Thanet Windfarm: it’s an ill wind

September 24, 2010

Yesterday saw the opening of the UK’s largest windfarm at Thanet off the Kent coast, capable of supplying up to 200,000 homes with electricity. “The key word is capable,” said an industry source. “On a normal day we expect the 100 turbines to supply enough electricity to recharge the batteries of a remote control, thus saving an unemployed person in nearby Margate from having to get up off his sofa to switch off Jeremy Kyle.”

“It’s a huge step forward for the UK,” said the minister for renewable soundbites, “with only 80% of the money spent on this going abroad, compared with 90% for the even bigger London Array, which will dwarf Thanet. When you add in government grants, subsidies and kickbacks, this is a huge boost to other European economies at a time when they’re struggling. It’s a win-win for the industry. The Swedish owners win with Thanet and the German owners win with the London Array. The advantage of this kind of offshore wind generation is that future profits from this venture go straight overseas without even landing in the UK. It’s great that we can provide a leg up to valuable R&D  jobs overseas.”

“The fact is that British windfarms are 50% more efficient than German ones,” said a wind-power lobby. “That’s because British politicians blow so much wind out of their arses. Concerns about noise are over-played,” he added. “Most of the time these turbines don’t even turn. And when the wind gets above about 30mph we have to turn them off anyway.”

Caesars’ Reign Ends

September 11, 2010

Dateline: Streatham Hill, Friday 10th 2010

All emperors must die, and empires fall. And so it has come to pass that the reign of Caesars [sic] nightclub over Streatham Hill is finally drawing to a close. The effigy of a charioteer and four horses has probably been the most salient local feature for a couple of decades, best observed from the left side of the top deck of a northbound bus along the High Road. I use the term ‘charioteer’ because Caesar was a scout; a soldier’s soldier, who often ventured ahead of his army on foot. Although there are records of him on horseback I doubt very much that he ever drove a four-horse chariot.

Caesars nightclub effigy

Hail Caesar - end of an emperor's rule

Residents have waited for years for the end of this particular empire. In the Thirties Streatham was called the West End of South London for its entertainment venues, and my house sits behind what was London’s largest theatre. Caesars nightclub and the ten-pin bowling alley were the bastard children of more their more genteel forebears; thorns in our side. Situated next to the main bus stops, the latter was a  magnet for trouble between gangs of youths, and closed a couple of years ago. The former attracted their elder siblings, occasionally being the starting point for shooting incidents and car-chases to Peckham via Brixton.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of pigeon-beshat Caesar leaving his lofty perch because I had a life to get on with. As I took the photograph below later, a man trapped in traffic, apparently belonging to that legion of dispossed Caesars-members, angrily asked how much the effigy was being sold for.

Caesar on a truck

Truck off - we came not praise him

In fact, the entire block has been sold to a property developer, as has the back half of the block further north. I understand that Caesars nightclub was costing the owners an inordinate amount in payments to the Metropolitan Police. None of us local residents have shed a tear or raised a cheer over the closure, but that’s because we’re weary from the next war – that against the plans of the developer, which plans to squeeze profits out by pushing the height of the new development up to what we believe are unreasonable flats. Night-time noise has gone, but to be replaced by the day-time disturbance of trucks and construction. And in an area of inner London where car-parking is a problem, for over 250 dwellings, just 91 parking spaces are planned. I don’t own a car, but I’ve seen more than a few fights between angry motorists in my neighbourhood. Which goes to show: you can change the ruler, but unless you take away the reasons for conflict, the subjects will continue to fight.