I Couldn’t Hold The Camera

The winds coming off The Solent on this hazy morning must have been far stronger than the 58 m.p.h. that had been forecast. I say this because, for the first time, I was unable to stand still on the clifftop , and was constantly being blown backwards. I was forced to sit on a bench which was firmly rooted in place.

The Isle of Wight and The Needles were swathed in haze,

and I needed the security of the bench to photograph the choppy waves sparkling in the occasional shaft of sunlight

that also illuminated the Beachcomber café beside which a woman tossed a ball for her eager retriever.

In the opposite direction another woman walked alongside her canine charge.

Before collapsing onto the bench I photographed a couple’s progress along the promenade. Because I couldn’t hold the camera in the face of the fierce gusts I occasionally produced unexpected results, one of which is the black and white image above;

mind you, in this pairing you might think the shifted angle provided the more satisfying image.

Unbeknown to me the Assistant Photographer followed my proceedings.

She then drove us inland where we could expect the winds to be less forceful.

We followed lanes less travelled like Bennets, Anna,

and London, bearing its usual amount of fly tipping. On this particular corner beside a farm gate I have already pictured a burnt out car, and, further along a trio of abandoned fridges.

This evening we dined on cheese centred haddock fish cakes; piquant cauliflower cheese; firm boiled potatoes and carrots with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Forest Is Not Immune

Last night I began reading The Folio Society’s ‘The Best of the Raconteurs’.

Glass window displayToday’s advent calendar picture is of a display in the window of a shop that I cannot remember.  Again taken in December 1963 it was probably in Regent Street.  The cabinet containing the various vitreous containers, in which the glass madonna is more or less centrally placed, was bordered with holly which I removed for composition’s sake.

This morning further work was undertaken by Knight Enterprises on cards, four of which were for family December birthdays.  This afternoon I walked beneath dismal drizzle down to the postbox and back.

FlytippingFor several days now, Jackie’s passage along Upper Drive has been impeded by heaps of garden refuse.  I rather hoped that someone else would move it.  Alas, in this I was disappointed, so I tackled it on my return from sending off the cards.  Someone had driven a heavy enough truck to have gouged the grass and tipped its contents mostly onto the tarmac.  I had intended to kick all the rubbish into touch, but the branches of trees, the cuttings from aged rose stems, the massy holly and ivy, were so enmeshed that this was not possible.  I had to use my hands to extract from the piles and throw into the forest greenery that tended to be rather prickly.  It will no doubt, in its own good time, merge with its surroundings.  On the other hand, if we have another severe winter, the animals will see to it.  The last dump of detritus on this spot was more builder’s junk, and was removed by the Council services within a couple of days.  The New Forest is, we have discovered, not immune from flytipping.

Later this evening Mo and John dropped in and collected my obsolete iMac, and a huge bag of DVDs to play on it, to take to Sigoules for me when they go back to France next week.  It was good to see them.

Chicken jalfrezi

Dinner this evening was Jackie’s juicy and spicy chicken jalfrezi, her savoury rice which defies labelling, and brilliant cauliflower bhaji.  I don’t have a thousand words, so the photo must paint the picture.  I finished the Cliente Rojo.

We Get Lots Of Stick

En route to Morden by car from The Firs this morning Jackie and I were presented with incontrovertible evidence which solved the conundrum I posted on 23rd. June.  What little Flo once called ‘tree tunnels’ are definitely caused by large vans.

