‘Put Your Money Down There’

As usual for a London trip, Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway where I boarded a train for Waterloo.  I then travelled by tube to Paddington and walked to Safe Store at Paddington Green to buy ten more storage boxes for another book-packing session at Sutherland Place.

Paddington Basin

Walking through Paddington Basin I reflected on the huge residential developments that have emerged from the sunken waste ground that I knew in the ’70s and ’80s.  At that time the only residents were travellers and their dogs in their caravans and more permanent denizens occupying narrow-boats moored along the canal side.

IMG_5541Today colourful deck-chairs glowed in the sunshine.  Most were empty during the morning.  Some were placed conveniently for spectators to watch the impromptu games of table tennis for which the wherewithal was situated beside the water.  I have seen such tables in Paris and in Soho as reported when meandering through it on 17th October last year (click here to see post).

Buddleia in Hermitage Street

I left the basin via Hermitage Street for which the sign was almost obscured by the ubiquitous buddleia that will take root anywhere.

Hanging basket, Harrow Road

The splendid hanging baskets high above Harrow Road almost rivalled those with which Jackie has surrounded our flat.

Paddington Green Children's Hospital

The original building of the Children’s Hospital once serving the public on the Green now appears to be partitioned into residential apartments.Paddington Green in 1789 The Green itself is the only recognisable feature of the scene depicted by R. Sayer in the eighteenth century.

Coming away from the store with my flat-packed boxes strapped with material designed to cut into your hand, I set off to walk to Sutherland Place.  After about ten minutes I thought better of it and hailed a taxi.

The final move has been fixed for 2nd September, well clear of the Notting Hill Carnival.  Margaret, who has continued working in the flat which is now to be re-let, helped me today, as she has done on the previous occasions.  After this I am on my own, and will pack up the rest of the books and other items during the preceding weekend.  She is to arrange for someone to hand me the keys for this.  Brian has obtained a relaxation of parking restrictions for the removal van, but Michael has suggested that what is needed is a suspension of the bays outside the house, otherwise we are leaving it to chance that no-one will occupy them.  I will need to enquire about this.

Today’s packing over, I walked to Queensway and travelled by underground to Waterloo.

Buying my ticket at Waterloo was an interesting process.  The monthly return with my aged concessions taken into consideration amounted to £23.15.  I slipped a £20 note under the teller’s protective glass screen and said ‘the rest is coming’, as I pulled a handful of coins out of my trousers pocket.  A cursory examination told me I was about 20p short, so I proffered a £10 note and asked the man if the 15p would be helpful.  ‘You’ve got enough there’, he said, pointing to my coins.  ‘No, I haven’t’, I replied. Giving me a somewhat withering look, he said: ‘Put your money down there’, pointing to the trough under the grill.  I decided to humour him, and did so.Kensington Gardens  He picked up each piece, sorted them into denominations, and discovered there was not enough there.  I was rather more amused than were the people in the queue backing up behind me.

Jackie picked me up at Southampton and drove me to The Firs where she was in the process of cooking for us all.

Having finished early, I took a brief sojourn in Kensington Gardens, through which I have run many a mile.  Londoners and visitors were basking in the afternoon sunshine.  Some sat on the grass.  Others walked or cycled.  Boris's BikesBoris’s Bikes were much in demand, and judging by the wobbling progress of some of their riders I thought it a good thing they were not travelling along Bayswater Road.

Jackie’s meal was a delicious chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by apple and blackberry pie and lemon tart.  This was shared by the same family members as yesterday. I drank red wine and the others, except for Andy, had rose.

The bright white plate peering through the trees against an inky sky that greeted us on our return to Castle Malwood Lodge was a full moon complete with etched in face.


As I sat down in the London train to which Jackie had delivered me this morning I was greeted by a beaming smile, reminiscent of Tenniel’s Cheshire Cat, from the gentleman diagonally opposite. I knew immediately what I was in for.  It only took a few seconds for me to learn that he was travelling to Winchester.  I calculated that I could probably tolerate the open, friendly, naive, vulnerable chap’s conversation for the requisite seven minutes.  He belonged to a local history society and was bound for an event at Winchester cathedral, the Dean of which he knew personally.  He was able to tell me what he had eaten on the last such occasion two years ago.  This congenial 73 year old fellow keeps himself active through his interests.  As he fished inside his raincoat for his ticket I noticed the tell-tale collection of badges affixed to his jacket lapel.

