‘Where’s The Tripod?’

This being a Norman and Carol day, Jackie drove me to Southampton where I boarded the train to Waterloo and thence to Neasden by Jubilee Line.  As I disembarked onto the tube platform a young German family asked me the way to an Indian temple of which I was unaware.  They showed the photograph of a large complex in white stone reminiscent of the Morden mosque which I visited on 18th May last year.  I had never seen what Norman subsequently told me was the largest Hindu temple outside India.  The guidebook that contained the photograph was helpful to neither them nor me.  I don’t read German.

I led them to a map on the wall of the station entrance.  There we found it.  Neasden station is on Neasden Lane.  The temple is on the North Circular Road.  These two thoroughfares are separated by the railway line.  There is no route across at that point.  After yesterday’s fiasco, I didn’t really feel equipped to offer further guidance.  Nevertheless I had a go.  They seemed happy with my solution which was to turn left out of the station, left again after a short while, and to weave through side streets to reach the North Circular.  Quite a long way down that they would reach their goal.  I speculated that they might find a bus.  I do hope they made it.

Observant readers may have noticed I haven’t done much walking since the complaining calf I reported on 6th of this month.  This is because it is still whinging.  As I walked from the station to Norman’s, the voice of my Dad, as it often does, came to me.  He had recommended feet pointing straight ahead, not splayed outwards, and shoulders back.  I still attempt to follow his direction.  Dad didn’t quite reach the age when aching joints make this all a little difficult.  Or if he did, he never mentioned it.  It was a German friend of Chris’s who claimed that if, after a certain age, you woke up one morning and nothing hurt, you were dead.  Well, I am not dead yet, and a few aches and pains are not going to deter me.  A strained calf is another matter, and I was under strict instruction from Jackie not to take my usual perambulation to Green Park.  For once I had more sense, and anyway, she reads the blog.

I met a couple of men surveying the large junction at the end of Neasden Lane and was able to confirm that what they thought must have been an old cinema was indeed just that.  This led us on to discuss the Granada, Tooting, in South West London, which has had many incarnations.  Long ago it was built as a magnificent baroque theatre.  In the brief heyday of the cinema it showed films in a splendid setting with three or four thousand seats, and ornate boxes in tiers high above the stalls.  A preserved building, it is now what one of the men termed ‘the finest bingo hall in the land’.  Many years ago I attended there my only bingo session with Auntie Stella.  I fell asleep during the proceedings.

As I sat on the bench talking to the surveyors, I asked them what they had done with their equipment. Roundabout, Neasden Lane Pointing across the roundabout, one said they were keeping an eye on it.  I couldn’t see it, but I thought that was my problem.  Feeling like Harry Enfield’s paternal character, You-Don’t-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That, I suggested they didn’t want to leave it there.  Soon afterwards one hastily gulped down the last of his sandwich and leaped to his feet crying: ‘Where’s the tripod? The tripod’s gone’.  Off he dashed in unsuccessful pursuit. Church Road market He then appeared to be investigating the stalls of Church Road market.  Perhaps that is where he found it, for he did eventually reappear with it.


Norman served succulent stuffed chicken breast followed by flavoursome fruit crumble, accompanied by an excellent Spanish red wine, which he thinks I brought him some time ago.

I then took my usual route to Carol’s and from there to Southampton where Jackie was waiting.

Cultural Change

Bunning, Jackie tells me, is the term given for heavy commercial vehicles lacking the requisite acceleration yet trying to pass others on the inside lane of a motorway.  When attempting this from the middle lane it can take several minutes for one to lumber past.  Those on the inside are generally not prepared to give an inch.  This is apparently one cause of the standing waves that can cause a disruption to the flow of traffic. Bunning on M27 We were subjected to an instance of such a snail’s race on the M27 this morning as she drove me to Southampton Parkway.  I wondered whether the unladen car transporter would have tried his luck had he had a load on board.

In order to turn off for the station we have to filter off from the inside lane.  Sometimes these vehicles obscure the sign, so, in the past, we have missed the turn.  When we know we are near it we must keep behind the marginally slower moving truck.  Overtaking the pair of them risks overshooting the exit, which is not want you want to do when you are aiming to catch a train.  Fortunately we now have it sussed.

Today I began reading ‘Carthage. A History’, by Serge Lancel.

George Irvin's FunfairFrom Waterloo I took the Jubilee Line to Neasden, where posters advertising George Irvin’s Funfair invited visitors to celebrate Eid (see post of 15th August last year) demonstrating how London’s culture has changed since the 1950s when I attended such attractions. Women approaching Church Road marketChurch Road market This progression is reinforced by the immigrants from across the globe converging on Church Road market in search of bargains.

