Archive for May, 2011

Open Greenwich Gardens

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

So – we’ve had our lot for Bank Holidays now until August but all is not lost if you like poking around secret places or you like gardens. As a Phantom who would sit squarely in the little lozenge between the  two in the Grand Venn diagram of Greenwich (which, hmmm, I must draw up some day…) I thought I’d bring you a little bit of brightness to go with the sun thats shining so insolently outside now we’ve all had to go back to work.

St Alfeges is doing some seriously good stuff, events-wise, just now. The Advent Windows is both an enduring and an inspired idea, as is the 1711 Walk but just as  the anniversaries surrounding our local saint are coming thick and fast now, so are the events. I just love this one – chuck away your Yellow Book, there’s nothing for Greenwich in it anyway – and put June 11th and 18th in your diaries…

On each day a selection of private West Greenwich gardens will be open to the public for a few hours only. It’s in aid of the church restoration fund (they’re slowly working their way through the building but  in its turn the building  is slowly working its way through their cash) so expect to spend £3 per garden or (bargain) £10 for all the gardens on one day.  In some gardens they’ll be serving tea and cakes, but if you want to see all of them you might have to give the buns a miss as they’re only open between 2.00pm and 5.00pm. Do-able, as they’re close to each other, but I wouldn’t recommend stopping to inspect every daisy.

Okay – so here’s the itinerary.

On the 11th June these folks will be throwing open their garden gates:

1. The Manor House, Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Jonathan and Teresa Sumption.
2. 124 King George Street, Greenwich, SE10.Geoff and Paula Nuttall.
3. 4 Egerton Drive, Greenwich, SE10.Jon and Vicky Rhodes.
4. 14 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Ann Broadbent.
5. 20 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Rachel Lethbridge.
6. 27 Maidenstone Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Alan Bartlett and Simon Gallie.
7. 24 Dartmouth Row, Greenwich, SE10.Elizabeth and Alun Jones.

And on the 18th June, this is the selction:

1. 3 Gloucester Circus, Greenwich, SE10.Richard and Ginny Williams.
2. 41 Gloucester Circus, Greenwich, SE10.Mark and Clare Hatcher.
3. The White House, Crooms Hill, SE10.Tim and Patricia Barnes.
4. 89 Maze Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Tony and Stella Booth.
5. 34 Hyde Vale, Greenwich, SE10.Bob and Sue Yates.
6. The Vicarage, 33 Park Vista, SE10.Chris and Gill Moody.
7. 119 Maze Hill, Greenwich, SE10.Susan Waller.
8. 93 Westcombe Park Road, SE3.Robbie & Helen Swales.

So, folks. Stick that in your diaries and take pity on the Phantom who’s bloomin’ busy both days :-(

Rear Window (20)

Friday, May 27th, 2011

…Because every Friday should have at least one picture of a cat. This is John’s cat Lobby eyeing up lunch in his Greenwich back garden…

1711 Walk

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Okay – this is an example of a press release being its own worst enemy. It was also the moment when the term ‘pop-up’ became officially overused.

What’s so annoying is that this doesn’t need to call itself anything ‘cool’ to get attention.  It’s an absolutely brilliant idea that stands by itself without gimmicks.


Right, so we need to take ourselves back three hundred and eight  wibbly-wobbly years to November 1703 and the worst storm the British Isles has ever seen. Entire forests were destroyed, ships were sunk, the Eddystone Lighthouse blown down entirely and John Evelyn’s garden left  in a right old mess.

The country was in mourning at the loss of life – and none more than the good citizens of Greenwich, Deptford and Woolwich who had not only seen the products of their shipbuilding labour sent to Davy Jones’s locker, but many of their own, gone for sailors and fishermen.

1707 saw further misery. The Woolwich-built Devonshire was blown up by the dastardly French, losing many local sailors. Then,just  two weeks later,  Sir Cloudesley Shovell lost, with in minutes, three ships on the rocks in the Scilly Isles. Yet more local bereavement.

It took a further four years of misery before the final insult. At 4.00am on the 29th November 1710, the roof of St Alphege’s church caved in without warning,  no doubt  aided by the storms, though it would seem a faulty pillar in the middle was the ultimate culprit. Monuments were smashed, graves ruined and the walls broken beyond repair.

It was going to cost six thousand pounds to fix the mess. Greenwich was a poor town ever since being abandoned by the court.  There was nothing for it. The people decided to go, cap in hand, to Parliament. What resulted was better than they could have imagined.

February 1711 saw the start of A Case of the Inhabitants of Greenwich, where they lay out their case.