Soon after my recent acquaintance’s departure, a sleepy bee dropped onto my lapel.  I flicked it off.  Straight into a blonde woman’s hair.  Making an immediate bee-line for that I dashed the creature to the floor with the flat of my hand.  The lady was a little surprised.  The furry little insect landed beneath a family occupying the seats behind.  The father scooped it up with a piece of card, and, with two of his young progeny, one sucking her thumb, in his wake, went off in search of a window.  He wasn’t going to find one he could open.  Indeed, he didn’t.  As he returned he announced that the bee had just changed carriages.  I said he had adopted the technique of someone I know, who shall be nameless, with snails which are chucked over the garden fence.  This must be an acceptable activity because we saw Alan Titchmarsh do it on his latest garden creation television programme.

O2 QeenswayFrom Waterloo I took the tube to Queensway whence I walked to Sutherland Place for the next book-packing session.  When this was finished I retraced this journey to Southampton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.

Queensway’s opening hours and its O2 shop stopped me panicking in 2007.  During Jessica’s last months my mobile phone was indispensable.  It suddenly packed up on me one evening.  I hot-footed it to this shop where it was replaced and I was back in long-distance communication.

WhiteleysI can never pass Whiteley’s department store without thinking of Shirley and Edward.  I often wonder whatever happened to them.  Edward was the small son, contemporary with Michael, of the Whiteley heiress who was the partner of Ivan who was my friend forty five years ago.  Jackie, Michael and I were invited to join them on holiday in Shanklin.  Michael, Shanklin 9.68 - Version 2 copyOn one of our days on the beach, complying with his request, Jackie buried her stepson up to his waist in the sand.

The differing child care practices of the two families proved rather stressful.

Deviating a little on my journey today, I was fortunate to be walking through Leinster Square when a brief storm struck. Stair rods on Boris's Bikes I was able to shelter on the steps of a grand colonnaded terrace and watch stair rods descend on a rack of Boris’s Bikes.  When the rain abated somewhat I saw a swarthy gentleman emerge from a basement flat bearing an armful of new umbrellas packed in cellophane, no doubt intending to take advantage of the weather on some stall somewhere.  By then the gutters were flowing with water and evasive action was required to avoid a supplementary shower thrown up by the wheels of buses along Westbourne Grove.

In my post ‘Curry, A Biography’ of 31st October last year I mentioned the reluctance of the proprietor of ‘Star of Bombay’ to alter the city’s name to Mumbai, which, to me, seemed appropriate. Star of Bombay I see his mind remains unaltered.

On our way back from Southampton we stopped at Goodies in Netley Marsh for fish and chips.  I drank tea and Jackie had diet coke.

Yes, We Do Have Toys

This dull and gloomy morning I travelled by my usual route to Carol’s in SW1.  Yesterday I described a bizarre passenger on the tube, and on 26th September an extraordinary coincidence.  Today I will focus on a typical sample of travellers on London’s underground.  In common with the overground railways London Underground Ltd. no longer term their clientele ‘passengers’.  Now we are all ‘customers’; such is the consequence of our nation’s all-consuming business ethic.  The snapshots which follow are representative of an everyday journey.  On the Northern Line from Colliers Wood to Stockwell, a number of races and both sexes were present.  An Asian man was studying a hefty tome, his document holder, until removed to make way for a paying customer, lying on the seat beside him; another probably originating from a different part of that  vast continent, was either working or playing on a mobile device; a Caucasian woman was reading a novel, and various others were reading Metro.  All were silent except a couple drinking takeaway coffee; the man of oriental appearance with a Scots accent.  I do not wish to indicate that they were slurping their coffee, simply that they were talking to each other.  As the carriage filled up newcomers had to stand.

Metro is a free newspaper widely distributed, and is, I believe, available in other editions in different cities.  Most are found discarded later in the day.  This despite notices in the trains asking people to take them home or place them in receptacles positioned outside stations for the purpose.  In terminal stations like Morden, staff traverse the carriages collecting the unwanted newspapers and dropping them into large transparent plastic bags.

From Stockwell to Victoria the crowd had thinned out.  Metro was still being read; one man’s choice was The Times; and another, plugged into earphones, was attempting The Telegraph crossword.  A young woman wrote in her diary.  A small baby, nestling in a buggy, was crying as his parents vainly tried to comfort him.

The platform and escalators at Victoria were swarming with hazardous wheelie bags.

Boris Bikes 10.12Boris Bikes (see August 29th) awaiting takers were lined up alongside Westminster Cathedral, facing a young man whose smart racing cycle rested against a wall as he consulted a map.  Mansion flats nearby were undergoing splendid maintenance; railings surrounding one block in Carlisle Place receiving a facelift; and brass fittings in the many entrances to Ashley Gardens glistening gold in the gloom.

As I left Carol’s the rain began and lethal umbrellas were brandished in their multitudes.