William FryThe depot of William Fry’s scrap metal recycling centre, so often the source of ocular irritation from swirling dust, on this fine day looked almost attractive.

Parking meterIn the Borough of Brent it is still possible to pay for parking if you have the correct coins but no mobile phone.  The City of Westminster, for example in Sutherland Place, assumes all drivers wishing to use the meters do carry such devices.  Coins are not accepted.  Mind you, in Brent it is not only cars that are parked by the roadside.

A thriving carwash service is offered at the Harvest garage in Neasden Lane.  Today, as often, there was a queue, which sometimes causes a little congestion and consequent clamouring of car horns.

Car wash

Chancel House, diagonally across the road, has its own variation on the cattle grid, ensuring that cars do not enter by the exit. Chancel House 'cattle grid' As vehicles leave the car park which is protected by an electrified gate, their wheels depress the teeth waiting to spike any tyres attempting to cross them from the other direction.

Norman served up a luscious lamb shank followed by a sponge with a pineapple base, accompanied by an excellent Portuguese red wine.

From his flat I took my usual route to Carol’s, and after visiting her, boarded the frequent 507 bus to Waterloo.  Thence by train to Southampton where my lady awaited me in the car.

A Splendid Occasion

Today completes a blogging year.  As is appropriate for this particular one, it  rained throughout in Minstead, although not in London.

Jackie was pleased to be able to drive Gladys and Dave to Southampton Parkway with us.  Their trip to Edinburgh happily coincided with my London visits to Norman and Carol.

I took my usual walk from Waterloo to Green Park where I boarded my Jubilee Line train to Neasden.

I don’t normally plan a photograph or manipulate the image to change it.  I picture what I see and crop if suitable.  At almost any time of the day or night in central London, a helicopter will be seen hovering overhead or making a dash to a hospital.  Helicopter over ThamesToday one was hovering apparently motionless high above the Thames.  After I’d photographed it, I realised the potential for setting the flying machine against the London Eye.  Walking on to that feature of the skyline, I raised the camera and pressed the shutter.  Helicopter, London Eye, PigeonFaster than the movement of my finger was the flight of the pigeon that stole the shot.  Serendipity indeed.

The London Dungeon exhibition first opened in Tooley Street near Guy’s hospital some time in the 1970s.  It is a series of waxworks tableaux representing historic horrific happenings in the capital.  When Matthew and Becky were still quite young I took them there to see it.  No way would they be persuaded to enter.  These horrors are now housed in part of the old County Hall, alongside the river. The London Dungeon For years I have been under the misapprehension that it was such as the body that lies at the top of the steps outside the new premises that deterred our children.  Not a bit of it.  ‘It was the rats’, was the explanation Becky recently gave me.  Given that Matthew soon kept them as pets, I was rather surprised by this.

At eleven o’clock this morning Westminster Bridge was marginally easier than usual to traverse half way across.  After this point it was far more populated than ever.  Every race and nationality in the world must have been represented.  Whitehall was cordoned off.  The only way to cross it was via the public subway at Westminster tube station.  The reason for the helicopter became apparent when police cars blocked the entrance to the Houses of Parliament car park.  Every few feet along the approaching streets stood a police officer facing rows of crash barriers.  Crowds of people packed the thoroughfare, cameras hopefully raised at arms lengths above the throngs.  There seemed to me no chance of any point and shoot device snatching a reasonable image of the horse guards and ceremonial coaches glinting in the occasional sunshine. Crowd at State Opening of Parliament I focussed on the crowds through which I was elbowing my way, thankful that I could see over most of the heads.  I had stumbled upon the State Opening of Parliament.

Having reached the comparative sedateness of St. James’s Park, my way across The Mall was again blocked.  Guards bandThe band I had heard getting nearer as I crossed the park turned out to be a military one.  The crash barriers and police protecting the musicians were supplemented the length of this famous street by guardsmen in their splendid uniforms.  There was one pedestrian route across, reminiscent of Birdcage Walk during the London Marathon (see 25th September last year).  Every so often one of the guards would present his rifle and march back and forth across the pathway, eventually returning to his place and shouldering arms. Guards lining The Mall Pedestrians had to hang fire while this went on.  The whole route from Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace was a sight to behold.

Green Park entrance

At the entrance to Green Park itself, a pair of golden arches suggested that McDonalds was now sponsoring this national treasure.

Church Road Market

Walking through Brent’s Church Road market, I felt I was in a different city.

Norman produced a roast pork dinner followed by apple strudel, accompanied by a fine Italian red wine.  I then took my usual route to Carol’s, and afterwards the amazingly frequent 507 bus to Waterloo and the train back to Southampton for Jackie to drive me home.

