Although with light, intermittent rain, it was a drier day today, so I set off for Wimbledon Common. On the footpath linking Maycross Avenue with Martin Way stood a very tall, very beautiful, redhead closely studying her indigo fingernails, reminding me of the African woman on 3rd. July. As she made way for me she glanced up and gave me a dazzling smile which set me up for the day.
As always when climbing the steep incline that is Wimbledon Hill, I thought of Jack (posted 13th. May). Entering the common I set off through the wooded area for Queensmere, where I had often wandered as a boy, when the tree in the header picture was still standing. I failed to find the lake, and none of the other walkers I met could guide me to it. I got rather lost here, as I had done one day when still in primary school with my friend Tom McGuinness. Since we were forbidden to do this trip on our own and couldn’t find our way home, I did not return until 9 p.m., by which time my parents had involved the police in a search. Had we had a dog then my dinner would have been in it. I was sent straight to bed without a meal, but fortunately Mum relented and brought me a delicious tray of home-cooked food. Somehow that beats breakfast in bed.
It was among these trees that I was subjected to my first mugging. I was a rather large ten year old and had beaten a fifteen year old in a school playground fight not long before. I had admonished this lad for bullying a friend of mine. He had therefore challenged me to a fight at lunchtime. With considerable trepidation I had, at the appointed time, been led into the centre of a ring of what seemed to be the whole school. I can still hear the cries of ‘Fight, fight’, and feel the pushes of the excited audience whenever I stepped back a bit. Like all bullies, he was a coward, and collapsed as soon as I fought back. I was, however, no match for the three teenagers in the wood who sat on me and searched my pockets. Fortunately I had no money.
I never had another playground contest, although I was prevailed upon to join the boxing club at Wimbledon College. Not actually being interested I used the fact that my parents couldn’t afford the subscription as an excuse to decline. Unfortunately I was then told I would not have to pay. I knocked someone out in training and that was the end of that. Some time afterwards, a boy called Rickards, much smaller, but very handy with his fists, who kept a list of those he could beat up, decided it was my turn for the treatment. I offered no resistance, and was duly beaten up. I still remember the acute shame, but no way was I going to hit another boy. Mohammad Ali was much more successful when standing with his arms hanging down; perhaps he had more nimble footwork.
Some thirty odd years after the attack on the common I was walking from my counselling room in Harrow Road, W9, along Portnall Road, when I noticed a left trainer with a leg in it very close to my own left leg. The next thing I knew was that someone was sitting on my back-pack which was on my shoulders. I also carried a bag of books. Although I remained standing I began to feel myself losing consciousness. I was aware that an arm was around my throat and I imagine pressure was being applied to the relevant point in my neck. It was not unpleasurable, rather like the moment of succumbing to gas and air at the dentist’s. Nevertheless I realised I’d better shift the arm, which I managed to do, just as I felt another pair of hands ferreting in the back pocket of my trousers. By then I was down on one knee, still clutching my bag of books. Still rather dazed, I rose, and turned to face my assailants, who decided to run off into the warren that was the Mozart Estate. In those days I would have stood a fair chance of catching them had I not been too dazed to run. Instead I walked after them, which was not much use. I passed a middle-aged man leaning against a skip. When I asked if he had seen two hooded young men he looked at me with hazy eyes, and said: ‘Want some hash, man?’. ‘What am I doing here?’, I thought. It was not until afterwards that I realised that the winder of my Longines wristwatch had gouged a hole in the back of my hand. Perhaps that was what they were after. Fortunately it has a very strong bracelet. All they managed to take was a train ticket for my return journey to Newark. Unless one of them was keen on a one-way journey to the Midlands, I imagine they were rather disappointed. For about a month thereafter I retraced that route hoping to come across my attackers again. Eventually I realised how stupid that was and put it behind me. I still have the watch, and alternate wearing it with the beautiful Tissot given to me as a retirement present by my friend Jessie.
Today, having failed to find Queensmere, I had to settle for the famous windmill, where there is now an information centre. Having been out for more than two hours I’d had enough. Continuing down Windmill Drive and along Parkside, I returned to Wimbledon village where I boarded a 93 bus to Morden, having done some shopping in Bayley and Sage. It was quite fun to leave a posh shop with my veg in a Lidl carrier bag.
At the bottom of Wimbledon Hill the bus driver called out: ‘Can’t you stop those kids ringing the bell?’, at which point a schoolteacher disembarked, followed by a string of primary school children descending from the upper deck, with another teacher bringing up the rear. They all trooped off the bus, and as we drove off, we were entertained by the first teacher conducting an inquest on the pavement in what I thought was a vain attempt to find the culprit.
Today’s deluge came later, just as I was crossing the road to put some documents for my accountant in the post. I got wet.
This evening I had intended to cook up some minced beef, but Jackie got home early and got started on it straight away. The result was I didn’t have to cook and it was a better meal than I would have produced.