During odd moments in the last few days, I have finished writing clues for Mordred’s next Independent cryptic crossword submission. This morning, after a final bit of tweaking, I sent it off to Mike Hutchinson, that newspaper’s most accurate and humorous editor. Any further adjustment he may require will only improve it.
This morning Jackie drove us to Wolf and Luci’s caravan at Hurley in Berkshire. Passing Warren Road, mentioned on 23rd. August, with Jackie’s help I realised that my memory had let me down. ‘Shern’ children’s home was not in Warren Road. That was where the baby nursery was. It was closed during my time in Kingston. ‘Shern’ was actually in New Malden.
As we drove through Richmond Park I was reminded of the beauty of this ancient wooded parkland. There was quite a clear light filtering through clouds and sharpening one’s vision of the mature oaks. Cars were hampered by the myriad of cyclists on the road. Joggers abounded on the footpaths. Further on, Kew, despite low-flying aircraft, remains a picturesque village. Properties there are expensive, and much sought after. London, this vast metropolis, is in reality a series of conjoined villages, each with its own history and characteristics.
As someone who had a fairly antiquated idea of caravans, I am always impressed with the accommodation available in our friends’ second home in Hurleyford caravan park. They have two bedrooms, a fully fitted kitchen, and an ample shower room. The prefabricated building is what is called a static, in that it is a permanent fixture. All the plots have their own gardens, and the sites overlook fields or the river Thames. Owners can be resident for only eleven months of the year; they are contractually obliged to provide a permanent address for the other month. It is an idyllic spot which was discovered almost twenty years ago by Wolf’s late, lifelong, friend Robert when he was out walking one day.
We spent the day eating delicious salads and fruit crumble prepared by Luci, with red, white, and rose wines and fruit juices; talking; escaping the thunderstorm; and managing, between showers, a short walk. The rectangular walk took us round the field that is immediately behind the caravan, and along the Thames bank.
Apparently their cat, Aggie, is prone to wander. One day she came home without her collar. A day or two after Wolf and Luci had returned to their house in Clapham, they received a telephone call from a woman who had found it in a nearby hedge. This reminded me of a collar I had once found. My flat in Sutherland Place, W2, was plagued by neighbours’ cats. They seemed to think it was their territory. Boldly they walked in through the windows as if they owned the place, or simply sat on the windowsill observing me. These came from at least three sources. They were all fancy creatures. In W2 you don’t see many decently respectable moggies. Only indecently disrespectful pedigree animals who come in uninvited and scratch up your upholstery. I happened gently to mention this in passing to the owner of two of these feline intruders. She provided me with a squirt gun. In my younger days, I rather fancied myself as Clint Eastwood, but no way would I ever have beaten him to the draw. By the time I had reached my weapon, the cats were long gone. I took to chucking whatever I had in my hand at the time at any intruders, once scoring a direct hit with a loose-leaf file. Despite having to pick up all the loosened sheets, I found this rather satisfying.
One morning at about 5 a.m., for some reason which I cannot now remember, I went into the sitting room of my flat. The room was empty but for a coating of long white fur all over the carpet and all the furniture. It looked like a chicken run after a fox has been at it. In the fireplace was one solitary cat collar with a bit of black fur attached to it. Sure enough, it bore next door’s address. I returned the collar to its owner, the black cat. What of the white fur? Well, there was one most exotic creature. It had a very long, completely white, coat. I had never seen it in my flat, but it often sat on the sill. I always imagined it didn’t want to ruin its hairdo by squeezing under the window. I think it was called a Norwegian. I never saw it again. ‘Murder in the lounge’, said Luci, upon being told this story.
After leaving our friends early this evening my chauffeuse drove us to The Firs in West End.