Monthly Archives: January 2009

Unlucky High Street?

Christmas Lights still up in Blackheath High Street 24th January
I could have sworn it was bad luck to leave Christmas Decorations up after Twelfth Night. They were still blazing away yesterday evening. Maybe it doesn’t apply to street decorations?

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A teaspoon of Blackheath, and an open mind

A TARDIS police box lands in Blackheath

An interesting coincidence:

Bob (writer of the wonderful reminiscence piece published earlier), asked yesterday:

The Blue Police Box (now called a TARDIS in the Dr. Who series) was once outside the Blackheath Bookshop, Tranquil Vale side.

Is it still there ?

It certainly isn’t there, although I wish it was! Does anyone know when it dematerialised?

Now for the coincidence: – at almost exactly the same moment, this piece of Doctor Who Fan Fiction was published!  A story about The Doctor appearing in Blackheath: http://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=28721

Can I point out the site’s wonderful disclaimer: “Doctor Who and its accoutrements are the property of the BBC, and we obviously don’t have any right to them. Any and all crossover characters belong to their respective creators. Alas no one makes any money from this site, and it’s all done out of love for a cheap-looking sci-fi show.”  Brilliant!

The animation above was by me, except for the TARDIS, which was from Wikipedia.

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Stop! Fixed!

The Bookshop on the Green in Blackheath

UPDATE: They’ve amended the page, so no harm done… Think my headline was a little premature.

Kake wrote to me to point out that this site was using a copy of the photo above that I took on their site.  The problem has quickly been fixed, and they have referenced the photo back to this site.

Actually their site looks good too – in fact it’s well worth a look.

Which reminds me-  I found another London Blog, called http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/ full of nice ideas about things to do in London.

There’s a great explanation of what Creative Commons is by Larry Lessig, who came up with the idea. Basically, you can use my work anywhere, for free, but you must link back to it from your site…. And if you choose to modify my work, you have to use the same type of license for your work too – which spottedbylocals.com is doing, which is good!

There’s another brilliant talk about why this is a good idea by Cory Doctorow ( video or transcript ).

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A Vintage Affair

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Just before Christmas, I was contacted by author Isabel Wolff, to tell me that her new novel “A Vintage Affair” was set in Blackheath. She asked if I would like to receive a copy to review. I said I’d love to, but have only just got around to reading it. I should start by saying that the Bugle is a man, a bit of a geek, who usually loves sci-fi, so possibly not the target audience, judging from the cover. However, I didn’t let that put me off, and I’m glad (although I will admit to hiding the cover behind a copy of The Metro whilst sitting on the train from Blackheath to Charing Cross). Why can’t books have neutral covers? I hate the fact that I am directed to a book on the basis of machismo, or equally supposed to discount it as it has a picture of a pink frock on the front!

Anyway, onto the book – the blurb sums it up well:

It is about a textiles expert, Phoebe Swift, who opens a vintage dress shop, ‘Village Vintage’, in Blackheath. One day she goes to visit an elderly French woman, Therese, who lives in The Paragon, and who has a collection of lovely clothes that she wishes to sell to Phoebe. But there is one garment that she won’t part with – a child’s blue winter coat from the 1940s. As Phoebe uncovers the mystery surrounding this little coat, and the child for whom it was destined, she realises that her own life is is to be changed forever.

It is certainly romantic fiction, but is written in a very readable and enjoyable style, almost like a thriller, except that the primary aim is not to guess “whodunnit”, but “whichmanisprincecharming”, and “willtherebeahappyending?” It’s the sort of book that you can virtually swallow whole – definitely a page-turner, and doesn’t require much effort on the part of the reader.

The book feels as though it has been written by someone who is very intelligent, and has researched their subjects thoroughly, but is now writing about those subjects to appeal to a wide audience.

Nearly all of the female relationships in the book are firm and honest – and the friendships are struck up quickly and easily. It also contains that soap-opera fantasy whereby friends and neighbours’ doors are always ajar, and people always pop in – think Ambridge rather than London.

The vintage clothes are used as a metaphor for previously lived lives, the main sentiment in the book is that these possessions are somehow endowed with the emotions of their owners. The book made me feel as though I should pay more attention to the clothes I wear, and not just stagger around in any old thing. I’ve always been slightly suspicious of fashion as an extension of greed, rather than an expression of yourself or of art, but this book definitely puts a positive spin on how clothes can improve a person.

The characters are easy to grasp, and enjoyable, possibly with the exception of the bizarre shop assistant Annie, who, when she’s not auditioning for local rep, is making strange comments about “souks” (p193) and “Grace Jones” (p210)… But apart from this, the more emotional scenes dealing with loss, melancholy, and regret are warm and effective.

The book is crammed full of Blackheath. Many of the books mentioned on this blog previously have only made passing mention of the place, whereas virtually all of the action in “A Vintage Affair” takes place squarely within the village, with occasional soujourns to Greenwich (the view from the Picturehouse bar becomes far more picturesque than the usual view of the barbers that I recall). Everybody seems well-off enough not to worry too much about money – and Blackheath feels a little like a fantasy land from a bygone era. Of course there are also a couple of trips to some vineyards, some romping in grand houses, and up the OXO tower, but those are par for the course, yes?

