Last night I finished reading the National Trust guide to Chartwell which, as they say, is synonymous with Churchill. Reading of the country’s reaction to his death took me back to 1965 when I was working for Mobil Shipping Company in a building nicknamed The Pill Box, situated outside Waterloo Station near the end of Westminster Bridge. Close to where St. Thomas’ hospital is now. From there it was possible to see the growing queues snaking along The Embankment waiting for some hours to pay their respects at his lying in state.
I still have the colour slides I took of these people in their ’60s coats.
The Pill Box was so named because of its hexagonal shape. Highly modern then, today it no longer exists, having been far too small and therefore insufficient investment for such a profitable site.
Such a warm, cloudless day as this demanded a walk in Morden Hall Park. This it got, not just by me, but also by mothers and toddlers, some of whom were settling themselves on the grass, in anticipation of spending some time there on the first such day we have had since that freak one week spring in March. A group of schoolchildren were having an alfresco lesson. No longer was the park the sole province of hardy dog-walkers and intrepid old men.
The coot family has arrived. This morning there were some chicks squeaking in the nest with their mouths open waiting to be fed, while two were trailing their parents and being given the first of the goodies that were being fished out of the water. These two were not so daft. By far the most plentiful birds at the moment, both in the park and Morden’s gardens, are magpies. At one point I saw six together. If, like me, you can’t get beyond two in the nursery rhyme, Google it to find out what I’m in for. This, of course, is bad news for this year’s avian parents. They can be heard in the gardens attempting to scare off the predators who are certain to reduce this summer’s dawn choruses.
The stream bore masses of yellow irises, and clover had arrived to join the now really profuse buttercups.
Those of you who may be puzzled by Louisa’s response to the squirrels in the loft are entitled to an explanation. Some years ago, when Louisa and I were still living in Lindum House, and I was down in London working for a couple of days, she telephoned me to say there was something wrong with the shower water. It had an horrible smell. I said I would sort it out when I got home. Thinking that Louisa (although that was never her wont) may have been being a bit fussy, I climbed into the shower cubicle to sample it…… No way was I going to shower in that! I instantly recognised the most unsavoury stench as that of a dead rodent. Before Louisa had existed we’d had a dead rat in Soho and that smell, once experienced, is never forgotten.
I ventured into the loft and, sure enough, floating in the albeit securely covered water tank, were the putrid remains of an adventurous squirrel. How it got in there is a mystery. Removal of the corpse was an extremely delicate task. Imagine trying to scoop up a furry jelly which hasn’t properly set. Having drained the tank several times the water was still nauseous. Knowing that Matthew would be able to advise on the problem I telephoned him. He suggested a trip to the local swimming baths – not for a shower, but for a solution. I just had time to get there before they closed, and a very kind young man, at some risk, he assured me, to his job, provided me with a bag of stuff. This was to be applied to the water and subsequently drained off. I had to do this three times before either of us dared contemplate a shower. I hope the young man has risen up the ranks.
Our evening meal today consisted of fish and chips courtesy of Messrs. Young and McCain, Sainsbury’s Basic Mushy Peas and Hayward’s pickled onions washed down with a Shepherd Neame brew from Lidl at £1 a bottle.