Archive | March, 2013

Eglise Saint-Martin

29 Mar

via Instagram

Coffee shop review

25 Mar

A few weeks ago Phil Bradbury, who runs the Woodgrange Web site, asked me to write a review of the two coffee shops that recently opened in Forest Gate.

The review is now live and I’d be very happy if you went and read it. If you have any comments – maybe you disagree with my conclusions – please say so on the Woodgrange Web forum.

Sir Robin loves CCTV

18 Mar

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics on 17 March 2013 to explain why this borough – already the most spied on in the country – is investing in even more CCTV cameras.

There are already more CCTV cameras in Newham than in the cities of Birmingham and Liverpool combined. But the mayor is buying more and the risible ‘law enforcement officers’ (not to be confused with real police, as the BBC reporter helpfully points out) are being kitted out as mobile video units, secretly filming residents as they go about their business.

Sir Robin claims that “residents love CCTV” and admits – without even a hint of embarrassment – to cutting more than necessary on other services so he can invest in these extra cameras.

UPDATE: Mike Law has written a far more extensive analysis of the Mayor’s comments and CCTV-fanaticism. Well worth a read.

Yahoo! Hullabaloo

8 Mar

2013-02-15 16.27.04

A blog by me about remote working, which I wrote for my employer’s website.

You can read it at home if you like, or the office – wherever suits you best:

Yahoo! Hullabaloo | betransformative.

Until the cows come home

7 Mar

Cows_on_wanstead_flatsCattle grazing on Wanstead Flats from ‘Epping Forest Through the Ages’

As many as 500 cattle once grazed grazed freely throughout Epping Forest and many of them made their way down to Wanstead Flats. They were a common sight in the summer months and the cause of occasional traffic hold-ups as they wandered across the roads.

But over time the numbers dwindled and in the 1990s a combination of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease put an end to common grazing.

Many local people want to see the cattle back and the Corporation of London – which manages Epping Forest – has promised on several occasions to look at it. In the early 2000s a small herd was released into the northern part of the Forest and I remember attending a residents meeting with a representative of the Corporation who said they were looking at doing something similar in the south.

Sally Hayns, the Public Affairs Manager for the Corporation of London, sent the following email to Linda Powell, a member of the Newham Issues Forum on, in June 2005 in response to a question about returning cattle to the Flats:

We do get quite a few calls asking us when the cows are going to return to Wanstead Flats. As you are probably aware, they were Commoners cattle that were turned out onto the Forest during the summer months by the Commoners who are legally entitled to do so under the 1878 Epping Forest Act. Most of the cows were turned out in the northern half of the Forest but, as they are free-ranging, they tended to gradually make their way down to the southern end because of the better grass. The 1878 Act still applies and Commoners can still turn out their cattle but the numbers doing so declined from the 1950s onwards
due to changes in farming patterns/economics and petered out altogether following the BSE crisis in the 1990s.

The Corporation agrees with your views in terms of the importance of the cattle to the aesthetic qualities of the Forest as well as to the appearance of many areas of the Forest, including the Flats, and the wildlife interest. Many areas of the Forest are deteriorating in terms of scrub encroachment and the resulting loss of plants and invertebrates and many of the open views are being lost. Trying to replicate the impact of cattle grazing with machinery and staff is expensive, more invasive and less effective generally. Accordingly in 2002 the Corporation subsidised a Commoner to turn out some barren English Longhorn cows onto the central area of the Forest as a trial to monitor the impact and with a herdsman to keep an eye on them. There is no economic benefit to the Commoner to do this – he just happens to believe that it is good for the Forest.

We do now need to look at the possibility of extending the grazing to other areas of the Forest and the Flats is one of those. We are currently working on an Integrated Site Plan for Wanstead Flats which brings together proposals for managing the nature conservation, recreation and heritage aspects of the Flats over the coming years. One of these proposals is returning cattle to the Flats. The proposals will be going out to public consultation in a few weeks time so we will be asking people if they would like to see cattle returning to the Flats and, if so, how they might best be managed to deal with issues such as roads and traffic, harassment by people/dogs, etc. the views of your group would be very welcome but it is quite a complex issue.

