The way the day began took me back to Leinster Mews. Kasia, who has just moved in downstairs, locked herself out when putting the bins outside at 6 a.m.. Not knowing what else to do, she rang our doorbell. After Jessica’s death in 2007, I returned to London and rented a mews house in that street in W2. I moved in on 23rd. December. After the removal men had gone I looked at all the stuff I had to unpack, and decided to go to the pub on the corner for a meal. As soon as I closed the door I realised I had left the keys inside. When my panic subsided I walked up to Harrow Road police station, which I had known well in my days as a Social Services Area Manager, to ask if they could recommend a locksmith. It was freezing cold. Fortunately I was wearing an overcoat. Given the proximity of the pub, I might well not have been.
Full of the Christmas spirit, the desk sergeant said he would contact locksmiths himself. This turned out to be a rather good idea, since it took him an hour and a half to get anyone to come out. From the waiting room I could hear his patter. This is what he told each person he called: ‘Got one of our elderly parishioners here. Poor old boy’s a bit confused and gone and locked himself out. It’s such a cold night I don’t want him standing outside too long.’ At some stage in the conversation he would interpolate: ‘He’s a really lovely old boy’, and when he finally got someone to agree to a visit, he added: ‘Do your best on price. He’s only a pensioner.’ Once he had been successful, he said to me: ‘I hope that wasn’t too patronising. I wanted to make sure they came out.’ I just found it hilarious.
Two men then met me at the house, got in with a card in about two minutes, and told me I’d done that, hadn’t I? They took the policeman seriously and were doing their best on price. In their report they claimed that by the time they arrived I had got back inside. This, they said, would mean I would not get a bill. Their management must have been wise to this, because I did get a bill, which I happily paid. The next day, I left the house as it was and took my myself off to Mat and Tess for Christmas.
A solitary sandal lying on the pavement in Links Avenue, as I set off this morning, reminded me of Ken. During my first years in employment with the Committee of Lloyd’s (see 6th. July post), Ken had run his own personalised taxi service to work. He collected a number of colleagues, of which I was one, and ferried us to and from South London and The City. He knew the side streets like the back of his hand. Whenever we were stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle he would say: ‘It’s either a woman or a white-haired man.’ I now know that he was both ageist and sexist. One morning he was full of himself. He had just answered what for him had been a conundrum. Having seen a shoe fall off the back of a rag and bone cart, he now knew why you only ever saw one shoe lying in the road. Never a pair. Why that should have troubled him I’ll never know, but then he was at peace with himself.
Using my normal route through Morden Park to London Road, I crossed over to investigate the avenues parallel to the mosque site. There is no vehicular access to Central Road from these. They are linked by a grid of back alleys, most of which contain garages. These paths have not been blocked off to prevent intruders, as have many in Morden. The house owners are, therefore, unable to extend their gardens as has our neighbour, who now has a fine crop of runner beans on his reclaimed territory. In Central Road I noticed another group of memorial homes, one of which carries a barely discernible plaque explaining that they were a post-war gift from a representative of the people of Denmark. Another plaque contains the same image that I photographed yesterday.
Crossing London Road from Central Road, I returned home via Morden Park. A vast flock of birds squawked their way across the sky. As they were against the light, I could not identify them. I speculated that they may have been parakeets who had been instructed to scat by the rooks which were there in abundance.
When I set out, the flytipping rubbish was being removed by Council workmen. They said that the problem had been that the rusting iron gates which are normally padlocked had been left open. This, of course was for Eid (see 15th. August). On my return those gates had been closed, and the concrete slabs placed in front of them.
Just before sunset, I ambled back into the park to contemplate the sky. A young Asian man was giving two small boys catching practice. They had to bowl to him and he would hit the ball, pretty hard, and pretty far, I thought, as they sometimes had to run after it.
This evening’s meal and liquid refreshment was the same as yesterday’s.