He Thought It Fun To Push Me Over

Sightings of foxes have been discussed on Streetlife lately. One person reported six in a pack. Another pointed out that these creatures are loners, not pack animals. I have never seen more than one adult at a time, but have been acquainted with two families, one every spring in the garden of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society, and a single parent and her children in that of our flat in Morden. These posts were published before I was illustrating them with photographs.

Feathers 1Feathers 3Downton LaneFeathers 2

Are the foxes responsible for the scattering of feathers that are often lining Downton Lane in the morning, or maybe birds of prey?

Does anyone have a view on the loners/packs debate, or on the likelihood of foxes or birds of prey committing the slaughter.

This afternoon I rescanned another batch of colour slides from 1964 and ’65, covering our year in Ashcombe Road, Wimbledon. This was the first house I ever bought.

Here are Vivien and Michael in our garden in March 1965:

Vivien & Michael 3.65Michael 4.65

The following month we celebrated our son’s first birthday. I caught him raiding the vegetable store in the kitchen. That cheeky grin was never far from his face.

Michael 6.65 2


In June, at least, we bathed him in the kitchen sink, where he loved sucking on the face flannel.Michael 7.65 2

Like any other toddler, in July he fed himself, his face, and his high chair in more or less equal measure. In those days I did my own wallpapering, including what appears in the background of this picture. It is probably the only time I would ever have chosen such a geometric design as was then in vogue.

Michael 8.65 1

Michael and I laid turves in the garden during August, when, as I crouched to take this shot, he took great delight in pushing me over.

Vivien & Michael (forsythia)  6.65

When in June, I had chosen to wait to snap a forsythia bush until Vivien and Michael had appeared in the corner of the frame, little did I know that this would be the last image of them together.

We didn’t eat this evening. Neither of us felt like either consuming or preparing anything. I had knocked up scrambled egg on toast for lunch, but that was it. Jackie remains in the grip of a virulent chest confection and I spent the afternoon unsuccessfully attempting to avoid succumbing myself. Between five and nine p..m. I flopped in front of the television watching consecutive episodes of Morse and Lewis, and slowly subsiding into somnolence. (No, BBC YouView has not been miraculously restored, so these were repeats on DTV). I then finished this post and went to bed.

Watch this space.

Further Fox Activity?

Not having quite enough time this morning to reach the Lyndhurst surgery on foot, I set off three quarters of an hour ahead of Jackie, who followed and collected me as I walked past Sinefield on Forest Road. Bournemouth Road She delivered me to the doc’s in good time.

My appointment with Professor Lyon-Maris was to check on the success or otherwise of his  freezing the wart off my face.  This man is not my own GP, whose name I can’t remember anyway, but when keeping an appointment with him I have to be careful not to ask for the popular variety of potato, good for mashing, I believe, Maris Piper.  He is, however, the wart expert.  Well, I suppose someone has to be.  What happened today was I was first of all seen by a medical student who confirmed that there was no sign of the former offending parasite.  I asked him to have a look at what I think is something similar on the back of my left shoulder.  He wondered whether it appeared the same as the other one.  A reasonable thought, but I had to say I couldn’t see behind my left shoulder and I hadn’t thought of using a mirror.  In truth I was unaware of it unless my hand happened to stray in its direction; and it was completely painless except when I tried to pick it off and it tended to bleed a little and feel a bit like a pinprick.  It is easier to dig out a dandelion.

Michael, my friendly student, then had to report to the Prof and present his findings.  The poor chap had to do this in front of me.  He stood up quite well to the third degree.  My blind diagnosis was the correct one, and an appointment was made for the freezer.

We went on to The Firs where we continued the gardening tasks begun two days ago. Primroses I emptied the oldest compost bin and spread the contents over beds weeded by Jackie and Elizabeth.  Buried deep in the last of the rich earthy material produced in the last two years was a cooked, boneless, joint of pork, as fresh and odourless as if it had been kept in cold storage for the winter.  Speculating about the likelihood of a nocturnal raid on a farmhouse kitchen; a journey to The Firs similar to the one taken with golf balls; the soft mouth of a cat carrying a kitten; and a digging party clambering over the walls of the bin, we came to the conclusion that this was evidence of further fox activity.

