Archive for February, 2011

Terrible News

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Good heavens. I leave it to This is Local London to tell you the sad news of Gagandip Singh, thanking Annabel for the link, and thinking of Mr Singh’s family at a truly horrible time.


Monday, February 28th, 2011

I committed a cardinal sin last week. In my excitement about something else (which I’ll tell you about in good time) I totally forgot to go to the consultation for the Stockwell Street development. If you missed it too then you will, like me, be able to plough through the various documents at the council website - a poor substitute for actually seeing the thing. 

For me, it’s better, but still blocky and – well, just not very exciting. It’s neither traditional enough for the traditionalists nor modern enough for the modernists, and it seems to cram too much into too little space, leaving nothing for us as residents unless we want to ‘sip a cup of coffee’ in the cafe. Some people are upset there’s no provision for an antiques market, which was part of original plans before Greenwich University bought the site. Frankly I always thought we’d end up whistling for that one – it requires just too much space and would look too scruffy for a university that’s trying hard to climb the educational ladder’s aspirations.

If you want to add comments to the planning process you have until the 9th March to do so, and judging from the people who’ve copied me into their missives there is quite a variety of opinion.  You can send them here:

Directorate of Regeneration, Enterprise & Skills
Crown Building
48 Woolwich New Road
SE18 6HQ

While all that fuss has been on the centre of Greenwich, and just in case we don’t have quite enough average hotels, there’s a new project slipping in over at Norman Road, in case you’re not aware of it already, which includes yet another 3* job. Don’t get excited about the rather curious-Gaudi-esque artist’s impression in the Movement’s plans  - that’s for Clapham. There are no drawings so far for us that I can see. My eye was caught by the 5000sqft retail space. My brain is bad at square foot – is this supermarket size? Certainly worth keeping an eye on…

Finally, I’ve had several emails over the last week or so from people who seem to have only just noticed that the market is to be redeveloped. They are, of course, outraged. I share their fury, but I have to say that I don’t really think there’s any realistic chance of doing much about it now. Those of us who hated the plans had (and took) our chance at fighting it two years ago, and again a year later and got some concessions from the original, hideous, design to something not quite as hideous but still destroying historic buildings to add a trash compactor. 

We were, of course, tooled over by a combination of greed – and our own MP – in a stunning example of The Big Society in Action. David Cameron would be proud. After the council unanimously rejecting the proposals, Nick Raynsford encouraged Greenwich Hospital Trust to appeal – to people who don’t give a damn about the town – going against the wishes of everyone except Nick Raynsford and, inexplicably, The Greenwich Society, whose support I still just don’t get. To appeal against the appeal would cost a fortune at a time when Greenwich Council have to save £70m. Sadly we now just have to suck it up.

I leave you with one last thought. Visit Nick Raynsford’s page at (you’re quite safe to sign up to the thing that texts you when he speaks in Parliament, he usually only does to talk about things to do with housing) and scroll down to the member’s declaration of interests section, bearing in mind that an MP’s basic salary is £65,738.

Get yourself a calculator.

Now add up all the cash our MP has received in the past year for sundry services to the construction industry. 

Do the sums then ask yourself if he really does work for you…

Mystery Memorial

Friday, February 25th, 2011


From the Cozens Family Album


Feast your eyes, folks, then see if you can help me out here. This is from Harriet Cozens (if you recall, she is the great, great granddaughter of Henry Richardson, the author of Greenwich: Its History, Antiquities, Improvements and Public Buildings.

The picture is of, as you can see, of the unveiling of a memorial, which Harriet tells me is in he Greenwich section of the album – but I have no idea where or what it is. However much I increase the size on the picture, the words always break up before I can read any of them. 

It’s that ivy-covered wall (or hill) behind it that gets me – I can’t think of a cemetery, park or open space that looks like that. The costume of the people is clearly late Victorian o, more likely, Edwardian (Boer War, perhaps?) and, I assume, one of the Richardson family attended the ceremony – a big deal, with a little stage and lots of bigwigs.

So, guys, – any ideas?


Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Sometimes it takes me forever to get round to reviewing an eaterie, but, however unfair it may be, pizza places do seem to skip to the top of the list and it’s only taken me a week to get round to Bianco – not least because I’ve been hearing some extremely positive things about it – and the way it’s run. 

It’s where the old Taste of India used to be. I didn’t hate the ToI but I didn’t love it either – it was, frankly, unmemorable, and the dishes seemed to have an awful lot of sugar in them, so although I don’t like to see a shop close in Greenwich (unless it’s Pizza Luna, which was the second worst meal I have ever eaten and is now, happily, Helva) I am much happier to see somewhere with a bit of character opening in its place. It’s Italian family-run – and it shows.

Someone told me about how she walked past one evening, saw it full of people and decided to eat there herself – turned out the place wasn’t open yet, it was just the family eating – but they invited her in anyway.  Other people have reported that the owner or another family member has come to say hello to them during the meal (a very Italian thing to do.) I often wonder why other restaurant owners don’t work out that talking to their customers, welcoming them and including them costs absolutely nothing and creates an awful lot of goodwill before a single mouthful has been taken. 

The family is from Naples, the (occasionally disputed) birthplace of pizza, which is why the dishes you’ll get there are very different from most pizza joints (even in Italy) and they do take a bit of relaxing into. For starters they’re very simple – not the thousand-and-one topping varieties that you get elsewhere – and could even be described as spare. The base is wood-fired (I can’t say how pleased I am to see an independent, proper wood-burning oven in Greenwich at last) and not as crispy as we are often used to over here.

A good half of the toppings are without tomato (our group ordered a variety – just to get a feel for the place across the board, you understand, nothing to do with greed) and aren’t as anemic as white pizzas I have had elsewhere (pizza without tomato doesn’t seem quite ‘right’ to me, but it’s perfectly acceptable in Naples.)

In fact, these are such simple pizzas that they do, to our stuffed-crust-Hawaiian-mega-hot-chicken-tikka-supreme tainted tastebuds, take a little getting used to. I reckon it takes about five mouthfuls to really begin to appreciate the flavours here and once you do, there’s no turning back. The wine list is suitably Italian. I liked the Chianti best. 

I like this place a lot. There are minor improvements to be made – the pasta arrived on cold plates so was lukewarm by the time it got to the control-guys who had bravely chosen pasta rather than pizza, and it will be easier to pay with cards rather than needing actual folding money when they get the machine sorted out (though it’s no real hardship, there’s a cashpoint just round the corner) – but the welcome and the pizzas are very good indeed. I look forward to them being around for some time.

Greenwich Then and Now

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011


From the Cozens Family Album

Pier update

Monday, February 21st, 2011

For the many people (including myself) who have been wondering what the bloomin’ heck’s been going on at Greenwich Pier, a small update. Not sure if I’m supposed to reveal where I got this so I won’t.

Apparently the project’s been on hold pending financial agreements, tied to lettings within the buildings themselves. These were resolved back in the summer, and building work’s been going on – but the reason we’ve not been seeing anything is because it’s mainly been underground. The steel frame should be on site pretty much any day now when things will really start to hot-up. The shell is due to be completed in the summer. So however much we may like or dislike the planned building, something that’s finished and in use can only be better than a building site – and hopefully we’ll be getting the pier back – at least in some form – soonish.

East Greenwich Farmers Market

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Neil asks: (a couple of weeks ago, cough) 

We were all set for the farmers market in East Greenwich yesterday at the EGP (or Halstow school next door) but shock of shocks, it wasn’t on.  Returning to the EGP Friends website we found it was now TBC rather than on.  I bet we weren’t the only ones disappointed by that one.  Do you know what’s going on?

The Phantom replies:

Good news, Neil. The Farmers Market is due to return on Saturday 5th March, 10.00am – 3.00pm, and then come back EVERY SATURDAY. It will be a trial thing – so make sure you patronise it if you like it.

They have permission for banners, so look out for them around town soon.

Greenwich Then and Now (4)

Sunday, February 20th, 2011


Church Street from the Cozens family album


When Harriet told me about her great, great grandfather last week, she sent me a couple of pictures from the Greenwich section of the family album, and today I bring you a faded, but familiar sight. 

