Archive for May, 2012

A Swift Execution

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Folks I am sorrier than I can say to have to post this picture. That beautiful lime tree we were talking about yesterday is no more – the photographic proof was taken by Dazza just now. Thank God Stephen got that photo of it (now in the previous post) this morning.

I can only assume that Hadley Mace saw the email they were sent yesterday, became aware that local people had suddenly heard about the tree’s forthcoming demise and decided to act before there was an inconvenient preservation order slapped on it.

I am far angrier than I thought I could be. I am angry that these trees weren’t taken into consideration in the design but I am even angrier that us locals weren’t taken into consideration either.

We were not invited to the consultation – the plans were made available through a brief consultation day available only to a very small section of the community (the people living in the roads directly around the building works, I believe) when this is a development that will affect the whole borough, and we have only found out about it because one of the very few people invited actually thought to let me know (thank you to that individual; no thanks to Hadley Mace.)

HM claim the plans are online – but I can’t find them – if they’re there, they’re well-hidden.

This may seem like a lot of fuss over one tree (though I now fear greatly for the other three fine specimens) but to me this  has bigger implications. It is indicative of a developer who is clearly determined to ride roughshod over a community to get what it wants, and doesn’t give a damn what  it tramples in its greed. The felling was sneaky and underhand and cowardly and it makes me wonder what else to expect from this company. HM could have ensured the tree was carefully uprooted and transplanted – either to somewhere else in the development, which would have been brilliant, or at least elsewhere where, as Ianvisits pointed out yesterday, it could have been sold for a profit and lived out its days in a park or something but no – HM went for annihilation instead.

Hadley Mace, this will not be forgotten.

The Condemned

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Sorry about the state of this photo – by the time I got round to taking it the light was failing; I’ll replace it as soon as possible, since the poor old thing needs to be recorded. This majestic lime on the corner of Vanbrugh Hill and Woolwich Road is on Death Row, is due for the ultimate punishment – chipping. It’s crime? Being in the way of developer’s greed.

Ha – thanks to Stephen I actually have a decent photograph now:

I had high hopes that the new Heart of East Greenwich (or whatever they’re calling it these days) would keep those nice wide pavements on Woolwich road that the old hospital had. Wide pavements are what make the difference between people taking their time to walk, shop and enjoy an area, and rushing through, slaloming through pushchairs and shopping trolleys, and just using the road as a thoroughfare. It’s one of the things that’s always bugged Traf Road – the pavements are too narrow to browse, to enjoy, to have tables outside – that’s why the King Billy pub is such a hard sell (though someone’s making a go of it I see…)

Sadly at the consultation last Saturday (did anyone know about this? I don’t recall hearing about it, but there’s much going on at Phantom Towers at the moment and I could have missed it I guess…) John (who took this picture for me, and apologises for the slight fuzziness) was told that it’s in the way of a building and is soon to be sawdust. I don’t care that they’re ‘going to plant a new one’ – it will be one of those daft  ’little’  trees that you almost don’t see, they’re so insignificant in comparison to this splendid, mature lime. It also means that Hadley Mace intend to build as close to the road as they’re allowed, creating mean little walkways instead of worthwhile places to be.

John also tells me that

While most units can apply for parking permits for street-level and underground parking facilities within the development, I was irked to discover up to 40 units (those townhouses along the top end of the development) can only apply for parking permits outside of the development – in other words there could be an additional 40 cars trying to park in Calvert Road. I don’t know if you’re aware of the parking problems already experienced in Calvert Rd, but due to the healthy Sunday trade at the Wing Wah restaurant (cnr of Calvert and Woolwich Rd), it’s nigh-on impossible to find a space at all on the day of rest. An additional 40 cars will clearly compound this problem.

I’m sure at some point there was talk that due to the congestion (and road danger) there already is around that juction, a good proportion of the accommodation would be designated ‘no parking space’ places – I didn’t realise that that meant you just applied for one in the next road instead. Of course ‘apply for’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘get’ but I suspect that it will be difficult for the council to discriminate between residents on the basis of postcode (or anything for that matter, and that’s as it should be.)

