Archive for July, 2011

The Cutest Little Kiosk In Town

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Here’s a little place that has fascinated me for years. I love that it must be a piece of happy serendipity arising from a gap in between two houses that today would be gobbled up for a garage (actually, it looks like it might once have been one) or even, given property prices, micro-apartments – they’d probably squeak about eight into a gap that size. Instead it’s a teeny-tiny ice cream / snack kiosk  to sustain visitors trudging their way up to the park.

There weren’t many takers on the day I snapped this; it was one of those days we’ve had rather a lot of recently where the gaps between torrential rain were few and far between. I guess it’s a bit of an odd, all-or-nothing profession – hot, sunny days yielding queues round the block, cold, rainy days requiring a pack of cards and some matchsticks.

I don’t know how long it’s been here; I only know I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t. If you look at the architecture (a grand word, perhaps, but apt, I feel…) it’s got a very old, make-do-and-mend style of construction that’s utterly charming:

Nothing more to add really, except that for me this is the sort of little quirky corner that makes Greenwich what it is.  With a bit of luck it will survive the upheaval when the university builds its new architecture school…


BTW. Never be swayed by the ice cream vans that hang around outside sundry Greenwich Park gates. I succumbed once and bought a 99 which, about thirty seconds after I bought it, totally collapsed, it was so full of air. Pah,

Houseplants for All

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Now here’s an oddity. Apparently if you fancy taking a Clipper today and/or tomorrow you may see this rather odd sight (no – I don’t mean everyone will have been reduced to line drawings) – it’s the clippers being ‘transformed’ into veritable greenhouses of 3,000 houseplants by, rather randomly, The Flower Council of Holland. They’re even giving away peace lilies to commuters.

It’s in a bid by the Flower Council of Holland to share the joys of people ‘letting houseplants into their lives’ and Thames  Clippers to persuade people to commute using the river and I have to say if the boats looked like this every day I just might.

Not that I dislike the ‘normal’ Clippers – they’re a fantastic treat. I never get why anyone would want to sit in the middle with their laptop when they could look out of the window or even hang off the back in the summer enjoying the spray and the odd soaking when it ‘goes over a bump’ but then I guess I don’t do it every day. I have a theory that people do it just to show off to us tourists that they live so close to the river these fabulous views are just another source of urban ennui.

I’m not going to give any credence to the frankly dodgy-sounding studies that claim commuting is more stressful than being a fighter pilot or a riot policeman (c’mon….) but actually, the boat does make the train/tube/bus experience a poor second/third/fourth choice. And today you get peace lilies. What’s not to like?

A River Runs To It

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Keith, after reading my review of London’s Lost Rivers a few weeks ago asks:

There are many little streams in SE London whose names I cannot find. …

…including a tributary of the Quaggy that rises in a pond near Blackheath Village, one that goes under Charlton’s Valley Stadium and another with 2 tributaries in Maryon Park, just S of the Charlton-Woolwich Road. No doubt there are many others + the Danson Stream that is dammed to form Danson Park Lake before joining the Shuttle.

Has anyone written a book about these?

I have to confess that all the rivers you mention here, Keith, are somewhat off my manor, so I don’t know of any specific books that mention these rivers, but your best bet for the Quaggy tributaries is probably History of Lee and it’s Neighbourhood by F.H. Hart.

They are mentioned several times, though I’m not convinced any of them have official names – certainly if they do, Hart doesn’t mention them. The moat of the old Boone Estate (of which only the chapel remains, if memory serves) was called the Looking Glass of Lee, had its own island and was, apparently, supplied by a spring rising from what is now Boone’s Road.

Before that, a big old iron pipe conveyed the water from the spring behind the cottages at the rear of the Royal Oak. Hart describes its course past sundry landmarks, shops, important trees and almshouses until it reached the Quaggy. But if it had a name, it would seem to be lost now.

Hart also talks about ‘a little rivulet’ that runs from Lee Cemetery to Manor Lane and joins the Quaggy at Manor Farm. There were three acres of watercress beds next to the Quaggy, and since watercress needs running water to grow well, I guess this little rivulet must be the source of that running water, though Hart’s more interested in describing the gardens and, interestingly, the gardener.

Hart also talks about floods (Christmas Eve 1830 saw seven feet of fast-flowing inundation leading to the death of a local farmer, his horse and chaise, though Hart is keen to point out that he had been warned…) and frostings (the Quaggy overflowed and froze in 1814 to  two feet of ice that didn’t totally thaw until June.) In fact he’s quite fond of talking of the disasters that happened – drownings, collapsed bridges, inundated houses and pubs, railway floods and sewage overflows, but he’s also quite good on the results of these events, and how people, both ordinary and gentry, dealt with them.