I’m guessing that perhaps one of the Richardsons themselves took this photograph from the upstairs window of their stationery shop – it’s in the right place, though sadly its being Pizza Express these days I was unable to get upstairs and peer out through the window to be sure. I’m no public transport expert but I’m sure I’ve seen a similar trolley bus in the London Transport museum – even with Greenwich as the destination (and being told a comic story about a particularly eccentric conductor who rode it, though it entirely escapes me now. Perhaps someone who knows more about such things could remind me?) 

It looks oddly modern, which is interesting given how much of Church Street has changed. The Mitre pub is there – albeit without the little BBQ/smoking area, the churchyard has hardly changed and even though we have entirely different buildings (the Ibis/Cafe Rouge/Picturehouse) where the row on the left is, it somehow doesn’t look hugely different. Even the trees (a copper beech and a double-coloured cherry if memory serves) are either the same or replacements planted in the same places. 

I got the closest I could to the picture on a very rainy Saturday. It’s not going to win any prizes for – well, anything, actually, but it gives us some idea of what it’s like now (the modern equivalent of the trolley bus was a happy accident.)

Church street today


Thanks, Harriet, for the pic!

Blackheath Halls Cuts

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Did you know that half of Blackheath Halls falls into Lewisham and half Greenwich? No – nor did I. And there wasn’t really any reason to until yesterday when the guys there told me Greenwich were planning to cut their entire annual grant – £72,000 – from  April 2011, giving the Halls no time to organize any kind of alternative funding and leaving them up the proverbial creek without a proverbial paddle. 

I mentioned that I was surprised they actually got a grant given they were in Lewisham and they told me that though the front is, indeed in Lewisham, the back is in Greenwich, and they’ve historically enjoyed grants from both councils and tried to spread their outreach accordingly. 

Now, while I am hardly surprised that Greenwich has done this (this kind of dropping-someone-in-the-shit puts me in mind of another shared Lewisham/Greenwich venture, the fireworks last November, where Greenwich pulled out at a very late moment without a word or a thought as to how Lewisham were going to cope) it doesn’t instill in me much confidence as to how they’re going to deal with the rest of the savings they’re going to make. 

While other councils are coming clean – and getting stick for it in both national and local news, but at least being honest – Greenwich council are playing their cards so close to their collective chest that people end up having bad news sprung on them at the last minute rather than having the opportunity to fight – or at least try to secure some alternative means of income. 

Where will the axe fall next? We know it will fall, we just don’t know where. And I think it’s about time we did know. Lewisham must be getting pretty fed up with the way Greenwich keeps cutting them loose all over the shop after years of co-operation (I can’t believe I’m sticking up for Lewisham here, but I’m afraid I’m ashamed of the way my council is behaving just now). They have their own cuts to make. 

When are we going to know what Greenwich council actually proposes to do with the massive cuts they have to make? We’re getting this in dribs and drabs. I’d like an actual outline please.

In the meantime, if you want to sign the petition against Blackheath Halls cuts visit  and this Sunday 20th February at 2pm supporters of Blackheath Halls are organizing a sing and play in at the front of Blackheath Halls (weather permitting).

Greenwich Wildlife (10)

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Narrator: (production notecan we get Attenborough?)

…And then, just as our crew are about to pack up for the day, a group is spotted. 

With their distinctive red plumage, that says ‘keep away’ to predators, a small herd of Olympus Equestrianus Officianalis appears in the middle of the Greenwich plains, perhaps to graze, perhaps to mate. Scientists know very little about the habits of what local tribes call ‘plotters’ but the results of intensive studies have begun to yield results in our understanding of their secretive way of life.

Gathering near the watering hole, where both males and females perform elegant ‘jumping’ rituals in season, they form into a circular, bonding pattern to prepare for their feats of skill.

In recent years this shy creature has been seen only rarely, though reports from native trackers suggest they are increasing in numbers, leading some to conclude that in perhaps as little as a year’s time their presence may become unsustainable to the delicate Greenwich ecology.

Then, just as our cameraman Stephen creeps a little closer, the scout of the group senses movement…

Within seconds alarm spreads and the group scatters. But they will be back.