The air this morning was full of agonised screeches. Otherwise, silence. We couldn’t actually see anything, but suspected the magpies or foxes were doing their stuff. The magpies were certainly about later. Parent birds were offering strong resistance.
On my usual route through Morden Hall Park to Colliers Wood, for a change, I took a less trodden path between the back of a factory estate and what seemed to be an almost dry tributory of the Wandle. This turned out to be a rash decision as it was overrun with stinging nettles and I was wearing shorts. The similarly clad German hiker entering this path from the far end, near Deen City Farm, had no interest in my nettle warning.
The lingering stinging in my legs reminded me of a similar situation in 2003. In March 2004 my son Sam completed a solo row of the Atlantic, covering 3,000 miles in 59 days. In doing so, at the age of 23, he became the youngest person ever to have rowed any ocean and won the solo race. The previous summer he had taken delivery of his specially crafted boat at Henley and, with his friend James on board, rowed it to Newark along the linked canals and rivers. I had walked alongside collecting sponsorship. This was an 11 day trek over a distance of 215 miles.
En route Mum telephoned me. As often when someone rings a mobile phone her first question was: ‘where are you?’. Now, Mum didn’t realise what we were doing, so she was somewhat surprised when I replied: ‘well Mum, I’m in the middle of a field of head high thistles and stinging nettles – and I’ve got a dustbin on my back’. I then went on to explain that what I had thought was a simple matter of a stroll along towpaths involved some pretty scary diversions, one of which I was in; and the dustbin was meant to collect donations from all the people we would encounter en route. Unsurprisingly there were no donors in this field. I had got myself into this predicament as it had seemed a better option than a field with a bull in it. Upon encountering the bull I had crawled under a barbed wire fence, chucking the dustbin over first, and come to this. I then had to waste more precious minutes ferreting around for those few coins that had been in the dustbin. As I couldn’t see above the undergrowth to gather how far it stretched there seemed nothing else but to press on. Going back would have meant more of the same. Of course, I hadn’t got a clue where I was when I eventually emerged, so I knocked at the nearest house for directions. The woman who answered the door took one look at me, dashed inside, and bolted the door. When I reflected that, quite apart from wearing nothing but sandals and a pair of shorts, and being covered in bleeding scratches, I was sporting a dustbin, I began to see her point. Just to add insult to injury, t-shirt-and-shorts-clad Louisa and her friends, in a couple of hours outside Nottingham’s waterfront pubs, collected far more money than I had managed on my magnificent effort.
Today’s destination was Waterloo Station where I met my friend Tony with whom I went for coffee at The Archduke. As I entered the tube I tripped over the crossed legs of a seated woman. She was very apologetic. It was not until I had sat down myself that I realised I had stumbled across a rather splendid pair of pins. I leaned across the respectful empty seat between us and said ‘I could think of worse legs to have tripped over’. Fortunately she was rather amused. It’s always a bit risky making such a gesture as it is so easily open to misinterpretation. This was accepted in the spirit intended.
It was so hot and humid that this evening’s meal was a salad accompanied by a rather nice Sancerre.