Archive for January, 2011

Greenwich Labyrinth

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Tired of ho-hum boat journeys where you just step off and reach your destination? Come to the fabulous Greenwich Labyrinth. A delightful warren of dead-ends and mysterious passages that will have all the family shrieking with excitement. Test your mental dexterity, analytical powers and patience to find that magic through-route to the town. Constructed with all-modern materials – hedges are so 1689 - the Greenwich Labyrinth is a charming melange of hoarding, wire fencing, tape and railings to continue the gritty ‘urban’ feel reflected in the decor found currently in the rest of the town. 

  • No two days the same 
  • Takes Hours!
  • Bring a picnic!

Annabel asks:

“Was just wondering whether there is any update on Greenwich Pier, it looks hideous and whilst the Sammy Offer wing seems to be hurtling along the Pier is still a wreck.  Any idea when it is due for completion, it looks a bit like it’s been abandoned.”

The Phantom replies:

You and me both, Annabel, it’s a disgrace. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for any news at all, but when the top Google result is a 2009 carp from Andrew Gilligan you know things aren’t going as fast as they might. The pier itself is yet another bit of Greenwich owned by Greenwich Hospital, but it’s let on a long-term lease to the PLA, not that I can find anything from them. Last news I heard was that there was going to be a Zizzi (nice to keep it independent, eh…) in the actual pier building – but since there doesn’t seem to be an actual pier building (the old Victorian waiting room is long gone, to St Kitts – anyone planning to visit? If you do, will you make a pilgrimage for me?) then I can’t see average Italian food being served there any time soon. 

Greenwich Council has granted itself permission to create a garden at Cutty Sark Gardens (about time n’all); I suppose that will begin this year, since the money is ring-fenced. In the meanwhile, I reckon we should be celebrating the mess, and advertising Greenwich Pier as an attraction.

Not Very Nationwide

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Graham tells me:

“Have just had a letter from Nationwide saying that they are shutting their branches in Blackheath, Greenwich, Catford, Lewisham, Peckham, Walworth & Woolwich with effect from 27 May.”

James noticed the same thing. Well, guys – consider yourself lucky. I clearly have so little money in my Nationwide account that I’m not even considered worth a letter. Not, of course that I didn’t already know about it – Darryl over at 853 talked about it last week - one look at the map on his post shows a giant hole in coverage in the inner parts of South East London – leaving the open branches in the leafier (and cheaper high-streeted) suburbs. The nearest branch for Nationwide (and former Portman) members will be Eltham, making it just that bit harder to stay with a Mutual – you can go with Yorkshire or Britannia but their branches are even further away.

You’d have thought they would have at least kept one open in the middle of the ‘hole’ – getting to Eltham’s doable but a real pain if you’re not driving. Who wants to set aside a morning just so they can add a postal order to their nest egg? Ah, for the days of the Woolwich, eh…

Sucking The Monkey And Eating Babies’ Heads

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Why do people fall for part works? Don’t they do the maths? Don’t they work out that their plastic model of the Titanic, for which they’ll collect all the bits over 126 issues at £4.99 will cost them coming up to seven hundred quid? No wonder so many fall by the wayside (the really interesting thing would be to know how many completed models of the Titanic there are. Their rarity might actually make them worth £700…) but thus was always the way. 

I’ve just acquired Part 6 of the Edwardian part work Living London from 1902. It looks, much like its modern counterparts, like a magazine, only the first article starts in the middle of a sentence and the last article finishes half way through another one, tantalisingly promising “Part 7 will be published Jan 15″.

