Canine Companions

Scooby and pheasant 1Scooby and pheasant 2

A day or two before the Emsworth family joined us for Easter, whilst out walking with Scooby, Ian found a pheasant that he gave to their dog who has brought it with him. I have been very remiss in not mentioning it before, but it is probably why Eric and Scooby ignore each other in the garden,

Tulip

where tulips are now blooming.

Magnolia

The North Breeze magnolia is now looking even more magnificent.

Jackie and I accompanied Becky and Ian on a drive to Curry’s at Christchurch where they bought a new Toshiba laptop charger. Afterwards we visited Stewart’s Garden Centre for coffee. The others also enjoyed scrumptious scones.Carp

Before entering the store we stopped to watch the carp enjoying the sunlight on their large pool.

Beard

In the restaurant area I engaged in conversation with a very friendly couple, the gentleman of which sported a beard that the current breed of rugby players would envy.

Chihuahua

Towards the exit we met Chica the chihuahua who shared her basket with a fox and a duck. She is thirteen years old and can’t walk very far.Derrick

Knowing how she felt I was given a head start when walking back to the car. I got there first and waited on a conveniently placed chunk of rock.

This evening the five of us dined on set meal M4 at the most friendly Family House in Totton. Jackie, Ian, and I drank Tsingtao; Becky Diet Coke; and Flo Apple Juice.It was very enjoyable.

Conversations

Mrs. Reynard is looking most uncomfortable lately.  Perched on her pile of sticks this morning, she was gnawing away at her rear end, which is now on one side completely devoid of fur.  The patch the magpie was pecking on 26th. May (see post) is now rather raw.

On my normal route to Colliers Wood to catch the tube for lunch with Norman, in Morden Hall Park, I met Benjamin and his mother.  This eloquent and cheerful little chap was on a dinosaur hunt.  He was taking his task very seriously and wanted to know if I’d seen one, especially ‘a big one’.  He declined to produce his hunting roar for the photograph.  Perhaps because I am not a dinosaur, although some people may quibble with that.  Well, Benjy, I didn’t see a dinosaur, but I did find a very big slug.  His picture is at the top of this page.

One of the most amusing regular announcements on the Underground was given out at Green Park.  A long list of severe or minor delays is intoned.  This is always followed by: ‘There is a good service on all other lines.’  ‘Which are they?’, I ask myself.

Seated reading on a bench near the mainly Somali area of Harlesden, I picked up one cent of an euro, thinking it might come in handy in the Sigoules supermarket.  I hoped it wasn’t a Greek one.  It was fortunate that I wasn’t on my feet, for these days I wouldn’t bend down for anything less than a tenner.  I remembered once diving for a ten-bob note at a bus stop in Worple Road in case Chris got there first.  For anyone too young to remember, that’s 50p in today’s money.  But, then, you could do a great deal more with it.

A middle-aged woman came and talked to me.  She began by saying I looked so peaceful that if she had a camera she would photograph me.  I hoped she wouldn’t notice the one hanging round my neck.  She went on to eulogise about the beauty of the thousand year old church that lay behind me.  She spoke of recent renovations, and I realised that the graveyard is looking much better kept these days.  It is a sad reflection of our times that the building was not open for my inspection.  She was on her way to visit her father, now suffering from dementia, in a care home.  On her regular visits she does a lot of the feeding and caring herself.  This woman was not complaining and initially spoke appreciatively of her father’s carers.  She did, however, say it would be nice if they thanked her, because they were paying the full ‘feeding rate’.  According to her this former Southern Cross establishment has been taken over by a Methodist organisation.  It has a new manager who is trying to improve things.  From the sound of it she has her work cut out.  Once this daughter learned that I had been in Social Work she told me about some of the attitudes and systems she found problematic, asking me what I thought.  For example, did I think it unreasonable that he was not allowed to ‘poo’ until 11 a.m?  I most certainly did.  Apparently the staff would rather he ‘pooed in his pad’, which they could clean up afterwards, than disrupt other morning routines.  She felt that his personal dignity was suffering.  My beard didn’t put her off expressing her conviction that it was normal to want to shave every day.  Presumably there are days when her father can and cannot shave.

Norman served up a dish of delicious Catalan chicken accompanied by a fine rioja, and followed by apple strudel.  Perhaps not entirely by coincidence we discussed the writing of Iris Murdoch.  I have not read her philosophy, but have most of her novels, except the last.  This was so badly reviewed by critics who could not make any sense of it that I decided to give it a miss.  Some time later we learned that she was suffering from the same condition as my conversationalist’s father.  For anyone working with dementia the biopic ‘Iris’, starring Jim Broadbent as the long-suffering and somewhat bewildered husband, and Judi Dench as Iris, is essential viewing.  No-one living with the condition would need, or probably wish, to watch this fine portrayal of the slow realisation that all is not well and the gradual decline into frustrated helplessness.

This evening Jacqueline came over for meal, and, given that she had recommended the Watch Me to us, we just had to take her there.  The food was as good and reasonably priced as always.  As I don’t normally eat another meal after a Norman lunch, this was stretching it a bit for me.

No-one Forgets A Good Teacher

Although it had rained all night the day was a bit brighter and the drizzle lighter.  Setting off for Wimbledon again, in Martin Way I met the reformed pipe smoker (see 29th. June post) walking his two Alsatians.  Scaffolding was going up and a hedge being trimmed in Mostyn Road.

