Archive for April, 2012

Reflections on Cruise Liner Terminals

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Thanks to @lorraineturton for tweeting the article in Cruise and Ferry which tells us more about the forthcoming terminal than I’ve managed to secure from anywhere else (and given that it’s four paragraphs long, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs.)

The sentence that puzzles me most is:

Apartment blocks planned for the area will feature reflective panels to maximise the visual impact of ships berthed at the terminal.

Why? Why is this being flagged up as a plus? Is it really a ‘good thing’ to have giant mirrors screening the Peninsula reflecting a ‘nice’ image of a load of rich people’s conveyances- or is it more to hide the ‘nasty’ (read ‘real’) bits of Greenwich?

@Darryl1974 suggests it’s so that they can look at themselves and bask in how loaded they are. Perhaps in that case all cruise liners should come with monster wrap-round mirrors so that wherever they go in the world they can admire themselves rather than have to see actual sights.

Really. I don’t actually object to a cruise liner terminal. Given that the government has gone back on its word and is now allowing the western side of the peninsula to be developed for housing rather than preserving it for industrial use, a ferry terminal does at least keep the area a little river-related. But I can’t see the value in masking off areas of the Greenwich Peninsula to create virtual murals of ‘nice stuff’.

More musings from Darryl here

Tacky Bell

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Ankur asks:

Walking through the town centre this afternoon made me wonder why there were so many seemingly very similar (and tatty) Mexican/Spanish joints in Greenwich? Are they all owned by the same person/company? Did Greenwich at some point in the past go through a Mexican wave (bad but intended pun)? I am hoping you can shed some light on this perplexing Mexican mystery.

The Phantom replies:

Think yourself lucky Ankur – there are actually fewer ‘Mexican’ / ‘Tex-Mex’ restaurants here than there were even a couple of years ago. The one that really stank is long gone (hands up who remembers The Alamo, opposite Greenwich Picturehouse – a truly abysmal experience from the word go).

To be honest who owns what in Greenwich Town centre is a mystery to me. I understand that one or two of the noodle bars are owned by one company but as for the Tex-Mex I really don’t know. I don’t think the Spanish restaurant is owned by any of the Texican places but in truth, I’m not party to who owns what – I just don’t move in those circles. I am a consumer, not a purveyor and as such nobody tells me nothing.

Over the years I have tried them all though. There isn’t one of them I’d go back to; indeed one of them I didn’t actually stay long enough to order food in. It’s not that I don’t like Tex-Mex food, I just don’t like this Tex Mex food. Certainly when I had pals staying from New Mexico, I took them elsewhere.

Why are there so many? Well, my guess (and it’s only a guess) is that it’s cheap and comparitively easy to do. The ingredients, especially the veg, by their very nature, cost little, and if you slather enough sauce over the meat you can hide a multitude of sins.

It’s possible the various Tex-Mex places in Greenwich town centre have improved since I was last inside one – a good couple of years ago at least – but with a list of places still to test, I’m not going back for a while.

Not that they care. They’re not here for locals. They’re here for the constant supply of tourists who will only ever visit Greenwich once and, even if they don’t enjoy the food, will chalk it up to experience and perhaps mention to a couple of friends (far away) not to go to so-and-so, something the friend will have almost certainly forgotten when they come here.

The closest I’ve had reasonable Tex-Mex recently was, actually, the one time I visited Westfield and, being freaked out by the crowds, retreated to Wahaca, which I really enjoyed. I’ve since eaten in the Soho branch too and liked that as well. Sadly, IMHO, this is one example of a chain being better than an independent (or at least the comparitive indies we have).

I’m not advocating a branch of Wahaca in Greenwich, I just wish the restaurants we have would up their game. But while there are once-only tourists filling the seats every day, I’m not holding out much hope.

I already know what the comments section’s going to be like today – full of people defending these glorious places, telling me how much they enjoy them and that I’m a snob. I’m cool with that.

Tell me convincing reasons why I should go back to any of these places and I will.