Clearly whoever bought my copy never bothered with the rest of the encyclopaedia. Perhaps their head had already been turned by the lure of the new part work by the same publisher The Story of Our Planet, which the Daily News (probably accurately) describes as being “readable as a fairy tale”.  So my copy, part 6, stands alone, still in its little dustcover. Perhaps I should try to locate all the other parts and reunite them, 109 years later…

It would certainly be worth it, if for nothing else, for the fabulously florid journalism – predating Scoop by a good thirty-odd years but so hilarious that I reckon Evelyn Waugh’s pregnant mum must have been an avid part-work subscriber. The article that caught my eye enough to buy it was entitled In the London Docks, where R. Austin Freeman, which, if it’s the same R. Austin Freeman as the mystery-author, was doing a little moonlightery. As the roving reporter, Freeman goes to the London docks to experience a day with the labourers who gathered every morning in the hope of casual work unloading the freighters. 

We are to be in no doubt as to what kind of men these chaps are. 

“A strange assembly are these casuals; the dregs and leavings of society, the wastrels and failures from every rank of life. There in that crowd are mingled together criminals not twenty four hours out of gaol, men whose whole life has been spent in alternations of prison and doss-house, vagrants, tramps, doctors whose names have vanished from the register, disbarred barristers, unfrocked parsons, labourers without labour, soldiers, policemen, shop keepers – all classes of men…most are the of the common slum type, either criminal or loafer or both.”

Freeman spends several paragraphs describing these ghastly ne’er-do-wells (not seeming to realise that the ‘layabouts’ are there because they’re desperate to work), and my excuse for talking about this today is that Greenwich would have had its fair share of ‘wastrels’, too, so lazy that they would have got up at yeek-o’clock in the morning to trudge up to the docks, paying a waterman to take them across the Thames in the hope of work (this was published in Jan 1902, the foot tunnel wasn’t opened until August that year.)

I get the feeling that Freeman feels distinctly uncomfortable amongst these working men as they strain police cordons, trying to attract the attention of the ganger whose fist clutches a small number of the tickets to work they all want

“A forest of arms with outstretched hands rises into the air; the whole crowd surfes forwrad, a moving, struggling mass; the chain seems stretched to snapping point , the posts bend over in their sockets and the men in the front rank, crushed against the chain, crane forward with staring wolfish faces and make desperate snatches at the ganger as he passes along the line just out of reach.”

Freeman’s rooting for an old guy “a tall, venerable-looking, white-bearded old man, looking wistfully under his shaggy eyebrows. He was one of the first arrivals, and we hope that he may not go away empty and disappointed.” Things get quite heated, but in true newspaper style, the ganger picks the old chap out of the crowd for the final ticket – and it’s a tribute to Freeman’s journalistic skill that I actually feel relieved.

Freeman joins the holders of the golden tickets through a day’s work – loading, unloading, marking up the bales, checking in with the tallyman, sweating, heaving, toiling. He has a great eye for detail – noting, for example,  a little bill stuck on the wall, headed ‘Keynsham Property’, telling a certain Edward Allen to get in touch with them “where he will hear of something to his advantage”. Freeman goes off into flights of Phantom-like fantasy about an impoverished wretch with starving kiddies at home, unaware that he is in for a fortune (then says “but we must not stop to sentimentalise…”) 

Of course, like any article today, much of it’s spent discussing the stuff that goes a bit awry – the entire shipment of sugar that’s got overheated and is now solid lumps of ‘jaggery’, or the individual who, on exiting, seems a bit heavier than usual:

“Hullo,” exclaims the constable, “you feel rather lumpy, my man.”

“That’s my lunch,” the other explains feebly. 

“Lunch!” ejaculates the constable, “you don’t lunch off flat irons, do you?”

Actually what the workers do lunch off, is mainly beer and babies’ heads (pallid beef-steak puddings) unless they’re what’s known as “Royals” who are so posh they bring their lunch from home, wrapped in newspaper. 

My favourite occupation though, in this article, is of the industrious little group of naughty-boys who partake of the ancient art ‘sucking the monkey’ (as opposed to ‘swinging the monkey,’ which is a peculiarly Greenwich pastime…) Sucking the monkey (or ‘pony riding’) consisted of making a straw out of brown paper, inserting it into the bung-hole of the port-wine casks and sucking. A lot. Apparently it was quite a common trick, and by the afternoon there would be a fair few drunken roisterers, though newbies sometimes overdid it and ‘killed themselves right off.’