For the Maryon Park/ Charlton rivers I can only suggest a book which you can find in most Greenwich libraries called something like A History of Charlton (perhaps someone can help me here with the exact title?). I have no idea if there’s anything in it relating to the rivers, but it’s worth a try. Darryl – do you know anything? You might also ask the Friends of Maryon Parks.

As I say, this is not my area – but I’m sure it is the area of somebody here.

Big Oak Timbers From Little Acorns Grow

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Okay, so I VERY rarely stray out of the confines of Greenwich, but when I do it’s because it’s something that I think is truly magical, truly worthwhile and truly brilliant. And today’s post ticks all those boxes as far as I’m concerned. And it’s not THAT far away…

Readers with memories better than mine may remember the post about the Sands Cinema Club, a free screening club run by Olivier Stockman, the film producer/director/guru for whom celluloid runs in his very veins (an odd image, but stay with me…)

Olivier is obsessed by film. He loves it, and the more obscure the better. You only have to go along to his Tuesday evening institution, sink into the tatty collection of armchairs and watch him thread up the projector (or, more often these days, stick a DVD in the tray) to see that.

But this wonderful little club is only a sideshoot of what Olivier Stockman does, a little personal hobby. His REAL work is the Sands Film Studios, the daintiest, cutest and funkiest little production house you’ll ever see. He rescued the Victorian Grice’s Granary warehouse in Rotherhithe – a mere stroll up the Thames Path or a quick trip on the 188 – back in the 1970s when the area was a wasteland of – well, not very much, really, and turned it into a proper, working film studio with sound stages, workshops, the lot.

And over the years it’s made some pretty fabulous productions – from Little Dorrit to Bright Star, and its famous costume studios, also on-site have clothed blockbusters such as The Duchess, Atonement, Marie Antoinette, Young Victoria and, er, Burke and Hare (I didn’t say they were all good…) This year will see Bel Ami and Anonymous as productions Sands has had a South London hand in.

The other brilliant thing the place has is a giant picture library, with millions of fantastic images, from costume to local history, all open and free to the public. If you go there, you can often see the costumiers at work, embroidering a natty waistocoat or sewing beads on a ball gown, all under the fabulous low-slung original oak beams.

This place doesn’t just feel magic, it IS magic.

So – why am I writing about it today?

Because for every dream there’s someone who wants to turn it into a nightmare. And Olivier is experiencing the classic cauchemar. The owner of the building has decided he can make more hard cash out of kicking out the studio and redeveloping the lot as luxury flats.

This, however, is NOT a call to arms to sign a petition or picket the evil developer. Olivier has come up with a solution that might just work and the Svengali in me is really rather excited about it.

This is not a failing business that has to be propped up. Sands has plenty of work, it just doesn’t hold the darn freehold. So Olivier is creating his own version of community shares – not a giant stock-market thing, just a simple way of getting people to help him buy the building’s freehold, become part of the movie business – and actually get return on their investment.

He’s keen not to go to giant investors who might be only too happy to put up the cash – and then dictate corner-cuts that would ultimately ruin his unique place in the market. He’s not using a broker and would prefer lots of small investors. The returns look pretty impressive. Vanessa Redgrave is already sold and is one of a growing number of local people sinking a small amount of cash into a local, flourishing and – let’s face it – romantic – business.

It’s all being done properly, administered by HMRC and because this is just the sort of thing the government wants to do – encourage investment in small businesses – there are a number of rather attractive tax breaks – not least a 30% tax credit.

I’m not the best Phantom to explain all the heavy financial details  so at this point I’m going to  give you some links. I am probably the world’s worst financial advisor – but I love this idea with a passion. An independent view of the project is available here

To arrange a visit or receive the share offer document, contact Olivier Stockman on 020 72312209 or email him at

The studio will be open for potential investors to look around this Saturday 30th July. More info on the website

Situations Vacant…

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

…well – as long as you don’t want any actual cash.

On the other hand sometimes the fun-est things sadly don’t come with any reward other than a warm feeling.

I was going to put these in the Parish News but when I got a yet another request for volunteers for various things in a week I thought it might make a post. So here goes…

The first two are for slots on TV shows. Now, personally I can’t think of anything I’d like less than appearing on telly, but there must be a load of people that love it so maybe these will appeal to one or two of you here.