Roofing SOS

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Akanksha asks:

We have a leak in our roof after heavy rain this morning and we guess it will only get worse. Could you help us find a reliable roofing expert please.

The Phantom replies:

Sorry to hear about that. Hope you’ve got plenty of buckets.

The last lot of roofers I used have sadly gone out of business, so I can’t actually help – but I bet someone here can.


Manning the Yards of the Cutty Sark

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Thanks to Tom the Rigger for this frankly rather creepy time-lapse video (to me it looks a bit like ants over a picnic) of those crazy guys (and gals ;-) ) who decorated the Cutty Sark’s masts for the Queen’s visit. I’m not wild about heights, but despite the weather I did find myself almost wishing I could have had a go (almost, mark you…)

The main joyous thing about this post for me is that if this particular embeddery works, it will mean I have finally solved the long-running problem of putting video on the Phantom Website all by myself (the Phantom Webmaster who could make it work remotely when I couldn’t – the classic intermittent fault – is in forn parts – hope you’re having a sunnier time than we are TPW…)

Photos From The Royal Visit 25th April 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Blimey – it looks as though pretty much everyone turned out, if only for a short part, of yesterday’s events and today I thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve been sent for anyone who wasn’t able to ‘just nip out for a sandwich…’

It was the Twitter feeds of Rob at Greenwichdotcodotuk and and Warren King (@greenwichcouk and @warrenkingphoto if you follow such things) that made me jealous enough to pop out as at least catch some of the pomp, but anyone who saw my shots yesterday will have seen the hazards of not turning up early enough and sneaking away early, i.e. rubbish shots.

Warren’s good at picking out the sort of things that make the event – the jolly-Britishness of a nation who almost considers it ‘cheating’ to go to a Royal shindig in the sun – there’s something about the photo at the top of this post that sums the day up completely – Union flag umbrellas and blokes halfway up masts getting very cold and wet…

Warren was one of the guys in the press pack  in front of me, which means that he did actually get to see the official stuff too. I have to admit that while it must be fun for the bigwigs on stage, and to some extent for us (I was enjoying the people around me getting far more excited than I had imagined they would), one of the things for which I admire the Queen is her ability not to look totally glazed over at events like this.

This is the shot that I was aiming for when I just held my camera up and hoped for the best. Warren shows how it should be done:

So far, this is all stuff that if I didn’t actually see it with my own eyes, my camera at least did and I was able to catch up with on the local news (anyone else notice that there was absolutely bugger-all in the printed Standard last night?)

But I should have looked out to the river, apparently. Ruth did look out and saw the Royal barge, which will be used on the Thames River Pageant

She also caught the front end of the King’s Troop in the Old Royal Naval college:

whereas I only caught the back of them:

Stephen had taken a different tack and was looking at the later events.

He picked up the celebrations in the ORNC too with some sea cadets – not a regular sight in Greenwich these days:

He then tried hanging about by the Royal Range Rover, only to have it moved before Her Maj got inside. Instead, he nipped over to the National Maritime Museum where he got these:

Thanks to everyone who’s sent me shots. If I can’t be there, photos do help…

The Queen’s Rain

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


Okay – I just used ye olde ‘popping out for a sandwich’ wheeze because I was jealous of the Twitter posts by @warrenkingphoto and @greenwichcouk and wanted to see some pomp come rain or come shine, mostly rain. If you want photos of the Queen, I suggest you try following those guys; you won’t get any from me. I can confirm she wore a red hat as the woman in front of me told her mate that she did.

Here’s my view:

But actually, you can’t miss the most impressive bit, at the top of this post – the guys on the Cutty Sark’s masts, standing there in the rain waiting for Her Majesty to arrive, then while a (rather beautiful) specially-composed choral/orchestral piece was played (I’d actually like to hear it again some time in the dry when I could properly listen to it; if anyone knows of a YouTube or other recording I’d be keen to know; I’m a big fan of modern choral works) and then continuing to hang around while the Queen was inside the ship.