Actually – it occurs to me – this was printed in 1902. It’s loooooong out of copyright. What am I doing telling you about it? Here – read it yourself as the latest Phantom Pamphlet.

The Prince of Greenwich

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

It’s the post that gets the most comments on this blog, bar none, (127 so far…) though I’ll wager that 99% of them are not from regular readers. People either adore or detest the Prince of Greenwich (formerly, of course, The Prince Albert) and they come here specifically to praise it to the hilt or to verbally send it to the depths of hell, never to return to post anywhere else on the site. And those comments keep on coming – people must actually look it up in the archives (a feat not easily achieved these days) specially to add their golden/venomous praises/curses to the list. (BTW for the people who think I delete messages I ‘don’t like’, you really are new – if you’re posting for the first time, thanks to an anti-spam device, I have to moderate all first-time users. If I’m away then I sometimes don’t see comments for a few days, thus the delay in them going live. For the record the only messages I actively ‘delete’ are ad-hominen, actively racist or homophobic attacks.)

I find it curious that such a place can instill such passion, and I know, a review is well overdue, but when I’m going in with such a barrelful of other people’s opinions it gets more and more intimidating a task to take on. So it ended an on-impulse thing – we were on our way to try out the new chef at the Hill, but on the spur of the moment dived into the Prince instead. 

One thing I will say for them – they listened to public opinion on the way the place looked from the outside – one look at the first sign they made (on the old post)  and my blood boils again – but they listened to what locals had to say and the sign they have now is perfectly acceptable – smart, even. Frankly I still think the name sucks, but names come and go – Frog & Radiator, anyone (happily reinstated as the Ship & Billet nowadays) – and the sign to me, looks pretty good given it was going to be changed. 

Inside, too, I confess to rather liking the decor.  90s-style gastro-pub-cosy,  mismatched tables, a very grand mirror, old books, good lighting, tasteful paint-job – you get the picture. It was a pleasant place to walk into and the seats by the fireplace seemed particularly welcoming. We didn’t get to sit there, because there were people already installed, but the rest of the pub was empty. Through the evening, a trickle of people came and went, but it never really got what you might call ‘busy.’ The bar guy was friendly, but not chatty, which is the way I like it.

There are a couple of beers on tap (don’t ask me to remember what they are, you know me…) which seems enough – there’s no point in trying to compete – beer fanatics will always go to the Union. The wine list was good – pricey – but it’s rare impossible to find cheap wine that tastes any good. I’d rather have one glass of something decent than slurp vatfuls of cheap vinegar. My glass(es, ahem) were very good indeed and I’m told the beer, drunk by the rest of the party, was fine. 

The menu isn’t extensive – which in my book is a good thing. If they’re not expecting many people, there’s no point in providing masses of choice – much like the drink I’d rather have a smallish choice of good stuff. It has the usual pub suspects; we chose a combination of burgers, salads and lasagnes. Given the tiny amount of people in the pub the food took a looooong while to arrive, but when it did it was, again, perfectly acceptable – neither brilliant nor terrible. The burgers were home made, the lasagnes tasted pretty okay, the salad was fresh. We ate it and it was nice. 

And I suspect that that is the issue this place has to deal with. It’s nice. It’s enjoyable. It’s good looking. It’s friendly. The food is perfectly good. It’s doing all the right things – sausages from Drings, for example.  But it doesn’t have a ‘personality’ in a street that already has several ‘personality’ pubs. The Union for the beer freaks. The Tolly for the regulars. The Hill for the foodies (though watch this space for a review of the new chef, as soon as I make it that little bit further up the road.) The Prince has nice beer, but it’s not the Union. it has good (very good) surroundings, but it’s not the Richard I. It has okay food, but not the signature dishes the Hill has/had (depending on what it’s like now.)

