Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Run to the Beat…

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

…is to move to Wembley. I hope that it will do really well – and stay there.

I never really worked out why I enjoy the London Marathon running through our streets and hated Run to the Beat with such a passion.

I suspect it was just that it always felt so ‘imposed’ – that a bunch of people who had nothing to do with Greenwich, no interest in it and no care for the disruption (streets closed off for hours, buses re-routed, locals effectively locked-in) and noise pollution came and took over our streets with officious officals and no actual gain for the local community.

I know it was for charity, good causes, and helped people get fit yada, yada, but it always felt – and acted like – a commercial enterprise that had somehow hijacked Greenwich to the point where people couldn’t even get anywhere on a bloomin’ bus.

I am glad to be rid of it and I don’t mind who knows it.

Scary Stuff About Greenwich Inc

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Blimey.

I’ve just been sent a link to a feature in Propel magazine that certainly makes it seem as though Greenwich Inc probably deserve to sit on the Inland Revenue’s naughty step. If you can’t click through to the link from this, go to www.propelinfonews.com, check the archives and search ‘Greenwich Inc’ – you’ll find the piece dated 31 Jan 2014.

Basically it would seem that, seeing the empire going down in flames, INC incorporated a number of new companies in Scotland to hand over the healthy businesses to (i.e. the pubs and restaurants not losing money) without any payment to Greenwich Inc. This meant that when the liquidator came in, he was only seeing the failing businesses, the others having been already hived off. Trouble was, this was done so close to the actual failure that it actually looks extremely dodgy and it’s all a bit of a mess.

When the liquidator looked at the figures Greenwich Inc owed HMRC £3,920,502 in VAT and £2,108,696 in PAYE. The staff had not been paid for their work in November – something they were, apparently, ‘not unaccustomed to.’ It doesn’t help that INC went for advice about the potential insolvency well over a year ago and despite the advice to call in the liquidator, continued to trade for over twelve months, which I’m told is an offence.

It’s all beginning to stink – and I don’t just mean the mouse droppings and raw sewage found in the sinks at the Trafalgar Tavern last March, for which the company was fined nearly £20,000.

Lady Beware

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Actually – not just ladies – everyone, folks. I was shocked to receive this very worrying story just now. The person this happened to has asked me not to reveal her name –  frankly she needs no more trauma in her life just now. I will leave her to tell you her story:

I am not really comfortable writing about this, but I realize how many locals read your blog and it might just keep some of them safe.

This happened last night when I was walking home; a very tall, athletic black guy on a bike stopped me and tried to grab me and push me off Creek Road to Horsferry Place (it’s much darker and was completely deserted at the time).

He first asked for money then he attempted to violently attack me. He veered off of his bike and attempted to pull me to the side of the road and verbally abused me and shouted to me that he would rape me.

Luckily for me a couple approached and this was enough to scare him away from the scene (or actually gave me enough time to run away).

This is unacceptable behaviour which I have since reported to the police however I want to make this dangerous man known to as many people in the area as possible.

I would very much appreciate you posting this on your well known blog to warn other female commuters travelling alone in this area.

Unacceptable behaviour? Hardly – this is CRIMINAL behaviour – and I am really glad she has been brave enough to report it to the police. I hope they can do something about it. It wouldn’t surprise me if they already know of this man.

I am disturbed by this and echo our anonymous friend’s sentiments – be on your guard folks – and keep an eye out for each other too. It’s easy this time of year to assume that aggressive behaviour is harmless horseplay by inebriated revellers – but there’s a very nasty undercurrent too and we need to watch each other’s backs. This happened around 11.15-11.30pm – the streets of Greenwich should not be a no-go area for people alone.

I hope our anonymous lady is surrounded by good, supportive friends – and wish her some peace over the coming festive period.

And folks – be on your guard.

Why It’s Worth Making a Fuss

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I am delighted to announce the happy outcome of a public outcry backed up by a bunch of councillors sticking their necks out, which for me is the reason why “we were angry but had no choice” is not an acceptable outcome of a planning meeting.

