Escape the Village Coffee Crowds, Head South!

As well as pubs we Radicals sometimes frequent coffee shops (honestly, see the recent post on coffee shops out in Charlton and Woolwich for proof!). The options in Blackheath are great but their popularity means it can sometimes be difficult to find space to sit down. If, like us, you sometimes feel the need to escape the crowded coffee caffeine culture (and Chelsea tractor-buggy traffic jams) of the village, a short meander south provides respite and a few good local coffee shops.

With Jam and Bread on Lee High Road, a few minutes walk from Sainsbury’s, opened back in 2011 and has been a great success, serving a good range of coffees and cakes in a comfortable environment. Although don’t try on a Sunday as the staff need a rest! One reason for setting up the café was the lack of places in the local area of the owner. Since then we’ve gained more.

Ruby&NormRuby and Norm is a quirky mix of vintage shop and coffee shop, plus they do light meals too! Situated on Lee High Road, opposite Boone’s Chapel there are comfy sofas, tables and a nice garden area to relax in with the papers. And you may find something a bit different to buy in there too. Oh, and they host numerous classes and gatherings. All in, an excellent idea and worth a visit.

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Great lights in Archibald’s

A little further, past Manor House Gardens on Manor Park is Archibald’s. Coffee, breakfast, brunch needs are catered for. On a weekend bread from Quaggy bakery in Lewisham can also be bought, but you have to be quick! It has a bit of a retro feel inside – this Radical recalls similar chairs at school – and the outside area is all-weather with heaters, blankets, and screens keeping out the weather as autumn arrives.

Or if you fancy coffee or ice cream, pop into Pistachio’s in the Park in Manor House Gardens. Handy if you’re visiting the farmer’s market on the first Saturday of the month or are just having a wander around the gardens.

We Radicals do like grabbing a coffee in the village but it is sometimes nice to try somewhere new, and all these are independent places that get and deserve local support.

Hyper Local Policing Team Newsletter

Being a Radical and leading the village’s very own Revolutionary movement is of course an edgy business – our campaign for a local cheese shop has certainly had its moments – but we Radicals are first and foremost law-abiding citizens.

And so we were naturally very happy when approached by the Blackheath Westcombe Local Policing Team to post what will hopefully be the first in a series of newsletters from the Team.  Check it out below and let them, or us, know what you think.  The advice on Halloween night is especially timely.

Blackheath Westcombe Newsletter

 

Blackheath quiz nights: (1) The Railway

Say what you see:

     d’ Gracious d’

No, go on – say what you see.  The first person to give the correct answer in comments ‘wins’!  It took a little while but eventually the poet-philosopher Radical got it.

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And so it was, last Thursday, that the full set of Radicals, plus friends old and new, found their way to The Railway for its weekly quiz.  For those who don’t know, here is the schedule of quiz nights in the village, as at the time of  writing; we hope to get to each of them over the coming months and to give you a blow by blow account.

Blackheath village quiz scheduled 

Tuesday – Princess of Wales

Thursday – The Railway

Sunday – Hare and Billet

Sunday – The Crown

(please do let us know if any of this is incorrect of if we’ve missed anything – for example, does O’Neil’s have a quiz night?)

So, back to Thursday and The Railway.   We had little idea in advance what type of quiz was about to unfold and as a consequence spent part of the build up swotting up on our known areas of weakness – specifically sport.  Between us we learnt something about darts (now forgotten) and something else about football (also now forgotten).  After a while we did manage to recall which teams took part in the year’s (was this year?) World Football Cup.  Thankfully sport hardly featured!

First came the picture sheet, a mixture of guess-who pictures (“Is that a young Eddie Murphy?” It was), cryptic word puzzles (see above) and places/logos.  We did pretty well and the consensus was that they were a fun part of the quiz – comprising nine out of 40 questions.

The majority of the rest of the quiz was a mixture of questions spanning pop music (we were foiled by a lack of knowledge of Florence and the Machines), geography (which two capital cities in Europe are closet together?), history, politics, television and an anagram (of DEPOSED).   The questions were well paced and easy to hear – the bulk of the teams (around nine in total) were sat in the raised area to the left as you enter.

Scores were marked by other teams at half and full time.  There were also two ‘free drink questions’ – one of which was secured by our team and delivered to the table (nice touch).

