Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Love…

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Okay, as anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know, I’m a pushover for a love story and, given the time of year, I have a little poser for you to help a young romantic swain. Let’s call him Romeo, to preserve his anonymity in case Juliet just happens to be reading…

Romeo says:

I’m thinking about proposing (only thinking of it, R? Might want to make sure, eh…) and would like it to involve a couple of deck chairs (long story relating to an in-joke) Now, although I’m an Engineer, I don’t exactly have the best ‘hands on’ skills. I would however, ideally like to make the deck chairs myself, with a custom design etc.

Do you know of any small furniture or other artisan workshops in the area? The dream being that I could make friends and perhaps in return for weekend work or indeed a small fee, I’d have storage space and access to tools and perhaps some friendly advice on making the deckchairs. The other option I have considered would be buying some existing ones and customising them. I believe the Greenwich Adult Community college runs a Furniture restoration course which might be appropriate.

I like this idea, and it’s probably a good idea to be as vague as possible to give yourself the most options here, Romeo.

It’s possible there’s a friendly carpenter reads this blog, who might be up for taking a romantic rookie under their wing. I don’t know of any specifically.

You might try Stewart John, who restore antique furniture and make pieces to order. They used to have a store in the market place which always had a fabulous display of vintage chandeliers hanging from every inch of the shop – before they were driven out by the ridiculous rent hikes, yet another example of the quirky old places being given the boot by Greenwich Hospital, but I do remember once visiting their extensive workshops in one of those old buildings in Charlton/Woolwich. You could try giving them a call.

You’ve just missed the start of the Furniture restoriation course for beginners at Greenwich Community College but you might be able to join it late if you call them now.

You could see if there’s anyone at Cockpit Arts in Deptford who might be prepared to work with you – try the designer directory on the website.

Or there may be a Phantophile with a better suggestion. I’m always impressed with what people come up with here.

If you’re going to customise one, I wish there were some proper indie hardware stores round here that would sell basic deckchairs for you to customise, but the only sort you’ll get round here are of the designer-variety, which isn’t what you need if you’re going to rip it to pieces and gussy it up. There’s Gumtree or Ebay, of course but you might not want to look too cheap…

There’s one at Argos for £29.99 or, even better in Homebase for the same price – I say ‘even better’ because the Homebase in Kidbrooke has the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve come across in any of the big sheds in the area, whereas everyone always seems depressed in Argos. Having said that I don’t know if they have any in-store – but at least they’ll be nice to you if you call them. The chairs are nice, plain ones that you could even just paint a message on if you’re not into all the woodwork stuff?

If all else fails and you just want a Greenwich-related one, there are some (frankly rather expensive) special editions for sale on the Royal Parks website, designed by Greenwich and Bromley pensioners, inspired by Greenwich Park last year.

Ah, young love…

Out with the Old, In with the New (annoying jobs around the house…)

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Around this time of year, people’s minds turn to practicalities after all the frivolity of the festive season

I always get a load of asks re. cleaners, repairers and stuff to do with going away in January and today is no different – this morning I got one about cleaners (see FAQs), three related to house repairs and one to do with going away – a pretty typical postbag for the first ‘real’ day back (though I’ve been ‘back’ for some time, chiz…)

Firstly Debra asks about burglar alarm engineers. A guess a burglar alarm going wrong is one of those pesky things that unless it’s actually causing a nuisance gets put off. I have no idea of any specialist electricians, so I’m asking here for recommendations.

In fact I don’t have any suggestions for any of these today – they’re all quite specific.

Like Jerry’s TV aerial, which, being the wrong side of the hill for Crystal Palace is very tall indeed. It’s swivelled round so it can’t get half the channels any more, but understandably IMHO he doesn’t fancy clambering onto the roof to try to fix it. He needs an engineer who can turn it to the right angle as he’s apparently missing the Channel Four News.

The felt on Maria’s shed roof blew off in the last storm. Once again, she doesn’t fancy climbing up to fix it but thinks it might be a bit too small a job to bother companies with. I disagree – it’s a job that needs doing, someone will do it – but how do you find someone good? Suggestions, please.

Finally, Dave needs to go into hospital for an operation but is worrying about his furry Best Friend while he’s in there. He doesn’t just want any kennels – he wants a Phantophile Recommended kennels. I have never had a dog, so I can’t help but I know a bunch of you will have ideas of a classy establishment Fido can visit…



Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I’m taking a holiday at the moment but Samantha tells me this is urgent so I’ll pop this one out quickly. She says:

I’ve just moved into the area, and have a grade II listed (property) that needs much attention. Firstly I need to replace all the windows and I wondered if you could recommend someone. I have spoken with Peter Denney as suggested on the site but need comparisons as this is a big job with all taken out and new with boxes put in. I heard about Pembroke and Nash and wondered if you or any of your readers had used them or could make suggestions?