The two way train journey was sufficient for me to devour Jack London’s excellent story ‘The Call of the Wild’, in the Folio society edition, superbly illustrated by Abigail Rorer. The Call of The Wild It is the savage yet tender tale of Buck, a phenomenal dog who eventually obeys the call.

Captive Audiences

On the soggiest section of the Wandle Trail during my usual walk to Colliers Wood for a visit to Norman, Oscar came lolloping towards me, lascivious tongue flopping, and muddy paws flailing.  At the very last minute this playful young alsation veered off right, having responded to his owner’s sharp command.  The man informed me that ‘he was only saying hello to’ me.  ‘It’s only his paws I was worried about’, I replied.  The bottoms of my Austin Reed fine woollen trousers were already besmirched enough.  Maybe the saliva and no doubt wet nose wouldn’t have been too pleasant either.

A multitude of autumn leaves provided covering for picnic tables across the Wandle in Abbey Mills, whilst a single one.quivering in a spider’s web was about to disappoint its resident hungrily catapulting towards what it thought was juicy prey.

As I boarded the Jubilee Line at Green Park, there was only one available seat, although several people were standing.  A very strange-looking man, who I had noticed through the carriage windows from the platform, sat opposite me.  I soon realised why this vacancy existed.  He wished to engage me in conversation about my book, and kept chuckling to himself, presumably amused by the inoffensive young woman next to me, at whom he gesticulated with regularity.  Fortunately he disembarked at Swiss Cottage.  This reminded me of one of my commuting journeys from Kings Cross to Newark.  I was sharing one of the four-seater arrangements with a young man and an elderly woman who insisted on conversing with our fellow-passenger.  At the top of her voice she really bent his ear.  Other occupants of the carriage gradually moved further and further back and into the next compartment until we three were in sole possession.  Eventually I rose and settled myself at the far end, leaving the very patient young man to his fate.

The vibrancy of Church Road market transcended the dullness of this day.  When photographing these delights I was prevailed upon to convince some people that I was not ‘an Inspector’.  The facades of shops in the street itself bear witness to the constantly metamorphosing multicultural nature of this lively area of North West London.  I am sure if I were to walk along here in a year or two there would be different nationalities represented.  Already the wonderful West Indian takeaway food shop of comparatively recent years has disappeared

Norman served up a roast pork dinner with blackberry and apple pie.  He admitted that his hand had slipped when lacing the custard.  My half of the Mondelli 2009 chianti would have been sufficient without the brandy.

Oiling The Lion

A pair of socks hanging in a tree on this bright, crisp, morning along the Wandle Trail en route to Colliers Wood reminded me of my rugby boots.  On 25th June I mentioned my ingenious scrumping in Cottenham Park sometime in the 1950s.  Remembering throwing sticks into conker trees when younger, I had decided to chuck my boots into an apple tree intending to knock off some fruit.  Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to untie the laces that bound them together.  Soon they were suspended like the socks.  More ingenuity was required to get them down.  This involved the park keeper who was a bit put out.  It made me late for the match.  I couldn’t even invent a story which would present me in a better light.  The news had been spread all round the changing rooms.  Bill Edney, Geography master and rugby coach, was also a bit put out.

On another occasion, when playing for the Wimbledon College Old Boys, I lost a boot on the field.  Rather than stop and put it on, choosing to wait for the next natural stoppage, I continued wearing one sole boot.  I must be the only player ever to score a try with ‘one shoe off and one shoe on’.  (My second name is John).  I was probably lent wings to avoid anyone stamping on my stockinged foot.

A lace once came in very handy.  When Alan Warren broke my finger (posted 23rd July), I obtained a spare, lace, not finger, from the referee and strapped the damaged digit to its neighbour in order to carry on playing.

It will now be apparent that nothing short of instant death would have got me off the field before the final whistle.  When I damaged a shoulder which has given me constant pain for more than fifty years, I couldn’t raise my left arm, but I could rest it across the shoulders of my partner in the second row of the scrum.  How daft can you get?

Sam knew.  When I was about sixty and hadn’t taken the field for fifteen years, he played for a Newark side against a pub team.  Reckoning I must be as fit as most members of the probably inebriated opposition, I sneaked my aged kit along when I went to watch.  Just in case.  Sam was not one to carry on regardless when injured, so I was puzzled at his continuing the game with a twisted ankle.  Afterwards, I asked him why.  ‘Because you would have come on’, he replied.  And I didn’t think he knew I had come prepared.