Remember the ghastly illuminated signs that Frankie and Bennys put up on their eaterie on the pier without permission, adding insult to injury on the horrid buildings that mar the classic Canaletto view? Much hoo-ha was made about it by The Greenwich Society and individuals (I like to think Phantophiles did our bit here too…) and the council planning department said ‘no’ to the grudging retrospective planning application, even though it was based on aesthetic grounds rather than the more easily-fought health & safety chestnut.

F&Bs ignored the ruling, then appealed but the Greenwich councillors, to their credit, held out.

F&Bs appealed again, this time to the Planning Inspectorate who, to be honest, don’t have a great track record in standing up for Greenwich’s interests.

But I am delighted to announce that they HAVE decided that “the signage is excessive and goes beyond what I consider to be reasonably needed to attract and direct people to the premises” and “detracts from the visual amenity of the area and in fact cause harm to the character and appearance of the Greenwich Park CA, the setting of the listed buildings and cause substantial harm to the Maritime Greenwich WHS.

On Tuesday the appeal was dismissed.

This, for me, brings up echoes of the issue we were discussing just a few days ago, where Beds & Bars didn’t bother to get planning permission to turn Greenwich Playhouse into Greenwich Flophouse (whilst wailing to the rooftops that they absolutely weren’t going to do that – how could we possibly think such evil of them?), cashing in on the Olympic bonanza then retrospectively applying for planning permission.

In the comments several councillors expressed their anger at Bed & Bars, but gave planning permission because they claimed they didn’t have any choice – it would only be appealed and turned over and cost the council money.

As Paul noted: “If you have “no choice” in these matters, there really isn’t any point in having a planning board, is there?”

But hey – today, let us celebrate small success. We can’t do anything about the dreary pier building or the so-so eateries inside it – but thanks to a lot of shouting and Greenwich councillors who had the guts to say ‘no’ – we at least don’t need to look at neon signs plonked in front of the Old Royal Naval College and Canaletto’s easel.

Unless, of course, F&Bs just ignore the ruling as per last time…

Severndroog Castle

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Okay so this is a screenshot, taken by The Phantom Webmaster on the day the Shard opened. I had managed to win tickets by suggesting a landmark that could be seen from said Shard, but that the general public might not have heard of, for inclusion on the groovy virtual telescope, which is what you can see here.

What you can also see is a bit of a fib.

This was back in February and the blurb says ‘a local community group restored the castle to its former glory.

Now, while the intention was there, in February the tower was very much not restored. We’d all been ‘sponsoring bricks’ and donating money (or at least trying to – a ‘well-known national newspaper’ who I shall not name asked me to write an article for them. I agreed in return for a donation to the restoration fund as I don’t agree with writing articles for national newspapers for nowt, they agreed and then welched on the deal, not that I’m bitter or anything…) but at that point it still wasn’t happening.

But I am delighted to say it’s begun. Michael tipped me off that there’s now scaffolding all over the shop (well, okay, the castle…) and when I looked it up on website it confirms that work began on 10th June and is expected to be complete in mid-December.

I am very excited. I went up once on Open House Day and the view is superb. It will be great to get up there for more than the paltry 5 minutes we were allowed, and with a bit of luck the tearoom on the first floor, with all that glorious rococo plasterwork, will be open again, perhaps even in time for Christmas.

I daresay I shall be able to see the Shard from it, though I’m rather hoping it doesn’t cost upwards of £30 a pop to go up it…

I’m Back

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Good grief – it’s been a month; the longest I’ve ever left a gap between posts. Sorry, folks, it couldn’t be helped. I can’t even guarantee I’m back for long now – but I’m going to give it a good bash.

When I stopped posting it was still cold and wet – now there’s this big orange thing in the sky and it feels like summers I remember from when I was a kid.

I’ve tried to keep up with the news, but I’ve not really been out and about. What have I missed? Was the Greenwich and Docklands festival any good this year? How was the ‘Keep the Green’ event? Anyone been to Waitrose yet?