The newest bin was rather overflowing after the addition of Sunday’s grass cuttings. Pansies I therefore siphoned off some of them to begin this year’s heap.  Already there was considerable heat emanating from them.

We worked in comparative silence after the buzz of the first Saturday afternoon conducive to tipping out the populace from the warmth of their homes.  Today it was just us and the birds.  There must have been some other small creatures about, for a buzzard circled overhead, occasionally gliding on the thermals.  There is always a biplane threading its way across the sky.  Blackbirds were gathering nest building materials. Woodpigeon on Beehive A wood pigeon blended in well with an old wooden beehive.  Others gathered pickings from the recently spread compost.  The difference in flight of these two avian species I find fascinating.  The pigeon lumbers off with ungainly flapping, often looking as if it won’t make it to its perch.  The blackbird swoops with curving elegance and much more economy of movement, venturing no higher than its chosen target, and giving the appearance of hedge-hopping.

Edging tilesMy final task today was trimming the edges of the remaining flower beds and further embedding edging tiles laid in place by Jackie last autumn.

Tonight’s meal, back at home, was Jackie’s delicious roast pork looking so like the contents of the foxes’ winter larder that I was tempted to ring Elizabeth and ask her to check the compost heap.  I thought, however, that probably wouldn’t demonstrate much appreciation of the chef’s efforts.  The second course was an excellent Aldi plum pie.  With this, I finished the Carta Roja and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.


Leaves in bud

We chose a gorgeous spring day to begin catch up in Elizabeth’s garden.  As we left Castle Malwood Lodge, leaf buds were at last appearing on the deciduous trees.  The sky was a clear light  blue, as it was to remain all day, although there was still a chill in the air once the sun had lowered and moved behind buildings. Mum Mum, who came to lunch and stayed on to bask in the sunshine, had to keep moving out of the shade.

Elizabeth shopped, prepared lunch, and collected our mother.  Afterwards she started weeding another bed.  My task was collecting some of the two year compost from the first bin and distributing it as a top dressing to the bed she had weeded last week.Compost  It has broken down well and will be a useful supplement to the still stony soil.  After this I trimmed the lawn edges prior to mowing.  I was careful not to chop any overhanging flowers. Wallflower bed The odd forget-me-not wouldn’t have mattered much, but I didn’t want to cut through wallflower stems. Wallflowers I’m glad it wasn’t me who knocked the head off a fritillary.  Elizabeth quickly placed it in a silver egg-cup, along with a sprig of epimedium that had suffered the same fate.  Fritillaria and epimediumJackie carried out a number of tasks: fitting together and filling the various bird feeders scattered in bits about the garden: raking the grass ready for cutting; cleaning out pebble features; and weeding.

When it came to mowing, we could not get the Honda petrol driven machine to start.  Apparently it needs a service.  I wasn’t all that sorry.

There were two new golf balls on the lawn.  This prompted me to explain to Mum the theory of the foxes conceived on 12th September last year.  Briefly, we think the balls are carried here by foxes from the golf course behind the Hampshire County Cricket ground.  ‘You should do what Greengrass did’, said Mum.  Claude Jeremiah Greengrass is the loveable and utterly hopeless rogue played by Bill Maynard in ‘Heartbeat’, the television series set in the 60s.  He had a good line in recycled golf balls.  He would send a posse of children to seek out lost balls, pay them a small token, and sell them back to the golfers for an inflated sum. Golf ball The boys, a bit smarter than their employer, trained their dog to retrieve balls that were not lost, and indeed were still in play.  This caused quite a furore among the upper echelons of Aidenfield.Fritillaria meleagris