They told Parliament how the wealthy residents of old had pretty much abandoned them when the court moved, and those who remained had places elsewhere and no real love for the town. Nine-tenths of the population lived off the river, and the tradesmen left in the town had been ground down from years of giving credit to the rich guys who’d now scarpered. With the recent shipwrecks there were now over 3,000 widows and children dependent on the Parish. Where were they going to get six grand from?

Parliament listened. And then some. On the 12th June, 1711, Parliament passed an Act for the building of not just one but fifty new churches in London. That only a fraction of that number actually got built should not detract from the vision, though how much the good burghers of Greenwich appreciated the new Coal Tax that was going to pay for it is not recorded.

But – huzzah – St Alphege was to be the first. I’m not going to go into the whole Hawksmoor thing now, because this post isn’t about that, it’s about a fantastic idea for a new walk. The fact that I cannot find any way to deem it ‘pop-up’ ( I just don’t buy any of the arguments on the website, especially the ‘you choose how to follow it’ one – that’s a fancy word for ‘self-guided’)  doesn’t take away from the great idea.

Basically, the 1711 is eleven short strolls combined into  One Walk to Rule Them All, following, over fifteen and a half miles, only routes available in that year, and encompassing all twelve of the churches built as a result of the Act (well, eleven and a ruin).  It was devised by barrister Peter Dodge and it’s in aid of a new ring-fenced fund to preserve the churches as a group – or at least the nine still being used for worship (I don’t know if the other three have to fend for themselves?)

It’s being launched on the 12th June, the exact anniversary of the passing of the Act, after an 8.00am service at St Alphege. No one’s going to marshall it, but presumably there will be a whole bunch of people doing the walk so you can probably just join in with them.

What you’ll need to do is purchase a specially-created, destined-for-instant-collectableship, Guide, which is designed in 18th Century style using the original street names and sounds utterly amazing – it’s only £2.95+ P&P and the money goes to the fund. Bargain – but be quick, there are only going to be 500 of them and Boris is already first in the queue.

So, folks – 12th June in your diaries, now, okay. Though of course, it’s being ‘pop-up’ means you can do it any time you like…

Mess Around

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Gordon says

“On my way to work this morning I noticed that some angry local seems to be fighting a crusade against dog mess.  This one is outside the Morden Arms.

I wonder if you know anything about this? I can’t believe it’s the work of the local council. What worries me is that I counted six of these dayglo horrors between the top of Brand Street and the pub. I agree with the sentiment but fear these signs will linger much longer than the mess.”

The Phantom replies

Oh, I don’t know, Gordon. They look rather smart to me. I mean, it just goes to show that the folk in West Greenwich know their breeds.  Clearly they have decided that the naughty culprit is a wire-haired fox terrier (none of those nasty East Greenwich staffies round here, thank you…) and are subtly telling the owner that they know exactly who it is that is doing the doggy deed. And that they know where they live.

Don’t mess with the West, Gordon. Don’t mess with the West…

Maps Agogo

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Thanks to  Londonist for pointing out the superb London Low Life site.

Don’t ask, just go there, find your gaff on the map and play with the opaque slider bar…

First Pix of the NMM’s Sammy Ofer Wing

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Following on from the questions about the exterior of the new Sammy Ofer Wing at the National Maritime Museum yesterday, Jenny’s sent me over some images of the building itself.

Of course it’s been half-seeable all the time, viewed through, appropriately enough, portholes in the hoardings, but we’ve all been waiting with bated breath to see just how hideous and inappropriate it’s going to be.

Actually, I don’t know about you guys but I’ve been rather pleasantly surprised. For once the architect’s drawings made a new construction look worse than it really is.  In fact, embarrassing as it is to admit, I can’t help rather liking this wing – it’s sleek and elegant and although it is in a different style to the rest of the museum, that doesn’t bother me. We’re in the 21st Century now and I think it works.

I went to look at it in that tiny window of time between the hoardings being replaced by fencing and the park being closed off for the test events and I find myself quite excited.

In some respects the shape of the main extension building reminds me a little of the tellytubby Sainsburys over on the Peninsuala, though that’s probably the gentle curve and the greenery around it. I shall be interested to see how the little rows of trees behind it fare, though presumably the ground staff are better at watering than I am. I like what I assume will be the modern haha at the main entrance.

In fact the only bit that looks a bit odd are the two glass shafts sticking out of the main extension (they’re the square boxes in the top picture). I had assumed they were lifts but Jenny tells me they’re actually light wells going deep underground to the special exhibition gallery – and, well,  everyone knows how interested I am in anything underground.