Walking along Wilton Crescent I remembered the excitement engendered by Angela Davies, the first girl who set my teenage pulses racing.  We had met at the school dance, the only occasion on which we were officially allowed contact with the pupils of the Ursuline Convent.  I had spent a very uncomfortable few days attempting to learn the waltz, at which Angela considered I still wasn’t much good.  Nevertheless she didn’t seem to mind the last one, and we were to share a delightful nine months in 1959.   Today, on my return up this road my paths crossed with a robin scampering into one of the established gardens in this beautiful preservation area.

Near Dundonald recreation ground a driving instructor was speaking into his mobile phone as his tutee executed a perfect reverse around the corner I was crossing.

As often when rounding Elys Corner, I thought of Richard Milward.

Throughout my childhood the bus conductors (London buses in those days were staffed by two people) had cried: ‘Elys Corner’ when reaching the original building.  It is to Richard Milward’s history of Wimbledon that I owe the information that the founder of the department store that bears his name had offered inducements to the conductors to advertise his emporium in such a manner.  Among the stories featured in that book is the one of Jack (posted on 13th. May).

Knowing they would have a display of Richard’s book, I popped into Fielder’s, stockists of excellent art materials and bookshop near the bottom of Wimbledon Hill.  The display corner had been given over to tennis for the moment, but the manager of the book section happily created the pictured group for me.

 

A most inspirational teacher, Mr. Milward dedicated his life to teaching history at Wimbledon College.  He was one of those pupils who never really left the school, returning after university to take up his life’s work.  Learning about the Tudors and Stuarts we would eagerly await ‘Sid’ striding into the classroom with a rolled up chart under his arm.  This would be hung on the wall to illustrate the day’s lesson.  Richard Millwardc1956These were beautifully produced maps and diagrams which brought the subject alive.  He had made each and every one.  He was, like me, a cricket fanatic.  I still have the history of cricket he inspired me to write and illustrate as a homework exercise.  His nickname, ‘Sid’, was taken from a lesser known bandleader who once performed at Wimbledon Theatre.  The title of this piece is taken from a one-time advertising slogan for recruitment into his profession.  It was so true.

Quite different was ‘Moses’, whose remit was European History, so named because he was an ancient priest.  His teaching aid was a small dog-eared, equally antique, exercise book from which, seated in his pulpit, never taking his eyes off the page, he would churn out notes he must have made much earlier, as if he were reciting an oft-repeated sermon.  For some reason, Moses always picked on me.  Until one miraculous Monday morning, he didn’t actually know my name.  He had decided to climb down from his perch and wander round the classroom.  Passing my desk and glancing at my exercise book, reading the name, he asked: ‘Knight?  Are you the famous bowler?’.  ‘That’ll be my brother Chris’, I replied.  ‘But didn’t you get eight wickets on Saturday?’, he continued.  Well, I had. (I also got seven on the Sunday, but as that was in a club match I thought it best not to mention it).  From then on the sun shone out of my backside.

Another priest who also used me as a butt was Fr. Bermingham.  He did it so often that one of the boys ran a book on how many times this would happen in any particular lesson.  Quite a bit of pocket money changed hands.  Now, as I sat in the same place for both periods, in the centre of the front row, because I was just beginning to realise I should have my eyes tested, I thought it might be politic to move.  I therefore took up residence right at the back, to the left of his area of vision.  As if on cue, quite early on in the proceedings, he opened his mouth to speak, looked in what he thought was my direction, closed his mouth, and scanned the rows of grinning boys.  Eventually lighting on my similarly smiling face, he said: ‘Ah, there you are Knight, like a great moon over the horizon’.  At least he knew my name.  However, he had just given me another one.  For the rest of my schooldays I was known as ‘Moon’.

Please don’t get the impression I was a victim.  Most of the masters, like Bryan Snalune, who may get a mention when something appropriate crops up, actually liked me.  In fact, Frs. Moses and Bermingham probably did as well.  Their observations were generally meant to be humorous.

Our garden fox was well camouflaged today.

This evening The Raj in Mitcham was revisited.  In order fully to appreciate the flavour of the Raj it is essential to read the post of 26th. June.  So attracted by the description of our previous visit was Ian that he insisted on savouring the experience himself.  Alda joined us with some ambivalence.  Now we were six.  I must say we were initially disappointed.  The tables, albeit with paper tablecloths, were actually laid.  Only one of the papers on the the two tables which were pushed together to accommodate us bore the evidence of previous use.  A mound of excellent poppadoms was served on time.  The drinks quickly followed.  Given that they had probably come from the shop next door, we were fortunate to find them, this time, cold.  The bottles of Kingfisher still bore their price labels, and the charming cook/waiter/whatever who served us had, after all, said he would go and buy Becky’s orange juice.  The second round was more successful as Flo was presented with a large Kingfisher instead of an orange juice.  Things got better as we had to wait an hour and a half for the main meal,  having previously each received a really good onion bhaji starter.  We could forgive our server for not realising we had wanted these with the main meal, and, in any case, we needed something to soak up the Kingfishers while we waited.  Eventually the chef asked us if we were ready for the main meal.  Ready?  We were desperate for it.  This time the paper napkins arrived with the food.  Once again we were treated to magnificent food all round.  It truly is a miracle that these two men can produce such a wonderful meal.

It was Ian who became the first to sample the loo.  Unfortunately there was no toilet paper.  He decided to pass.

No other customers graced the establishment.  Mitcham does not know what it is missing.

The final disappointment was that the Dallas Chicken customers had let us down.  There was no chicken leg to step over as we left the restaurant.

And so to car, to Links Avenue, and to bed.