Right – how did Team Revolt do?   We came second, missing out on top spot by 1/2 a point.  We would have won but for a one point deduction for having an extra team member over the six maximum; a very fair deduction in our view.  Not a bad effort for our first quiz, though coming top would have been nice.

It was slightly surprising to see that once the results were announced pretty much everyone left – including ‘the Penises’ who deserve a special mention for coming last but giving it their all anyway.  Keep it up lads!  Pun intended.

Thanks to The Railway who put on a very entertaining evening which we will definitely do again.  But where next?  Which is your favourite quiz night in the village or surrounding area?  Let us know and we may see you there.  Until then, Uvavu!

 

 

 

Service? No, we’re Southeastern

As with most passengers the Radicals are increasingly frustrated with Southeastern. Admittedly we were before the recent debacle but the Southeastern response is symptomatic of the other issues that long-suffering passengers have had. Namely a disinterest in offering a good service. We believe the customer satisfaction surveys for this year would not have been good before the current event and predict Southeastern will shrug off poor results (as they have in the past) by blaming this one incident. The problems identified by the Radicals are summarised at the end of this post and include possible solutions if we were half-heartedly running a train franchise.Victoria Disruption Sign

The response by passengers indicates clearly the inadequate response. It is unfortunate that we do not have any faith in Southeastern improving the situation or learning from this farce. We need an external review of how it has been managed. This is not the first time Southeastern have been below standards expected by customers and without being held accountable it will not be the last. It also raises serious concerns about how Southeastern will manage the major disruption caused by London Bridge works. We appeal to local elected representatives, particularly Heidi Alexander MP, to lead, advise, question, and assist with a concerted effort using the relevant regulators, ombudsmen, and passenger groups to ensure Southeastern provide an acceptable service to passengers who pay up to and over £1,000 a year to use the service from Blackheath.

In all, it has been a shambles and unfortunately comes as no surprise to most that Southeastern are simply not up to the job. We fear that no matter how much complaint there is there will be no improvement. But we hope that further pressure can be exerted on Southeastern by passengers, local authorities, and local business, who all have an interest in a reliable and efficient train service.

What isn’t working

Delay repay is a bit of an insult to season ticket holders in this instance. This work constitutes massive daily disruption for people. Travelling at different times, some people have to make up time at work, manage children, etc. This Radical fortunately has some flexibility but the revised commute means getting a much busier than normal train from Blackheath to Charing Cross and arriving at work c20mins later than normal. Given many have only been able to travel to and from Lewisham Southeastern should be offering a season ticket refund of the difference between using Blackheath and Lewisham, which is considerable. The Radicals have a query out with Southeastern on whether the new timetable means delay repay is still valid under the revised timetable. For example, if a passenger normally travelled on the 08:42 Blackheath arriving Victoria at 09:06 – a journey of around 26mins. The closest alternative service is the 08:48 arriving Charing X at 09:12 and then the tube from Embankment means that arrival at Victoria would be at around 09:29 (according to National Rail Enquires). So delay repay should compensate every day for that passenger being 23mins late. However, if the 08:42 technically no longer exists due to the revised timetable then delay repay we are concerned that delay repay does not apply. If the latter is the case then Southeastern have shown a crass disregard to passengers.

The revised timetable is laughable. The remaining Victoria service is clearly inadequate and leaves many stranded at Lewisham. The initial suggestion was that Victoria services would be diverted. It is not clear that they have been or if they have just been cancelled. Most people travelling to and from Victoria get to Lewisham and report that they can’t get on a train due to over crowding or have to wait a long time for a service. Why not put on extra services? Again, Southeastern messaging has been mixed. If the service is not up to it then Southeastern should admit this and advise people to avoid changing at Lewisham for Victoria services and use Charing X.

Southeastern should also have considered alternative options for getting from Lewisham to Blackheath (apologies to those further down the line, but focussing here on our area of operations). Southeastern should be working with TfL to offer an enhanced bus service, or putting on a shuttle replacement bus to operate at least between Lewisham and Blackheath – at the moment it is often faster to walk between the two stations. Tickets should also be valid on bus routes from Lewisham to Blackheath and further down the Bexleyheath line (for example the 89 serves a similar route to the train).

Tickets are valid on Circle/District Line between the mainline stations which is of some use, but can it be used for stops on that route e.g. more efficient to get tube to/from St James’ Park and Embankment than go all the way to Victoria and double-back on foot. Equally some may find it faster to go from London Bridge to Westminster on the Jubilee.

