Jackie drove me to the station a little later this morning for a trip to London to see Carol. Posting my last of these train journeys on 23rd of this month I had expressed the intention of using the Quiet zone carriage. Today there was a nerve-wracking queue for tickets. I obtained mine just in time, but some didn’t. Ahead of us all were two women with three five-year olds and one younger child. While those in charge debated their optimum ticket option the four infants, voices emitted at maximum decibels, dashed about doing their utmost to trip everyone up. As I settled into the Quiet zone, who should come tripping and tumbling up the aisle? You’ve guessed it. Oh joy! Winchester, the first stop, is only seven minutes away from Southampton Parkway. That is when ‘are we at London?’ began. Maybe in order to make themselves heard, the mothers’ utterances were often loudest. Everyone was very excited by a game of Scissors Paper Stone initiated by one of the adults, who, incredibly turned out to be the quieter. When the other parent began a simultaneous game of I Spy I began to be a bit confused. Was ‘something beginning with S’ sky, scissors, or stone? And would stone represented by a fist qualify? A detailed description by the louder Mum of an Indian train journey complete with a graphic picture of the toilet that was a hole in the floor around which everyone had pooed was particularly savoury. Have I mentioned that all this was going on a good few seats behind me? Clear as a bell. But not a mobile phone ring tone, so presumably legal. I didn’t even start on my reading. No way could the book have competed with the amplified audio version of this well-travelled voice. Why, oh why, had she not fallen off that mountain? And why did she have to open that parachute? On a whim, having plenty of time, I wandered around the Kennington side of Waterloo station, as far as Lambeth North underground. Station Approach Road which brings taxis and buses to the side entrance of the London terminal was my route from The Pill Box, a small, then modern, building when, from 1963 to 1966 I had worked there for Mobil Shipping Company’s insurance subsidiary. The Park Plaza Hotel now stands on the site of a pub named after the building’s shape, above which were Mobil’s offices. In those days I commuted to there from Raynes Park. Graffiti now decorates the lower approach. From Kennington Road I back-tracked for a nostalgic walk along Lower Marsh. The London Eye, then not even a proverbial twinkle, is just visible from this street where I regularly lunched with my great friend Terry Taylor in a cafe that served shepherd’s pie that tasted like moussaka, and rice pudding and custard. The thoroughfare is now so completely changed that I was unable to find this establishment. Passing a stall that sold antique glass and brass, I heard the vendor’s neighbour asking him what he thought of Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming Prime Minister. I told him of an occasional commuting companion on the Newark to King’s Cross train who had, in the late ’90s, predicted Boris for ‘the next Tory Prime Minister’. This led to a somewhat awkward discussion about the state of the country and the self-seeking nature of politicians. I changed the subject and asked about my cafe. He didn’t know it, and, anyway, he hadn’t himself been a twinkle in 1963. I sat for a while in Waterloo Millennium Green which wasn’t there then either. Many people sat here to consume foods from the mult-ethnic preparations on offer at the stalls now strung along what was once part of Lambeth Marsh. Here I conversed with Steve White, who, like me, was in search of ‘remembrance of things past’. A really nice man, a builder whom I will recommend to Michael, although twenty years younger, he shared many of my own memories. Ten years after I had watched flats being demolished behind The Pill Box, as a child living in another block, he watched further buldings making way for St. Thomas’s Hospital. When grown up, he had drunk in that pub. Steve remembered this piece of land when it was ‘all concrete’, and was delighted to be photographed in what he thought was now a beautiful setting. He was rather chuffed at the thought that his image would travel around the world this evening. One of the strings to his bow is gardening, which is clearly why the Green appealed to him. After this, vowing never to venture on it again until the tourists had all left, I fought my way across a jam-packed Westminster Bridge and into Victoria Street. It was a relief to stagger into Great Smith Street and through to Carol’s home in Rochester Row, stopping on my way to enjoy a hearty all day breakfast in The Laughing Halibut on the corner of Strutton Ground. Knackered commuters are, if you discount snoring, much less noisy than exuberant excited children and their guardians. I was therefore able to finish Ralph A. Griffiths’ contribution to the Oxford History, ‘The Later Middle Ages’, and make a start on John Guy’s ‘The Tudor Age’, on my return journey. My chauffeuse was there to greet me at Southampton; to drive me home in comfort; and to feed me on chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice followed by an Aldi choc-ice. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I consumed Kingfisher.