Waking Up To Leatherhead


Yesterday afternoon Jackie drove us to


Leatherhead Travelodge where we joined Helen and Bill, Shelly and Ron in order to watch the performance of

iolanthe brochure

directed by the sisters’ cousin Pat O’Connell.

First, we watched the second half of the Six Nations rugby match between Scotland and Wales.

Next, we dined with the addition of Pat, Christine,and their daughter Olivia, at Piazza Firenze. This was quite the best of the three such establishments we have tried in Leatherhead. Red and white house wines were quaffed, the drivers in the company taking advantage of the fact they they were not having to drive home. My main course was sea bass and prawns served with green beans and boiled potatoes. For dessert I chose crepe Vesuvio, while Jackie selected lava cake, which seemed appropriate. My enjoyable dish consisted of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a pancake with a raspberry sauce poured over it. What added to the fun was that this was served on a flat piece of slate. Perhaps the idea was to keep me on my toes in order to keep the melting ice cream from flowing off onto the table.

There followed a spirited, amusing, and entertaining production with some good jokes, skilful individual performance, and well directed choreography. After this, we spent a delightful time of conversation and reminiscence in the theatre bar, before repairing to our respective hotel rooms.

The was the view from our fourth floor room.

With the sun making sporadic efforts to put in an appearance I wandered about outside the hotel. Leatherhead has received considerable expansion since my childhood in the ’40s and ’50s. One result is the High Street paving that is shared by both vehicles and pedestrians. These two shots looking up the street were taken through parts of a sculpture  featuring aspects of the ancient town, such as the river and railway lines.

Like many of the more recent additions, the setting for this artwork is suffering. Slates are falling off, and graffiti has been applied.

Birdshit, chewing gum, and dog ends

The pavement at the base of the ornamental tree featured in the first two views of the sculpture is surrounded by a mixture of birdshit, chewing gum, and dog ends; people are meant to sit on the cylindrical structures arranged behind the tree and within the enclosure surrounding the elements of it.

Bicycle lock

A metre or so away a cycle rack bears evidence of a stolen machine.

We all breakfasted in the Edmund Tylney, a Wetherspoons pub opposite last evening’s restaurant. Edmund, a Leatherhead man, was Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth I, so he would probably be quite pleased to have a hostelry named after him.

Back at home, the Six Nations rugby match was between England and Italy.

This evening we dined on eggs, bacon, and toast followed by steamed syrup pudding nd ice cream.

Lunch At La Barca


Standing train passengers

Jackie delivered me to New Milton Station this morning for me to catch the train to Waterloo for lunch with Norman. I didn’t get a seat until Southampton. I was lucky; many didn’t. The man in the foreground had recently received a replacement hip. At Southampton Central four more coaches were added, but they brought another load of cattle with them.

Norman and I met at La Barca, just around the corner from the side entrance to Waterloo Station on the Taxi Approach Road. The brief walk across this road, down the steps to Spur Road, and round to Lower Marsh is, on a sunny day, not a pretty one. Today wasn’t sunny.

Taxi Approach Road

The wall opposite the station offers a view containing the forest of cranes that is a fairly common view in the capital today.

Taxi Approach Road

Taxis ply their trade in both directions,

also queuing along Spur Road.

Spur Road

Baylis Road, opposite the end of this, runs past Westminster Millennium Green, featured a number of times since it was described by Steve White as ‘A Beautiful Setting’. The Italian flag flying on the right of this photograph shows how close the restaurant is to the station.

Protective cage

This protective cage may seem a little excessive, but it hasn’t escaped the graffiti merchants.

The lingering touch of autumn does its best to brighten Baylis Road where brickwork is receiving the attention of workers on a large telescopic platform.

Lower Marsh

The cheap and cheerful Chicken Valley rubs shoulders with the more upmarket La Barca doing its best with seasonal decorations. The snowflakes on the ground are in fact gobbets of chewing gum, found on many of our pavements and station platforms.

Man eating in street

This young gentleman dined alfresco.

Across the road the La Cubana’s stall was taking a delivery from an open van.

Veal cutlet

Norman and I preferred to eat in comfort. We each enjoyed a superb leek and potato soup followed by a splendid veal cutlet served with an asparagus sauce, truffles, and roast potatoes. Our shared bottle of wine was an excellent house red Montepulciano. I needed nothing more to eat later.

The outside temperature shown on the car dashboard when Jackie collected me from the return train at Brockenhurst was 13 degrees. No wonder I felt overdressed.