The initial response was slow, poor, and confused – and still is. A week and a half in to the work and messages still state it will be ‘at least four weeks’ . At Blackheath there has been the addition of plain, black and white A4 notices at the bottom of the steps at Blackheath. This may be at the initiative of the station staff (which is laudable) but prominent official signage and apologies are required – TfL seem to be able to do it on the tube. Posters that have recently appeared are lengthy and wordy. Why not put up simple and clear posters with information that are clear and easy to read? The type of engineering work is a side issue and the focus of posters should be on which services are cancelled, alternative route advice, and compensation. The things that actually matter to passengers. This should have been done by now.

We would also like to know what compensation Southeastern is getting from Network Rail. For transparency and accountability this should be released. Where does this go? Simply back in to profits? Losses will presumably be limited since most people are still having to use Southeastern. If they can show a dip then fine, use the part of the compensation to cover that, but the rest should be reinvested to provide a better ‘passenger experience’.

This feels a bit like a rant, but Southeastern seems to bring out the worst of us.

Breakfasting across the Borough

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Of course it’s true to say that Blackheath Village can provide for pretty much every need and want – from fresh fish to quality shoe-fittings; fine wine to fine art; natty gents outfits to a bag of chips. It’s even possible once more to buy a copy of the Economist at the station newsagents (though not to read it on a direct train to Victoria!). But we Radicals are nothing if not adventuring types and as a consequence like every so often to venture to parts beyond Tranquil Vale. And as any hobbit will tell you, it’s no good setting about an adventure without first taking time over a decent breakfast. For those who might be similarly inclined we thought it worthwhile sharing our notes on a couple of recent breakfast outings. What do you think? Where else should we visit when out and about and in need of a petit dejeuner?

Firstly to Charlton, and the Old Cottage Coffee Shop in Charlton Park. The setting is first rate, with plenty of outdoor seating offering fine views of Charlton House. And it’s the perfect place to watch a game of a cricket – the main reason this Radical is often to be found there on a Sunday morning during the summer.

The breakfast itself was very tasty. The ingredients seemed to be good quality (often the sausage is the give-away – and this one was a fine specimen) and the portions decent. When you add in the cost of tea and toast (not included in the breakfast price as they often are elsewhere) it is at the pricey end for a full English. And the service, though perfectly reasonable, was not especially friendly nor speedy – on a relatively busy Sunday that is.

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As well as the pleasant park setting, the Old Cottage itself is particularly quaint and, in a good way, idiosyncratic – with Tudor inspired wall paper inside, plenty of newspapers to read and very comfortable furnishings. If you ever have elderly relatives with you and want to set them down somewhere safe for an hour or so, this is the place!

Next to Woolwich and the somewhat trendier Koffees and Kream. Though quite different to the Old Cottage it is the same reason, sport, which sees your Radicals visit K&K – in this case, the weekly game of squash. Yes, yes – you may well ask go to the effort of playing (a term to be used very loosely) squash for 40 minutes and then having a full English breakfast. To which there is no convincing answer so we’ll settle for ‘yin and yang’ and leave it at that.

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K&K, despite the annoying mis-spelling in its name (presumably it’s meant to be kool?), is actually a fantastic addition to Woolwich. It has a very relaxed vibe, a sort of cross between an American diner and a high-end coffee bar. The décor on the out and inside is very well done and the whole place feels comfortable, fresh and welcoming. The free wifi is also very good – this is the sort of place you could spend some time working on the laptop whilst drinking the pretty decent coffee.

Again the service, at least on our first visit, was nothing special. Unfortunately there was a mix-up with the order which meant the breakfast took rather longer to arrive (two mugs of tea to be exact) than you would expect, but this was an exception and the manager was apologetic etc. when made aware. The breakfast itself was pleasant when it arrived; good quality bacon, decent quantity of beans and nice toast. And it was well priced. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a license so there are plenty of reasons to pop along.

And, apparently, K&K is already a bit of a hit amongst the SE18 crowd. It hosts popular evenings of music – such as Soul Funk R&B nights from 7pm to midnight. Not really our scene but great to see a place trying this sort of thing. And as a result K&K has a healthy Twitter following (@KoffeesandKream). We’ll certainly be back, so be warned – if you see three figures panting in the corner with squash rackets strewn about the place, keep back!

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