – and get (in theory) a couple of those Greenwich Card Holder free tickets to see Bon Jovi (I’m not really a fan, but any band that’s been around that long and can not-quite-sell-out out a week of shows at the O2 must be worth seeing for the spectacle alone), but when I turned up the box office was shut (despite the guy on the phone telling me it was open) and I was told that I could join a queue for it opening in an hour and a half – in the sun. Sadly I just wasn’t that keen. Okay. So I’m shallow.

And just one final idle thought on a Thursday morning. AEG are after the Olympic Stadium in 2013, right? Am I alone in wondering how they’ll fill TWO giant East London stadiums with massive worldwide acts? Could we possibly find ourselves Cinderellas again when the shiny new arena opens?

Just pondering.

Eltham Sink Hole

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Little bit off our manor here, but a little warning to cyclists (and others) in Court Road in Eltham fromDan, who says:

A sinkhole has formed in the road. It’s deep enough for some cars to scuff their front bumpers if they hit it at the right speed and angle. I’ve also seen a couple of cyclists nearly come off in it. The Council were told about it on Friday and they’ve done nothing about it since – not even an acknowledgement that they’ll send someone to look. I’ve got on to Thames Water as I suspect it’s ultimately their problem but I’m a little concerned by Greenwich council ignoring a piece of unsafe road that ultimately all they had to do was report on to Thames Water. On the plus side, I did get into a conversation with their Twitter person last night at 8pm so at least someone in the council takes their job seriously.

Hooray for the Council Twitterer, then. Sounds like Eltham needs a visit from Born to Kiln but until he gets around to making a nice mosaic filling take care guys, eh?

Greenwich Food Market To Be Given A Month’s Notice To Quit

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Good heavens. It would seem that Greenwich Hospital Trust aren’t even bothering to hide that bully’s iron fist of theirs inside a velvet glove any more.

You’d think that with the appeal on their insensitive and intrusive market plans pending, they’d at least be TRYING to get locals on board. But if what I’m told by a local trader in the food market is true – and I have no reason to believe they’d lie over this, GHT appear to be actively engaged on a mission to alienate every man-jack-phantom of us – not to mention a fair few tourists and visitors from the rest of London into the bargain.

My market trader tells me:

“At a routine meeting with the Greenwich Hospital management yesterday, they dropped the bombshell that all the businesses in the food court were being ordered to leave with one month’s notice.”

What the hell are GHT playing at? Are they trying to sabotage Greenwich as an exciting tourist destination? I mean this would be devastating at any time of the year – but in high season?

“The meeting at the Trafalgar Tavern was billed as one of the regular three monthly traders’  meetings that Greenwich Hospital has set up since dismissing the USM management. About fifty traders were present,” my trader tells me. “The first item was the food market, where it was announced that they were reviewing the market’s “A3″ offering.”

“At the end of next week they will be sending out notices to all food traders, giving them one month’s notice to quit,” my trader continues. “The main reason given was that the restaurants and cafes on the island site had complained that the food court was becoming too big and successful and were undermining their own profitability. Additional reasons were cited as Greenwich is “really an arts and crafts market”, some other traders had complained about airborne smell and that Greenwich Borough environmental health was not happy with the present set up.”

Well – there could be some valid points in there, but surely most of these could be worked around. But my trader has very firm ideas about what’s really going on here.

“What’s really at play is that the Hospital generates much more revenue from leasing restaurants than it does from renting out market stalls at £100 for a weekend. Money is the driving factor and giving the visitor what it wants can go hang! “

As a sop to the traders, they are proposing that five hot food stalls will be allowed to trade from inside the former George II premises, meaning that about 20 small businesses will be losing their livelihoods.

I did hear a rumour on the jungle telegraph that certain local restaurants (use your imagination) are refusing to pay rent until something is done about the food court, which would be a powerful additional reason for GHT’s ditching the small guys with their woks, mini-pizza ovens and crepe-irons. After all a vibrant, cheap, varied, innovative and interesting meal on the hoof is probably rather more enticing to a tourist who wants to get the most out of Greenwich in a few short hours than sitting in some bland restaurant and paying substantial prices.

Heaven forbid that GHT would actually want to see the market succeed in its present form.

Born To Kiln

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


Don’t you just love this piece of guerrilla art? Spotted by Stephen, it’s on the five foot walk just by the King Charles Building, filling up a potentially dangerous, stingray-shaped pothole in the ancient flags. It’s just the kind of whimsy that makes Greenwich buzz.

Born to Kiln is ‘self-taught outsider artist’ Jimmy South, who also works with glass. You can read an interview with him here

He says about this piece “The pothole repairs are random acts of mosaic kindness with the hope of putting a smile on peoples faces and preventing them from stumbling over.”

You can see some more of his pothole art here

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Stockwell Street Development

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Several people have contacted me, saying they’d like somewhere to discuss the plans for the Stockwell Street development, since they feel that the feedback form at the consultation itself  is not-very-subtely weighted towards making it look like everyone supports the plans.