Which brings us to the thorny question of what’s actually going inside this aforesaid pretty damn nice space.  As regular readers of this blog will know I am not a fan of the present museum trend of highlighting just a few ‘special’ objects that ‘tell a story’ and leave acres of empty space all over the place when I know they’ve got incredible objects mouldering away in their stores.

More and more museums are succumbing to this dumbing-down (in fact the only museum I know of that still truly clings to the ‘old’ style of delightfully dusty cases stuffed full of objects, the provenance, date and purpose of which remain an intriguing mystery, is the wonderful Petrie Museum, though the Cuming Museum in Southwark makes a venerable fist at pleasing my passion for fascinating clutter – I could (and do) spend hours in there.) The NMM was one of the first in the move towards emptiness, and I am at best ambivalent about their current displays.

I know I am in a minority here, of course. I seem to have got myself into a late-Victorian timewarp, fantasising about H.G.Wells turning up in his Time Machine and whisking me off to view Messers Pitt-Rivers and Petrie’s private collections rather than admitting that the world has moved on, and like the 21st Century building I’ve just praised to its rooftops, museum displays have also changed.

But when I read that the new Voyagers Gallery will house ‘over 200 objects from across the museum’s collections’ I can’t help twitching just a bit.  That may sound a lot, but when you consider the thousands of things they have, I fear two hundred may be rattling around a bit, albeit in the most elegant fashion imaginable.  I also fear that having a ‘greatest hits’ gallery close to the main entrance (and the park and the gift shop) will discourage people from stepping in further; from visiting the galleries where you might have to think a bit.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until July to find out. The one thing that has truly excited me from the start about this project though, is the new archive space, library and reading room, and that sounds  impressive indeed.

They’ll be able to keep more stuff on site, so it will be easier for readers to access. There will be specific reading areas – some quiet, some for group work.  Longer opening hours, including one late-night and…squeeeee! A giant table specially for looking at massive maps. Fantastic.

I was wrong about the way the museum looks. Hands up, I admit it, I’m blushing. I’d like to be able to blush about what the building contains too. But for that I’ll have to wait until July.

Of Captains and Ships and Poohs and Sticks

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Jules asks:

“Any idea whether Captain Cook’s statue is coming back?”

on a similar theme, Sunny asks:

“Do you know what happened to the Pirate Ship which used to be at the back of the Maritime Museum? Obviously it has been moved while the new building goes up, but wondered if there were any plans to return or relocate it…

I had heard a rumour of its being moved to the East Greenwich Pleasaunce, but no sightings so far.

My children far preferred this to the overcrowded and increasingly toddler-centric play area near the boating lake, and we are all very sad that it appears to have been sunk.”

The Phantom replies:

Well, folks, I’m afraid I have a bit of a ‘hooray / boo’ answer for you.  Jenny tells me:

“The Cook statue is returning, roughly to the spot it was in before. I don’t have an exact date for it’s re-erection (resurrection?) but am told that the base has been laid already.

The pirate ship is unfortunately gone for good. We couldn’t give it to the East Greenwich Pleasaunce as it was no longer health and safety compliant. The landscaping outside the new wing will feature a lovely rill though where we hope things like poohsticks will be played. I’ll be firing some paper boats down it at the first opportunity.”

I’m sure ye pirates of olden days would have made Health & Safety officers walk the plank, but sadly these times decree that there will be no ships ahoy in the old sailor’s cemetery just yet.

Pooh sticks though. Now you’re talking…

Parish News

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011


Folks – after somebody very naughty sent me something that crashed not only the Parish News section of the blog but my entire computer,  I’ve had to have a thorough clean out of the PN section.

Because I don’t have either the funky code-system, capacity or patience of the splendid IanVisits it really does help when you want me to include something in the PN if you send me stuff I can use easily and quickly. Otherwise it goes onto the enormous pile of ‘stuff to do’ and sometimes that means it doesn’t get done until after your event. So. Please…

  • Anything I can directly cut and paste will be muchly appreciated. Weird fonts may come out strangely which means either I fix ‘em if I notice, or your event looks peculiar if I don’t.


  • Anything with vast amounts of press release hyperbole has to wait until I have time to read it all – the longer the doc, the more scared of it I am.


  • Old-style PDFs are the bane of my life –  I have to manually copy it all out. Then mistakes arise because of my slovenly slapdashery.


  • If photos are giant hi-res monsters, I am sure print publications love ‘em but I have to get the Patent Pixel-Minimator out of the Phantom Cupboard of Doom and laziness means this takes time. And yes, this does go for flyers too.