During Sam’s stag weekend in the Margaret River area of South West Australia the young men arranged a game of touch rugby.  In this form of the game there is no tackling.  You just touch your opponent who must then release the ball.  This was at the end of a day sampling the wineries.  Naturally I joined in.  After all, touch rugby is safe enough.  Sam’s friend, Deutch, 6′ 5” and about 18 stone, forgot the rules and tackled me hard.  Once I got to my feet I took the first opportunity to retaliate.  I couldn’t get my arms around his hips.  It was then that Mick O’Neil, about to become Sam’s father-in-law, sensibly called a halt to the proceedings, because, he said ‘someone will get hurt’.  I think he meant me.

As usual, this morning, I continued my journey to Norman’s by tube.  On the Jubilee line between Green Park and Baker Street, a young woman with extremely shapely limbs revealed by the briefest of running shorts; a ring through one nostril; a diamond stud in the other; and acne on her face cheeks spent her time oiling a lion’s head tattoo which was all that covered her right thigh.  Perhaps she was applying hair care to the animal’s plentiful mane.  Since she was seated directly opposite me, I was somewhat distracted from my book.

Church Road market, in the glory of the sunshine, was a colourful as ever.

Despite having a bad cold, Norman was able to serve up a succulent roast partridge meal followed by apfel strudel.  Sadly he was unable to drink all of his half of the 2009 Dao, so I had to imbibe more than mine.


Cyclist negotiating pools

Heavy rain was forecast again for today.  As a weak sun was putting in an occasional appearance I set off early for lunch with Norman, hoping to get my walk to Colliers Wood in before the deluge.  I was lucky.  The footpaths through Morden Hall Park and the Wandle Trail, except for dogs, once more required the slalom technique.  The animals did create quite a splash, so it was best to steer clear of them.  As I paused to contemplate a photograph, two small, punchy looking terriers wearing scary chain collars tore round a bend and cornered me.  When their owner came into view she cried: ‘Wayne, leave him alone’.  Wayne and his companion both desisted.  I quipped that that was more polite than I was accustomed to.  ‘People’, I said, ‘usually shout ‘Leave it’ (see post of 18th. June).  She replied that she could be horrible.  Glancing at her familiars, I thought that maybe she could.  Maybe the dogs upset my equilibrium, for the photograph was out of focus.  The rain set in as I reached Abbey Mills.

Emerging into the sunshine from Neasden underground station, I was soon aware of the unmelodic blasting of car horns.  Turning the bend by Harvest garage on my right, the cause became apparent.  There was a vast tailback along Neasden Lane.  A 4X4 had left the garage, managed to cross the road, and come to rest on the nose of a sports car on the opposite side.  The sporty driver was somewhat disgruntled.  As were a host of other motorists.  The 4X4 backed up, leaving the centre of the road clear for other cars.  Only for those in one direction.  Which stream would give way was still open for negotiation.  I left the rowdy scene, and further up the road came across a vehicle with its front wheels on the pavement.  The crews of two police cars, who had obviously pulled this one over, were taking details from its Eastern European occupants.  Just before the roundabout where the Lane joins the High Road, a taxi cab had broken down.  The driver spent a long time on his mobile phone, whilst I was sitting reading outside St. Mary’s Church.  Eventually a truck from J. Madden garages came to pick it up.  The scene was a bit too close to the roundabout for the breakdown man’s liking, but he was cheerful enough.  On my return to the station after lunch, traffic was solid on both sides of the road.  A police dog car, its sirens wailing, wasn’t making much headway.  Not a good day to be driving in this part of London.

The pools on the Neasden Lane pavements, pitted with sunken paving stones, were deeper and wider than those described earlier.  This time it was small children who enjoyed splashing about in them.  Their parents took their chances with the slow-moving traffic.

By the time I reached Church Road market, which was its usual vibrant self, it was raining again.  An enterprising stallholder was cashing in on the weather.

Norman provided an excellent meal of boiled bacon followed by rhubarb compote.  The wine was Palataia 2011 Pinot Noir, a surprisingly good German red.  Danni, please note I don’t need an evening repast after a Norman lunch.

Obediently keeping to the left on the way down the steps on my return to Neasden, I was confronted by a phalanx of women carrying buggies, with a man directly ahead of me, walking up the stairs, deep in a paperback book.  I stood patiently facing him until he emerged from his novel and stepped aside.

In the Jubilee Line train, opposite me a man in a navy blue pin-striped suit sat next to a woman wearing a navy blue pin-striped Trilby.  He had boarded the train some stations after her.  They were therefore not otherwise together.  I had already clocked her unusual appearance, including a large, gentleman’s style, watch strapped to the outside of her black sweater sleeve.  Joining the man on the Victoria Line interchange platform, I apprised him of the juxtaposition.  He was rather amused, especially as he had not noticed.  I wondered if the elegant young woman had read George du Maurier’s eponymous novel, ‘Trilby’.

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.