Yesterday afternoon Jackie drove us to Wimbledon where she attended her former workmates’ office party and I should have had a straightforward District Line journey to Edgware Road whence I would walk to the Akash (see 31st October post) to meet Jessie. Not a bit of it. There were no trains in the station. The indicator informed passengers that the first train in would be for Edgware Road on platform 2. It wasn’t. This was a Plaistow train which arrived on platform 1. We were obliged to board that and change at Earls Court. As Wimbledon was the starting point, I got a seat. On which I sat, going nowhere, for fifteen minutes while other travellers filled the train. Prising ourselves out of the packed carriage and onto the even more packed platform at the interchange station was a delicate operation. We then stood, eyes glued to the indicator board, watching for a lighted arrow to be pointed at Edgware Road. After some time an announcer told us to catch the next train which was terminating at the following station, High Street Kensington. After another wait those of us on the crowded platform had to force ourselves into the equally crowded train. A seat was out of the question. I was back in London. It was almost a relief to walk along the brightly lit Edgware Road with the hustle and bustle of its thriving Arab community. At least you could walk round people as they stood on the pavement outside the shops, gesticulating; or outside the pubs, smoking.
In the year since my last visit to the Akash, Arab shops and restaurants have spread further up Edgware Road from Harrow Road. This is apparently affecting Majid’s business, because their customers don’t eat curry. However, the Akash continues to thrive, largely through takeaway trade. I had a very enjoyable meal with Jessie and was welcomed as an old friend by Majid, Zaman, and Shafiq. As always, there were other regulars there.
The tube journey back to Wimbledon and the drive home to Minstead were straightforward.
Waking up a world away from Edgware Road, over our morning coffee we were intrigued by a steady distant drone with a bright tone. After a while it stopped and I, for one, forgot about it.
I walked the loop taking in the road to Furzey Gardens and the ford, making a diversion to look up Steve Cattell who I had been told would be the man to tell me about Seamans Lane. Steve wasn’t at home, but his wife, Pat, invited me in, had a chat, and took my details. Pat, in her sixties, has lived in the village all her life.
I had intended to do my walk in reverse, but hearing the bright drone again, and seeing a slow-moving vehicle start up the hill towards Furzey Gardens, I decided to catch up with it and ask the operative, Jeremy, if he was hoovering the road. Indeed, he was. He stopped and we spoke. On a couple of occasions he had to manoeuvre his vehicle to allow cars to pass. One of these must have been a parish councillor’s because, when he explained his mandate, he said one had just driven past. Jeremy works for The New Forest authority. Three or four times a year he clears the Minstead Roads, when requested by the Parish Council. He told me that when he first cleaned Minstead, in four days he collected loads totalling sixty tons. The vehicle looked like a traditional hoover with a vast tank for its casing and thick concertinaed pipes like elephants’ trunks coiled around the back end. Since there is nothing much other than equine excreta needing to be sucked from Minstead’s asphalt, I thought that tonnage represented an awful lot of recycled grass.
Our evening meal featured Young’s fish pie followed by Jackie’s trifle. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I had some more of the Le Pont St. Jean minervois.