A few notes about the locations:

Raffles Clothes Shop, Blackheathsistersanddaughters

Village Vintage – the shop at the centre of the novel. From the description, I imagine it being where Raffles the clothes shop is (opposite the church, see above left). However, “Sisters & Daughters” near the station seems quite a nice fit too (see above right).

Cafe Amici, near Bush House, London
Cafe Amici – I couldn’t help noticing in the author’s bio that she used to be a BBC World Service producer… Which made the inclusion of Cafe Amici (right opposite Bush House in real life) an amusing easter-egg.

Costcutters convenience store, Blackheath

Costcutters p243-244- schoolgirls, going to the same high-school prom, being held at the Natural History Museum, as the millionaire’s daughter, dreaming about buying a £245 pound dress, currently working in CostCutters on a Saturday for £45 a shift.

Clarendon Hotel, Garden
Clarendon Hotel p223- Does not get a very flattering write-up (perhaps justifiably) – Phoebe’s non-wedding reception, probably a lucky escape?

Bennett Park, Blackheath, London
Bennett Street– Clearly based upon Bennett Park, next to the station

Blackheath All Saints Church by flickr user littlestar19
All Saints Church – mostly walked past, or bonging in the background

The Paragon, Blackheath, by flickr user John.P

The Paragon – where Mrs Bell lives.

Moon Daisy Cafe – frequent meeting place – possibly based upon Montpelier Coffee Shop?

Chapters All Day Dining, Blackheath restaurant
Chapters All Day Dining p377 – Dan and Phoebe go there to toast Dan’s success.

Blackheath Halls by Flickr user John.P
Blackheath Concert Halls – Possible location for a fashion show? p382

Blackheath Society Newsletter
Black & Green – Nice name for the local freesheet newspaper that Dan works for… Not sure that any local papers around here quite manage to cover the Social Whirl so effectively though! Poetic license, I guess. p206

Author Isabel Wolff interviewed about the book here:

You can read the first two chapters here, to find out if it is your sort of book. On balance, I really enjoyed it, which surprised me!

Not all the photos were taken by me. Click on them to go to the respecitve author’s Flickr page.

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Hanging a Nokia Cameraphone from a kite in Blackheath

Last weekend, we tied an old mobile phone to a kite, and flew it on Blackheath!  Have a look at the youtube video above!

Hanging a Nokia mobile phone from a kite in Blackheath

This is something that I’ve wanted to try for about 10 years, but never had a camera that should shoot video, could take photos on a timer, or one that I wasn’t scared about dropping from a great height.

The results are not that wonderful, and certainly not a patch on this guy’s attempt.  But he had a much fancier cameraphone than mine, and gaffer tape, whilst we had to make do with elastic bands to hold the phone!

I think I need to try making a Picavet Suspension… Then maybe I can take Blackheath’s equivalent of this photo

San Francisco in ruin Kite aerial photo from wikipedia

Without the devastating earthquake beforehand, obviously (photo from 1906 in wikipedia)

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Transparency in Blackheath and in Parliament too

Nick Raynsford MP for Greenwich and Woolwich by flickr user joyoflife

UPDATE: Looks like we won!

This blog is meant to be local, and concerns itself with things that affect my fellow Blackheathens… But I just thought I should mention this issue, as I believe it has the potential to affect everyone who lives here. Part of the reason that this is such a nice place to live is because, generally speaking, our officials are not bribe-able . MPs took a step in the wrong direction this week – by attempting to block Freedom of Information requests if they involve MPs.

Whenever I’ve mentioned something broken in Blackheath, I’ve always referred to the wonderful fixmystreet.com website. Well, the people who make that website, also make another site, called theyworkforyou.com, designed to allow any voter in the UK to contact their MP. But if you should go to that site today, you will instead find this message:

On the 16th of May 2008 the High Court ruled that MPs’ expenses must be published under the Freedom of Information Act.

This Thursday, MPs are voting to change the law to keep their expenses secret after all, just before publication was due and after spending nearly a million of your pounds and seven months compiling the data.

Your MP may not even know about this proposal (it was sneaked out under the Heathrow runway announcement). Please take a few minutes to alert them to this attack on Parliamentary transparency and ask them to vote against the measure.

The outcome of this vote will be prominently displayed on every MP’s page until after the next General Election.

What can you do?

* Write to your MP to protest.

* Join this Facebook group.

If you live in Blackheath (and even if you don’t), please act now, and tell your MP (mine is Nick Raynsford pictured above), that he or she should not vote to change the law in order to cover-up MP’s expenses. This isn’t a party-political issue, it’s about preserving transparency in the political system.

In the past, according to Public Whip, Nick Raynsford has voted moderately against transparency.

Photo from a creative-commons licensed photo by flickr user joyoflife, not especially flattering, but it was the only one I could find online without copyright restrictions.

UPDATE: Times article here. Now over 6000 group members on Facebook!

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Interview for The Londonist

The interview I did recently with top London blog site The Londonist has gone up today!

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