Knowing that Sam was planning a visit with Malachi this afternoon, when I returned to Morden I popped into Lidl to see if they had any toys on offer.  You never quite know what you will find in the central aisles bazaar.  As I didn’t think a drum kit would be appreciated by the parents of a new baby, or, for that matter, my neighbours, I left there disappointed; which is just as well because at one point later Malachi said he wanted to play with his drum.  I did, however, have a result in the Poundshop which stocked enough cars and farm animals to satisfy this lad who had asked for toys when visiting The Firs.  Danni had set an example when she bought some to produce at Mum’s party.  Taking a leaf out of Bill Burdett’s book (see 4th October), I hid them conspicuously around the flat.

When my grandson arrived he dragged me to a chair, got out his Leappad, which is a junior type of i-pad, and proceeded to show me how to play games on it.  ‘Oh, dear’, I thought, ‘I have been superceded by technology’.  I needn’t have worried, however, because he soon asked me why I hadn’t got any toys and I was able to send him on his treasure hunt.

This evening we raided the freezer for a medley meal consisting of Jackie’ bolognese sauce with freshly cooked pasta; and my chicken jalfrezi with Watch Me pilau rice, chapatis, and egg godamba roti.  Racking our brains we decided the Watch me contributions must have come from a doggie bag gleaned from an outing we had there with Jacqueline and Elizabeth.  Jackie finished the Wickham white wine and I began a bottle of Maipo Merlot 2010

A Little White Lie

Having heeded the weather forecast, I sweltered under an albeit open raincoat on my usual walk to Colliers Wood en route to Carol’s in SW1, then to Norman’s in Harlesden.  Later, I was grateful for the coat’s protection.

Outside a Halal shop in Morden, a delivery man, obviously having risen very early, was indulging in a welcome stretch.  Perhaps my smile was not as kind as intended, because he responded similarly with arms still fully akimbo.  This meant he exhaled rather earlier than he would have liked.

In Morden Hall Park, a woman was walking two ‘Churchill’ dogs.  Or maybe one dog and a stunted Martin Clunes.  For the benefit of my non-UK readers ‘Churchill’ is a model animal in an advertisement for insurance who carries on banter with the fine, humorous, actor, who has chops rather like his.  A mass of mangled slug corpses suggested that slugs are not yet extinct in the park.

Along the Wandle, a solitary Eastern European fisherman was trying his luck.  He thought his photograph ‘very nice’.  A family of ducks was surveying the scene.  Carrying bags of shopping was a man sporting a magnificent comb-over.

Two women on Boris Bikes (see 19th. June) sped weaving through the tourists over the stone sets in the precincts of Westminster Cathedral.  These bikes, sponsored by Barclays Bank, are, in my view, a rather doubtful innovation of the Mayor of London, with the idea of getting more people on bicycles in Central London.

Speaking with Carol about fire alarms reminded me of a burglar alarm on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue when Jessica, Michael, and I lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard in Soho.  On the outside of a shop, very close to our bedroom window, this device was constantly being set off.  Once activated it would not desist from ringing.  The police could never either trace a keyholder or get one to come out and turn off the noise.  One of their problems was that the establishment often changed hands.  On one occasion when it was doing my head in, and the police were unable to help, I decided to take it off the wall.  Armed with a screwdriver and a hammer, I climbed a ladder, hoping no-one was looking up my dressing gown, and set about it.  This was a very complicated procedure in which I had to completely dismantle the offending article and prise apart some wires before the ringing would stop.  Fortunately I had no need of the hammer.  When I returned to bed, hoping to sleep, Jessica suggested that I should tell the police what I had done.  I did.  Five minutes later I was arrested.  On being escorted into the police station I was greeted with calls of ‘ ‘ere, that bloke rings a bell’, and ‘don’t get alarmed mate.’  I think it was the highlight of their evening.  The sergeant informed me that they were not prepared to charge me with criminal damage, but they had to give the owner the opportunity to do so.  And I hadn’t actually damaged anything.  I’d carefully collected up all the bits.  I’d have had more sleep if I’d stayed indoors.  Unsurprisingly, the owner was not interested in pursuing the matter.

Some while later, intent on repeating my misdemeanour, I was halfway up the ladder when a policeman politely asked me what I was doing.  When I told him, he said I wasn’t.  ‘Oh, OK’, I replied, and went back to bed.  Eventually I tried a more subtle solution.  By this time the outlet was selling clothes.  After a particularly bad three nights, I persuaded a shop assistant to give me the phone number of the current owner.  The next occasion on which our sleep was disturbed, I telephoned him.  ‘Whoooaahr’, said I, with a sharp outlet of breath, ‘I think you’d better come out here’.  Now he was alarmed.  I went on to tell him that his shop had been burgled.  In their haste to get away the perpetrators had strewn jeans all over Shaftesbury Avenue.  Naturally, in telling this little white lie, I remained anonymous.  We were never troubled again.  Our neighbours were quite grateful.

