Up West

In two short spells today, I hoed the gravel on the back drive, after which I scanned another dozen of the Streets of London series of colour slides from April 2004.

Chandos St

This corner of Chandos St probably linked with Cavendish Place. I wonder how long it took the woman in the red coat to cross the busy road.

Great Portland St

Great Portland Street, which runs between Oxford Street and Euston Road,  is not far away. I wonder how many imitations there are of the famous Carlsberg slogan, ‘Probably the best lager in the world’.

I have written in Loos Of London

Lincoln's Inn Fields 1Lincoln's Inn Fields 2

of my experiences of Lincoln’s Inn Fields,

Portsmouth St

and the link with Portsmouth Street’s famous Old Curiosity Shop.

Gtreat Newport St 1Great Newport St 2

Charing Cross Road, which links with Great Newport Street, is world famous for its second-hand bookshops, one of which is seen above. The street cleaner has pretty up-market equipment.

Upper St Martin's Lane

Upper St Martin’s Lane contains a number of theatres and eating places.

Gerrard St

Wardour St

Gerrard St has also featured in a number of posts such as ‘Meandering Through Soho’. During our residence in the 1970s, the 2004 Chinese-influenced street furniture did not exist. That same post also features ‘Les Miserables’ on Shaftesbury Avenue at the corner of Wardour Street.

James St

Wild Court

James St. and Wild Court are thriving Covent Garden thoroughfares.

Ian and I watched the highlights of the third day of the Oval Test Match. England were all out for 149, and, following on, were 203 for 6 at the close. For those who would like to know, teams are asked to take their second innings immediately after the first, when they have not scored enough runs. On this occasion, England were way short. It won’t take long to finish the game tomorrow.

We had originally been booked into the Lymington Tapas bar on Becky’s birthday, the 19th. Neither Ian nor I were fit for it so it had been deferred until this evening. Now none of us is well enough to do it justice, so we had a takeaway delivered by Spice of India. My choice of the excellent repast was tender lamb vindaloo and special fried rice. We shared crisp poppadoms, onion bhajis, and salad. Ian and I drank Cobra beer, Jackie Hoegaarden, and Becky rose wine.

By Appointment: Photographer To The Tourists

Just before midday Jackie delivered me to Southampton Parkway for the London train. Wandering along the car park, killing time because I was early,Car wheels reflected I contemplated car wheels, many of which were reflected in the numerous puddles. This reminded me of a recent conversation with Jackie’s brother-in-law Ron, in which he had informed me that no cars had been built with hub caps for many years. I had not noticed.

I got talking to a taxi driver who told me that the aluminium alloy wheels were made with a mixture of aluminium and rust. He didn’t know what the special properties of rust were, but said the reason we didn’t see that any more either was that scrap metal merchants collected it for the manufacture of this material.

Under Hungerford Bridge

From Waterloo, I walked across the modern version of the Hungerford Footbridge from Waterloo BridgeTrafagar Square fountainwhich there was a clear view of Waterloo Bridge and the skyline beyond, in which St. Paul’s still holds its own among the taller modern buildings.

Passing through Charing Cross Station and across The Strand, I skirted Trafalgar Square of which the fountains sparkled splendidly in the sunshine. I took the pathway by the left of Wardour Stthe National Gallery to Leicester Square and carried on up Wardour Street which sported vibrant decorations, no doubt in readiness for the Chinese New Year at the end of this month.

At the entrance to Gerrard Street a tourist couple asked me to take their photograph with the gentleman’s mobile phone. As usual in these situations, I asked if I could capture them on my camera. Couple in Gerrard StThey were happy to oblige.

From Shaftesbury Avenue I proceeded to Piccadilly where I shopped in Waterstones and the market in St James’s Churchyard.

I continued to Green Park intending to travel the one stop to Victoria by tube to visit Carol. This was not possible. The Victoria line was closed because of flooding at the terminal station. I took the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington, and the District one to Victoria. Chaos prevailed as the crowds seeking alternative routes struggled to understand the several options open for various destinations given out on the public address system. I didn’t get a seat, but I did get to Carol’s. After my time with her I took my usual journey back to Southampton whence Jackie drove me home.

On the 507 bus a gentleman with a stentorian voice who was clad in a greatcoat and a candlewick bedspread provided us all with information about food; alternately expressed true sorrow and profound gratitude for what he had become; and spared a thought for elderly people with arthritis, which, thankfully he hadn’t come to yet. He staggered off the vehicle struggling with a huge, cumbersome, laundry bag. Most other passengers silently focussed on their electronic devices.