If it was anywhere else, this place would be a godsend. In East Greenwich we’d be putting out the bunting for a it – we have the Vanbrugh, the Plume and the Pelton, but anything further east just gets a bit scary, pub-wise. 

I think it needs to bed-down a bit. Find itself a niche, rather than trying to be all things to all Greenwichians. I can’t see the codgers coming back (I am assuming they’ve decamped to the Morden Arms?) but maybe the Prince shouldn’t be aiming that way. I would love to see the owners coming up with a new angle, a way to create their own personality, to entice people who don’t currently go to any of the Royal Hill pubs  - a new clientele.

How to do that? Ah – if I knew that I’d be a publican myself.

If you think you know the answer, Mike has just told me it’s for sale

A Wander Through Wartime London

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Pen & Sword, £12.99

The first thing to note about this book is that, for sundry technical reasaons, although the authors are listed as Clive Harris and Neil Bright, much of the  reasearch for this book of walks. or at least for the Greenwich and Blackheath one, was done by none other than our very own Stephen of Blitzwalkers, who knows our area and its bombed-out years better than pretty much anyone. 

The book’s made up of five walks, three of which are south of the river, which shows how transpontine levels of devastation were just as bad, if not worse than some of the dreadful scenes in the East End that are usually wheeled out when the Blitz is mentioned. Actually, this book avoids the East End entirely; but there have already been so many of those walks documented that it’s worth treading a bit of new ground.

Marylebone, Bermondsey, Southwark, Bloomsbury/Holborn and Blackheath/Greenwich are covered and though I had a glimpse through the others, I homed in on the latter for obvious reasons.

Anyone who’s been on one of Stephen’s walks will probably be familiar with much of the material in this book. It starts in Blackheath, and wends its way over to Greenwich town centre via the Paragon and the heath itself, but it’s a nice companion to have if you’ve already done the walk, and carries clear instructions if you haven’t.

I like that it includes little snippets about things you’re passing that don’t really have much to do with the war, they’re just interesting, as well as the nitty gritty stuff about sites of bombs, bunkers, volunteer centres, first-aid posts, gun-slits and anti-missile defences, plus a whole bunch of facts and figures you’d never remember if you were just walking round. 

I particularly like the little anecdotes about incidents that may seem small enough now, but which would have been deadly serious then – like the ‘bomb’ in someone’s front room that turned out to be the nose cone of an anti-aircraft shell – alarming but not actually deadly. Not all the stories have as happy an ending as that one. 

The detail comes thick and fast when it reaches Greenwich; I personally would have liked a few more paragraphs, or even numbers so that I wouldn’t lose my place when walking, though maybe that would be dumbing down a little too much. Similarly, though perfect-bound makes a very handsome volume, perhaps a spiral binding would have made it more practical for walkers (I’m not sure how practical books like this are meant to be, though – are they indended to be taken out by hikers, or enjoyed by the fireside?) 

I cannot fault the sheer amount of detail and the way the style hovers squarely between ‘academic’ and ‘popular’ – it flows well, is a real pleasure to read and it has all manner of little snippets in it I didn’t know. For a second edition, my spectral tongue hangs out to know where all the incredible photos that stud the text were sourced – there are several that are absolutely jaw-dropping, such as the devastation on Weymyss Road and Burney Street, and I was absolutely delighted to see a photo of one of the famous stretcher railings actually in use as a stretcher during the war (John was telling me the other day that as well as the ones in Greenwich High Road, there was also a set of stretcher fences around the local authority flats in Eastney Street that, as a guide he used to point out to visitors – until the council replaced them with boring bog-standard versions, chiz.) I can make a guess as to where these incredible pictures can be found, but it would be good to be sure – perhaps a list at the end of the book would do it. 