Here they are again, almost certainly beginning to wish they hadn’t said ‘yes’ in the pub last night:

Take note of the flag btw; it’s all going to change…

I actually, by complete accident (and because I thought I’d better actually come back with said sandwich) was coming out of Rhodes when Her Maj arrived.

But to be honest, that was the closest I ever got. I found myself stuck behind a bunch of furry microphones and butch blokes with giant telephoto lenses and that was that. Still the music was nice. Apparently the Queen received sundry gifts (I refrained from squealing ‘open it, open it’ ), unveiled something and went inside the Cutty Sark.

But hold the virtual press.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m writing this as I’m downloading photos and weirdly even if I didn’t get any glimpses of her, my camera did. I always thought people holding up cameras and vaguely pointing them in the right direction were wasting their time, but I just tried it and this popped out:

So yeah – I can now confirm she wore a red hat and a red coat. Just call me the Royal Greenwich Phantom Royal Fashion Correspondent.

I turned to go but the chaps up the masts hadn’t finished yet. The Cutty Sark had, for the first time in a very long while (and, I suspect won’t be having for another very long while) the Royal Ensign raised – to show the Queen’s at home:

Here is is, lovingly and expertly photoshopped to show it in all its regal glory:

My sandwich break was getting a bit obvious, so I had to nip back. I am now ‘writing a really important document.’

I am sure Warren and Rob will give you all the gen on the rest of the day.

Thames Path Closure Update…

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

…but don’t get your hopes up.

Jemma, like most people here, has been in equal parts frustrated and angered by the amount of time the Lovells Wharf developers have failed to re-open the Thames Path (except when it suited them – the picture above is all that remains of the original Thames Path, though there is of course a slightly longer, well-maintained path that leads to… well, I always smile a little wry smile at the poor buggers who have walked all the way from Cricklade, knapsack on backs to find themselves in a glass and steel sales office in East Greenwich.)

Jemma wrote to the council to see where the bloomin’ hell we stand here. I can’t put what she said in any better words than her own, so here it is:

Can you please let me know what is happening about this, and why the developers appear to have been permitted to close a public right of way for such a lengthy period? You will no doubt appreciate that the local community is extremely concerned that there appears to be no end to the closure which is wholly unwarranted. Furthermore the longer this situation goes on for, the more likely it is that the developers will never re-open the path and/ or be able to establish that the Council has led the public rights lapse- meaning that the path may never be re-opened. I assume that you have taken legal advice about this- if not I suggest that you do so as soon as possible.

Finally I assume that it was a condition of planning that the path be reinstated and returned to public use? Could you please confirm.

All pretty reasonable stuff to ascertain. I especially would like to know that a quiet ‘adoption’ of the path by the developers won’t happen. It’s been five years – another seven and they can do what they like, if memory serves. Certainly there are gated developments further along the Thames Path towards Rotherhithe who just keep the gates locked full time these days.

Jemma has received a reply. In the interests of fairness, I shall quote the reply too; the bits in between the italics are my comments:

“Planning permission was granted in February 2007 for the redevelopment of Lovell’s, Granite, Badcocks and Piper Wharves. As part of the proposal, maintenance and improvements works were proposed to the riverside walk. It was always the intention for the riverside walk to be completed in phases that are linked to the phased development of the site and this is secured in the legal agreement attached with the planning permission.”

I apologise for the terrible quality of the plan below – but it does show that the whole of the development we have now IS only the first phase. Of course the rest is less financially attractive to the developer – an eco centre, workshops, health centre, boat club etc. Note the little red bit of shading.

“Unfortunately, due to the economic climate the development halted prior to completion Phase 1 of the development. At the time, the Council did approach the Developer into looking into the possibility of providing a temporary route through the site. However; it became clear that this was not possible on health and safety grounds due to preliminary excavation work that was carried out which has resulted in a significant length of the river frontage where there is no path. In addition, the Developer is required to export/import material by river which would have to cross the walkway overhead. It would therefore be impractical for a development this size and dangerous for the public.”

