Early this miserably wet morning, Michael drove me from Minstead to East Croydon where I caught the train for Victoria for my next Sutherland Place book packing trip. We stopped at Fleet service station on the M3 for my son to have breakfast and each of us coffee in Starbucks.
Michael had finished his porridge before we received lukewarm insipid beverages. These were sent back and changed. Noticing the driblets, some of which were hardened, on the sides of Michael’s mug, I said I hoped this was because they had re-used our original ones. Then I noticed the lipstick on mine. Back they went. The server told me that they had used the first cups again. When I pointed out the lipstick, he did not persist. Our third receptacles also contained external driblets, but they at least seemed reasonably fresh. We drank them. Not to be recommended.
As we crawled through Hooley on the continuation of our journey, I began to feel that urination would be in order. Michael spotted another Starbucks. As we’d taken the coffee on board in one of their establishments it seemed only reasonable to jettison it in another.
Entering this outlet our nostrils were assailed by the pungent aroma of burning. Vaguely wondering whether someone’s breakfast was a bit charred, we approached the toilets in a far distant corner. The Disabled and Gents doors bore ‘Out of Order’ signs. Rammed into the upper corners of these were small cardboard handprinted notices. The Gents one informed us that the facilities were useable but dusty. Having negotiated the outstretched kneeling legs of a man with his head under a washbasin; about half a dozen large workmen’s boxes of tools; various lengths of copper piping; and broken pieces of porcelain, it was possible, one at a time, to enter a cluttered WC for which the word dusty was definitely an euphemism. It was, nevertheless, useable, as the various quantities of sticky looking yellow liquid bearing a smattering of curly hairs around the rim of the seat and the floor bore witness to.
Passing the time of day with the crouching plumber we realised that his burner was responsible for the unappetising scent that pervaded the eating area.
An Alien sculpture has, since last summer, descended into the grass in Lower Grosvenor Gardens. This contrasts with the more traditional chase represented in a small green opposite the Queen’s well-defended back garden which stretches the length of Grosvenor Place.
The doors of the bus closed on a young woman attempting to leave as she negotiated the high kerb with her buggy. Her cry of alarm caused the driver to open them in order for her to continue her struggle.
I walked to Queensway after the packing; travelled by tube to Waterloo; and thence by overground to Southampton Parkway where Jackie collected me and drove me home.
On the Central Line train I witnessed an interesting manoeuvre. There were two seats available, and far more passengers aiming for them, after I’d sat down. A middle-aged woman planted a large shopping bag on the seat next to me, and herself on the seat opposite. This prevented another woman from taking the seat unless she removed the obstacle. The first woman’s younger companion, following hastily in her tracks, picked up the bag and took the seat. I think you could say the position had been well and truly bagged.
What better dinner could have been waiting for me after a strenuous day in London than Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice followed by her home-made trifle? We thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I the Fiore di Monte merlot 2012, and Jackie her Hoegaarden.