Jackie, as is her wont, read me extracts from BBC News this morning, in particular concerning the heatwaves in Australia. The people of Adelaide, in particular, are enduring a temperature of 45.1 degrees centigrade. This made me think of my cousin Gillian who lives there. Gillian is one of the two children of my paternal Uncle Darcy and Aunt Edna. Some years ago when we were approaching middle age and my parents still lived in Morden, Gillian and her husband came over to England for a visit. I met them at Mum and Dad’s home. I had not seen Gillian since she was a teenager and I was about ten. The very next day I boarded a crowded tube train at Oxford Circus. As is often the case, if one is prepared to elbow through standing passengers, picking one’s way over assorted bags on the floor, there was one available seat in the middle of the carriage. I fought my way to it and sat down. Next to my cousin. Had we not met the previous day we would not have known each other.
Some time later, when we were living in Newark, Gillian’s son Ben did the Antipodean roots visit. Naturally he came to stay with us for a day and a night. When this young man who I had never seen before, disembarked from Newark Castlegate station, I watched Gillian’s brother David, with whom we have all lost touch, step down and walk towards me. As I have occasionally pointed out, genes have a habit of repeating themselves.
Two of Dad’s brothers emigrated to Adelaide. Norman left England very soon after the Second World War, in 1948 I think. Darcy followed much later. I only have vague childhood memories of the marvellously named Norman Knight, but I met him when he came to stay with Mum and Dad for Christmas 1985. In this picture we see the backs of Jessica, Sam and Louisa with my uncle at my parents’ Morden kitchen table. Behind him is evidence of the commencement of Dad’s obsession with formica. In searching out this photograph I came across another of the same visit illustrating the meal-table of 37 Rougemont Avenue. I supplemented that post with it.
Elizabeth obviously grouped the sports team pictures together in her ‘through the ages’ series. The next, number 41, is of the Old Wimbledonians Extra A XV rugby team of 1960. I started off in this third team the year I left school. I was to progress no further than the next one up. I didn’t have Sam’s rugby brain.
I stand fifth from the viewer’s left. Someone has clearly amused me. Although I remember most of these men of varying ages, the only name still in my memory bank is that of Iain Taylor, my erstwhile cricket captain. He sits on the bench, first on the left.
There were a number of players in those days who could just about survive the ninety minutes on the field, including half time, without a fag. One of those is standing first on the left. They would light up at the first opportunity. There was much coughing into the beer jug, which, filled with shandy, circulated before the showers. By the time we’d all cleaned ourselves up in a communal bath into which we had either been preceded or would be followed by players from one of the other matches taking place on the day, colour of the water had changed somewhat. It would contain a mixture of mud, grass, and other matter it is best not to think about. Given that we were all boys together, chunks of dislodged turf were often tossed at fellow bathers just as had been gobbets of grub from school dinners in the refectory. After this we would pay our subs and wander into the pavilion where we were fed a warm, hearty meal produced by the ladies of the club. My recollection is that it normally consisted of sausages and mash. I was usually so churned up from the efforts of dashing about all over the field, bending down and shoving in the scrum, or leaping in the line-out, to be able to eat for some time. Beer was drunk. So were some of the members. Rude songs would follow.
The photograph also shows the heavier, leather, ball we played with in those days.
From the mid-1970s to 1987 I played for Geoff Austin’s old boys, the Old Whitgiftians, at South Croydon, where Jessica took this photograph in about October 1982. Geoff and I are in white. Whilst Geoff fixes his eyes on the man throwing the ball into the line-out, I am poised to leap for it. Assuming I gathered it up I would turn my back to the opposition, and Geoff and the player behind would bind round me. Either the rest of the forwards would then gather round and we would attempt to push our opponents back up the field; or I would pass the ball to our scrum half who would send it on its way down the line of backs.
My search for this negative among my uncatalogued collection took a very long time and I found it with some other treasures largely from a trip to Covent Garden that September. One of these pleased me greatly. Two framed pictures that hung in the porch at Lindum House went missing in the move. Using the old method of printing with an enlarger and chemicals I had taken the central third of a portrait of Becky and printed it at A2 size. I thought it was gone forever because I could no longer trace the negative. The two rugby playing pictures were on the end of the relevant roll of film. I will therefore be able to repeat the lost effort.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken curry with rice that defies a label. The base is the wild version of the staple food. Onions, garlic, and mushrooms, are fried with it; a sprinkling of garam masala is applied, and it is garnished with fresh coriander. One day in Morden I had brought back some Maggi stock cubes from one of the Halal shops. This made Jackie think that the Asian cooks must use it. She has added it to her savoury rices ever since. This one was most delicately flavoured. I drank French Connection Bergerac reserve 2012, whilst Jackie continued with the Gewurtztreminer.