Firstly, and this is a speedy one as I’ve just realised it’s tomorrow, the BBC is going to present The Great British Weather Show from Greenwich Park tomorrow evening. They say

“Be part of our audience for this brand new programme as we bring the weather to life through exciting experiments and stunts.”

The show is live and takes place between 6.00pm and 8.00pm. To be sure of a place email Love Productions with your contact details and the number of people in your party, or call 020 7067 4873

I’ve looked down the celebrity guest list and, for anyone who attended Nomad cinema’s otherwise-brilliant Groundhog Day, and witnessed the most embarrassing introduction to a movie ever, you’ll be glad to know that Tomaz Schafernaker doesn’t appear to be part of the team that day.


Okay. next, RDF TV are doing a new cookery show called Family Cook-Off where families compete in a knockout-style competition to impress Ainsley Harriott and a special mystery celebrity guest (the mind boggles but Ainsley’s a cheery chap…) with various different funkily-named menus.

They’ll be doing Breakfast on the Go on August 7th at the Old Royal Naval College and they need three ‘Real People’ judges to be in the audience, test the food and give opinions. Ideally they want people who have a breakfast agenda – for instance someone who has no time in the mornings but wants a fabulous, fast breakfast or they cycle to work and need 10,000 calories. If they like food, all the better.

If this sounds like the sort of thing you fancy, contact Emily at RDF TV


Moving swiftly on, and going from National prime-time to Local evening-time, there’s a new Open Mic night at the Prince of Greenwich every other week where pretty much, it would seem, anything goes.

I’m guessing musicians, singers, comics and performance poets are the mainstay, but I’m told that performers of any description are welcome so if you’re a washboard fanatic, can play the spoons or can stick a washing up bowl to your massive belly using only suction and a lot of Fairy Liquid and play tunes with the fart sounds you make when you suck your tummy in (a real act I once saw in the good old Malcolm Hardee-esque days when anything really did go…) then turn up and wow the world. It was last on on Sunday so I’m guessing the next one is Sunday 7th August (perhaps you could demonstrate your new-found cookery skills from the Family Cook-Off)

You can just turn up from 7.30pm or, to guarantee a slot, email ahead If you just want to go and watch (can’t guarantee any washing-up bowl antics, but you never know…) it’s free to get in.


From the ridiculous to the sublime, one more this morning, folks, before this kind of thing ends up in the Parish News again.

Carol Kenna of Greenwich Mural Workshop (if it’s made of mosaic or painted on a wall it’s probably something to do with these guys) is behnid a new project called the Charlton Parks Reminiscence Project and they have recently begun collecting stories and recollections about the various parks and open spaces in Charlton, that once were held within the Maryon-Wilson Charlton Estate. They include Hornfair Park, Charlton Park, Maryon Wilson Park, Maryon Park, Gilberts Pit and the Barrier Park.

They’re looking for people with memories of these places and events that have taken place there over the years – from the old fairs through to the filming of Blow Up. They’re also looking for volunteers to interview all the people with memories and help collate the findings for websites and live events.

It looks like something fun to be involved with, and I shall replicate the leaflet on the Parish News, which I do TRY to keep updated these days, so if you’re interested, take a peek in that section.

Right. Now I’m off to update said PN….

Twitter Time

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Folks. as you will know, I am not the most switched-on Phantom when it comes to technological advance. I don’t generally have the time (or, frankly, the interest) to pursue innovations even if it means that the blog can look a bit prehistoric at times.

I have had a twitter account for about a year now, though. If you really want to find it, it’s at:


but I can’t promise it will set the world on fire. I’m a dreadful procrastinator and if I spend more than a very short time on Twitter, that’s Real Work down the drain for the day. Besides I rarely have anything pertinent enough to wow the world with.

@johnboyy told me last week I really should at least tweet when I have a new post  though, and I did start (not very successfully) but I have to thank @sstar for coming to my rescue by creating a new twitter feed which does it for me. I don’t know how it works and I don’t want to (nuffink to do with me, guv) but I am intensely grateful for it.

So, if you would like to know if I’ve added some new, probably inane post on here, you could do worse than adding


to your followers…

Thank you Simon.

Floating Assets

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Remember the Greenwich Book barge? We talked a year or so ago about this charming enterprise that bobbed alongside the Cutty Sark and The Gipsy Moth IV for about twenty years; a floating children’s bookshop still remembered with great fondness.