Having just passed through London Minstead this morning on the way to Southampton for my usual journey to Waterloo, we learned the true meaning of New Forest animals having no road sense, and a contributory factor to so many fatalities.
Fortunately Jackie, as usual, was driving slowly down this winding lane. In a flash, almost alongside the car, two ponies burst through the wayside gorse, scrambled awkwardly up a ditch, and staggered forward. As my driver, crying the warning, ‘No, no’, made an emergency stop, one of these creatures swerved and continued along the side of the vehicle. The other, practically touching the bonnet, without a sideways glance, tottered across the road in front of us. Anyone travelling a bit faster and not anticipating the reckless progress of the animal would most certainly have hit it.
This incident put me in mind of Gerhard, known as Garry, a temporary colleague in Mobil Shipping Company where I worked in a building appropriately named The Pill Box from 1963 -1966. Linking the central island on which this stood with the rear entrance of Waterloo Station was a zebra crossing. From my office window I once watched this high flying international management trainee, without warning, march across this pedestrian access bringing an approaching vehicle to a skidding halt. When I suggested to him that this might not be the most sensible way to use the crossing and that he might end up in the nearby St Thomas’s hospital, he replied: ‘Well, it would be his fault’. There wasn’t really any answer to that.
Tube trainFrom Waterloo I took the same tube journey as last time to Preston Road, where the underground trains get to come up for air. John Billam Sports GroundFrom there I walked to Norman’s new home. This took me through the John Billam Sports Ground, which could have graced many a London suburb of its period.
AllotmentsOne corner contains well-tended allotments which bore evidence of recent rotavation. A Yawsolitary jogger ran several laps of the perimeter, and I had a pleasant conversation with a young man who was honing his football skills in what I took to be a five-a-side enclosure. This was Yaw. It was good to meet him and shake his hand. He seemed to have tireless energy, but perhaps he appreciated the brief interlude my interruption had afforded him.
Norman fed us on shoulder of pork with flavoursome savoury rice, kale, and green beans, followed by blackberry and apple latticed flan. We shared a bottle of 2010 Chianti riserva.
I then travelled by Metropolitan, Jubilee, and Victoria lines to Victoria for a visit to Carol.
As I slid my left palm along a metal handrail in Victoria station my fingers momentarily adhered to a glutinous gobbet of gum on its underside.
After my normal journey back to Southampton Jackie met me and drove me home.
In case anyone, having read my last two posts, is wondering, I am still waiting for Penyards’ manager to ‘get back to me’.

The Hat

A comment from Becky on yesterday’s post prompted me to delve back into my photographic archives, and scan three more ancient colour slides.
In June 1971, we went on a family holiday with Ellie and Roger Glencross to their cottage, The Haven, in Iwade in Kent. Matthew and Glencrosses 6.71Here they are, on the beach, with Matthew in the foreground:
Matthew, Michael, Becky and Jackie 8.72The following August, Jackie, Michael, Matthew and Becky – seen posing outside The Haven – and I, spent a week there on our own. Michael displays his ever-paternal response to his brother and sister. The children had yet to learn that it is infra dig to wear socks with sandals, and this was the era of hot pants. It was in this low-ceilinged cottage that I learned to tape newspapers to the beams so that I would see them and bend my head to avoid bashing it. This ploy didn’t always work.
Michael and Becky 8.72Jackie, who crocheted the hat that Becky is wearing in this picture on the beach, tells me it is not a mob cap, such as the one appearing on yesterday’s market stall, but a successor. In any case, almost everything in that display was sold. Becky did, however, wear the prototype mob cap. After she had been pushed around Raynes Park sporting it in her pram for several months, a maternity shop, called One and a Half, in Wimbledon Village began selling mob caps. Jackie is convinced they followed her lead.
So excited was I by the above exercise, that I stayed in my dressing gown until I’d completed it. Well, that’s my excuse, anyway. I wasn’t looking forward to tackling the concrete slabs I had abandoned two days ago. I did, however, take up the task again this morning. This involved wielding the grubber axe in order to penetrate the iron-hard soil on one side of each buried block, and gravel and hard-core on the other. The next step was, when the obstruction looked possibly loose enough, to give it a good kick; to discover that  it still wouldn’t budge; and to repeat the process until it did. Prising it up was done with whatever garden tool was nearest to hand, until there was enough space to get my fingers underneath it and heave it up.
I had thought there were just three slabs in the row, until I came to the corner and found there were more, extending along the long side of the bed. Anyone wondering why I didn’t know these were there, should understand that they are mostly covered by two or three inches of weed-infested earth. Bee on cosmosAfter four of the extra ones, I stopped for the day. After all, it was still hot enough to keep the bees buzzing.
This afternoon I walked down to the Spar shop to replenish our stock of sparkling water. This gardening lark is thirsty work. The rooks, chasing each other across the skies, are back in residence.Ploughing1Ploughing 2Ploughing 3
Roger Cobb was ploughing his maize field.
Bev and John are our only neighbours likely to be affected by a bonfire. I always ring them before lighting one. This was the call I had tried to make two days ago that had alerted me to the problem with my mobile phone. I attempted to telephone them again this evening before burning more branches. I had the same problem. And I couldn’t find the reset button. So I rang O2 at Christchurch. The man who answered the phone knew only of one reset which would wipe all my information. He suggested I took the battery out and put it in again. I did that and it worked. Except that I got a voice telling me my stored numbers were not recognised. I waited a bit and tried again, successfully getting through to Bev. This time Jackie helped with the combustion and we made quite good progress before dinner which consisted of her delicious chicken curry and savoury rice. We finished the Cuvee St Jaine.