So – we can’t even have a temporary path because the developer made a mess. I’m sure that wasn’t deliberate. Just out of interest – has anyone ever seen the developer using the river to import-export materials? This isn’t actually a loaded question, just a question.

“In January, the Developers returned to site to continue building out the development. The next section of riverside walk for Phase 1 of the development is due to open prior to the occupation of the remainder of the blocks in Phase 1 which is expected to be no later than December 2014.”

DECEMBER 2014???? So we have nearly another two years of disruption – and that’s just of this section – and not guaranteed at that. 

This will result in the riverside walk being re-opened up the point marked on the attached plan. The remainder on the riverside walk will be open once the final phase of the development has been completed.

Since that part of the development hasn’t actually been started I wouldn’t get too excited about this yet.

As yet no date has been provided for this final phase. The eventual re-opening of the riverside walk is secured in the Section 106 legal agreement between the Council and developer.

Well, that’s something. I’d like to be sure that the 106 agreement is part of any sale of the property should the current developer go bust or not like the look of the rest of the project – i.e. the bit that doesn’t have much in the way of housing (though I can’t see that part of the plans staying long if someone else takes over.)

Unfortunately, there is very limited in scope for the Council to force developers to complete a scheme.

How does a situation like this come about? I am astounded. Why isn’t part of the 106 a requirement to finish – or at least reopen the path – by a certain date, at which point the council takes over, gets out the bolt cutters and opens the path itself?

Until the development is completed members of the public will need to continue using the existing diversion route.

Darn tootin’.

As Jemma says “I can see that the Council is in a bit of a hole here, but it does seem naive to have agreed that the reopening of a public right of way would basically have to be wholly contingent upon the final phase of the development being completed.”

I find it hard to argue with Jemma there…

Greenwich Transport During the Olympics

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Just been taking a (very quick) look at LOCOG’s transport plans for this summer’s events.  In general, it’s nothing I didn’t expect and we, as hosts of an international sporting event must accept, but forewarned is forearmed. At the moment it’s at ‘consultation stage’ but they’ve not got much wriggle-room if there’s a problem – I suspect this is deliberate on LOCOG’s part. I’m expecting this to be railroaded through pretty quick. The one thing I would be VERY keen to know is that we will be given plenty of clear, focused information so that we can work around whatever we have to suck up.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by going through it all here, but on a quick perusal I note a few things we should look out for:

South Eastern claim they’ll have a max capacity of 11,000 per hour, but bad luck if you want to use Maze Hill station to travel away from London am or to London pm – trains just won’t stop in those directions in the rush hour.

There’s a whole bunch of bus alterations too, mainly locations of stops. I guess as long as it’s well-publicised (and there are notices on the affected stops so people know where to wait), this should be dealable with.

Cutty Sark DLR will be closed because of short platforms.

Residents parking zones, on the whole, will be as usual, with extended hours. I guess businesses that have customers parking outside will have to deal with it.

One thing that will annoy some residents is a list of parking suspensions on various streets around the park who will lose their resident status to allow sundry coach parking/ set down / spectator walking routes/ taxis/ ‘venue operations/ one way systems and ‘games family’ parking (which includes the notorious ‘marketing partners’ –  but then I’m sure Park Row residents will be only too delighted to give up their parking spot for the CEO of MacDonalds…) I wonder if anyone will have the guts to dock their residents’ parking badge payment on a pro-rata basis…

Times of controlled parking zones where residents bays are not suspended will be standardised – 08.30 – 19.00 during the games (something I hope will not become a regular feature)

Similar restrictions will be imposed on the Isle of Dogs so that spectators will not be able to park on the other side and walk across.

I won’t go into road closures – you can find them on the document.

All in all, it’s generally reasonable stuff. We always knew this bit would be unpleasant and frankly, there is no way around some traffic disruption.

But I repeat – we MUST be told about this. I will be expecting something in writing through my door; I don’t want to have to rely on hearsay.

Annie Sophia Chevalier

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Back in 2008 I wrote a piece about one of the most beautiful remaining gravestones in the old Seamen’s cemetary by Devonport house, that of 17 year-old Annie Sophia Chevalier. I knew nothing about her but the gravestone was so striking a million romantic tales danced around my head.