As I pottered around The Firs’ garden, aware of the flapping of wings and satisfied cries of those wood pigeons having been successful in finding a mate, I began to take in all the other sounds of a neighbourhood stirring into life. Pulmonaria A bee buzzed busily; small birds whistled tunefully; children’s voices chimed; a light aircraft rattled overhead, in tune with a solitary magpie; a high-pitched electronic car alarm irritated; a power tool droned in fits and starts; my large fork struck the bricks of the compost bin, and the hand fork grated on the flinty soil; the blades of the hedge trimmers clipped rhythmically; and Jackie’s rake rustled the dried leaves and twigs on the grass.  Next door had been for sale as long as we have been travelling to The Firs.  Recently, new occupants have moved in.  One is a particularly unpleasant sounding dog that barks continuously and snarls as if it has a mouthful of ball bearings.  Occasionally what I think must be a woman who sounds like a Dalek with a mouthful of pebbles gives the dog as good as it dishes out.  This is all a bit incongruous on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Later, Elizabeth did manage to make her temperamental mower work.  But by that time I was cooking turkey jalfrezi for our evening meal, so she cut the grass herself.  She had discovered how to persuade the machine into stuttering action when, twice, taking it to an engineer to sort out the problem and finding it had no problem when she got there.  She decided it must have been the jolting up and down in the car that did the trick.  So now she gives it a good jerky walk around the garden.

With the meal we enjoyed wild rice and a jalfrezi bread from a local baker.  More like a pud than a naan.  Jackie drank Stella.  Elizabeth and I shared a bottle of Mondelli reserva chianti 2009.

A Monstrosity

Becky, Ian, Scooby and I walked down to the village shop and back this morning.  It was again very cold.  On our return Jackie was watching ‘Bargain Hunt’.  Seeing something on offer that she thought a monstrosity reminded Becky of an item in my parents’ hall.

At six years old my daughter was enthralled by this piece of furniture.  She would gaze at it wondering whether it was a chair or a table because it was being used as both.  In her own words she describes it as a table that had a cushion-seat in the side with pretty patterns and carvings.  It was almost throne-like and appeared to be made of marble and gold.  The decoration was in fact plastic and the cushion probably Dralon.

Becky asked me what it was.  Apparently I glanced furtively from side to side and quietly answered that it was ‘a monstrosity’.  The little girl trotted off to school and told her teacher that when she grew up she was going to have ‘a monstrosity’.

Dating from the time when people always kept the telephone in the hall, this monstrosity was a telephone table.  Becky now says that if she ever sees one she will just have to buy it.

After lunch I accompanied Becky and Ian on a mooch through a virtually closed Ringwood.  We had coffee in the excellent Cafe Bistro Aroma.  As we ambled through the rather deserted car park for our return, the roar of a car from behind us made Becky and me instinctively step aside.  This was just as well.  Tearing through pedestrian pathways came a greyish car belching black smoke from its exhaust.  Ian estimated it missed me by half a metre.  Like something out of ‘The French Connection’ or any other car chase movie, it sped though a gap between two parked cars, took a right angled change of direction to the left at the far end, rushed through, forcing a gap in, a stream of moving traffic, zigzagged right and vanished out of sight.  Our journey back to Minstead seemed quite pedestrian in comparison.

Tinchy Gimson was a volunteer married to the treasurer of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society (see 18th July last year).Derrick c1994  Photograph number 14 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken by her in the garden of the establishment in West Hill, Putney sometime around 1994.  As far as I remember, the intention was to produce mug-shots of the staff for clients.  As a freelance consultant, I was included in this.  The garden contained an Anderson air-raid shelter built as a place of refuge from bombs during the Second World War.  Never having been removed, this became home to generations of foxes, the cubs of which gambolled in the sunshine on the lawn every spring.

Jackie produced a mouth-watering roast beef dinner this evening, followed by treacle sponge pudding.  She drank a glass of Latitude 35 degrees S; I had some Siren 2012 that Danni had brought last night; and Ian drank Peroni.

