Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Phantom Gets Out of Bed the Wrong Side

Friday, January 31st, 2014

I know, I know, I’ve been dreadful about updating the Parish News. I have no idea how the amazing IanVisits does it, but my news always looks a mess and is almost never up to date. It’s like being the scruffy kid at school that no matter what they do their shirt’s always untucked, a button’s missing off the blazer, their hair looks like a pile of old hay and their tie’s on the squonk.

One of these days I’ll create some kind of calendar or algorhythm to make it all easy but for now, the best I can do is aim to update it once a month and since tomorrow is the 1st Feb, I’m just squeaking in here updating it today.

There are many reasons why I hate updating Parish News. Of course part of it is that no one likes inputting data, even for hard cash, and believe me, there’s no bloomin’ cash involved in Parish News.

But the main reason I hate it is the many and varied formats I get listings in. If only people could be clear and concise, like the good burghers or St Alfege and the National Maritime Museum, who send stuff in clear format:

  • What’s on
  • A TINY bit about the event
  • When it’s on
  • How much
  • How to book
  • A website for more info

That’s all you need. Ideally Third Person and without jolly ‘call to action’ bits that I’m only going to cut out anyway.  If it was all like that it would be a dream. Instead I get all manner of ‘press releases’, perky emails and chancers. I know that the real culprits – the professional ‘PR agencies’ who spam every blog on the planet with the same old junk – won’t read this but even the locals – please look and see if you are guilty of any of the following:

1) long, waffly emails with press releases at least three pages long

2) ‘Chummy’ emails that I have to sift through for the information and reformat – however much I like you I just don’t have the hours in the day

3)’Art-Speak’ where even after the long waffle and the three-page press release I still  have absolutely no idea what the event actually is.

4) Stuff with no relevance at all to Greenwich. I regularly get emails about events in Wales, Australia and Brimingham. To be honest anything that’s not within a 5-mile radious of Greenwich is probably not relevant enough for this blog, sorry. Some things that REALLY captivate me might sneak in. I usually discover these for myself though

5) Non-cut-and-pasteable PDFs. These usually contain minute detail that I’m going to have to painstakingly copy out longhand. Not only will it put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day, but I am bound to make mistakes.

6) Chunks of important information in the title of the email. Again this means I have to manually type out all the details and I’ll probably get it wrong in the transfer

7) Emails with nothing but the instruction to go to some stranger’s website. I’m not going to do it. Full stop.

8 ) Out and out adverts. It doesn’t help when PRs try to sweeten the pill by being all faux-coy – ‘I’m being cheeky here but I know you won’t mind me telling you all about this amazing new headlice cream.’ I will.

9) Press releases where winkling out what is actually going from all the superlatives, namechecks and quotes takes all day. Knowing that Gordon Prong has done the lighting and Joe Blogs is responsible for the choreography should go in the ‘any other business’, not the nuts and bolts.

10) Too many bells, whistles, funky scripts, images, ‘cool’ styling and other gizmos that a) it takes ages to upload  and b) I can’t work out what the hell is the most important stuff.

There are two establishments which shall remain anonymous who send me stuff on a very regular basis that I have NEVER put into Parish News because their newsletters are so complicated I lose the will to live before I can find the actual information. I am convinced  these places are so busy making their newsletters into works of art they have forgotten the bottom line – they are letters of NEWS. I will come and see the art if I can work out when and where it’s on. If you’re worried that that I might be describing you, I probably am.

11) Listings in video format. No really, I get them. I’m expected to sit and watch a promo video and then write some scintillating copy from that, sifting out the details and writing it all down. It isn’t going to happen. I might, if I am very ‘kind’ upload the video, but the chances of anyone else watching it without knowing what it is are slim.

12) Listings where the only info is to be found on Facebook. I don’t do FB and I am not going to sign up just so I can find your event.

If I just got one or two of these a day, it wouldn’t be a problem, but I get dozens of the bloomin’ things and just sifting through them takes time, and means that the good guys (GDA is another ‘good’ listings supplier…) have to wait in line with the annoying people. In the end I just get frustrated, everything gets a ‘star’ for me to deal with later, things happen in the day and they  end up languishing in my inbox for months.