Back home, we dined on lamb curry and pilau rice, every bit as tasty as yesterday. I drank sparkling water.

Covent Garden & Gerrard Street

Last night I finished reading Christopher Harvie’s ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ in The Oxford History, and began H.G.C. Matthew’s ‘The Liberal Age’.

Soon after midday I walked through the farm underpass, into the forest alongside the wire fence that surrounds the pasturage, and, crossing the sandbagged ford followed the stream for a while, traversed it, and walked back along the other side.  Regular readers will know that this demonstrates a certain, almost well-placed, confidence somewhat lacking in the past.

Castle Malwood Farm

Castle Malwood Farm has always been visible from quite some distance, but I didn’t previously know what I was looking at, and one wire fence was the same as any other.  Now it and the sandbags are an infallible guide.

In my less than wholly successful attempts to avoid the boggy bits, and the necessary detours around fallen trees, I had a few diversions, but I always knew where I was.  Almost.  I have to confess one nasty moment when I realised the buildings I was headed for were not the aforesaid familiar farm.  I had unwittingly begun to follow a tributary and realised that what I was looking at were the also, sadly, familiar dwellings of Brook.  A quick turn around and I headed through the trees to the line of the stream which I will call Malwood.

Dappled stream

When I took my driving test in 1966 I felt the jolt of the kerb as I demonstrated my skill in reversing around a corner.  My calmness in stopping at the touch, straightening up, and doing it again got me through.  So it was today.  No panic, just go back and pick up where I left off.  I sometimes wish I could always remember that.

Dappled Forest

When walking beneath the trees on a day blessed with dappled sunlight, one is treated to little circles of light that have penetrated the boughs, projecting the images of leaves they have passed on their way down.  This particular camera obscura has not been provided with a focussing ring.  Dappled log

In the olden days of the 1970s and ’80s, when one had to use chemicals and an enlarger to make photographic prints, I would place the negatives in the device, sharpen the focus, expose the image on the paper for the requisite amount of time, take it out, stick it in various baths of stuff, and hang it up to dry, like David Hemmings in the superb 1966 cinematographic film ‘Blow-Up’.

Matthew and Becky c1979One such piece of work was a favourite photo of Matthew and Becky taken around 1979.  I could be more precise if I were prepared to search for the negative, but my print slipped down in its frame some years ago, and I thought if I photographed that today I could kill two birds with one stone and also centre the picture with an application of fresh adhesive.  That’s my excuse anyway.  Our children loved to spend their pocket money during their visits in the Soho years in the Chinese bookshops in Gerrard Street and the craft markets of Covent Garden.  In this particular photograph they are deliberating their purchases from a craftperson’s stall.

Matthew's Dads Day cardThe Gerrard Street shops in those days were Aladdin’s Caves for children.  Very good hand-made cards were on sale for a matter of pennies.  They would spend hours simply enjoying the ambience.  I still have a Dads Day card Matthew sent me.

The favourite outlet had a fascinating window with, usually pastoral, scenes featuring such as running streams framed with a glass front.  I don’t know how it was done, but the water actually seemed to flow, and movement was also imparted to other elements in the tableaux.  I was standing watching one of these one evening when an Oriental gentleman stood alongside me, equally fascinated.  ‘Devilish clever, these Chinese’, I uttered.  Fortunately he saw the joke.

I spent a very enjoyable evening with Maureen and John who live at number 5.  We talked about many things, and found we had much in common career-wise.  The plan had been that I would give them the benefit of my experience of France, but we moved beyond that.  Maureen provided a smoked salmon starter, followed by succulent steak in pepper sauce and crunchy apricot crumble with ice cream.  Bergerac and Bordeaux wines were an excellent accompaniment.

Meandering Through Soho

Today I travelled by tube to Victoria for a trip around my ’70s home in Soho.  As I neared Morden station two community support police officers rushed past me towards the crowded forecourt.  I thought we were in for some excitement, but they simply wanted to board the 93 bus.