Cleaning The Dog

This was a two walk day.  In the morning I took Michael and Emily through Telegraph Woods to The Ageas Bowl, the Hampshire County Cricket Ground, and back via a circular route.  We actually walked into the cricket stadium and admired the pitch and surrounding areas.  We were less welcome when we stood beside the golf course behind the county ground.  We were rebuked for talking, because ‘this is a golf club’.  In fact these golfers did help to solve a conundrum.  Golf balls are often discovered in the garden at The Firs.  One was actually found last night.  Where were they all coming from?  Could this course have been the source?  Could anyone drive the ball that far?  Unlikely.   So who would find them and bring them back?  Michael had once seen a fox carrying a tennis ball.  That must be it.  Foxes had been seen in Elizabeth’s garden.  They were the culprits.

Elizabeth collected Mum to bring her for lunch, and we spent a soporific couple of hours in the sunshine.  After Mum’s return home the rest of us were driven by Michael to Stockbridge. This is an historic village full of elegant buildings and tasteful shops with a stream running down the high street. Ducks, Stockbridge 9.12 Like the stream at Mottisfont, this had ducks swimming on the surface, occasionally diving for food; and trout lurking in the shadows against the current, ready, like whales with plankton, to snap up smaller prey.  Taking a route through two shops we came to a riverside walk which led to Common Marsh, an open space alongside a stream, owned by The National Trust.  Children and dogs alike frolicked in the cool, clear, water.  In fact some owners were encouraging their animals to enter the stream, even, in one case, to the extent of offering a helping foot.  One man was throwing a tennis ball into the water and exhorting his dogs to go in and fetch it.  One of these searched the marshy area for an easier vantage point, and stood there wondering whether to take the plunge or not.  His companion had no such hesitation and was soon swimming to the bank with its trophy; climbing to comparatively dry ground; and showering everyone not nimble enough to avoid it with spray as it shook itself clear of water.

Back at The Firs we dined off the week’s leftovers.  I ate Jackie’s Shepherd’s Pie, and the others had my Chicken and Egg Jalfrezi and Sausage and Bacon Casserole.  Red wines and Budweiser were drunk sparingly before Michael drove Emily back to Croydon.

For Kate

As I had not seen them for a few days I had become rather worried about the foxes lately  All, however, must be well because, it being bin collection day, there was, this morning, the usual evidence of their presence all over the front lawn.

On this the second successive summery day I set off as usual on foot to Colliers Wood before boarding the Northern Line tube en route to SW1 for coffee with my friend Carol.  Near a bridge over the River Wandle close to the carpark serving Deen City Farm, which must have entertained countless three-year-olds, set in the ground lies a blue plaque in remembrance of Kate Brown, aged three, who, whilst playing on it, fell from the bridge in Autumn 1997.  Each time I pass this spot I spare a thought for this child and her parents.  Kate would now have been on the threshold of womanhood, and her parents will have lived years of chronic sorrow.  Maybe you will spare a similar thought.


Being met with the surprising and incongruous sweet smell of freshly mown grass upon entering Colliers Wood’s bustling High Street, I was prompted to investigate the opposite side of the road and the gates to another National Trust property, namely Wandle Park and Water Meadow, maintained for them by Merton Council.  This will be worth a further exploration when I have more time.

Sandwiched between a wooden barrier and the precincts of Victoria Underground station is what is now effectively a long tunnel, presumably to be in place as long as it takes for the road works in progress in and around the bus station opposite the railway terminus to reach completion.  You would have to know that the Victoria cafe is hidden there to be able, as I did, to partake of one of its fry-ups.  Yes, a greasy spoon alongside Victoria station.  Not the Martin Cafe, but OK.

The mysterious clearing of the foxes’ leavings had again been carried out during the morning.

This evening’s meal, as Paul Tullett would express it, was Cobra beer with the accompaniment of Susan’s chicken from the freezer.  I always make enough to last a second time.

A Cultural Experience

Early this morning we think we spotted the foxes’ den.  Between the side fence of our garden and the back fences of a terrace of houses there is what was clearly once an access path.  Each end of this has been blocked off and there is now no through way.  It is so undisturbed that one of the residents has put a gate in his fence and extended his garden to the edge of ours.  He has put in a brick path and is growing runner beans, tomatoes, and flowers in carefully tended soil.  (More encroachment is detailed in a further post).  Further down the path is a fence-high heap of sticks, rather like a beaver’s lodge or the nest of a roc, which has gradually, mysteriously, appeared.  Sitting on top of this pile, having the occasional scratch, was a fox cub.  It seems foxes are like dogs, in that they go round and round in circles settling into a resting position that they find comfortable.  Not surprising really.