So please – I know your event is the best thing ever, but even for something incredible there is such a thing as too much information. Keep it brief. If I get so excited about it I want to actually add it to the main blog, believe me I’ll be all over you like a particularly nasty rash.

This might sound conceited, and I really don’t mean it to be. But it’s just taken me an entire morning when I should actually have been doing proper work just to sift through my starred items and you don’t know the guilt when I haven’t replied to things or dealt with them in time so that the event’s already been and gone by the time I get round to it. If only I could get the basic listings more uniform, I’d have more time to deal with the really curious one-off questions, which can get lost among the listings.

Don’t get me wrong – I DO want to hear about things. It’s just much more helpful if it’s in a form I can easily deal with.

Several people today have had red-faced emails from me apologising for not replying to their ‘any other business’ emails as they’d got lost among the listings. There are more to come. Soz.

Grouch over. I won’t come back to this subject for at least a week, I promise.

Happy 2014

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year Folks!

It’s going to be an interesting year – there are several developments we need to keep an eye on – but also some very exciting innovations I’m beginning to hear about, projects that could be very interesting and – well, there’s always so much to discover in Greenwich. Let’s do it together…

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to keep on top of things better in 2014 than I did in 2013. My resolutions for this year include updating the Parish News more often, dealing with the postbag more efficiently (sorry if you’re still in that enormous queue,  if it helps I feel VERY guilty about it…) and posting more regularly.

Do feel free to kick me up the cloak on these, but in the meanwhile, Happy New Year…


IKEA Consultation Reminder

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Quick reminder that IKEA are holding a consultation about its proposals to open a branch where the Sainsburys is on the peninsula.

It’s at the Forum tomorrow, Sat 9th November 2013

12.00pm- 7.00pm

If you’re thinking of going, here are some thoughts I (and others) had about it when I first heard of the project.

A petition

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Right folks, on my way out of the door, so can’t stop, but I’ve been asked to tell you about yet another petition, this one about the humungous size of the Lovell’s Wharf development which was given planning permission for one size and has gone for the back-door route for something altogether different – and enlarging the original by a third. We’ve spoken about it before and I thought it was too late to object, but apparently it isn’t so if you’re so inclined, here is the link

Sorry, by the way, about the hap-hazard posting recently and if you’ve sent me mail and I haven’t replied. Life is such that Phantomising isn’t as easy as it could be.

Right – I’m off for a few days. Happy weekend, all.

Greenwich Park, Its History and Associations

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

I realised the other day when I was writing about the little Greenwich Park entrance tokens that I’ve not actually ever talked specifically about the seminal Greenwich Park book (I could have sworn I did but then my brain’s not all there just now and there are nearly 2600 posts in the archives to wade through, gulp…)

AD Webster was the superindentent of the park in Late Victorian/early Edwardian times/ and part of a doughty group of antiquarians very active in investigating Greenwich’s past – I note in the foreward that he thanks a Mr. H. Richardson – I assume that he is this Henry Richardson who wrote another Greenwich history nearly seventy years beforehand and who would have been 91 by this point. The book is published by Richardson’s Greenwich press.

The splendidly bearded chap in the picture is probably Webster – he and a lady friend are inspecting the Roman excavations in the park in the very year his book was published.

Like several of the publications from that period, the book grew out of a talk he gave to the Blackheath Natural History Society and, for my money, it’s still the best (though not the prettiest – that honour has to go to Anthony Quiney‘s photographic record of a year in Greenwich Park.)

It covers everything from history to archaeology, tittle-tattle to flora and fauna, folklore to underground passages. The latter are slightly better described than in John Stone’s pamphlet from a few years later, though still not as well as I’d like.

Our problem is that in the early years of the last century, the underground passages were, if not officially open to all (though some of them seem to have been) not closed. So the writers of the time assumed their readers had already explored underground and didn’t describe them as exhaustively as I’d have liked.