A motorcyclist who was driving rather precariously got me talking about my Uncle Bill who was a great favourite of Chris and me during the years he was engaged to Auntie Vic.  Bill Burdett was an immensely kind and generous man who lost his legs in a motor cycle accident, when, the story goes, rather than hit a pedestrian he swerved and went under a lorry.  Bill had been a keen cricketer, but could never play again.  In our teens, he obtained membership of Surrey County Cricket Club for my brother and me.  With or without him, we spent many happy hours at The Oval.  It was Bill who, when I was fifteen, taught me to solve The Times crossword, and to whom I dedicated my half of ‘Chambers Cryptic Crosswords and how to solve them’, which I co-wrote with Michael Kindred.  By this time he and Vic were married and had their four children, our cousins Barry, Susan, Neil, and Fenella.  It was their garden in Victory Avenue in Morden which, in the 1950s, was the first one not my own with which I helped out.  When we were very small Bill entertained us with ‘Silver’ or ‘Copper’ Fairies’.  This was a marvellous game in which invisible fairies hid silver or copper coins in various parts of the room and we excitedly searched them out.  We never saw any fairies but we found lots of silver sixpences. These were the equivalent of two and a half pence in modern money, but you could do a lot more with them.  The coppers were pennies and halfpennies which have no equivalent today.  They were just as welcome.

Clouds were louring over Morden Park, where I took a brief stroll before a brisk walk to Church Lane surgery to meet Jackie before returning to The Firs.  My lady has been signed off work for another week because of a chest infection.

The path alongside the railway has now been barred off.  The barrier which has, for the eighteen months we have been in Morden, been left open, thus allowing the parking of cars, is now chained up and padlocked.  The flytipping warning which it has carried for a month or two has been ineffective.  The consequence is that currently no-one has vehicular access.Barrier, Links Avenue 10.12  There was nothing beyond this obstacle but a tipped heap.  The small white van parked alongside the gate ensured that a cyclist was forced to dismount in order to manoeuvre her steed through the gap.

In the park two dog-walkers with ten charges between them were earning their money.  I spoke to the man, most of whose dogs were harmlessly off the lead.  He questioned my motives for wishing to photograph the group because, he said; ‘we get a lot of stick’.  I don’t think he was speaking of throwing sticks for the animals to fetch.  When I explained my purpose he said I could photograph the dogs, but not him.  I said that would miss the point, and put my camera away.  By this time the woman, tangled up with five leads, had moved on, so I added that the moment had gone.  This was all friendly enough, and he finished by saying: ‘another time, maybe’.  Further on, another man was training a sheepdog.  Why, in Morden, I wondered.

After a two hour congested drive we arrived at Eastern Nights where we had the usual excellent meal, Bangla, and Kingfisher.  Elizabeth was heating up yesterday’s boeuf bourgignon for herself when we returned to her home.

‘A Really Lovely Old Boy’

The way the day began took me back to Leinster Mews.  Kasia, who has just moved in downstairs, locked herself out when putting the bins outside at 6 a.m..  Not knowing what else to do, she rang our doorbell.  After Jessica’s death in 2007, I returned to London and rented a mews house in that street in W2.  I moved in on 23rd. December.  After the removal men had gone I looked at all the stuff I had to unpack, and decided to go to the pub on the corner for a meal.  As soon as I closed the door I realised I had left the keys inside.  When my panic subsided I walked up to Harrow Road police station, which I had known well in my days as a Social Services Area Manager, to ask if they could recommend a locksmith.  It was freezing cold.  Fortunately I was wearing an overcoat.  Given the proximity of the pub, I might well not have been.

Full of the Christmas spirit, the desk sergeant said he would contact locksmiths himself.  This turned out to be a rather good idea, since it took him an hour and a half to get anyone to come out.  From the waiting room I could hear his patter.  This is what he told each person he called: ‘Got one of our elderly parishioners here.  Poor old boy’s a bit confused and gone and locked himself out.  It’s such a cold night I don’t want him standing outside too long.’  At some stage in the conversation he would interpolate: ‘He’s a really lovely old boy’, and when he finally got someone to agree to a visit, he added: ‘Do your best on price.  He’s only a pensioner.’  Once he had been successful, he said to me: ‘I hope that wasn’t too patronising.  I wanted to make sure they came out.’  I just found it hilarious.

