Setting off in the steady rain that passes for summer 2012, for Wimbledon Station en route to Waterloo to meet my friend Tony, I realised I had left my camera behind. Ever the optimist, I went back for it. The owners of the agapanthus in Maycross Avenue had no fear of a hosepipe ban, but I was slightly anxious for my Canon’s electronics. This time I had no doubt; my persistence with sandals was definitely sheer stubbornness. The soles are now worn quite flat and becoming somewhat slippery on the wet pavements.
EDF’s claim on the Waterloo concourse would so far seem to be in vain
Yesterday I mentioned my first annual salary. This was earned in the old Lloyd’s (insurance) Building. It had contained the original ‘Room’ where all the underwriters carried out their business. By 1960, when I began, a second Lloyd’s building, which has itself been superceded, had been built, and my building was occupied by the back room boys, such as me. I dealt with marine insurance claims under the management of Mr. Goodinge, who once gave me a collection of his excellent shirts; and alongside people like Ray Denier who took seven wickets on his first turn-out for my cricket club, and Ian Frederick Stevens, otherwise known as IFS, who was a soulmate for a while. More importantly, my secretarial work was done by Vivien, who was to become my first wife. When the time comes I will write a post about Vivien. This building, known as ‘The Dome’, had no natural light. You could never tell what time of the day or year it was, or what the weather was like. It was here that I knuckled down to what I was assured was a secure pensionable job. This, then, was more important than strange concepts like job satisfaction. By correspondence course I set about qualifying for the Chartered Insurance Institute and thought that would be my job for life. It wasn’t until I became a twenty three year old widower with a baby son that I knew I could do this no more.
The insurance world held me for the first six years of my working life. I commuted daily on the very route, but on very different trains, that I used today; first from Raynes Park, then after marriage and the purchase of a first house, from Wimbledon itself. The trains in those days had carriages with which viewers of period dramas will be familiar. During the rush hour those carrying commuters from Waterloo into Surrey would become packed. One evening two of my classmates who made such a journey were the first to occupy one of the compartments. Each stationed at one of the windows, they pulled grotesque faces and leeringly beckoned to other would-be passengers to enter. In that way they kept the seats to themselves. One evening, travelling back to Raynes Park, the train became fogbound. We remained stationary right outside my home for an hour and a half.
The first three of my years of employment were spent in Leadenhall Street. From Waterloo mainline station it was necessary to travel on ‘The Drain’. This was the name given to the Underground journey to Bank station. I can’t quite remember how it worked, but, at one end or the other of this daily grind there was a long tunnel through which thousands just like me tramped to their destination. You had to go at the pace of the slowest. It felt like a scene from a film about zombies or prisoners of war. Looking back this seems an awful mole-like existence. But security was all, and we made our own fun, pulling each other’s legs and taking some amusement from misprints in memos and the joys of the German language. The Westmonster Insurance Company caused some glee and we became hopelessly incontinent whenever we came across the shipping company whose name sounded like ‘dampsheepfarts’. There were side streets off Leadenhall Street with provisions stores, probably long since demolished to make way for the huge temples now erected in further homage to Mammon. I remember a butcher’s which, at Christmastime had turkeys hanging up like a film set for ‘A Christmas Carol’. (In fact what I remember is probably the still extant Leadenhall Market entered from Gracechurch Street – added 22.12.2020)
On the train today I began reading John Le Carre’s ‘Single & Single’.
This evening we drove down to The Firs. Traffic was very slow on the A3 until we had passed Guidford, because of intermittent heavy rain. Before arriving at Elizabeth’s we stopped off at Eastern Nights in Thornhill for an excellent curry meal