All in all, a nice addition to the bookshelf. Hell – I might even try one of the walks outside Greenwich for a bit of a change. Now that’s Phantom approval…

If you’re all fired up for a nice wartime walk, Stephen himself will be conducting the first of this year’s batch on Sunday 6th March. As usual, the meet is outside All Saints Church, Blackheath at 11 a.m. and finishes in Royal Hill near the pubs! They’re holding our prices at last year’s prices, so 2 3/4 hours walk will cost you £7. Details can be found on the Blitzwalkers website above.

The Thin End of the Hedge

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Good and bad news for the many people who’ve spent the past decade or so mouldering on the waiting list for allotments.

The good news is that it’s likely some people won’t be able to afford to keep theirs up any more, thus making room for you. The bad news, of course, is that you won’t be able to afford it either. 

Greenwich council, as has been reported all over the shop, is proposing rate-hikes for full plots from £67 a year to £200 – and in some cases even more. Now admittedly, that doesn’t cover many people – the loss of great swathes of land over the past century has taken the amount of available allotment spaces down to a teeny amount (and, I suspect, the amount of full plots down to an infinitesimal number) – but that’s still a whopping great wodge to take out of anyone’s pocket. Especially since the classic allotmenteer is retired and, naturally, without a garden so unlikely to be rolling in readies. Nowadays gardening is suddenly fashionable among the chattering, twittering and blogging classes and that stereotype’s not so common, but there are still older, and poorer, Greenwich people for whom two hundred smackers is going to be just too much. 

How much cash is Greenwich Council really going to make out of this? Compared to the anger it’s creating, I’m reckoning it’s just not worth it. They can’t be after the land because there’s a statutory obligation to provide allotments (though I’ve never really worked out what that meant – there are all manner of ways out of that one if they were so inclined, not that I’m going to elaborate here…) so I think it must just be for the extra couple of thousand quid they’ll make out of a very few people.

Is this traditional realm of Arthur Fowlers destined to become yet another enclave only available for those with ready cash to pay for it? 

BTW  the picture is of the poshest allotments in Greenwich, in Prior Street. I don’t know if this particular site is involved in the cuts as it’s run by a private group, but I daresay someone will tell me…

The Thin End Of The Wedge

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Blimey – they slipped that one in quietly. I hadn’t noticed, but then I guess that was the whole idea. It was Dolan who noticed it in the Greenwich Gazette , and the GG only found out because they were expecting foriegn visitors. Yup, folks, from March, we’ll all have to pay a tenner to get through the gates to the Old Royal Observatory, even if we only want to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Actually, especially if we only want to stand with one foot in each hemisphere, since, I guessing, if they’re honest, that’s all a good 80% of tourists want. 

The National Maritime Museum remains free (understandably; it’s so sparsely populated with objects, no one would pay. There was an article on BBC news the other day about the amount the NMM spend on storage – something I don’t have an issue with at all, it’s all part of the museum-gig – but if they’d just put some stuff on display they might not have to put up with non-stories on slow-news days like that. I note the BBC missed the  real issue about the charges too. We all did. Thank you for noticing,  GG..)

I guess the loophole is that national collections have to be free, but they can charge for special exhibitions. Somebody looked at the figures, realised that every  tourist ever wants that photo, rubbed their hands together and quietly put a little note at the bottom of the page of the times and admissions page. The one consolation is that the fee is for a yearly ticket so if Greenwich Gazette has more than one set of Canadian visitors only their friends will have to pay next time. 

Is this the beginning of the end for free admission to museums in England? Some might say it was coming, given the cuts, and that it might even-things out for the smaller places that aren’t national collections, like the Fan Museum. Others think that since they have to pay to visit museums in other countries, free admission for all makes saps of us. Some think that British people should have some sort of pass that gets them in free, leaving the tourists to pay (the most extreme – and in my view justified in that particular instance – case that I know of is in Rwanda where locals pay $10 to see the gorillas; tourists pay $250. In that case it’s still probably weighted towards the tourists). Most believe that the national collections belong to all, they’re paid for in taxes and should be free to all. 