Two men then met me at the house, got in with a card in about two minutes, and told me I’d done that, hadn’t I?  They took the policeman seriously and were doing their best on price.  In their report they claimed that by the time they arrived I had got back inside.  This, they said, would mean I would not get a bill.  Their management must have been wise to this, because I did get a bill, which I happily paid.  The next day, I left the house as it was and took my myself off to Mat and Tess for Christmas.

Sandal 8.12A solitary sandal lying on the pavement in Links Avenue, as I set off this morning, reminded me of Ken.  During my first years in employment with the Committee of Lloyd’s (see 6th. July post), Ken had run his own personalised taxi service to work.  He collected a number of colleagues, of which I was one, and ferried us to and from South London and The City.  He knew the side streets like the back of his hand.  Whenever we were stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle he would say: ‘It’s either a woman or a white-haired man.’  I now know that he was both ageist and sexist.  One morning he was full of himself.  He had just answered what for him had been a conundrum.  Having seen a shoe fall off the back of a rag and bone cart, he now knew why you only ever saw one shoe lying in the road.  Never a pair.  Why that should have troubled him I’ll never know, but then he was at peace with himself.

Using my normal route through Morden Park to London Road, I crossed over to investigate the avenues parallel to the mosque site.  There is no vehicular access to Central Road from these.  They are linked by a grid of back alleys, most of which contain garages.  These paths have not been blocked off to prevent intruders, as have many in Morden.  The house owners are, therefore, unable to extend their gardens as has our neighbour, who now has a fine crop of runner beans on his reclaimed territory. In Central Road I noticed another group of memorial homes, one of which carries a barely discernible plaque explaining that they were a post-war gift from a representative of the people of Denmark.  Another plaque contains the same image that I photographed yesterday.

Crossing London Road from Central Road, I returned home via Morden Park.  A vast flock of birds squawked their way across the sky.  As they were against the light, I could not identify them.  I speculated that they may have been parakeets who had been instructed to scat by the rooks which were there in abundance.

When I set out, the flytipping rubbish was being removed by Council workmen.  They said that the problem had been that the rusting iron gates which are normally padlocked had been left open.  This, of course was for Eid (see 15th. August).  On my return those gates had been closed, and the concrete slabs placed in front of them.

Just before sunset, I ambled back into the park to contemplate the sky.  A young Asian man was giving two small boys catching practice.  They had to bowl to him and he would hit the ball, pretty hard, and pretty far, I thought, as they sometimes had to run after it.

This evening’s meal and liquid refreshment was the same as yesterday’s.

Continuing Themes

This morning I strolled into the footpath leading up to the mosque; skirted the London Road edge of Morden Park; crossed this road into Central Road; bore right into Green Lane; wandered through the Haig Homes estate; travelled back to London Road; and returned to Links Avenue via the park.

Overflow carpark 8.12

Cars were streaming down Links Avenue and into the path by the side of the railway.  People were pouring into the mosque in their thousands.  Jackie tells me that the view of this sea of people from the eleventh floor of the civic centre was amazing.  At the entrance to the worshippers footpath, another young man was standing with a board announcing that the Eid (15th. August) car park was full.  A very well organised and friendly group of young men, many using mobile phones, were directing the swarming traffic to the meadow I had seen being mown on Friday.  The reason for the mowing was now clear.  It was a vast overflow carpark.  The marquee I had seen being erected was in fact three.  These were filling up fast.  As in the mosque itself (see post of 18th. May), there was separate accommodation for men and boys and for women and girls.  I thought I’d best not photograph the women’s tent.  This is a pity, because they were all wearing splendid attire. Until lunchtime I could hear singing and speeches from our flat.

I spoke to two Community Support officers who were counting the cars coming into the arena.  Like me, they were disgusted at the flytipping which continued.  The pile I had seen on Friday was still there, and had been supplemented by another huge heap which had been dumped in what seemed to be an attempt to block the route to the temporary additional parking area.  We speculated that anyone caught tipping would probably save money by paying the fine incurred, rather than covering the expense of legitimate disposal.  One of the officers pointed out that general rubbish was also strewn among the brambles which were providing one the ingredients, being collected by two women, for blackberry and apple pie.