Now, I only know of two people who have explored underground Greenwich to any great extent in very recent times so most of us either rely on Dominic and Per – or go to 100 year-old sources such as Webster and Stone, who at least seem to have a new nugget of something every time I re-read – this time I noticed a reference to a passage that opened with ‘wide stone steps’ at Queen Elizabeth’s Oak. I knew about a load of underground tunnels in the park but hadn’t registered that one. Neat.

And that’s why I think it’s worth seeking this book out. It’s not actually that hard to find because although at one point it became quite rare, it was reprinted in 1971 which watered down the market and made it accessible again. You’ll not have too much trouble finding it at Amazon Marketplace, ebay, Abebooks etc.

They’re both good editions and although it’s always nice to have an original, there’s no great reason to buy the older book over the new – you won’t justify your cash. They’re both hardback, good quality and have the same number of illustrations – both photos and drawings. The only difference I can see is that the map inside the cover of the original has the park coloured in in green, the 1971 version’s completely black & white.

If you’re building a library of Greenwich books, I’d recommend this as one of the must-haves. Look to pay around £20 for an original and around a tenner for the reprint. I’d go for the reprint. If you’re not feeling flush just now, it is available as a PDF courtesy of Toronto University.

Checking In…

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Sorry folks, ‘fraid I’m still in no position to post, but I am thinking of you, do intend to restart as soon as I can and am reading all my mail even if I can’t always reply to it.

Thanks for your patience – it’s appreciated.

In the meanwhile I leave you with a typical June pastime – choir practice under the smoking arcade, taken on Saturday by Mike…

We Interrupt this Broadcast…

Friday, June 7th, 2013

…Sorry, folks. Once again, Stuff very much beyond my control has come up that I have to deal with.

I will get back to posting as soon as possible, but for the moment enjoy the sunshine, go to some open gardens and, er, talk amongst yourselves…



Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Those amazing gardens – I got the dates wrong. THEY ARE OPEN TODAY, 2nd June, and next Sunday, 9th:

Open Gardens – 2 June
1. Tim and Patricia Barnes, The White House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HH TEAS
A walled garden laid out when the house belonged to the Astronomer Royal.
Lots of climbers, good-sized lawn and flowers planted in a rather haphazard
but hopefully cottagey way. And a mulberry tree as old as the house.
2. Ian and Susan Pawlby, 22 West Grove Lane, SE10 8QP WINE
Come and explore a hidden garden in a hidden lane.
3. Jane Custance Baker and Peter Gingold, 51 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ
Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden entered at the visitor’s own
risk. Designed to be viewed from the house, the owner and inept gardener will
do house tours to show the exceptionally varied and challenging site from
different (and safe) vantage points.
4. Ann Broadbent, 14 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER
A very large and peaceful garden, it contains nothing much except wonderful
mature trees including a plane as big as the ones in Berkeley Square. Tours of
the house, which is much more interesting, are also on offer.
5. Susan and Jimmy Gaston, 119 Maze Hill, SE10 8XQ TEAS
North-east facing garden lying under Vanbrugh Castle; raised beds with
shrubs, a pergola covered in Albertine and Brides Veil roses, and a beautiful
dovecote as the centre piece.
6. Alan Bartlett and Simon Gallie, 27 Maidenstone Hill, SE10 8SY TEAS
This narrow hillside garden forms part of Point Hill and features some of Alan’s
RHS medal-winning garden items as well as his chickens. There are many unusual
plants in the garden. Due to the many steps, slopes and limited accessibility of
this garden, it may not be suitable for people requiring walking assistance.

