We had a remarkably smooth drive to Southampton Parkway where Jackie delivered me for the Waterloo train this morning. The weather was unseasonably mild and the transport on time.
From Waterloo I walked the St James’s Park route to Green Park, and took the Jubilee Line tube to Neasden for lunch with Norman.
Stealing Charlie Chaplin‘s audience on South Bank, a very tall policeman entertained the children and their carers.
The struts of the London Eye were receiving routine maintenance on high. Pools of water on the pavement that was spattered with the ubiquitous white spots of chewing gum, offered a different perspective on the capsules overhead.
It was, as usual, blustery on Westminster Bridge where, summoning all my natural, lithe, flexibility, I recovered a grey hat that was bowling along like a rugby ball propelled by the boot of a crafty fly-half. When, in my youth and early middle-age chasing such an oval shaped inflated leather object, I would pray that the bounce would be kind and propel the missile into my hands instead of sending it in the opposite direction. Momentarily, as I grasped today’s quarry, I reflected on my erstwhile playing days. Mind you, even then there was a limit to how low I could stoop on the move.
Having retrieved today’s target, I turned to a group who had just passed me and accosted them with the hat. It belonged to none of them. Applying my recently acquired expertise in hanging Christmas decorations I fixed my find to one of the lamp stands on the parapet of the bridge, hoping it would not soon be seen floating down the Thames on its way to the open sea.
Some minutes afterwards as I neared Boudicca in her chariot, the clicking of heels on the surface of the thoroughfare and the panting of a young woman preceded a tap on my back and a cry of: ‘I’ve lost my hat’. The earlier group must have pointed her in my direction. Either she had not seen her headgear as she passed the post or it was, indeed, in the river. From our standpoint the hat was not visible, having been lodged on the far side of its cast iron stanchion. With some trepidation I led her to it. As we approached, I could see the bow peeping from its hiding place, and hoped it would remain in position for at least a few more minutes. It did. I was rewarded with delighted squeals, an expression of rapture, and a ravishing smile.
A group of horse guards riding at a walk along The Mall made it politic to ignore the green pedestrian traffic light which would have allowed me to walk into their path.
Norman served an excellent pork ragout lunch followed by bread and butter pudding with which we shared a splendid Douro.
There was some delay in starting this meal because I had just received an e-mail purporting to come from a friend in France. This was brief, and in French, stating that he needed my help in an emergency and asking me to reply by mail. I thought it strange, but replied asking him to phone me. I then received a far more extensive message, again in his language, detailing that he was stranded abroad having been beaten up and robbed and needing a large sum of money to be transferred immediately. This I now recognised as what I call an e-mail scam, by which means the crooks hi-jack an address so that even if you do reply the holder does not receive your response. I telephoned another friend asking him to alert the victim. He did so.
These scammers have now become more sophisticated, because they clearly soften up the recipient with a brief initial message. Only when a reply to this has been received do they send the cock and bull story and the request for money. The first message this time hoped I was well and had had a good Christmas.
My friend would not have used this method of asking for my help and he would have had much more suitable sources. Neither would this English speaker have written to me entirely in French, the language in which I fortunately sent my own brief reply.
From Norman’s I took my usual route to Carol’s and on to Southampton where my carriage awaited.