Thing is, this should not just be about the Observatory, but charging for museums in general. Seems to me that by quietly slipping in through the back door, Britain’s museums are seeking to avoid the bigger debate – should we be paying to get into national collections, and if so, how?

Whatever we think, we have until March to get our hides over to the Observatory one – or six -last times.

Fried Fish and Beer

Friday, January 21st, 2011


Stephen asks:

“Do you know anything about the Old Woolwich Road and Orlop Street area in the 1910s/1920. My family once lived at 14 Orlop Street and 9 Old Woolwich Road (which I believe was the Princess Alice Pub). Also are there any Blakeley’s still living in Greenwich?”

The Phantom replies:

Twentieth century history in Greenwich is much harder to find than the really old stuff, curiously enough, especially in ‘poor’ areas like the East, but there’s a little hope at hand, which I’ll talk about in a moment.

First a little pre-history – in the marvellous online version of Charlet Booths notebooks that I was mentioning the other day, both Orlop Street and Old Woolwich Road are mentioned, though not really in what you might call glowing terms.

Orlop Street wasn’t the sort of place you’d want to go of a dark night:

“A row of modern houses facing south. Two floors and a basement. Venetian blinds, many kept down. Very poor class. One or two rooms. Labourers who don’t work; wives do washing. “They live on fried fish and beer.” Not on map.”

In King William Lane, which ran between Orlop St and Old Woolwich Road,  ”Only a rag shop, on west side. Man is poor but works hard.” 

Booth considered Old Woolwich Road a little more mixed:

(Trafalgar Road to Marlboro’ St.) On north side is a row of 2 storied houses. Most of the people keep the house (Hardy lives in one of them.) (Hardy ? Perhaps a descendent of the Admiral? – TGP) From Northumberland St to Marlboro’ St the houses are new. 2 Floors + attic. better class people (a word I can’t read- TGP) a few servants here and there. Pink, to park houses. The south side is 3 + 2 storey houses, near all are old except a row new Trafalgar Road. Pink. N up Purple on map. 

So – you get the picture – we’re not talking Crooms Hill here. By the twentieth century things hadn’t changed an awful lot if the only book I’ve every read that mentions Orlop Street is anything to go by. 

Remember Greenwich(I reviewed it back in 2008) is, a totally different Stephen has tipped me off, currently to be found on Amazon Marketplace at a single shiny penny, (+p&p, natch.) Take my advice, East Greenwichers. Spend a penny (so to speak). Iris Bryce’s account of East Greenwich in the early to mid 20th Century is fabulous – personal, well-written and, unlike so many local memoires that just waffle a bit about blacking and taking a trip to Margate in a charabanc, tells a driving story that is almost novel-like in its pacing. I love her account of working in the Crown pub, and being allowed up to the landlady’s boudoir, a magical realm of velvet and plush, fringing, flounces and furbelows.

Iris Bryce tells a story of strict social strata – and her place within it. Her family were poor – but that didn’t stop her parents being snobby about people less well off than them. They lived south of Trafalgar Road, which meant that the people on north side might as well live on Mars. She was strictly forbidden, in particular, to have anything to do with the tough kids who lived in Orlop Street, and she was actually rather scared of them. I confess I’ve always been rather fond of this sweet, one-sided street; it’s somewhat smarter these days.

I’ve been trying to work out which would have been number 9 Old Woolwich Road and it appears to have been opposite what is now Frobisher Court at number 10, and is photographed by yet another Stephen (Craven, since I have to mention his full name under the CC license). Seamus (who could at least have changed his name by deed-poll for the purposes of this post) was asking me about it recently, but I have to admit I’ve not found out much. It has the date 1834 above its original name, The Man In the Moon. I can’t find out much about it, but Mary was mentioning the other day that it was the site of a murder before it was converted. I intend to find out more about that. 