Open Gardens – 9 June
1. Clare and Mark Hatcher, 41 Gloucester Circus, SE10 8RY PIMMS
A walled garden in a late Georgian terrace, the garden comprises formal
elements with herbaceous borders, a beech hedge and a woodland garden
under a horse chestnut tree.
2. Penny and David Matheson, 30 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QH PIMMS
The garden of an 1830s tea-caddy house with a lawn in front and, behind, two
shallow flower-filled terrace beds backed by rose-covered arches through
which one sees a round lawn surrounded by a stone path and banks of
shrubs, ivy and large trees.
3. Teresa and Jonathan Sumption, The Manor House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HG
A large garden standing on the edge of the hill comprising two small formal
gardens, a flower garden surrounded by trellis and pleached apple trees
divided by a parterre of lavender, and a sunken garden with a geometrical box
parterre planted with herbs.
4. Caroline and Richard Newton Price, 3 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ TEAS
New garden, old garden, tea and cake.
5. Geoff and Paula Nuttall, 124 King George Street, SE10 8PX
A small, south-facing walled garden that can be entered by a side gate.
6. John and Helene Mitchell, 4 Orchard Drive, SE3 0QP
Views from the house (wisteria and jasmine) and rear terrace (camellias) lead,
via the croquet lawn and yew hedge, to the orchard (apples, pears, plums and
quince) and a wild area (silver birch, oak and walnut).


Sorry about the mistake – only just found out about it.

Now We Are Six

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

…and a half, to be precise, but, like the Queen, I have an official Birthday. Only just remembered. No virtual bumps, thanks…

Back to Blogging

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year, All!

It’s been so long since I wrote anything that this morning I feel as though I’m taking my first-ever, wobbly baby-steps into the world of bloggery rather than coming up to my official 6th birthday (unofficially I’m six and a half…) so please forgive the tentative nature of this post.

There’s no denying it – I’ve had my eye off the ball. Believe me it was not through choice. But if I don’t get back on the horse now, I never will, and what better day than today, the first ‘proper’ day of 2013.

So today I want to talk generally about hopes and fears for the coming year. As I say, I’ve not been paying close (read ‘any’) attention to local stuff (though I have been reading all my mail and I WILL get to all that on days to come) but I have noticed several stores, cafes and restaurants closing – for me the worst was the loss of Kum Luang, a big favourite of mine, but I also note that Zin has gone (re-opening as something else, I understand) Belle, and I have heard rumour of at least two more shops in the market that I use on a regular basis that will be going in the next couple of weeks.

I was intrigued by a sign in Bullfrogs saying it’s closing ‘for demolition.’ I was initially surprised, given that it’s on the outside of the market, but looking up at the building it looks like 1950s infill – perhaps Greenwich Hospital want to pretty it up as part of the upgrade.

I had a minor panic on Sunday night as I crossed Blackheath around 1.00am and noticed the tea hut completely boarded up, but the next day it seemed to be fully open again so at least phew for that one.

Dedicated Traf Road Co-Op customers will be sad to hear Jackie tells me that Mandy’s resigned – I have no idea what went on there, but she will be sorely missed by anyone she ever served. Buying groceries might be quicker in future but never so much fun.

The sprawling monstrocity that used to be two antique shops and a quirky French restaurant before becoming the bloated Bar du Musee is to be a Jamie’s. Heaven knows what what used to be Soteri (admittedly an awful Italian restaurant, which promised so much and delivered so little) will be, but I’m not putting money on it being anything other than yet another bland chain.

But there must be something good to look forward to?

Certainly the other thing I noticed over the last few weeks is that the bit of Blackheath that had the horses over it has reopened. I’ve only gone past at night so I can’t tell what kind of a job they’ve done of it, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Ditto the park – reopening at a rate of knots –  hopefully the Dwarf Orchard will be fully revealed  this year. I’d also like to see those fancy gates we’ve been promised at the Blackheath end. The ones we have at the moment can best be described as ‘functional’.

The market has its new roof coming in February, if memory serves. I don’t hold out much hope for the Durnsford Street buildings, which never looked lovelier than in the run up to Christmas, and when the shops re-open, I will be curious to see just how many of them will be the same as before (I suspect even fewer of them will still be quirky or independent in any way) but that roof is in desperate need of rejuvenation and if it’s just a simple glass version of what there is now, rather than the ridiculous out-of-town-shopping-mall affair in the original plans it could be rather lovely.

2012 was (Royal) Greenwich’s moment in the sun. 2013 was always going to be the morning after. But on the first day of Greenwich’s (and my own) hangover I would love to hear of stuff to look forward to.

So please – cheer me up. Tell me things that you are looking foward to in the coming year. Anything will do – exciting new shops, events, shows, restaurants – I’ll settle for very little…