Having heeded the weather forecast, I sweltered under an albeit open raincoat on my usual walk to Colliers Wood en route to Carol’s in SW1, then to Norman’s in Harlesden. Later, I was grateful for the coat’s protection.
Outside a Halal shop in Morden, a delivery man, obviously having risen very early, was indulging in a welcome stretch. Perhaps my smile was not as kind as intended, because he responded similarly with arms still fully akimbo. This meant he exhaled rather earlier than he would have liked.
In Morden Hall Park, a woman was walking two ‘Churchill’ dogs. Or maybe one dog and a stunted Martin Clunes. For the benefit of my non-UK readers ‘Churchill’ is a model animal in an advertisement for insurance who carries on banter with the fine, humorous, actor, who has chops rather like his. A mass of mangled slug corpses suggested that slugs are not yet extinct in the park.
Along the Wandle, a solitary Eastern European fisherman was trying his luck. He thought his photograph ‘very nice’. A family of ducks was surveying the scene. Carrying bags of shopping was a man sporting a magnificent comb-over.
Two women on Boris Bikes (see 19th. June) sped weaving through the tourists over the stone sets in the precincts of Westminster Cathedral. These bikes, sponsored by Barclays Bank, are, in my view, a rather doubtful innovation of the Mayor of London, with the idea of getting more people on bicycles in Central London.
Speaking with Carol about fire alarms reminded me of a burglar alarm on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue when Jessica, Michael, and I lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard in Soho. On the outside of a shop, very close to our bedroom window, this device was constantly being set off. Once activated it would not desist from ringing. The police could never either trace a keyholder or get one to come out and turn off the noise. One of their problems was that the establishment often changed hands. On one occasion when it was doing my head in, and the police were unable to help, I decided to take it off the wall. Armed with a screwdriver and a hammer, I climbed a ladder, hoping no-one was looking up my dressing gown, and set about it. This was a very complicated procedure in which I had to completely dismantle the offending article and prise apart some wires before the ringing would stop. Fortunately I had no need of the hammer. When I returned to bed, hoping to sleep, Jessica suggested that I should tell the police what I had done. I did. Five minutes later I was arrested. On being escorted into the police station I was greeted with calls of ‘ ‘ere, that bloke rings a bell’, and ‘don’t get alarmed mate.’ I think it was the highlight of their evening. The sergeant informed me that they were not prepared to charge me with criminal damage, but they had to give the owner the opportunity to do so. And I hadn’t actually damaged anything. I’d carefully collected up all the bits. I’d have had more sleep if I’d stayed indoors. Unsurprisingly, the owner was not interested in pursuing the matter.
Some while later, intent on repeating my misdemeanour, I was halfway up the ladder when a policeman politely asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he said I wasn’t. ‘Oh, OK’, I replied, and went back to bed. Eventually I tried a more subtle solution. By this time the outlet was selling clothes. After a particularly bad three nights, I persuaded a shop assistant to give me the phone number of the current owner. The next occasion on which our sleep was disturbed, I telephoned him. ‘Whoooaahr’, said I, with a sharp outlet of breath, ‘I think you’d better come out here’. Now he was alarmed. I went on to tell him that his shop had been burgled. In their haste to get away the perpetrators had strewn jeans all over Shaftesbury Avenue. Naturally, in telling this little white lie, I remained anonymous. We were never troubled again. Our neighbours were quite grateful.
I was a bit early for Norman, so I sat for a while on the middle of three benches outside St. Mary’s Church (see 19th. July). An African man, on the left hand bench was, on his mobile phone, supported by quotes from the bible, expounding his philosophy on the nature of women and the problems they cause. I wondered what the two Muslim women on the right hand bench would have made of this.
Norman provided a lunch of rump steak beefburgers, followed by summer pudding. We shared a bottle of Melini reserve chianti, 2009.
This evening I took a 93 bus to The Rose and Crown in Wimbledon Village and walked across the common to the Hand in Hand in Crooked Billet to meet Michael. Fifty-plus years ago, when I drank there with my own father, this greatly extended Young’s pub was a small spit and sawdust independent establishment run by four sisters. As I was a little early I wandered across the green to look at a grand house into which, some fifty years ago Dad and I had moved a family. In the garden was a man, probably in his fifties, having a cigarette. I told him about the removal, in particular that we had, with a piano we were bringing in, damaged a skirting board at the bottom of the stairs. This man told me his family had owned the house for about that length of time.