That would put the Princess Alice in that little sliver of land that is being used as a car park by Greenwich Inc. I find myself wondering if it was a younger pub than the Man in the Moon, and whether perhaps it was named not for Queen Victoria’s ‘forgotten’ third daughter but the terrible disaster of the SS Princess Alice which collided with the Bywell Castle in 1878 (by weird coincidence the same year that the real Princess Alice died.)

If you’re interested, there’s a list of landlords here – it starts shortly after the disaster.

So – more to find out. This is a work in progress after all…

Greenwich Market Decision

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

As might have been predicted, we lost our fight for Durnford Street. While not a single member of the council wanted the new development in its current form, let alone most local folk, Nick Raysnford’s got his way. The buildings will go as part of the now-approved market development. 

Apparently the biggest issue was that only local people protested about the Durnford Street buildings. The council, however much individuals on it might have disapproved of losing some of the last historic ‘working’ buildings in Greenwich, chose as a group to concentrate on other aspects of the proposal, making it just ordinary people v. Greenwich Hospital, who have a mighty publicity machine and friends in high places. 

I guess we should be proud though, that because of the ruckus we kicked up, we have at least stopped that ghastly original roof design and the cobbles. The historic buildings can whistle, though, as they make way for a trash compactor. Such is progress.

The decision is here.

A sad day for Greenwich, IMHO.

Green Matters (1)

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

So – the Mayor of London is set to take over the running of Royal Parks. Anyone else a little uneasy about this?

I mean – I can’t say that I love everything Royal Parks does – they can be intransigent, dictatorial and opaque, not to mention unanswerable – but they do exist merely to look after Royal Parks, rather than having Park Keeperdom as just one of a ‘portfolio’ (see – I can use the jargon, too) of responsibilities. 

I’m sure that in the first instance everything would be rosy – but as a long term arrangement, I’m not too sure. Sure, Heritage Minister John Penrose is saying now that there will be “safeguards against unsuitable developments” but – hang on – what about ANY developments? What guarantee will we have that maintenance budgets that may well be ring-fenced at the handover, don’t quietly get morphed into the rest of the pot (more jargon, I’m getting good at this) and go to funding some mayoral vanity project to reintroduce the horse-driven Omnibus in 2018?

Just look what’s happened with protected views – whose widths narrow and expand like a crash-dieter’s waist with each new mayoral incumbent. And that’s just what you can see – I am edgy about allowing a mayor (any mayor) get his/her hands on the actual soil of Royal Parks. Whether it’s Ken, who’d cover the lot with tower blocks, Jenny, who’d probably divide it all up into allotments or Boris who’d have trouble finding Greenwich Park in the first place, I just plain don’t trust ‘em. And nor would I trust any future Culture Secretary who’d have the ultimate power of veto. Anyone who doesn’t have a single issue to work towards will always be forced to make compromises. 

For those who say ‘good riddance; Royal Parks was complicit in the Olympics,’ don’t imagine that a Mayor of London wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing, faced with pressure like that from the IOC and LOCOG – and probably with less of a heavy heart.

And as to the sniffy Culture, Media and Sport ‘insider’ (whatever that means) who dismisses  it all with “There’s lots of tension and anxiety from the well-heeled folk who live around the park about the news,” I am neither well-heeled nor (sadly) do I live around the park. I just give a damn about it, which I can’t guarantee that a future Mayor would.

There is one possibly interesting thing that might come out of it. For years Royal Parks have been a brick wall when it’s come to anyone investigating what lies under the park in the way of tunnels. Perhaps a future Mayor would be a little more lenient towards letting people like the chaps from Subterranean Greenwich have a poke around. Not, I imagine, that he/she’d be any more interested than Royal Parks in my dream of opening them up to the public.

What do you think? Am I (as usual) overdramatising a simple change in responsibilities?

PS – thanks to Helen for the lovely picture of the Chestnut trees