The Phantom replies:

I’ve never had to replace windows, so this is not an area of expertese (and this is why the two following suggestions are not in the trusted tradespeople section) but I do have a couple of suggestions.

Firstly I have heard that a chap called Malcolm Tierney is worth contacting. His number is 077 7565 7371.

I don’t normally take much notice of leaflets that come through the door (especially since at least half of the ones I get is the same cowboy-company masquerading as specialists in various trades, all of which they are appalling at…) but one local guy who only does sash windows intrigued me with his idiosyncratic flyer. David Howe lists actual addresses (well over 100 of them, with house-numbers included) where people can view his work on one side of his folded sheet of A4, the other side is a dense, paragraphless block of text with his mission statement. I repeat, I know nothing about this guy’s work, but he’s passionate at least…

020 8859 2844
07939 497 538

I am sure other people can suggest some names.


Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I don’t know how many of you joined me in leaving Nationwide when it left us a couple of years ago. I figured that if they couldn’t be bothered to have a branch anywhere near me I couldn’t be bothered to give them my custom. Of course they won’t have missed my tuppence ha’penny worth of business but it was the principle.

Of course they swore when they golluped up the Portman Building Society that neither bank would leave Greenwich. Both did, and when the second one went, I walked.

So – Lloyds TSB have been forced to split up their business and Greenwich’s version is to be a TSB. Will the same thing happen?

I can’t tell, but when the Portman was subsumed the livery was quietly changed overnight in a ‘nothing to see here…’ kind of way, but as Mike’s picture shows, Lloyds have at least taken a different approach – with balloons and an opening by the Mayor  (except for twice a year I tend to forget we have a mayor – once with the annual swanky dinner debacle, the other when the Mayor’s rolled out to switch on the Christmas lights. For your information she’s Councillor Angela Cornforth…)

So maybe this one will stay and Greenwich won’t lose any more services. Fingers crossed.

Captain Handyman

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Greenwich’s own superhero. Okay, he may not do the flying bit or the tights thing (or at least not on council time…) but in many ways the small things are what saves a community. Alan is Greenwich Council’s handyperson around town – going around the centre doing small jobs that make a difference, often without us really noticing.

He asked Phantophiles a few months ago if they had could think of any little bits and bobs they’d like to see done. I didn’t know his brief extended to Traf Road, but as these pictures show, he’s been out cheering up shopfronts, which I can only see is a Good Thing.

He’s currently working on Peter de Wits – so if you’re passing, say hello. And if you can think of any small jobs that would improve life in the centre of town, let him know, he’ll be glad to hear from you

Removal Firms

Monday, March 11th, 2013

A quickie today – Laura asks:

“Can you recommend a local removal company?”

The Phantom replies:

My very first removal, many years ago, was conducted using a shopping trolley; there’s something to be said for being less materialistic. I promise I didn’t leave it in Shopping Cart Valhalla. I then moved to various car boots, then to a self-hire Luton, and have only ever used a proper ‘firm the once.

Because it was my first, I made the mistake of hiring ‘a major national firm’- who, on being told there was only one thing I cared about, a very delicate lamp – made a special wooden box for it,  dropped the box and were then very recalcitrant about getting my precious antique repaired. They were also very unexcited about taking care of much else…

So, maybe local is best. My being unable to recommend the ‘major national firm’ – suggestions please.

A Lick of Paint

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’ve been chatting with Alan, (largely about tunnels and suchlike – for anyone new around here, Greenwich is a big old Swiss cheese, full of old tunnels, conduits, mines, secret passages etc. – check out the Underground Greenwich section in the Categories list on the sidebar) when the conversation turned to his job – he’s a handyman for Greenwich Council’s World Heritage Site Team “who basically paints anything that needs painting in and around the town centre and other odd jobs“.

He made an offer just too good to refuse – so I’m passing it on to you. “If there are any small issues around the town centre for example something you feel could use a coat of paint or tidying up please feel free to let me know.”

If you’ve got any suggestions for Alan, I will be happy to pass them on…

Greenwich Food Bank

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

On a day when I sit writing this post in two dressing gowns, fingerless gloves, a blanket and hat (no, really…) my mind is drawn back to last night when I was in the West End and saw a shocking number of people sleeping rough in the snow. And in turn that me brought to a number of emails I’ve been getting about Greenwich Food Bank, since I first mentioned it a couple of months ago.