As I didn’t know about the consultation, I wasn’t there, but it sounds as though Hadley Mace are pushing their luck here – after all it’s easier to sell a house with a parking space than not and I suspect pressure was applied and the council, desperate for this development to take place, had to agree.

Whatever, HM plan to start properly within six to eight weeks and expect Phase One to be finished (the bit in green) in 2014, Phase Two (orange) in 2016 and Phase Three, complete with seven-storey tower (blue) in 2017. Hadley Mace claim the plans are available on the Greenwich Council website but all I’ve found is this.

I have mixed feelings about this. I, too, am desperate for the development to happen and for the great hole in East Greenwich to be healed, but I’m finding myself to be increasingly upset that corners are literally being cut here – just how hard would it have been to include a fabulous mature tree or two in the scheme, if nothing else for air, ecology and quality of life?

Specs at the Ready…

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

If you’re wondering what all those queues of people squinting at lamp posts are going to be doing over the next few days it will probably be trying to read the small print on this lot – the parking arrangements for Greenwich during the Olympics. Methers noticed this going up today, so presumably they’re going to be on a lamp post near you soon.

I guess it’s saving paper, just sticking up a few notices around the place, rather than putting leaflets through doors, but I reckon there’s going to be a few cases of eye-strain here – though of course you can visit for the full monty (and no, don’t get excited, that’s not Chris Roberts getting his kit off…)

Name That Pirate!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Okay, okay, I know he’s supposed to be a ‘crew member’ – but this rather random chap stuck halfway up the Cutty Sark’s masts looks just like a pirate to me. I’m not sure if he’s going to get a friend or whether he’s just on his own up there, but he’s certainly odd. Feels a bit like a 1980s ‘museum-experience,’ putting mannequins around the ship, but I think I like him.

Poor guy doesn’t seem to have a name though. Any suggestions? No coming over all Captain Pugwash, now (fnaar) – keep ‘em clean, eh…

Pinch Bum Day

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Royalists all! Join together in declaring your allegiance with the monarchy by demanding your compatriots wear a sprig of oak in their lapel and threatening to pinch them on the butt if they refuse, for today is Pinch Bum Day, or Oak Apple Day if you’re of a more euphemistic persuasion.

I have no proof that small boys went around Greenwich pinching people’s backsides (or, for the more sadistic form of South East London youngster, whipping other kids around the legs with stinging nettles) for not denuding Greenwich Park’s trees of oak apples (those funny little round galls that form round an insect if memory serves) but I’m willing to bet that people did follow the tradition here. After all, it was Blackheath that served as the gateway to London for the exiled King Charles II’s giant comeback gig on 29th May 1660 (he was actually declared king on 26th, but it took him three days of adulation from the patriotic people of Kent to get from Dover to London.) Most of Greenwich went berserk with excitement at seeing Charles back, though our very own local regicide was probably getting a little sweaty. It was going to take more than an oaky-buttonhole to save him from the gallows…

If the killjoy Victorians hadn’t put paid to it, today would have been yet another May bank holiday – it was a public holiday of dancing and feasting from the merry monarch’s time until 1859 – but some places still celebrate Oak Apple Day – Worcester decorates the city gates with oak, Castleton makes giant garlands, Northampton lays a wreath of oak leaves at the foot of Charles’s statue (they really know how to party…) and the Chelsea Pensioners have a special parade in honour of the king.

I can’t help thinking the Royal Observatory should do something. I suspect the curators going around pinching visitors’ bums might get them arrested, but all the same, I’d wear a sprig just in case if you’re going anywhere near those saucy astronomers today. If you’re reading this after midday, you can heave a sigh of relief – like April Fools’ Day, you’re immune after the clock strikes twelve…

Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Meet Pip, a British Blue cat who lives in Greenwich South Street. Her human, Maureen, hasn’t seen her since the 22nd May and is getting very worried about her. It’s possible she’s gone up to London to see the Queen, but more likely that she’s found her way into a garden shed whose door’s been left open in this heat and got stuck in there. If you live around West Greenwich, would you take a peek in your garage, shed, lock-up etc and see if there’s a rather sheepish (probably hungry) moggy trapped inside?