Another two women, in Green Lane, asked me if I knew St. Anne’s school.  I had to acknowledge that I didn’t.  There are Haig Homes on either side of Green Lane.  Haig Place lies alongside a very well kept estate provided by this organisation.  These little houses all have beautifully tended gardens.  I chatted with an elderly woman who lived in one.  She identified a screeching coming from the trees as the call of squirrels.  I had not knowingly heard a squirrel before.  She said they are at their noisiest at night.  She enjoyed the sound.  More so than the cranking of magpies.

On 13th. August, I had confessed my own vagueness about Douglas Haig.  I had therefore been amused at the response to a question I had put to a small boy on 17th. August.  In fact the street sign ‘Haig Place’ was right outside his house.  There was a terra cotta plaque on the wall between two semi-detatched houses, one presumably his own.  Not even sure myself, I asked him if he knew who the man depicted was.  He shrugged and silently indicated that he didn’t know.  I’ve since used Google to confirm my supposition.  There are Douglas Haig Memorial Homes throughout the UK.

Watch Me curries and Kingfisher completed the day.  As usual, this excellent restaurant on Morden Road was also catering for several happy, celebrating, Sri Lankan families, the women in colourful clothing, and the children running about gleefully.

Council Housing

Along the footpath to the mosque this morning a heap of building waste demonstrated that the flytipping (2nd. July) warnings have been ignored.  When I returned from my walk, it was still there, and a man was standing at the entrance holding up a board which announced that the Eid (15th. August) carpark was full.  There was a queue of hopeful drivers in their cars stretching out into Hillcross Avenue.  At the head was a vehicle full of Muslim women.  I moved some of the rubble, hoping it wasn’t asbestos, so the driver could park there.  A young Muslim man who had just parked alongside it declined to help.  After that the other, male, drivers were on their own.  Chivalry extends only so far.

Blackberries 8.12

Blackberries were ripening, to the delight of foragers.  Bindweed was rampant.  This menace was the curse of our tiny garden in Stanton Road.  I spent many hours as a child chipping away at the sun-hardened soil with a small garden fork, endeavouring to remove the last vestiges of trailing white roots.  The Forth bridge wasn’t in it.

Turning right onto London Road, I passed an old milestone.  This is a relic of the days of horse-drawn coaches.  I walked up to the crossroads and turned left, rounding into Green Lane which runs parallel to it.  This wide thoroughfare, with a tree-lined path running down the centre of it, begins in the Upper Morden Conservation Area.  It is part of the 1950s St. Helier Estate.  This vast post-war housing project contains beautifully built and spaciously laid out properties.  I think this was the last period of well-made council housing.  Like many other local authority homes, some are now privately owned.  It was Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policies that made this possible.  Undoubtedly this did enable a great number of people who would be unable to do so to become owner-occupiers.  It also reduced the amount of housing stock to accommodate those who could not afford to buy.  I have mentioned before (28th. June) that I worked in Westminster during the Shirley Porter era.  Looking out of my office window, or those of Beauchamp Lodge Settlement,  I wondered at the fact that Council owned residential flats were being tarted up and otherwise embellished, for example, with sloping roofs.  Some of these, no more than ugly boxes built in the ’60s, could certainly have done with it.  Other Council Housing Department properties were being boarded up.  Since there were numerous homeless families in the City of Westminster, this was another mystery.  What I had not been aware of was the scandalous gerrymandering that was going on.  My naive nature had imagined that money was being spent on improving the environment of Council tenants.  It was nothing of the kind.  Their homes were being prepared for sale to potential Tory voters.  Fortunately the worst of this abuse was not implemented until after I had, in 1986, left the Authority’s employment.  I would not have been able to stomach the enforced transportation of Westminster’s homeless families to hotel accommodation in other parts of London, to which the borough’s hapless people were being decanted.

