After a night of steady rain following an unrelentingly graphite-layered day on which the sun never got out of bed, it stirred itself this morning, weakly lifted its head, peeped through the trees on the Eastern side of the garden, sent exploratory fingers across the lawn, then stared through the living room windows.
Just before noon, when the sun was making its way painfully to its evening resting place on the Western corner, I wandered around the garden before we set off in the car for Clapham and Wolf’s 85th Birthday Party. Not always managing to penetrate the cloud cover, it did manage a feeble salute for Gladstone’s sequoia.
Yesterday, on the forest verge of Upper Drive I had noticed a recently exhumed skull of some forest creature. I wondered how it had found itself there, and, indeed, what it had belonged to. It is still in situ.
Our journey to Wolf And Luci’s home for the afternoon party took just over three hours, sixty five minutes of which was a slow crawl from the moment we left the A3 at Shannon Corner near Raynes Park on the A298 straight through to Clapham on the A24. We hardly ever reached above 7 miles an hour. Consequently we had the opportunity to look about us and see the changes to the landscape that is rows and rows of buildings on either side which are constantly undergoing evolution. Tooting, which had just a few Asian shops when I lived there thirty years ago is now dominated by establishments reflecting the Indian sub-continent. The Colliers Tup opposite Colliers Wood tube station has, in just over a year since we left Morden, had a complete facelift and been renamed the Charles Holden. As recently as 31st October 2012 I photographed Delhi Heights which had, before it was that fusion establishment, been an English pub. It is now Istanbul Meze Mangal, offering Mediterranean Cuisine. On the 16th of that same month The Emma Hamilton in Wimbledon Chase was no longer operating as a public house. I photographed it in its reincarnation as a car wash enterprise. It has now been pulled down and has developers’ hoardings surrounding the space it had occupied.
Even the Nelson Hospital, where our children Matthew and Rebekah were both born, has now disappeared. One part is, the boards tell us, allocated to a McCarthy and Stone residential enterprise. The rest, retaining its facade, but otherwise demolished, bears the NHS logo on its protective barriers.
To the side of the Istanbul restaurant in the picture above can be seen the ‘black elephant’ of Colliers Wood. This is a building which is apparently unsafe either to use or demolish because it stands over the underground railway. It has, I am told, been empty for many years.
It was the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said: ‘All is flux, nothing stays still’.
Some things however, do remain constant. One of these is my forty-five year friendship with Wolf Blomfield, whose party it was today. At a small and convivial gathering Jackie and I enjoyed the company of the great man and his wife Luci, and renewed some old acquaintances, notably Wolf’s children Vishvapani and Sarah who Jackie and I knew when they were children. Grandchildren were represented by Leo and Anna. Some others there have known Wolf longer than I. One goes back seventy years.
We were provided with a feast of tasty sandwiches, samosas, scones with jam and clotted cream, and finally chocolate birthday cake. A variety of drinks was on offer. I enjoyed some very good red wine.
Kiti, who managed the catering, and Luci took a number of photographs. If our friend can take a hint she may e-mail some to me so that I can add one or two to this post. In the meantime, here is one Luci took of Wolf and me not so long ago.