What happened? At what point did the concept of food banks, where ordinary, everyday folk become reliant on others’ charity just to be able to feed themselves properly, become ‘normal?’ And at what point did the situation in Greenwich become so bad that we need one ourselves? There are currently three distrubution centres in the borough – Thamesmead, Plumstead and Woolwich – but they’re planning five more, including, somewhat shockingly the ‘affluent’ areas of West Greenwich and Westcombe Park.

Don’t get me wrong – I am hugely impressed at the generosity and dedication of everyone involved – both volunteers and donors – but I find it very distressing that it’s needed, that so many people are slipping through the net, and that instead of hanging their heads in shame, central government seem to think its perfectly okay.

Local government, in cash-strapped times, at least appears to be doing what it can – Greenwich Council have provided somewhere to be the central warehouse. But ultimately it’s slipping back to Victorian times as far as I can see. Who knows – give it a few months and the New Heart of East Greenwich could  be hurriedly remodelled back to its 19th Century alias as the local Workhouse…

Soapbox aside, this is what we have, and it is a Good Thing, given that central government is not recognising the distress of so many. I applaud the efforts of the combined churches, I applaud the people who buy a few extra items each week to donate to the cause and I applaud the (so far) 60-70 volunteers who are working in the depots to process the items.

Carol’s been donating food to the bank for some time – she gives money to charities, but “somehow actually buying a few extra bits and pieces each week as I do the grocery shopping and taking them along to the Avery Hill Food Bank makes giving more ‘real’, i.e. making the effort to buy stuff, take it there when it’s open, walking past those people waiting to obtain food.”

I know what she means. I’m old enough to remember when the annual Blue Peter appeal involved collecting ‘stuff’ – milk bottle tops, plastic bottles, old woollies etc. which always felt much more hands-on and inspiring than just ‘send us your cash.’

The strange thing is that it’s not easy to find out online how to actually get involved in the project, which is a shame – individual churches seem to have their own systems, but if you’re just a bog-standard nice person who wants to join in, information’s thin on the ground – Capability Bowes had to email them to find out and he still didn’t get a straight answer.

But Mike’s filled me in.  People can take stuff to a collection point at the reception of St John’s Church, in Stratheden Road near Blackheath Standard, which is usually open from 9.30am to 4pm. Alternately anyone wishing to donate food can call 07771 830549 or email

There is also a collection point in Sainsburys Woolwich – hopefully this is something that other supermarkets will pick up on, like the little Cats Protection League box of Tins for Poor Cats in the Tellytubby Sainsburys on the Peninsula (I always pop a can or two in there – when I remember, blush…)

There is a ‘shopping list’ of suitable foodstuffs for the human version:

  • Milk (UHT or powdered)
  • Sugar (500g)
  • Fruit Juice (carton)
  • Soup
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Sponge Pudding (tinned)
  • Tomatoes (tinned)
  • Cereals
  • Rice Pudding (tinned)
  • Tea bags/Instant Coffee
  • Instant Mashed Potato
  • Rice/Pasta
  • Tinned meat/fish
  • Tinned Fruit
  • Cooking Oil
  • Jam
  • Biscuits or Snack Bars
  • Toiletries
  • Baby Milk (powdered)
  • Baby Food (tinned or bottled)

In a twenty-first century world that has come back down to cold charity it is up to us to fill a gap that should never have opened.

Smallest Room- Biggest Job

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Capability Bowes is “desperately in need of someone to do a bathroom refurbishment after having been left entirely up the spout and down the drain by a firm of compete incompetents.

I know that feeling only too well. The problem with the bathroom is that it’s not just a decorating job, but a plumbing and electrics issue too.

Any suggestions?

Dead Ducks

Friday, September 21st, 2012

No – not that sort – though Flying Duck Ents. might be gone, they still exist online and rent their Creek Road shop out to others.

No – the sort I’m talking about are the ones that fly up the walls of post-ironic vintage-lovers like me and Capability Bowes, both of whom, I discover today, have the same issue. In fact I have a theory that everyone who owns a set of antique flying ducks has the same issue – neck-snap.

I’ve no idea how my middle duck’s neck broke, though in Mr Bowes’s case it’s rather clearer  - his granny literally didn’t give a flying duck where his granddad had been and threw one of hers at the poor old codger.

Both of us now have anything-but-rare brown-ring-necked ducks, where they’ve been badly repaired, and CB asks – does anyone know a local (or indeed otherwise) specialist china repair service? His may well be more of a restoration job than a repair – his birds (a set of five, mine’s only three) are also missing a wing or two – but hell – they belonged to his gran – and she was clearly one feisty lady…