  • Funky emails that crash my computer are not a way to endear me to you. Honestly – the simpler the better. I read everything (even if I don’t get around to replying. Sometimes the reason I don’t reply is because I’m excited by it and have already started doing something about it…) but if stuff is flashing and small animated characters are dancing all over my screen I’m more likely to delete it before I have a fit.


  • Anything with the phrases ‘pop-up’  or ‘flash’ will be regarded with the deepest suspicion.


Anyway, that’s enough of my grumping this morning. New Parish News stuff is live (if looking a bit strange because I can’t work out how the Paragraph Heading button works but I really am out of time this morning now) and I will TRY to keep it up to date.

Let It Be

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I was intrigued by an article on the BBC local news last night about the scramble for accommodation for the Olympic games. It seemed an odd piece to run on that particular programme because the majority of its viewership presumably won’t be having to resort to tents on a caravan site in Essex or bunk up onboard a German cruise ship. I’d give you the link but as usual BBC TV and its own website  don’t seem to have bothered talking to each other and there are different stories on the telly than online again.

But it got me thinking about those people who are going to be getting the hell out during the games and taking the cash instead. There’s already a bit of a scramble for your house – at least if the agents who have contacted me are anything to go by.

And it is a potential moneyspinner, though it’s by no means certain you’ll be guaranteed millions. There was someone on the box last night who reckons that by the time the circus comes to town there will be far more hotel rooms than there will be folk looking to put their heads down, so a fast buck is in no way assured.

It also makes me wonder what will happen to these rooms after the games – it seems unlikely they’ll be suitable for turning into proper living space, so I have a horrid feeling that dodgy, low-cost, exploitative accommodation beckons, instead of real housing options.

So what is there out there? Certainly all the hospitality places in town are touting for business. INC have everything up for grabs including a certain person’s own gaff (someone did send me the link but I have, cough, 454 un-dealt with emails just now and I just can’t find it) and I’m sure absolutely any church hall, pub upstairs room and restaurant will be happy to hear from potential party organisers.

If you want to join them, I don’t think that Greenwich Council is going to repeat their course on how to turn your place into a B&B like they did for the millennium, but there’s a positive rash of online companies have sprung up to help cater for your every need and they all seem to have dropped through the Phantom mailbox. Accommodation For The Games”, London Rent My House, Crashpadder, Rent During the Games – the list goes on. And on.

I don’t have an axe to grind about any of them and I’m not particularly interested personally as I have every intention of staying around. If there’s going to be a spare inch chez Phantom I’ll be mightily surprised as sundry friends and family suddenly express a long-held desire to come and visit, just coincidentally during those few weeks.

I guess that the one that does intrigue me a little if I was looking to rent out is Staywimi (a name I wouldn’t have chosen) that operates a bit like ebay – you advertise your room with them and only pay if someone actually stays with you.

For me, though, renting out and leaving seems just plain wrong. However much I may fret about the state of the park – and I do still worry, (though I feel generally better thanks to the efforts of a few, who probably think they ‘lost’ because their aim was to stop the equestrian events entirely, when really I’d say they’ve won – a major event is still coming but they’re forcing its organisers to be responsible – I see that as a major win) there is one undeniable thing.

London is going to be THE place to be next year. It’s going to be absolutely buzzing and it’s going to be on our doorsteps. Who would want to miss that?

Secondhand Books

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Adam asks:

“What’s the best place in Greenwich/Blackheath to off-load unwanted books for cash?”

Hmmm. Now, for cash, that’s a tough one. Are they specialist, antiquarian or locally-related? If so, you might be able to interest the second hand book shops around here – Bookshop on the Heath, Halcyon Books or the recently re-opened  Greenwich Bookplace and Gallery – far fewer than even ten years ago now, and, necessarily due to their size  if nothing else, pretty picky about what they take.

If they’re novels or general all-purpose non-fic, I doubt if they’ll fetch much. You might try taking a stall at Greenwich Market – it’s a tenner during the week. They’re not taking on any more jewellery or food stalls (and judging from the amount of marble coasters available just now, I suspect there will be a moratorium on them soon, too) but books still seem to be okay.

To be honest, I take most of the books I have persuaded myself to let go of to local charity shops or, if I’m really organised, to a charity booksale. The obvious local one is Amnesty International whose next sale is 18th June, so you’re in good time. Of course the real problem is to discipline oneself to take the books to the storage facility and then not return on the day of the sale to buy more than you donate.

If you’re sure you want to sell, then a longer-term solution is online. Try Amazon marketplace or my pal who takes buying and selling things on the internet very seriously recommends Gumtree as a better, cheaper alternative.