Although it had rained all night the day was a bit brighter and the drizzle lighter. Setting off for Wimbledon again, in Martin Way I met the reformed pipe smoker (see 29th. June post) walking his two Alsatians. Scaffolding was going up and a hedge being strimmed in Mostyn Road.
Walking along Wilton Crescent I remembered the excitement engendered by Angela Davies, the first girl who set my teenage pulses racing. We had met at the school dance, the only occasion on which we were officially allowed contact with the pupils of the Ursuline Convent. I had spent a very uncomfortable few days attempting to learn the waltz, at which Angela considered I still wasn’t much good. Nevertheless she didn’t seem to mind the last one, and we were to share a delightful nine months in 1959. Today, on my return up this road my paths crossed with a robin scampering into one of the established gardens in this beautiful preservation area.
Near Dundonald recreation ground a driving instructor was speaking into his mobile phone as his tutee executed a perfect reverse around the corner I was crossing.
As often when rounding Elys Corner, I thought of Richard Milward.
Throughout my childhood the bus conductors (London buses in those days were staffed by two people) had cried: ‘Elys Corner’ when reaching the original building. It is to Richard Milward’s history of Wimbledon that I owe the information that the founder of the department store that bears his name had offered inducements to the conductors to advertise his emporium in such a manner. Among the stories featured in that book is the one of Jack (posted on 13th. May).
Knowing they would have a display of Richard’s book, I popped into Fielder’s, stockists of excellent art materials and bookshop near the bottom of Wimbledon Hill. The display corner had been given over to tennis for the moment, but the manager of the book section happily created the pictured group for me.
A most inspirational teacher, Mr. Milward dedicated his life to teaching history at Wimbledon College. He was one of those pupils who never really left the school, returning after university to take up his life’s work. Learning about the Tudors and Stuarts we would eagerly await ‘Sid’ striding into the classroom with a rolled up chart under his arm. This would be hung on the wall to illustrate the day’s lesson. These were beautifully produced maps and diagrams which brought the subject alive. He had made each and every one. He was, like me, a cricket fanatic. I still have the history of cricket he inspired me to write and illustrate as a homework exercise. His nickname, ‘Sid’, was taken from a lesser known bandleader who once performed at Wimbledon Theatre. The title of this piece is taken from a one-time advertising slogan for recruitment into his profession. It was so true.
Quite different was ‘Moses’, whose remit was European History, so named because he was an ancient priest. His teaching aid was a small dog-eared, equally antique, exercise book from which, seated in his pulpit, never taking his eyes off the page, he would churn out notes he must have made much earlier, as if he were reciting an oft-repeated sermon. For some reason, Moses always picked on me. Until one miraculous Monday morning, he didn’t actually know my name. He had decided to climb down from his perch and wander round the classroom. Passing my desk and glancing at my exercise book, reading the name, he asked: ‘Knight? Are you the famous bowler?’. ‘That’ll be my brother Chris’, I replied. ‘But didn’t you get eight wickets on Saturday?’, he continued. Well, I had. (I also got seven on the Sunday, but as that was in a club match I thought it best not to mention it). From then on the sun shone out of my backside.
Another priest who also used me as a butt was Fr. Bermingham. He did it so often that one of the boys ran a book on how many times this would happen in any particular lesson. Quite a bit of pocket money changed hands. Now, as I sat in the same place for both periods, in the centre of the front row, because I was just beginning to realise I should have my eyes tested, I thought it might be politic to move. I therefore took up residence right at the back, to the left of his area of vision. As if on cue, quite early on in the proceedings, he opened his mouth to speak, looked in what he thought was my direction, closed his mouth, and scanned the rows of grinning boys. Eventually lighting on my similarly smiling face, he said: ‘Ah, there you are Knight, like a great moon over the horizon’. At least he knew my name. However, he had just given me another one. For the rest of my schooldays I was known as ‘Moon’.
Please don’t get the impression I was a victim. Most of the masters, like Bryan Snalune, who may get a mention when something appropriate crops up, actually liked me. In fact, Frs. Moses and Bermingham probably did as well. Their observations were generally meant to be humorous.
This evening The Raj in Mitcham was revisited. In order fully to appreciate the flavour of the Raj it is essential to read the post of 26th. June. So attracted by the description of our previous visit was Ian that he insisted on savouring the experience himself. Alda joined us with some ambivalence. Now we were six. I must say we were initially disappointed. The tables, albeit with paper tablecloths, were actually laid. Only one of the papers on the the two tables which were pushed together to accommodate us bore the evidence of previous use. A mound of excellent poppadoms was served on time. The drinks quickly followed. Given that they had probably come from the shop next door, we were fortunate to find them, this time, cold. The bottles of Kingfisher still bore their price labels, and the charming cook/waiter/whatever who served us had, after all, said he would go and buy Becky’s orange juice. The second round was more successful as Flo was presented with a large Kingfisher instead of an orange juice. Things got better as we had to wait an hour and a half for the main meal, having previously each received a really good onion bhaji starter. We could forgive our server for not realising we had wanted these with the main meal, and, in any case, we needed something to soak up the Kingfishers while we waited. Eventually the chef asked us if we were ready for the main meal. Ready? We were desperate for it. This time the paper napkins arrived with the food. Once again we were treated to magnificent food all round. It truly is a miracle that these two men can produce such a wonderful meal.
It was Ian who became the first to sample the loo. Unfortunately there was no toilet paper. He decided to pass.
No other customers graced the establishment. Mitcham does not know what it is missing.
The final disappointment was that the Dallas Chicken customers had let us down. There was no chicken leg to step over as we left the restaurant.
And so to car, to Links Avenue, and to bed.