Machine Operated Hoops

On 25th June I mentioned that all the garages had been broken into.  The locks need replacement.  The others are all owned by separate residents.  They will all deal with them individually, which seems a bit uneconomic to me.  However, as a tenant, I managed to get the agent to arrange for a locksmith to make contact.  He got me to photograph the lock and e-mail it to him so he could identify it. Garages and locksmiths We will now have a succession of individual locksmiths descending on Minstead.  There will be no consequent discount for bulk orders.

After this we had a drive.  First stop was Donna-Marie in Poulner for my haircut.  This chirpy pink young lady doesn’t appreciate silence.  Jackie sat in the waiting area and was drawn in to respond to the questions designed to open up conversation.  It was all very pleasant as long as you didn’t just come in for a quiet sit-down and snip.

When the answer to the enquiry about where Jackie had been camping turned out to be very close to where Donna lives, we were well away.  Naturally this led to camping stories.  My hairdresser was very amused by the tale of the keys reported in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’ posted on 26th August last year.

We then went for an accommodation window shop in Bashley Cross Road, New Milton.  The house we were aiming for was very attractive inside and out at the back, but we were intrigued by the lack of a front elevation photograph. Bashley Cross Road house The rather twee windows, including a bay concealed behind a hedge, may have contributed to this omission. Chicken farm Next door is a chicken farm.  We wondered how many cockerels may be on song in the mornings.  Alongside the farm is Ferndene Farm Shop.  Whether or not we will ever come back to look at the house properly (we have no money yet), we will revisit this excellent shop.  Five tills were inadequate to cater for all the people queuing for all kinds of fresh vegetables; meats and meat products; cheese; pickles; and much more, not to mention the vast array of plants outside beside the ample car park.  So many people  crowded around the shelves and cooling cabinets that I felt rather in the way and stepped back to allow Jackie to get on with her task of selection.  Wherever I stood I blocked someone’s passage.  Actually, as we arrived at the car park, I commented on the superb quality of the plants.  Since this shop is sited alongside a country road, all these shoppers would have driven here, possibly from some distance.  Pies from Ferndown Farm shopThe pies we sampled for lunch confirmed my impression that this is the best shop of its kind I have ever experienced.

Back home we turned our minds to windscreen insurance.   My post of 25th May featured Ryan of Screen-Care UK carrying out a repair necessitated by a crack left by a stone thrown up by an overtaking vehicle a few days earlier.  Never before had either Jackie or I been subjected to a cracked windscreen.  Nevertheless, a few days ago, another was inflicted.  An impatient Porsche on the M27, overtaking, came straight across our path; there was a sharp crack; and a minute horizontal dint no more than a couple of centimetres long appeared near the base of the glass on the driver’s side. As it was so small we didn’t think it worth repairing. Windscreen crackWithin the last few days, however, it has spread across most of the width of the window, and even sent a tributary skywards.

This second crack reminded Jackie that she has not yet received the cheque to cover Ryan’s express repair.  Maybe, she thought, she hadn’t let Churchill, the insurance company, know her new address?  She hadn’t.

So now there were three matters to be resolved.  To inform the insurers of the change of address; to follow up the cheque for £40; and to report the need for a replacement windscreen.  The vast improvements brought about by modern technology mean that you understand it will be a robot, albeit one sounding almost human, who will answer the phone and invite you to press a variety of numbers according to taste.  I would have said choice, but I have learned that what I am dealing with is a menu.  For this reason the use of an antique telephone sporting an actual dial is not to be recommended.  Of the four telephone numbers given with Churchill’s policy documents, Customer Care seemed a likely bet.  It was, if you were not an existing customer and wanted to be given a choice of policies for motor vehicles, houses, etc.  If you were already paying your premium you were offered no way of reaching the correct destination.  Claims Hotline was pretty similar.  Glass Repair and Replacement was a little better.  We were answered by a person.  When I’d finished explaining our three concerns, Clem informed me that I had come straight through to Autoglass.  He wasn’t Churchill.  Neither was he Screen-Care.  ‘How do I get to Churchill?’, seemed a natural question, to which he didn’t know the answer.  And Screen-Care was beyond his remit. But he could organise the replacement windscreen.

Our division of labour works like this:  I go through the machine operated hoops, then pass the phone to Jackie once a real live person appears.  The reason we do it this way is because I am marginally more sane by the time the obstacles have been overcome.  She found Clem very helpful and particularly reassuring in his explanation that the windscreen in its current condition would not shatter.  The job was booked for next week, and the £75 excess taken.

I was therefore forced to take up the other matters by e-mail.  You can possibly imagine the tenor of my message, written, of course, in Jackie’s name, so she will have the pleasure of the insurers’ response.

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.