On this fine summer’s day I set off for Cannon Hill Common, with the vague idea that I might be able to take some nature photographs with which to illustrate this post. In Maycross Avenue I spotted an RSPCA notice fixed to a post announcing that a tortoise had been found. Without anything particular in mind I photographed it. I then began to wander aimlessly, hoping I might find a new route to the common, but sensing I was moving away from it. There now seemed no purpose to my walk. I was covering streets I’d never traversed before, and, as these roads between Hillcross Avenue and Grand Drive seem to go all over the place I hadn’t much idea where I was until a bus stop signed in the direction of West Sutton suggested I might be heading for Grand Drive. This was indeed the case and I walked up to the end of Hillcross and along it for a while until diverging onto the path between the gardens of that street and Morden Park. This was almost a bad mistake, for the path was very overgrown and at one point I had to crouch low to wriggle under a fallen branch spanning the fences on each side of the path. At one time I would have happily crawled through what was effectively a tunnel, but now it’s far too much effort to get on my hands and knees unless there’s something else I can do whilst down there.
Ah, but there was a purpose to my meanderings. I was clearly being guided by whoever or whatever is above. Some distance along Shaldon Drive, which I couldn’t find now without a map, there was another notice pinned to tree. Have you guessed it? Yes, it was a notice offering a reward for the return of a lost tortoise. Naturally I rang the number on this sign. When I explained that I may be able to help the woman who answered to find her tortoise she and I both became rather excited. She asked me whether I’d remembered the number on the first poster, and, of course I was able to say that I had photographed it and arrange to call her back when I had summoned the image to my camera screen. I explained what I was doing with my walks and why I had taken the picture. When I called back I was also able to give the date when the animal had been found and this seemed to fit. As she was currently at work she would let me know later whether it was her tortoise or not. I asked her his name, saying that, of course the story would be blogged. Now this allegedly slow-moving creature had travelled quite a distance, so perhaps I should not have been surprised to find that his name was Brendan, after Brendan Foster the 70s Olympic champion runner. By coincidence, I had known Brendan’s wife’s sister who was married to my friend Tony, and Brendan had undertaken to look out for me and give me a mention when commentating my first London marathon. Unfortunately he had been unable to pick me out in the crowd, which was actually just as well, because I was running in someone else’s place.
Jackie came home early this evening so we could visit Becky. We decided on a takeaway from Deshi Spice. Four people perusing the menu, making choices, then changing their minds; with one person, Jackie, writing down the orders took the usual age to organise. Jackie rang to place the order. No reply. Becky had a look at the menu brochure. Closed on Tuesdays. Just like Paris where everything is ferme Mardi. Not good for Jackie’s nerves. As Becky felt up to it we decided to go out for a meal at The Raj in Mitcham. We had been there before, but it had changed hands since our last visit. It was empty but for one sole middle aged woman seated with a meal and one gentleman waiting for a takeaway. None of the tables were set. We were shown to a table, spread, like the others, with a paper tablecloth. The adjacent table was similarly covered, except that the paper looked as if someone had eaten their meal straight off that, having dispensed with plates. We certainly didn’t have any. Nor cutlery. Nor napkins. One of what we realised was the only two staff took our order. Then we sat. And we sat. And watched Mitcham passing by or waiting at the bus stop across the road.
Whilst nothing was happening I received a call from Sue, Brendan’s owner. Unfortunately the found tortoise was not Brendan. Brendan was 70 years old and the foundling was a baby. Great disappointment all round. In fact this was the second other tortoise found since Brendan’s disappearance. So, if any of my readers come across a tortoise, exactly contemporary with me, answering to the name of Brendan, please telephone Sue on 07809095005. She would love to hear from you.
Getting a little impatient after half an hour or so, I wandered into the kitchen and asked if we could have our drinks. The man who had taken our order, now on kitchen duty, said he was making them. Given that they all came out of bottles I returned to our table hoping that something had been lost in translation.
Eventually the popadoms appeared. Now, it is my firm belief that popadoms are a clear indicator of the quality of Indian food. These were excellent. Maybe, just maybe, our patience could be rewarded. Still no drinks, however, nor any napkins or cutlery. Actually there was an item on the menu labelled Aloo Cutlery. We were wondering whether we should have ordered that. I went over to the cutlery rack and brought a container over to our table where we all helped ourselves. Jackie and Becky had serviceable napkins in their handbags, and I helped myself to the half one under the popadoms. We could see a secondhand one left by the woman at the table opposite but Flo, ever resourceful, tore off the corner of the tablecloth for hers.
Finally the drinks arrived. My Cobra was lukewarm, but no-one else complained about theirs, and it might have caused untold delay had I mentioned it. Then came the surprise of the evening. We were all served together with a perfectly presented and deliciously prepared array of excellent food. When we’d almost finished our meals the napkins arrived. If you are not seeking sophisticated ambience, don’t mind helping yourselves to cutlery, bring your own napkins, and can live with rather grubby surroundings, but want first class Bangladeshi food, then Mitcham’s The Raj is the place for you.
As we left we all stepped over the half-eaten fried chicken leg deposited in the doorway, presumably by a customer of Dallas Chicken on the opposite corner of the street.
And so to Links Avenue and bed.