I know, this should really be going in the Parish News, but I have a bit of a thing for pussycats and hey – my blog, my rules.

If you do find Pip, do drop me a line; I’ll be only too delighted to pass you on to Maureen who will love you forever.

One thing to note – just to confuse things there is another British Blue who lives on South Street, somewhere around the almshouses.

Siren – With A Reason

Monday, May 28th, 2012

So – for once, a siren on a Monday morning with an actual reason. Colin, Linda, Duncan, Steve, Zoe, Lizzie and Thomas were all with me and assumed that the siren that went off at Morden Wharf Road was just another example of the one that goes off every Monday when actually it had a proper reason to go off at 3.30 am – and went on for ages.

It was actually a real fire in a chemical processing plant and all over Twitter if I had been awake enough to be looking at it – Duncan got up and went to look for the source of the siren, and took this:

and, with my new-found, if intermittent ability to embed video, here’s one by a chap called Jason Connelly on YouTube, found by Darryl who had his windows open all night (as did we all, Darryl, as did we all…)I love the smell of unidentified chemical in the morning…

I know it’s a serious thing, but when Duncan first sent me the photo I couldn’t help thinking it looked like an old master painting of a harbour on a desert island; all it needed was a silhouetted tall ship and some yo-ho-ho-ing from the tavern and my sleep-deprived imagination would be living in a low-res haze of romance instead of reading the BBC News report…

Still at least we all know what that ‘air raid’ siren that we were hearing every Monday morning at 7.00am was – a test – and, it would seem, for good reason…

Here’s another rather beautiful photo of an unbeautiful thing, by Asibi:

An Alphabet of Greenwich – E

Friday, May 25th, 2012

So we reach a rather trickier letter than one might at first think.

It’s a vowel – it should be easy – but if you cut out anything starting with the words “East” (let’s use the pic above as representing all ‘East Greenwich’s…) it starts getting tricky.

There are always people of course, but should this one be under ‘J’

or this one be under ‘Q’ or even ‘A’?

Ah well, there’s always

and, following in the great tradition of RGT, there never needs to be a relevant reason to include

Greenwich and the London River

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Hard to believe now, with the veritable tsunami of volumes that have been released in the past couple of years, that I started this blog, coming up for six years ago, largely because of the paucity of books about Greenwich, and in particular books like this, covering not just the pomp and history of the town but its people and day-to-day life.

Any book written by Paul Tempest, whose knowledge I trust, photographed by Stephen Tempest, whose images of the old St Andrews church on the peninsula still haunt me and, more than anything, illustrated by Peter Kent, a personal hero of mine, whose work I can stand in front of for hours, is going to get a general thumbs up from me – hell they could write about the sewage problem and I’d be interested (oh, hang on, they do…)

And this is a book you can pick up, read through, put down, then pick up again and find a whole lot new to fascinate and enjoy. It’s just about the most up to date it can be, with photographs and information that can only have been added a few scant weeks ago and it covers huge amounts, with clear lists, good bullet points and excellent articles. I love that the events photographed I was often at, that the people in the photos are people I actually see around town, for some reason it feels all the closer to know that these people walk the same streets I do, and love the same things.

The information is clear, concise enough to be digested quickly, but with enough detail to give a feeling of depth and, well, the illustrations are by Peter Kent. Did I say that already?

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the book’s production values. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic-looking volume and the content is so engrossing it’s not a big deal, but for me the layout process isn’t as invisible as it could have been. One or two of the pages feel a bit like a local authority brochure and I found myself a little frustrated at the double-page spreads where the bit I was most interested in was positioned in the binding.