Friends Indeed

Backlit maize leaves 7.12

Following Judith’s principle of setting off early in such weather as this, at 10 a.m. this morning I walked out on the Monbos road, taking a right turn towards Thenac.  I soon came to a signpost promising to lead back to Sigoules.  Eventually reaching an unmarked T-junction I had a 50% chance of heading for Sigoules.  Fortunately I recognised the road and turned right.  Had I gone left I would have wound up in Cuneges.  That would not have been fun, for, after yesterday, I reckoned one hour would be enough.

On the road out I chatted to a very elderly gentleman engaged in persuading, with his stick, a miniscule fallen branch from the roadway into a ditch.  Our Morden neighbour, Ken, specialises in similarly flipping cans from our lawn into the road.  Sometimes this takes several strokes of his club.  Each man seems to take on a quite opposite sense of civic duty.  Today’s putter raised his hat when greeting me.  The bare-headed Ken usually raises his stick.

Maize is flourishing, and hay is being bound up and collected throughout the area.  A tree standing guard over one of the bundles obviously couldn’t stand the heat.

As I reached rue St. Jacques, reflective light was playfully dappling the surface of the road and the stone walls of Le Code Bar and the chateau between us.  This kinetic illumination was emanating from faceted baubles strung on wires between the bar and its marquee across the road.  Much more pleasant than the similar static white blobs seen all over the streets of London.  They are chewing gum, and don’t move at all.

Just as I began to settle down to my daily few pages of Flaubert, I heard water dripping in the kitchen.  I waded through puddles to see it pouring from the washing machine.  Come to think of it, the wash I had put on hours before should have been finished by now.  I couldn’t turn off the machine.  Trying not to panic, I turned the water off at the mains and the flow stopped.  I couldn’t open the machine, which was just as well because it was full of water.  As I vainly attempted to mop up the mess the plastic fitment over the mop bucket disintegrated.  It had been left out in the sun and had suffered the same fate as the plastic garden chairs which had collapsed under Michael and me a couple of years ago.  I raided the armoire and chucked piles of towels into the pool.

Then began the process of finding a plumber.  After several phone calls involving answering machines and emergency numbers I couldn’t decipher, I phoned Roger to see if he knew a reliable plumber.  He immediately offered to come down and have a look at it.  Just before he arrived Kim and Saufiene, from Huis Clos came to inspect the work of the shutter installation.  I was then asked to complete a form giving my assessment of the organisation and the work.  For one mad period I was toing and froing between the sitting room and the kitchen; the two patient Frenchmen awaiting completion of the form; and Roger, enviably crouched down by the machine, coming to the conclusion that it was kaput.  The word I used for this condition caused my two French visitors great amusement because it also means ‘I can’t be bothered with it any more’.  Roger dragged out the water- and washing-filled machine on his own, found, and disconnected the electric lead, and proceeded to drain off the water so we could move it out of the way for a new one.  Thanks a million, Roger.  The two Frenchmen insisted on putting it in the hall for us.  Kim said he was short but strong.  I had been asked earlier if I was a poet.  I pointed out that, in French, Kim’s statement was a poem.

Then came a wonderful surprise.  Kim lives with his grandparents.  They treat him like a king.  His grandmother does all his laundry.  His own washing machine is in their garage.  He will lend it to me.  No money is required.  He and Saufiene will deliver it tomorrow.

Outside the bar this evening I enjoyed Le Code Bar pizza with a glass of red wine followed by creme brulee.  The pizza was very tasty with a runny fried egg in the middle.