I suppose urban foxes don’t need to go to earth, because people think they are so cute.  Some time ago I was consultant to an adoption agency in Putney.  There the foxes lived in an Andersen shelter.  Every spring the staff gathered at the upstairs window to watch the cubs gambolling on the lawn.

Just after 11, leaving the fox on his pile, I walked the circuit of Morden Park.  The atmosphere there was quite eerie.  Apart from one young man having a rant into his mobile phone and an ancient, knackered, overweight dog which seemed to have lost its owner, I encountered no other being in this wooded amenity, a short walk from an underground terminal station, and which takes an hour to circumnavigate.  Apart from the rant and the dog’s laboured panting, the only sound, until I came to the stretch alongside London Road, was that of birdsong.  It was almost, only almost, a relief to hear the roar of the traffic.

On this same London Road, on the site of what was once the Express Dairy, lies ‘the largest mosque in Eastern Europe’. Thinking that there was something incongruous about the huge hoardings virtually alongside advertising  Matalan bikinis, I decided to visit it.  Despite their preparing for a special event and it not really being convenient for a visitor to come, I was made most welcome and given a complete tour of what is clearly ‘a multipurpose complex’, with the exception of the womens’ prayer and other rooms.  The area is vast.  Having visited smaller London mosques I was unprepared for this.  In addition to the huge public prayer rooms there are administrative and service blocks containing offices; meeting rooms; a free homeopathic medical centre, residential and eating facilities; a huge sports hall; a library and bookshop; their own television channel broadcasting services all over the world; and no doubt more I haven’t mentioned.  Everything on an extremely large scale.

In the bookshop I was given a copy of the Koran and a book on the philosophy of Islam.

Security was understandably tight, with systems which would grace any airport, but I was given unrestricted access and didn’t have to go through the detector which my artifical hip would undoubtedly have set ringing.  At the moment they are hosting teams from all over the world taking part in a 20-20 cricket competition.  The teams were all accommodated there.  I was shown their sleeping area and welcomed into the dining hall where a wonderfully aromatic curry was being served.  I was invited to partake, but, since I was to be cooking liver, bacon and onions tonight, I declined.  Sadly.

This mosque complex dominates the southern skyline.  It is quite the most elegant building in Morden, contrasting with the 1960s Civic Centre and the rather earlier Underground station.  I had come prepared to make a comparison between the physical nourishment provide by the Express Dairy and the spiritual nourishment to be found in a mosque.  There is no comparison to be made.  As far as I can see this environment provides everything.

Walking through to the centre of Morden and back to Links Avenue I contemplated what I had just experienced.  The dominant sense was one of peace.  In the vast prayer area a smattering of people were positioned for silent prayer.  Here was, however, one contrast.  All was even quieter than the deserted public park I had just walked through.  But there was nothing eerie about it.

Trams And Trolley Buses

This morning the year’s new fox cubs were basking on the lawn with their mother, de-fleaing herself and looking more mangy than last year.  What they were basking in I am not sure, because there was no sun.

After watching the foxes for a while (I almost wrote ‘intruders’, but the fact is we are the intruders), I set off on foot for Wimbledon Village where I bought a birthday present in an antique shop I remembered from our year in the village.  Passing ‘Ely’s corner’ at the corner of Worple Road, I thought of the trolley buses of my childhood.  These were a post tram invention, utilising overhead wires providing the current which was fed to the buses through long connecting rods.  These were much longer than the links used by today’s Intercity trains.  Much delight was taken by all us children when the rods became dislodged.  It was a major undertaking to repair them, which was an entertainment in itself, and, of course, if it happened at the right time and in the right direction, the bus couldn’t take us to school.  In modern football parlance I’d say that was a result.