Of course this is unavoidable with the style of book this is, and I appreciate the choice the publishers have made – the book has been properly bound with saddle-stitch so I CAN open the book completely to see the drawings without the whole thing falling to pieces.

Furthermore I realise that the price you pay for digital printing and full colour throughout is a slightly ‘muddy’ feel to the photos (somehow drawings tend to have an easier ride) and I’m totally cool with that. On balance I’d far rather have very slightly darker, marginally fuzzier colour photos throughout than a couple of plates in the middle of a book. But there are points here where instead of enjoying a photo for its own sake, I found myself thinking ‘they’ve photoshopped that’ – perhaps a picture has been stretched to fit the space for it  and all the people are long and thin, or an old photograph  has an odd, cross-hatched effect across it – something that occasionally happens to me when I scan things for the blog; I think it’s when I try to scan it at too low a resolution.

Overall, though, that’s carping about tiny stuff that the vast majority of readers won’t even notice. This book is the sort of thing I wish I’d written. It’s wide-ranging, doesn’t concentrate on the Royal history, glitter and pomp at the expense of the people that make Greenwich so vibrant today, takes wonderful little digressions about small but important issues, photos that make me smile, make me remember and make me proud and illustrations by Peter Kent, I don’t think I mentioned that earlier.

I think this will sell beautifully to tourists, but I don’t think it’s actually aimed at them. This isn’t a guide book for a day trip. This is a guidebook for locals – or for someone who is thinking of  becoming one. Probably because it’s written by long-term residents and lovers of Greenwich (not always a given, there is at least one ‘definitive’ book out there that I am convinced was written by someone who doesn’t actually like the place) I think the book sums the town up perfectly (and  makes forays into other places along the river, though I still don’t think that justifies Boris Johnson’s typically-random, unconnected-with-Greenwich-in-any-way introduction – has the guy ever actually been here?) and if you’re starting a Greenwich bookshelf, I’d suggest this as an early buy.

Building Bridges

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Bit of a hooray! Boo! post today. We’ve all been waiting to see whether or not that Section 106 agreement that would see a footbridge linking the Greenwich and Deptford ends of Deptford Creek being built as part of the New Capital Quay development would be honoured. Well, anyone who visited HMS Ocean the other day will have seen that after years of bloomin’ nothing it’s finally beginning to take shape

and a lot of people have been asking if the footbridge might actually happen. Well, there is an application for one going through planning now, but it may not be quite what we had in mind.

The people I’ve been talking to have been assuming it would be a low, movable bridge, either in a swing or raised style, a bit like the ones going across the docks further up around Bermondsey/Rotherhithe, but this is neither – as you’ll see from the designs, they’ve gone for the cheaper, fixed version that just goes over the top of all the river traffic.

Some residents the other side at Millennium Quay aren’t happy about it because they’re worried it will be an intrusion on privacy – Sadia says “I have to say I am very concerned for the safety of the residents of millennium quay next to the bridge as the bridge will be right on top of us and pedestrians will be able to look straight into our flats! “and it does seem that the only artists’ impressions are from NCQ side (obviously – it’s being built by NCQ developers, they don’t care about what MQ people think; they don’t have to sell flats to them) so it’s hard to see just how close to people’s balconies it’s going to be.

Personally, it still feels a little far away from actual buildings to be very invasive of privacy – but it does seem to be quite invasive of view (though I guess you’d get a good view from it…)

I’m convinced they’ve gone for this version because it’s cheapest – something along the lines of the one Leonardo da Vinci designed – elegant and simply operated (though I guess I would worry about who would fix it if it went wrong or if it would it just be left open by boat users) would be wonderful, but pricey.

I certainly wouldn’t want to lose the opportunity of linking the two parts of the Thames Path with a footbridge – it’s something we’ve hankered for (and discussed at length) for years but I rather wish they’d gone for a simple swing or self-raising bridge like they have further upriver.

What do you think, guys? Is it going to be an eyesore and invasive for MV residents, or does the convenience of actually having a bridge at last trump looks?