I still know very little about young Annie herself, but I’ve been contacted by Denise, her 3x great-niece, and since I had a little more detail, I thought that on this suitably gothic-gloomy Tuesday I’d revisit Annie’s grave.

And it is fabulously Victorian-gothic – a crumbling moss-covered stone, embellished with a grieving woman draped across a vault in what looks like a stalagtite-studded cave. Something George Sand would have been proud to dream up, it fills me with a delicious melancholy just to gaze upon it. If you want to see it for yourself, it’s inside the railings surrounding Admiral Hardy’s tomb (hence my rather rubbish pictures; it’s impossible to get a good angle). The inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of a beloved child

Annie Sophia Chevalier
Daughter of Richard Edgcumbe and Jane Elizabeth Chevalier.

Born on the 5th April 1840, Entered in her rest the 13th day of August 1857

The interesting thing to note about the year of Annie Sophia Chevalier’s interment is that it’s the very year all the regular Greenwich pensioners’ bodies were moved to East Greenwich Pleasuance. Most bodies in this graveyard were being dug up or just about to be dug up. Hers was being buried…

I assumed that since her grave was inside the railings, near Hardy’s tomb, that it was not only too important to be shifted with the mass graves but was allowed to be buried behind the railings (always assuming that Hardy’s tomb had railings then – whatever; she’s still in an area with names we recognise.)

I won’t bore you with the details of my efforts to find out about Annie’s parents, however entertaining the candidates I found, because I now know, thanks to Denise, that she was born in Pembroke, Wales, where her father Richard Chevallier (1794-1827) was a a civil servant who worked  for the navy.

Denise holds records of Richard Chevalier at Pembroke Dock and Plymouth and she tells me that he was the brother of Temple Chevallier the astronomer (a fantastic name – no one calls their children ‘Temple’ any more, which I think is a shame) and one of the Aspall Chevalliers who claim Lord Kitchener as one of their own – and if the name Aspall sounds familiar, just think cider.

Richard Edgcumbe Chevallier died on 2nd March 1853. His widow Jane married a John Whitmarsh in 1856, who was the the dispenser at the Royal Hospital Greenwich, and who seems to have originally served as a surgeon on the convict ships. Denise thinks that this probably explains why Annie was buried in Greenwich.

So. Thanks to Denise, we know a  tiny bit more of this young woman’s ancestry, but to me Annie Sophia Chevalier herself remains one of the mysteries of Greenwich, a little lost tragedy. When did she move here? What was her life like? She lost her father at fourteen – was she dragged to Greenwich so her mother could remarry?  Who were her friends? Would she have worshipped at St Alfeges or the Naval Chapel? Would she have visited the market? Would she have walked in the park? And why did she die so young?

My spectral mind races with gothic-novel style possiblities this morning. Tales of unsuitable elopements-gone-wrong, consumptive nights missing her father, wastings-away as a teenage mind yearned for the wild Welsh waves…

That’s enough Gothic nonsense. Ed.

Brilliant Weekend

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Blimey – what a weekend. Normally I have at least something to moan about but this weekend Greenwich was just a brilliant place to be, especially if you’re a local. After years of scaffolding, hoardings, railings and no-go areas, at last stuff is being cleared away and we’re entering a small golden window of lovely stuff (before the market goes pear-shaped, of course.)

As one wonder disappears (thanks to Stephen for this fabulously stormy pic of Les Miserables film set being cleared away)

another wonder opens.

At last we were able to get inside the Cutty Sark and hoorah for them giving local people the opportunity to see it first (I did tweet about it, btw). Hundreds of us went – the queues were round the corner, and that was just ticket-holders – and the atmosphere was ‘excited.’