I was a bit early for Norman, so I sat for a while on the middle of three benches outside St. Mary’s Church (see 19th. July).  An African man, on the left hand bench was, on his mobile phone, supported by quotes from the bible, expounding his philosophy on the nature of women and the problems they cause.  I wondered what the two Muslim women on the right hand bench would have made of this.

Always a colourful and thriving affair, Wednesday is Church Road market day.

Norman provided a lunch of rump steak beefburgers, followed by summer pudding.  We shared a bottle of Melini reserve chianti, 2009.

This evening I took a 93 bus to The Rose and Crown in Wimbledon Village and walked across the common to the Hand in Hand in Crooked Billet to meet Michael.  Fifty-plus years ago, when I drank there with my own father, this greatly extended Young’s pub was a small spit and sawdust independent establishment run by four sisters.  As I was a little early I wandered across the green to look at a grand house into which, some fifty years ago Dad and I had moved a family.  In the garden was a man, probably in his fifties, having a cigarette.  I told him about the removal, in particular that we had, with a piano we were bringing in, damaged a skirting board at the bottom of the stairs.  This man told me his family had owned the house for about that length of time.

Cyclists, Geese, Ducks, And Tourists

This morning I walked to Becky’s home, meeting Jackie who had driven there.  The route took me via the Mitcham cricket green and across the common.  Walking along Cricket Green on one side of the eponymous conservation area, with the flamboyant clubhouse alongside Mary Tate’s almshouses across the road, one is reminded of how beautiful Mitcham was in days gone by.

Along one stretch of Morden Hall Road half the pavement has been designated for cyclists.  I have never seen a cyclist using it.  London has many such stretches of pavement reducing the width of pedestrian footpaths.  The only one I have ever seen used is actually the first one I experienced.  That is on a stretch of road between Balderton and Newark in Nottinghamshire.  Cyclists may have availed themselves of this, but the ratepayers were less than happy about the expense.  Bicycles ridden on the undesignated pavement can, however, be a menace on the busier inner London roads.  They often speed along, weaving in and out among pedestrians, and steaming around corners with frightening disregard for their or other people’s safety.  I was once clipped on the arm by one on the pavement in The Strand.  As this was in my running days I set off after him and caught him up at traffic lights.  He was rather surprised.  Perhaps not only because I didn’t hit him.  I just had a quiet word.

The roads, of course are unsafe for cyclists, choked as they are with drivers of varying ability.  I don’t really know what the answer is, but surely it can’t be Boris’s Bikes which add more riders to already densely occupied streets. Interestingly, the only pavement- encroaching cyclist I’ve ever seen challenged by a policeman was a man mounting the kerb to replace a Boris Bike in a rack alongside Westminster Cathedral.

Having rounded the cricket green and on approaching the A236 roundabout on the wide pavement I was overtaken by a cyclist who wobbled past me on the inside and teetered across my path into and across this major road weaving his way through the cars approaching the junction before continuing his journey along the opposite footpath.  I swear I had my earlier thoughts before this happened.

Much of my continuing  journey involved crossing Mitcham Common.  Only ever having driven and, I admit it, albeit 45 years ago, cycled along the major roads through the common, I had not realised what a pleasant amenity this is.  The path I took between Commonside West and Windmill Road has at some time in the not too distant past been planted with an avenue of oaks.  A lake in the middle of the common was home to large number of Canada Geese including a mother shepherding her troop of goslings and hissing at me.  These large birds which are now rife in our public parks and canalsides were introduced into this country as long ago as the end of the 17th. century.  It was about the middle of the 19th. century that fortunes were made in Peruvian guano, that is sea-bird droppings, which was highly valued as a fertiliser.  Maybe there is an opportunity for an entrepeneurial individual prepared to collect the masses of Canada Geese excretia, just as Mr. Figg, one of my childhood neighbours, collected horse droppings left by the rag-and-bone man’s steed to spread on his garden.

My path across the common was twice crossed by a skein of what I took to be tourists under the direction of a guide.  They would occasionally stop for a lecture or explanation.  As I watched them file after their leader I was reminded of the duck that had once taken over the pond in our garden at Lindum House.  She came in off the road and trotted down the drive followed by a string of her babies; inspected all the walls and fences bordering the garden, the ducklings following in single file; and when satisfied finally settled her family on the small pond which I had dug myself.  Perhaps the goslings also influenced this memory.

I met a postman when nearing Becky’s flat, and we had a laugh about the chaotic street layout and house numbering in the area, Westmorland Way being the most confusing.

After a day with Becky Jackie fed us all on an excellent chicken casserole after which she and I returned to Morden, both by car.