Photo: Mike Purdy

I tried to find the whale – no joy, though Mike found it:

I did come across these guys all over town as I as I was on my way to the cinema

Photo: Mike Purdy

Admittedly I didn’t actually get in to the cinema – it’s great to see the Picturehouse doing so well they couldn’t sell me a ticket…

Thanks for sending me stuff I now have the Giant Backlog of Doom. I’ll be wading through it over the next couple of weeks. In the meanwhile, I’m back in business (I hope) and raring to go into my (gulp) eighth phantasmagorical year…

Mary Mills

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

There are two things that make a post like this one unusual.

Firstly my head is full just now. I am taking time out because I have to. I wasn’t going to post at all for a while.

Secondly I rarely – almost never – talk about political issues in Greenwich. There are fine websites that do that already and in general I do other stuff better.

But something happened last night that shocked me to the very core and I just have to say something or burst.

Greenwich’s finest councillor by a country mile, Mary Mills, was deselected in what has to be the biggest own-goal the local Labour Party has scored in some time, and believe me there have been some pearlers. Darryl at 853 Blog has the gen and there’s no point in my reinventing the wheel by repeating it here but I am utterly gobsmacked that they have been so shortsighted in getting rid of the only personality that actual, real humans on the doorstep recognise and like.

Mary’s the one who actually talks to her constituents. She has a Twitter presence (@maryorelse ), a blog and a website, she responds to phone calls and emails, makes time to talk to people at any hour of the day and deals with issues others would sweep under the carpet because they’re politically embarrassing or just don’t bother with because they’re small or only affect people that aren’t trendy.

She has a deep interest in Greenwich historically (there are few who know as much as her about Greenwich’s industrial past) but also in the Greenwich of today. Perhaps that’s why she’s being got rid of – she’s just not towing the party line enough. Instead, she’s addressing issues that local people want to see – and doesn’t always leap to say yes to everything The Party wants.

Mary’s the one with the monthly newsletter that actually tells people what’s going on in the ward, listing what’s on, what planning apps have been submitted, what council things might affect people – that sort of thing. She very generously mentions every month that sundry other individuals ‘would like to be associated with this email.’

You don’t say. ‘Associated with’ but not actually doing any of the graft, of course.

I don’t know why they’ve made this catastrophic-for-the-ward move; it smacks of bullying, control-freakery and even, perhaps, ageism (she herself describes herself as an angry old lady – all power to you, Mary.) But I suspect it’s even simpler than that. Could it possibly be that they’ve got rid of her because she makes the rest of them look bad?

Unlike most of the career politicians in her wake, Mary Mills actually gave a damn – in fact she still does – I note that after deleting her webpage last night in a frankly understandable move – she has reinstated it today, with the words “After all there are lots of interesting things which could do with an airing.” Too right. There are.

And that’s why I think Mary needs to strike out on her own. To stand as an independent, to actually stand up for the things she’s always known were ‘the right thing to do’ but felt compromised about because of being strongarmed into following party dictats. I have no idea who has been wheeled-in in her place – I did see the name, it didn’t register, I didn’t care. I am sure they will be good little party members and be seen occasionally opening a school fete or something.

Mary – if you stand as an indie, I will vote for you.

Gambardella

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Here’s a bit of a worry. The sign says ‘Closed Until Further Notice,’ which if this means what it usually does, would be a real loss, not just to Blackheath Standard but to London’s Greasy-Spoonland in general.

This place was like stepping back in time – those fab chrome strips holding faux-marble wall panels and groovy 1960s swivel seats at the front, black & red shiny panels at the back, formica tables and ketchup bottles. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t self-consciously ‘retro’ – it wore its British-caff heritage lightly.