For my own two penn’orth, this feels a very timid design. It’s as though the architects have been told that they will get massively negative feedback if they create anything too outlandish, and yet also feel that they cannot create a mere pastiche of neo-classical buildings on a school of architecture.

And I do feel for the university guys. I think that, unlike Greenwich Hospital Trust, they do actually give a damn about what local people think, and they are actually interested in promoting Greenwich as a brilliant place. I even think they will listen to feedback, if you can make sure it’s all in the notes, rather than the ‘do you support this or that’ bits.

But the result here, IMHO, is a very dull building indeed. Lots of grey stone and glass, but no real innovation. Admittedly it’s better than John Humphries House – but this is a school of architecture – and, although it’s within a heritage site (which I know they’re aware of) that doesn’t mean that it has to be bland and blockish.

They talked about covering over the railway cutting while I was there, which would be great – perhaps creating a new village market or a green space – but the big problem with this idea is that they don’t own the land – so with the best will in the world, it’s not within their gift.

They also talked of narrowing the road, so they could build into the pavement area – apparently they would be within their rights to do this – they do own that land, but I worry that it would make the pavement seem very mean (their argument for narrowing the road is to prevent rat-running with the new pedestrianisation proposals, also that they would be following the line of the ancient street.)

I don’t know. I don’t utterly, utterly hate this. But neither does it excite me. I would have liked to see something innovative – something worthy of a nickname. “The Boring Building” doesn’t really cut it…

Find out about the consultation here


Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Considering how busy Greenwich Park gets – especially at the moment – it’s incredible to think that there is an (as far as I know public) space, right in the middle of town, that can be almost guaranteed empty at any given moment of the day.

It’s not even hard to get down onto Greenwich beach – the grand King’s Steps, that have seen Royalty and bigwigs arriving at the hospital for centuries, aren’t even gated. And at the other end, by the power station, that gate that always looks like it’s locked, isn’t.

It wasn’t always a bleak, empty space - if you look at this early 20th Century view of kiddies playing on the beach there isn’t an inch to spare – and the Thames was a hell of a lot filthier then than it is now.

I took a stroll along there at the weekend, nipping down the steps by the power station, and wandering along an almost deserted beach. I understand that at one point the authorities brought in tons of sand to make it more beach-like (all gone now, of course) but even along the little stretch between Crowley’s wharf and Greenwich pier, the number of different types of riverbed is remarkable – mud, gravel, pebbles, rock – and yes, even a little coarse sand.

The guy I was talking to the other day about the archaeological excavation to be done at Cutty Sark Gardens was telling me that the reason the Vikings (and their successors) chose that particular bit of beach to land on was that it was most suitable to drag the boats up the strand, and the remains of ancient chains and broken anchors are still to be seen. One thing I didn’t see, apart from a part-submerged tractor tyre, was any modern rubbish – not a coke can or baby’s nappy in sight.

It’s a real pleasure to crunch along the beach. I collected a whole hoard of treasure. In – what – fifteen minutes? – I found broken clay pipes, pottery shards, animal bones, oyster shells and what looks like a cross between a brooch pin and a Victorian hypodermic needle. I will, of course be reporting such important finds to MOLAS…

Don’t, BTW, try to enter or exit  the beach via the stairs outside the Trafalgar Tavern. They have been (somewhat inexpertly) closed off using a bit of mesh and some wire. I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I’m guessing it’s the Trafalgar Tavern owners trying to avoid a lawsuit from drunken revellers falling down the steps.

If you’ve never been down onto the beach at Greenwich, you really have to give it a go. At some times of the year the steps get a bit green and slimy, so you have to take care – but show me a beach in Britain where there isn’t a spot of seaweed from time to time.

We need to reclaim it as a space for Greenwichians. Maybe someone could rent out deckchairs? 99, anyone?

Cable Car Back on?

Monday, July 5th, 2010

We’ve been here before, haven’t we. Boris just loves coming up with mad ideas to cross the river – and in principle, I rather like this one.  I liked it the first time too, and I daresay I’ll like it next time it comes up – a cable car to take us from the peninsula to Docklands during the Olympics.

From the TFL map above, it looks to me as though it would go from the ex-David Beckham polytunnels to somewhere around Royal Victoria Dock, and the news last night said it would take about five minutes to cross, 50m in the air.

It needs to be privately funded, which I’m told, is not beyond the realms of possiblity – I’ve spoken with one person who has been asked whether they’re interested in jumping on board, and they tell me they might be.

There are a couple of cable cars in Barcelona. I’ve only tried one of them and apparently this is like the other one, so I can’t speak with any kind of authority, but the one I went on (that goes up to the castle) was solid and only wobbled a very little bit, but as a Phantom that does not travel well in any transport, I have a small fear that the large, unsupported distance that would have to span the Thames (and high enough to get those giant cruise liners underneath) might make me rather green around the gills.

Nevertheless to me it still sounds great fun – a fairground ride London Eye-stylee that could become one of those must-do things for tourists. Of course there would have to be something worth seeing at either end after the Olympics to make it worthwhile. I’m not sure that either on the peninsula or the docks we’re quite there yet..