Of course it’s not finished yet, and everywhere there were empty cabinets, plinths with nothing on and vacant display boards, but hey, they’ve got three days… (frankly I think they’ve got a bit of a steep task to get it done by the time Her Maj arrives on Wednesday, but then I suspect that she has never actually ever seen a totally complete project…)

In fact I found it rather charming that wherever you looked there was something being done –  it was often hard to tell which bits were artistically arranged artefacts and which bits were the real thing

And I know we worried about the big old cradle-thing that raises up the ship, but I have to say it’s blimmin cool to walk underneath that hull. I guess only time will tell whether it continues to hold the ship without too much damage, but it certainly seems to at the moment and there’s something truly awe-inspiring about seeing it from underneath:

I even like the way they’ve displayed the figureheads. They always used to be in regimented rows, but grouping them together like a football crowd really gives them  dynamism. I just hope they can sort out the touch-screen display, which was very hyper-sentisive when I tried it and jumped about all over the place before you could read what was on it.

On the deck itself you get a better view than ever because it’s so much higher. I had several enthusiastic new members of staff, including the ship’s captain, coming up to talk, but far beit for me to suggest they tone it down a bit – I enjoyed it really, I just like to be able to stop and look at things without being jumped on. I suspect when the novelty’s worn off (it probably already has) they’ll be perfect.

I had an utterly monster time, and everyone who I’ve spoken to enjoyed it too. It went down especially well that after all that disruption, they did actually invite us locals first.

Oh – I forgot to mention the tea – served in giant enamel mugs. The cupcakes are, like most modern cupcakes, lovely to look at but tooth-rottingly sweet; I don’t think I’ll be having another one, but I’ll be back for tea now I can.

Which brings me to membership. Thanks to everyone who told me to join the NMM Friends – I’m not generally a ‘joiner’ but I’ve done it and recommend it for every local – as well as the existing entry to paid-for exhibitions and as many standing-the-meridian-line-as-much-as-you-like benefits, you also get in free to the Cutty Sark. Believe me, with the amount of friends and relations who have suddenly expressed a desire to come and visit ‘me’. I’ll need that.

It seems almost churlish, then to smile at the photo Meirion sent, but hey, everyone’s allowed to forget the ‘i before e’ rule occasionally:

If it had just been the Cutty Sark preview I’d have been a happy enough Phantom but this was the weekend that kept on giving. After my mug of ship’s tea, I wandered over to see the Vikings invading Greenwich for the first time in 1000 years.

The whole thing looked huge fun; I have sneaking feeling that in previous life I must have been a reenactor. I love watching but could never do it – I could never decide which period I’d want to play. I learned much from this splendid fellow, though, who told me that some of the Vikings actually stayed in their tents over the weekend and that no one ever wants to play Normans.

He also told me that the best bits are the fighting, the fires and the beer.

I loved the way they parked the longboat so that you could get the church spire in the background

but what I really wanted to see was St Alfege himself. The chap in the chainmail told me that in the afternoon he’d be martyred, with the added benefit of, just at the end, a bunch of Anglo Saxons bowling up to tough up the Vikings for the spoils (not convinced that actually happened, but hey, we need to remember the best bits about being a Viking).

Just as I was about to leave though, I heard rumour that he was dying specially for the BBC in St Alfege Park, so I scooted over quick

and there he was under a cherry tree. Sadly I’d missed the actual boning, but I did see him lying very martyr-like under a cherry tree being scattered with petals by sad Anglo Saxons so I can hardly complain.

I have a horrid feeling I might have to watch Songs of Praise for once.

Was it me or were there just sights a-gogo this weekend?

I mean – what was this Gypsy caravan convoy doing along Traf Road?

They’re on their way to Kent from Durham, apparently but I know nothing more.

All in all it was certainly a memorable day to have a wedding:

I confess that after Saturday’s craziness, I was a bit wondered-out for our own local London Marathon the next day and I didn’t bother with my camera. But I went along, cheered and shouted, particularly enjoyed the Kodo drummers and renewed my annual vow never to be even tempted to take part.

So – what’s next, then? Well, the podules are being tested on the cable car, the Queen’s coming on Wednesday, the Cutty Sark properly opens on Thursday, there’s a new exhibition opening at the NMM and the sun’s out.