Buckingham Palace 10.12Leaving the underground at Victoria I walked along Buckingham Palace Road, passing the palace which was, as usual, surrounded by tourists hoping to get a glimpse of Her Majesty.  Crossing Pall Mall, I walked up Marlborovgh Road.  (There is no typo here, for the street sign is very old.)  Turning up St.James’s Street, I took a right into Jermyn Street, passing Floris, where I had entered a discussion about single mothers posted on 17th July.  It was near this establishment that once stood Astleys, pipe makers and tobacconists, where I used to shop.  My favourite ever Meerschaum was bought there.  The proprietor found it in a box in the basement where it had lain for twenty five years.  He sold it to me for the price on the original ticket.  Sadly, this was stolen long ago.  It had been made from a solid block, traditionally and beautifully carved.  The shop itself was one of the early victims of rising rents in this salubrious thoroughfare.

I walked around St. James’s church and bought a birthday present in Piccadilly Market in the grounds.  Brass-rubbing was a feature of this church in the 1970s.  I once took Matthew and Beccy there for the afternoon.  At £5, which was still quite a lot of money in those days, I thought this quite a reasonable outlay for an afternoon’s activity.  The two excited children rampaged around the crypt, gathering reams of large paper with a rub rub here, a rub rub there, everywhere a rub rub.  Eventually I got the bill.  It was £5 for each rubbing.  After a lengthy debate with the staff we came to a compromise.

From the church I continued along Piccadilly to one of the most famous landmarks in the world, which had been our local concourse.  In the mid 1960s I had run out of petrol bang opposite Eros.  This disaster was a little more manageable then than it would be now.

Along Shaftesbury Avenue I passed Queens Theatre, still showing ‘Les Miserables’ which had opened when we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard.  The little waif who has adorned the facade all these years was taken from a marvellous Gustave Brion etching.  One of our neighbours in Newark had, when we first arrived in 1987, seen this production six times.  She went off with another man, so I don’t know if she is going there still.

On the corner of Macclesfield Street I contemplated the shop that had been the subject of my little white lie posted on 29th August.  Next door is De Hems which was our local pub where Michael was Space Invaders champion.  I would take a stein down from our flat opposite and have it filled with draft beer which I drank at home.  The circular window in the wall of No. 2 was to our wardrobe cupboard alongside our bedroom.

Horse and Dolphin Yard is entered beneath an extension of the corner building.  In the room above, Chinese men played Mah Jong whilst Michael and his friend Eddie played football in the yard.  The window to the room where the men played was usually open, and the clattering of the tiles went on all night.  We were quite used to it so it wasn’t a problem.  One day one of the boys kicked the ball through the window.  It came back slashed.  This rather upset me, so I marched round into Gerrard Street, steaming.  These buildings are veritable rabbit warrens, so I had to find the room.  I did this by entering an open door and wending my way up stairs and through dingy corridors full of rooms containing individual yale locks.  The clattering of tiles led me to my goal.  Football in hand I strode in.  The room was bare, with a few chairs against an unpapered wall.  In the centre was the games table which contained what seemed a great deal of currency notes piled up by the tiles.  It was surrounded by Chinese men who met my question ‘who did this?’ with determined silence.  After several repetitions and no alteration in the stony faces, I hurled the ball into the centre of the table scattering both money and tiles.  As I turned round and marched away, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.  I realised I had probably been asking for trouble.  ‘Don’t turn round.  Don’t turn round’, I said to myself.  Miraculously I was unmolested, and Matthew and I have been able to dine out on the story ever since.

One of the buildings backing on to our yard is the New Loon Moon Supermarket, outside which we collected our Chinese boxes (see 14th September), and whose produce is now delivered in stout cardboard.

The Tokyo Diner at the corner of Newport Street now occupies the site of the laundrette featuring in the film in which I was upstaged by Michael and Piper (see post of 22nd. June).  From there I entered Charing Cross Road, made famous by Helene Hanff’s book, ’84 Charing Cross Road’.  Crossing Shaftsbury Avenue I turned left into Old Compton Street, right into Greek Street, and on to Soho Square Gardens where, seated on a bench, I spent a pleasant hour talking to Sammy, a very personable and amusing tall crane driver who was on one of the two two hour breaks he is allowed in his twelve hour shift.  It’s the cranes that are tall, not Sammy.

This man would sit for hours perched above the tallest buildings.  He pointed out the location on which he was working.  It was truly scary.  Previously he had worked on ‘The Shard’ which is clearly visible from Morden Civic Centre.  Every so often during our conversation, he would check his mobile device for the wind force, since he felt sure that it was blustery enough now for him to be ‘winded off’.  For safety reasons when the figure is above 50%, of what, I don’t know, he cannot work up there.  When it rose to 68% he got up to ‘show [his] face’, when he would be sent home, but still be paid.  He described his roost in the skies as ‘very peaceful’, and was most eloquent telling about having his head in blue sky looking down on a smooth layer of cloud like a river of milk in which he felt he could run his fingers.  I’ve seen this from a plane, but from a crane the mind boggles.  My newfound friend insisted on photographing me so I could show the world where I’d been.