Last year we all sighed and thought ‘if only…’ then shrugged out collective shoulders and decided the H&S brigade would never let that kind of thing happen these days.

But Ruth found this intriguing article in the The Guardian which seems to imply that if you live in leafy North London it works just peachily (I’m sure they think it’s an original idea.) I think the Book Barge on Regents Canal looks brilliant and this morning it brings the idea to mind again here.

Okay, okay, I know that it’s on a canal rather than a major tidal river, and a achingly hip part of London instead of a real place, but there IS a precedent for this – a twenty year-long precedent. Greenwich pier is being done up right now – how cool would it be to have a floating bookshop for locals and tourists alike to enjoy?

Any volunteers?

Favourite Front Gardens (16)

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I can’t remember the last time we had a Phantom Favourite Front Garden. I don’t know if it’s that the weather hasn’t been inspiring front-gardeners or, indeed, myself to look for them, but I just haven’t seen anything I utterly loved for ages.

But this one is really quite exceptional. Situated on the corner of Winforth St and Point Hill it’s actually a modern bungalow, presumably built post-war after a gift from the Luftwaffe – but you’d be hard pressed to see any of it, clothed as it is in ivy and, if memory serves, Virginia creeper. Just a great, red-painted front door, providing a focus for a romantic meleé of roses, rosemary and a teeny sapling of what looks like eucalyptus (may not stay teeny for long) finished off with a neat box hedge along the Point Hill side.

I just love the profusion of colour and perfume of this garden, which makes it my first Fave Front Garden of 2011, though I wouldn’t fancy the job of deadheading that lot…

Cycle Babble

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Looks pretty calm here, doesn’t it. But this, claims Stephen, is the most dangerous spot for cyclists in Greenwich. BTW If you’re trying to get your bearings here, it’s Blackheath Road Junction, with the court on the right across the road.

Stephen says:

They changed the traffic light priority last year.  Traffic coming from Greenwich High Road turning right  (as the traffic in the photo is doing)or left into Blackheath Hill had their time on green and the opposite light (where I sometimes come from) had its  turn on green as well. Now both sets of lights are on green at the same time and traffic coming from Greenwich high Road turning right into Blackheath hill towards Deptford completely disregard  cyclists who wish to go straight across. The last time I tried to do this I had to swerve left  (where the silver car is) because a car went right in front of me when it was turning to go towards Deptford.  I went after the car and caught it up in traffic  and said both lights are green at the same time now. He said the famous words “ sorry I didn’t see you”

TBH you were lucky you didn’t get a smack in the jaw, Stephen. Things are getting nastier all the time out there.

This is clearly a horrid spot, but is it the absolute worst, when we have so many cycling black spots to choose from? The junction at Vanbrugh Hill and Traf Road and the ghastly roundabout under the flyover at the A102M have both seen tragic fatalities. Personally I won’t cross either of them on a bike – I’d rather walk.  And I’m not wild about the one way system around the very centre of Greenwich, where you have to swap lanes just at the point where everyone else is and looking out for themselves rather than cyclists.

So today I ask – which is YOUR least favourite bit of Greenwich for cycling in? And – just to lighten things a little, what is your best bit? Mine is definitely that lovely piece of pathway between the ORNC and the five-foot walk – smooth, flat, and with loads to look at as you’re dodging tourists…

Faded Greenwich (18) Open Wide

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I’m back. After a week of ‘interest’ it feels rather weird to be back at my desk this morning actually typing a new post. I’m going to be catching up with as much mail etc. as possible over the next week or so but for today I’m keeping things traditional with a fabulous Faded Greenwich that Mike spotted in Egerton Drive.

In case you can’t read it, it says


Hours 10-7, 10-2 Saturdays.

I know nothing more about it, and on looking in Diana Rimel’s excellent volume, The Ashburnham Triangle, it would seem that on this occasion she doesn’t either, though she did give me the idea that any listing might be under Blackheath Road, since the sign’s actually on the side of 45a.

Obviously I’ve no idea how old this faded wooden sign is, but I did have a quick peek at the 1849 Greenwich directory – surely anyone who’s happy enough to advertise on the side of his house would take a place in a directory? Maybe, but unless it’s one Dr Haycroft who lived ‘somewhere’ in Blackheath Road, it’s a later sign, and since I don’t have any later directories and time presses too much for a visit to the Heritage Centre, for now we’ll just have to enjoy this sign for its enchanting, oblique whimsy.