Coming to the end of Green Lane, at the Rose Hill roundabout I turned right, eventually reaching Sutton Common Road, where I took another right turn which brought me to Epsom Road.  Right again and I was soon able to enter Morden Park and make for home.  Along the road from Rose Hill I came across another roadside memorial (see 12th. August) fixed to the common railings.

In Morden Park I discovered a fully equipped Cricket ground in a bucolic setting which I had not noticed before.  There is more to this open space than I had imagined; and much to be discovered on one’s own doorstep.

Later, Jackie and I drove to The Firs.  We had curries and beer at Eastern Nights.


The ‘flash of yellow flying’ in the garden Jackie saw this morning turned out to be a greenfinch.  No-one uses this small communal garden in Morden to which we don’t have access, and which is no more than a patch of grass and ground elder occasionally strimmed by the owners’ staff.  It abuts an overgrown railway embankment on one side and a blocked off path on the other.  Small ash trees and brambles grow in abundance on the embankment.  To the side of the flats is a railway bridge.  Walking under the bridge and turning left brings you onto the path up to London Road alongside which is the disused schools sports ground.  All this is why we think we have such a variety of birds and the foxes.

Unpacking the presents I was given on Saturday, I was reminded of Matthew’s performance towards the end of the party (posted yesterday). 

He had given me a CD of Adam Faith’s songs, and gave us a perfect rendering of ‘What do you want?’.  Of course, only the older people present recognised it, but this they certainly did.  He explained that he had never heard the singer, but had learned it from listening to his Dad.  But then I think every man of my generation can do it.

On leaving the flat this morning the drumming I heard was caused by a plastic Lucozade bottle bowling along the road.  This was definitely a raincoat day (see 21st. June’s post).  Walking under the railway bridge it was clear that the resident pigeons were doing their best to undo the work of a team of men who had spent a day last week clearing up their droppings.  An emergency vehicle’s siren wailed in the distance.  I would need a four year old to identify the service involved.  Except for rooks cawing in Morden Park the birds were silent.  The only other sound which penetrated the whistling of the wind I was leaning into was the rustling of the leaves in its wake, and, further into the park, the clattering of cars on the metal tracking on the approach to the temporary overflow carpark for Wimbledon tennis.  I wished the wouldbe spectators luck.

Not many people braved the park this morning.  Two Asian boys were walking an American bulldog.  I was quite pleased it was on a lead and not free to frolic with me.  A jogger was leading another wolf-like dog which seemed to have trouble keeping up with her.  But then, if you take a dog for a run, by the time it has double tracked and sniffed at everything, it probably does five miles to your one.

Almost hidden in the undergrowth, like a fallen stone in a deserted graveyard, beside a barely passable track was an old ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) notice.  This was the education arm of the GLC (see post of 29th. June).

On my return I took the overgrown passage (see post of 26th. June) between the park and Hillcroft Avenue, hoping that the fallen branch which had caused me such trepidation last time had been removed.  No such luck.  And even when younger I was no limbo dancer.

Flytipping warning

The wider opening to the path to London Road mentioned earlier is used as an unofficial car park, commonly used by visitors to the mosque (see 18th. May post).  It is also used as a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish.  The picture which begins this piece is what it looked like as I began my walk.  A cyclist speeding out of the derelict sports ground to the left of the area photographed almost cannoned into the pile of old broken furniture.  ‘Bastard!’, he cried, ‘Should go to jail for that.’  On my return this had all been cleared.  Full marks to the Council.  This flytipping warning is further over on the park proper.  The penalties threatened would not have satisfied the cyclist.

Briefly going shopping this afternoon, I risked leaving my raincoat behind.  I got wet.

A couple of glasses of Campo Viejo riocha 2010, accompanying one of my sausage casseroles retrieved from the freezer, set the evening up nicely.  Jackie had her customary Hoegaarden.