Complex indeed and nearly eight years later there is no sign of progress. I’m afraid I don’t know the outcome of the consultation on the ‘Integrated Site Plan’ for the Flats and I’d be grateful if someone could point me in its direction.

As Ms. Hayns rightly says, the quality of the land is deteriorating and mechanical intervention is more invasive, more expensive and less effective than grazing cattle. It is surely time the cows came home.

Not wanted here

6 Mar

Here’s a small but important fact about Newham: unlike several of our neighbouring boroughs, no candidate from a fascist party has ever been elected to office.

In fact, there hasn’t even been a BNP candidate on the ballot for a council election since 2002.

Whatever else you may want to criticise our mayor for (and there’s plenty) this is one thing he can be rightly proud of. Despite ongoing economic deprivation, under-funding from central government and an ever-evolving racial mix the far right has never managed to gain a foothold here on his watch.

But while the BNP is nowhere to be seen, there are others who see political advantage in spreading fear and suspicion, people who see an opportunity for personal gain in sowing the seeds of hatred and division. We must reject them too.


1 Mar


About 10 years ago I started a local website called (I still own the domain name and use it for email, though the site is long gone). Of all the emails I received about the site, by far the most common request was for information about an artist who once lived and worked in Forest Gate, L Kersh.

Mr Kersh specialized in what he called “horological collages” – pictures made up from bits of clocks and watches, like the example above. These works have travelled far and wide and their owners were keen to know more about the artist and his work.

I posted a number of these requests on the site and, quite remarkably, various members of Mr. Kersh’s family got in touch. They were proud to know how much pleasure people continued to get from his work:

I found your website on a link from Ebay while I was trying to find work done by Len Kersh.

I am proud to say he was my Uncle, he was married to my Aunty Marion (my Mum’s Sister). I remember as a child going over to over to see them regularly at their house in Station Road, Epping, Essex, UK.

I have fond memories of him and remember him being a lovely Uncle. His Wife now lives in Spain but stays in touch with My Mum on the phone & sometimes pops over to the UK to visit her.

Another wrote:

Just want to let you know that Len Kersh was my uncle and he passed away a few years ago. He had three daughters and I would love to have contact with them.

I live in Sydney, Australia. Thanks to the internet I was able to find cousin Nigel and would love to find these other cousins. I actually met one of them at the factory in 1977.

and cousin Nigel also got in touch:

L (Len) Kersh of London was my grandfather’s nephew. Len’s father, Jack Kersh and my grandfather, Michael Kersh were brothers. They were born in Riga in Latvia, and emigrated to the United Kingdom (Sunderland in Jack’s case, and Glasgow, in my grandfather’s case), where they lived out the rest of their days.

The story goes that Len was a “bit of a lad” in his youth, and got into all sorts of trouble. He eventually left home in Sunderland, and made his way to London. There he lost touch with his family, but made good by developing an idea with which he had helped a family member do a school project – the making of collages from old odds and ends. Ultimately this developed into his “horological collages” with which so many people are now familiar the world over.

I only recently made contact with Jack Kersh’s side of the family as he and my grandfather apparently fell out over some matter, and never saw one another again. It was only by chance that the daughter of one of Len’s brothers, Bennie Kersh contacted me from Australia. I now have the missing pieces of our family tree, and it’s quite something.

I don’t know what happened to Len, but I do know that his brother Charles is still alive and well and living in South Africa, where I am in contact with him through his son, also named Jack. I’ve asked him for further information about Len, but I’m not sure if he will have any further information beyond what I have described above. I do know that Len, Bennie and Charles had four sisters – Ethel, Elsie, Eva and Rose, and I’d love to know what became of them and of Len’s children, if he had any.

I hope that fills in some of the missing information on my distant cousin.

As can be seen from the certificate of authenticity that accompanied every piece he produced Kersh’s studio (or “factory” as his niece called it) was at 332 Romford Road. Sadly, there’s nothing now there to tell the world that this was where Kersh worked.