These buses just ran along Worple Road, providing a transport link between Wimbledon and Raynes Park.  Until the early 1950s Wimbledon sported both trolley buses and trams.

Having bought the present I walked back down the hill for a fry-up at the Mica, finally setting off back to Morden.

Whilst waiting on a red light at the ungated level crossing being approached by a tram in each direction I sensed that a young oriental jogger was going to continue on through the path of the trams.  She didn’t look from side to side and ignored the light.  I held up my hand indicating that she should stop. She took no apparent notice of me, glanced to her left, and ran on.  The tram that was the most dangerous missed her.  She was wearing specs with very thick lenses.  Maybe she couldn’t see.  Maybe she had confidence in her speed.

Today’s trams between Wimbledon and Croydon make use in part of disused railway tracks.  They do not run down Wimbledon Broadway as did the early trams of my boyhood.

This evening we ate gammon steaks, courtesy of LIdl, cooked by Jackie after I’d done the preparation.  This was after a telephone supervision session.  For those unfamiliar with Lidl I would say they are our most economical store providing food of excellent quality at very cheap prices.  In addition to the usual food supermarket offerings they have most interesting central aisles.  You never know what will be on offer there: perhaps a bathroom cabinet, a microwave oven, bikers’ gloves, socks, business suits, children’s toys; you name it you may, fleetingly, find it.  It’s better than a jumble sale because it’s all new and top quality.  When we first arrived in Morden, because my belongings are in four separate places, I found myself without underpants.  This was when I discovered that Morden does not have a mens’ clothes store.  ‘I know’, I thought, ‘I’ll try Lidl’.  And would you know, there they were, in the central aisle, two lovely pairs of Joop’s best.


Today’s walk was the Mostyn Road, Kingston Road, Cannon Hill Lane, Martin Way quadrangle.  Passing Rutlish School in Watery Lane I remembered Mick Copleston, my boyhood friend who attended the school during the 1950s.  A contemporary of his was John Major.  In the photograph of the school cricket team which adorned all the newspapers after John Major’s appointment Mick stands next to our former prime minister.

I enjoyed a fry-up at the Martin Cafe.

I bought yet another birthday present details of which must be concealed from a potential reader.

Today being refuse collection day I am going to talk rubbish ( OK. OK. I know, I know…..)

Bin collectors no longer go round to the back of the properties to drag out and empty dustbins.  Those days are quite rightly long gone.  What we do is leave black plastic bin bags out at the front.  This means that the foxes have a field night and the residents and/or unfortunate street cleaners have to pick up the pieces.  In the morning therefore gardens and streets are strewn with food packaging and bits of food even foxes and magpies reject.

Merton’s recycling containers are open plastic bins into which everything is placed together – paper, cartons, bottles, etc., etc.  If it rains, as it has done continuously throughout this month, everything gets very soggy.  It is surprising what the contents of these open bins tell you about the residents.  Newspapers and magazines are one indication of interests, politics and taste; bottles can be very revealing; and it is easy to tell whether people cook or eat precooked food.

What is common to almost everyone in Merton, it seems, is a total rejection or ignorance of guidelines about what to recycle and how to present it.  Cardboard containers are never flattened; tops are left screwed on drinks containers; nothing is rinsed; slices of pizza, chicken bones, rancid vegetables and suchlike are all left in their containers, most of which are of the wrong material to recycle or so soiled as to be of no use to anybody.

This may seem like a rant.  It is merely descriptive.

I am not foolproof either. Each Local Authority has its own requirements, and when in someone else’s home I am often unsure.  When living in W2 in Westminster I faithfully bagged up shredded paper for recycling until we got a notice saying it was not required. I don’t suppose confetti is much use either.

As someone who doesn’t know what happens to this stuff after collection I wonder ‘am I wasting my time trying to to my bit’?  What does happen to it?  How much is actually useful?

Who knows?

This evening we are having Lamb dopiaza from the freezer.  Another one I made earlier.  The rice is courtesy of the Watch Me leftovers from last night.