The curry stains I had managed to splash over the front of my white shirt in the Woolston Tandouri last night, even after an application of ‘Vanish’, required a second spell in the washing machine.  Treating curry stains with this solution is truly scary.  What begins as a bright orange colour is transformed into a raging red.

It was such a murky morning when I set off to wander through the streets linking Morden, Raynes Park and Wimbledon that most vehicles had their headlights on.  It was so eerily silent in the minor roads that all I could hear was the echoing of my footsteps and their rustling through fallen leaves.  In Maycross Avenue the stillness was broken by the voices of two gentlemen in a garden.  One asked the other if he was ‘golfing today’.  He replied that he thought he would go to the gym where it would be warmer.  Actually it wasn’t cold.  Further on, the clopping of a woman’s heels alerted me to her presence.  She responded to my cheery ‘good morning’ in a tone which reflected the mood of the day.  Later, the distant hubbub of schoolchildren let out into a playground enlivened the atmosphere.

Raindrops on cherry branch 10.12

On my return up Mostyn Road I approached the keepers’ hut in the John Innes recreation ground in search of the gents.  One cheerily offered to unlock the convenience for me.  He led me through to a wonderful old Victorian facility, undid the padlock which was so low on the ground that I had to admire his flexibility, told me to make myself comfortable, and politely asked me to let him know when I had finished so he could close it up again.  This presented me with relief and a problem.  I couldn’t find my way back.  I’d had no idea of the size of this park.  I was like a rat in a maze.  When I eventually found the man I apologised for having taken so long.  This will not surprise my regular readers who will be aware of my aptitude for getting lost.

Further on I stopped to chat to a roadsweeper who was vainly trying to clear the footpaths of soggy fallen leaves.  He complained that other council workmen were supposed to come along with machines to help him by piling up the debris, but they never did.  A couple of doors away a man was piling up leaves on his own gravel forecourt.  I said that at least he was helping the sweeper.  ‘Oh, he’s just given me bags to put them in’, was the reply.  The Council employee said that the resident could sweep them onto the pavement.  The other man said he was happy to fill the bags himself.

The bulk of today was to be spent writing crossword clues.  Jackie, over coffee, had managed to inspire me to make a start by asking me about the completed grid for my next one, with which I am rather pleased.  Even for the daily cryptic puzzles I always have a theme.  I never state these overtly but often flag them up somewhere in the puzzles.  It gives me great pleasure looking at the comments on line when the hidden themes are spotted.  Today’s must remain a secret until after publication.

I usually have a few completed grids awaiting clueing, sometimes working on several at once.  Given the constraints my themes set me, in the early days before PCs the grid-fill used to take a long time, ploughing through dictionaries to find words that would fit and drawing the grids by hand.  I now have an excellent application called ‘Crossword Compiler’.  This can fill a blank grid at the touch of a key.  Needing specific words or letters to fit a theme makes this more complicated and takes a little more time, but it still cuts down the labour.  I enter what I need manually and the Compiler, sometimes after a bit of tweaking, does the rest.  I still have to write the clues, following the generally accepted rules, and making sure the words and references are suitable for the demography of the particular newspaper.

This evening I made a sausage and gammon casserole which we enjoyed with Terre de Galets 2011 for me and Wickham Celebration rose 2011 for Jackie.

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