As in many other parts of London a permanently fixed table tennis table has been installed.  This was directly opposite, and near enough to, our seat so that we were continually fielding missed balls.  In fact, Sammy, caught one in his.  The games seemed to be open to all challengers on the basis of ‘winner stays on’.  There were some very good players, the last one being quite exceptional.  He was rather pleased when I quipped, as I rose to leave, that he would be there all day.  I made my way back to Leicester Square station and took the tube back to Morden.

I had planned to cook a rogan josh this evening, marinated the meat, and done all the preparation, but PayPal did my head in.  I spent an hour and a half trying to get them to allow me into my account.  I have not used this for some years, since when they have introduced a new security system.  I had to display the name of my primary school and the colour and make of my first car.  They kept telling me my information was incorrect.  Well, I should know shouldn’t I?  And they’d never asked me that before.  Eventually I was timed out, but I could access them by telephone.  I took this option.  The number they gave me turned out to be an O2 number.  I gave up and we went to the China Garden in Morden.  The reason I wanted to use PayPal is because the free download space I am using to put photographs on my blog is running out.  If I don’t get this sorted you will see no more photographs.

An excellent Chinese meal helped me relax, as did the Chateau du Souzy beaujolais 2010 I drank with it.  Jackie drank Tsingtao beer.

Rabbits On The Roof

Listening to the squirrels scampering on our roof this morning reminded me of those in the loft of Lindum House in Newark who sounded as if they were wearing hob-nailed boots.  It is amazing how much noise they make.  This also gives me an excuse to tell a Soho story.

During the middle years of the 1970s we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard in Soho.  Between Gerrard Street and Shaftsbury Avenue, this was a little-known mews where we had a flat in a Westminster City Council property.  Michael, in his early teens decided to keep and breed rabbits.  Now, there isn’t much room in Chinatown, so there was nothing for it but a rooftop farm.  Michael, always inventive, built a runway across the roofs in the Yard, using ladders to circumvent the different heights of the various roofs he had to pass before reaching his chosen site.  This was the flat roof of a music publisher’s offices. The staff there, incredibly, had no problem with what was happening. In those days produce for the myriad of chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street came in wooden boxes which were discarded and left for the binmen.  These boxes made good firewood, but Michael had other uses for them.  He used them to build rabbit hutches and to make a safety barrier for his pets around the perimeter of the roof.

An elderly woman in an upper floor of a block of flats overlooking the area got so much pleasure  from watching the rabbits frolicking in the sunlight that she took to leaving vegetable scraps on our doorstep to supplement their diet.

One of the ladders reaching from our roof to the next one spanned a skylight which was so begrimed as to be invisible.  That is why, when one of Michael’s friends decided to jump instead of using the ladder which Michael had carefully placed to avoid such an eventuality, he went clean through it.  I was summoned, peered through the window, and saw Simon in the clutches of a gentleman who had no intention of letting him go.  I rushed round into Gerrard Street, managed to work out in which building the boy was being held, searched through the warren of rooms until I came to the right one, and persuaded the man to release him.

I kid you not.  Every word of this is true.

Later in the morning, getting back in good time for a supervision session at midday, I made a long tour of Morden Hall Park.  In one of the areas where the heady scent of cow parsley is all pervading I stopped and chatted to a National Trust volunteer, armed with a grabber and a black bag, ‘litter-picking’.  He told me that there is a team of ‘litter-pickers each allocated a different area of the park.  We were standing in The North Meadow.  This explains why there is a marked difference litter-wise once one crosses the tramline into the local authority managed area of The Wandle Trail.  He suggested I needed a little dog for my daily walks.  I said I was quite satisfied with the Jack Russells belonging to my son and daughter.  Further on I met one of his colleagues.

The aroma in the rose garden was of horse shit.

This evening we had a wonderful steak pie by The Real Pie Shop of Crawley, bought at The Greens Farm Shop in Ockley.  As one of the vegetables I made my first ever braised red cabbage.  As Delia’s recipes are sometimes rather bland for me I may have been a bit heavy handed with the spices.  This might explain why Jackie said it tasted more like apple pie than red cabbage.