There always seemed to be “characters” in Gambardella. Builders, families, harmless fruitcakes, slumming toffs, all human life was there. The tea was pleasingly orange, the fried food pleasingly greasy and the atmosphere pleasingly unpretentious. The staff were friendly and up for a joke – often at their own expense. After reeling off all the different varieties of coffee they do, they’d admit it was all so much easier when all they did was instant – so much for the fantasy of the ancient Gaggia in the corner…

They already closed the more modern half of the shop – last year, if memory serves, which doesn’t bode well, but I thought one of the few things that were succeeding in this climate was cafes and coffee shops. Mind you, I guess the small independents have to actually pay tax unlike some of the non-profit-making big chains like poor Starbucks..

Perhaps it’s been closed for a refit, though I really hope not too much of one. It could so easily teeter – either with ill-advised modernisation or an equally dodgy trip down Theme Lane. Gambardella was a real caff, not a plastic imitation of what we might like to imagine 1950s coffee bars were.

If it is closed for good, it won’t just be the Phantom weeping into my PG Tips. Messrs Tilbrook, Holland and Difford, who met for the first time after his placing an ad in the window of Gambardella, will almost certainly join me in shedding a nostalgic tear. Maybe Jools might like to take it over himself. After all, it’s only a cough and a spit from the Holland Arms and everyone loves a nice cup of tea. As Mrs Doyle might say if she was actually relevant to this post, “ah, go on, go on, go on, go on…”

UPDATE: According to Mike, there has been a bereavement in the family. My thoughts and best wishes are with them. I hope that in time we will be able to visit again.

4G/Freeview Compatiblity thing

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Have you had any weirdnesses with your Freeview yesterday? I meant to talk about this last week and – well, you know me at the moment…

Basically, boffins are testing 4G services at the moment to see, among other things, whether sending it out at 800MHz will disrupt Freeview, which runs in a very close bandwidth.

They’re concerned that aerials, amplifiers, digital tuners and TV signals might not be able to block out mobile phones and they’re using our area (Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets) as a guinea pig. Why these (pretty basic) tests weren’t done before they sold 4G is beyond me.

We were supposed to get information through the post. I don’t know about you but I haven’t had anything yet. So, if you’ve lost any of your Freeview channels (check your subscription on Adult XXXX before embarrassing yourself, eh…), sound (gasping on Adult XXXX isn’t an intermittent fault…) or got blocky images (pixilation on Adult XXXX doesn’t count…) here are the ways to contact people who can make it all better:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/at800tv

Twitter: www.twitter.com/at800tv

Google+: www.gplus.to/at800tv

Or just talk to a real human being at the call centre: 0333 31 31 800

Old But Good News – and a bit of old but bad…

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

You will have noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time in the past four months not posting – sorry about that. Truth is I’ve been totally out of the loop full stop – unusual for me, but hey, sometimes stuff happens.

So I failed to notice – and certainly failed to tell you – a small piece of good news. You may already know it, but I didn’t. Richard from the Greenwich Society tells me:

Remember the furore over the garish signs at the Pier building?

Phantom followers and Greenwich Society members objected when the operators put in planning applications, although only after they had installed lots of stuff without permission. Inexplicably planning officers recommended approval but after a pretty heated Planning Committee meeting, with a notably fiery contribution from Cllr Maureen O’Mara, the applications were turned down.

Zizzi and Byron appealed and now the Planning Inspector has dismissed those appeals making it very clear she thinks the signs are completely out of place in such an important setting, exactly what we said and what the councillors said.

Hopefully this will stiffen the resolve of the Council to wield some more muscle over the rest of the pending applications for signs, parasols and space heaters.

Indeed. We can’t do much about the unsuitable building design of the pier buildings – just because they’re by a famous architecture agency doesn’t make them work in the place they’re in – but there’s no reason whatsoever for those godawful signs.

Less welcome news is the sheer number of small shops that are biting the dust. Hide All and Compendia the latest victims I know of (though Mark tells me Compendia will return as a market stall), but I hardly dare visit the town in case there are more.  And the Morden Arms is now to be flats. I didn’t much like it as a pub, but with better (i.e. more friendly – it’s the only place where I’ve ever been told to go away as they didn’t feel like serving anyone) management it could have been a decent place. Now it won’t have the chance. Sigh.