A Day To Defeat The Dreariness

After another enjoyable and positive chiropractic session with Eloise it was decided that my next appointment could be in two weeks time.

We then deposited four waistcoats and a jacket with White’s dry cleaners in New Milton, afterwards visiting the very friendly, helpful, and efficient Robert Allan, jewellers.

Even I have three devices which, adjusting for break in service, changes in time zones, and British Summer Time six monthly tinkering, automatically display the time of day the minute the screen has been switched on.

So why do I need watches?

First, because I am of an era before digital technology and have always looked at my wrist to tell the time – even when I am not wearing a ticking dial strapped there.

Second, because each of my wrist watches and my one fob watch have emotional significance for me. It will be ten years in October

since my brother Chris bequeathed me his fob watch presented to me in a box of her own making at his funeral.

Possibly 30 years ago, having been sent to walk around Oxford Circus for forty minutes in order to let eye drops settle after an optometrist’s examination at Dollond and Aitchison, I spotted a closing down sale at a jeweller’s which is now a Shelly shoe shop. In the window, at half price, was my

Longines battery operated chronometer which has kept time to the second ever since, unless it runs out of battery. Incidentally, when the optometrist told me there was no change in my sight, I asked why, then, could I see very little in my left eye? This prompted the check. The reason for the deterioration was the result of damage incurred by a cricket ball when I was 14.

Finally, when I retired in 2010 our friend Jessie gave me my kinetic Tissot watch, again a perfect timekeeper, which is beginning to need extra winding.

Within twenty minutes Robert Allan had replaced the batteries and told me that the winder could be operated manually.

We then lunched at Camellia’s restaurant in Everton Garden Nurseries, where we enjoyed excellent, perfectly cooked meals, at very reasonable prices. We joined a fast moving queue where we could see trays of all the meals being presented, making for simple choices. Friendly service at the till was followed by our food being brought to our table by equally pleasant waitresses. The wait was not long, especially considering how fresh the cooking was.

As has become customary, Jackie made these internal photographs

of the outlet itself, making sure not to include any of the customers in the extensively packed dining area;

of the menu and the specials board;

of the splendid cake displays, and the free bottles of water,

and, of course, our meals – her warm panini with tuna, cheese, and onion stuffing, fresh salad and crisps –

and my tender steak in red wine casserole with freshly cooked vegetables.

After lunch we took a trip to the east of the forest where we

encountered damp ponies at East Boldre, but not much else worth photographing.

The header picture is to make Ian wish he were here.

This evening we all dined on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce and Jackie’s colourful savoury rice with which she drank Reserva Privada Chilean Rosé Cuvée 2021 and I drank Mighty Murray Shiraz.

A Knight’s Tale (31: Mugging & More)

One day when still in primary school I managed to get lost on Wimbledon Common with my friend Tom McGuinness.  We were forbidden to do this trip on our own. Because we couldn’t find our way home, I did not return until 9 p.m., by which time my parents had involved the police in a search.  Had we had a dog then my dinner would have been in it.  I was sent straight to bed without a meal, but fortunately Mum relented and brought me a delicious tray of home-cooked food.  Somehow that beats breakfast in bed.

It was among these trees that I was subjected to my first mugging.  I was a rather large ten year old and had beaten a fifteen year old in a school playground fight not long before.  I had admonished this lad for bullying a friend of mine.  He had therefore challenged me to a fight at lunchtime.  With considerable trepidation I had, at the appointed time, been led into the centre of a ring of what seemed to be the whole school.  I can still hear the cries of “Fight, fight”, and feel the pushes of the excited audience whenever I stepped back a bit.  Like all bullies, he was a coward, and collapsed as soon as I fought back.  I was, however, no match for the three teenagers in the Wimbledon Common wood who sat on me and searched my pockets.  This time I had ventured out on my own. Fortunately I had no money.

I never had another playground contest, although I was prevailed upon to join the boxing club at Wimbledon College.  Not actually being interested I used the fact that my parents couldn’t afford the subscription as an excuse to decline.  Unfortunately I was then told I would not have to pay.  I knocked someone out in training and that was the end of that.  Some time afterwards, a boy called Rickards, much smaller, but very handy with his fists, who kept a list of those he could beat up, decided it was my turn for the treatment.  I offered no resistance, and was duly beaten up.  I still remember the acute shame, but no way was I ever going to hit another boy.  Mohammad Ali was much more successful when standing with his arms hanging down; perhaps he had more nimble footwork.

Some thirty odd years after the attack on the common I was walking from my counselling room in Harrow Road, W9, along Portnall Road, when I noticed a left trainer with a leg in it very close to my own left leg.  The next thing I knew was that someone was sitting on my back-pack which was on my shoulders.  I also carried a bag of books.  Although I remained standing I began to feel myself losing consciousness.  I was aware that an arm was around my throat and I imagine pressure was being applied to the relevant point in my neck.  It was not unpleasurable, rather like the moment of succumbing to gas and air at the dentist’s.  Nevertheless I realised I’d better shift the arm, which I managed to do, just as I felt another pair of hands  ferreting in the back pocket of my trousers.  By then I was down on one knee, still clutching my bag of books.  Remaining rather dazed, I rose, and turned to face my assailants, who decided to run off into the warren that was the Mozart Estate.  In those days I would have stood a fair chance of catching them had I not been too dazed to run.  Instead I walked after them, which was not much use.  I passed a middle-aged man leaning against a skip.  When I asked if he had seen two hooded young men he looked at me with hazy eyes, and said: ‘Want some hash, man?’.  ‘What am I doing here?’, I thought.  It was not until afterwards that I realised that the winder of my Longines wristwatch had gouged a hole in the back of my hand.  Perhaps that was what they were after.  Fortunately it has a very strong bracelet.  All they managed to take was a train ticket for my return journey to Newark.  Unless one of them was keen on a one-way journey to the Midlands, I imagine they were rather disappointed.  For about a month thereafter I retraced that route hoping to come across my attackers again.  Eventually I realised how stupid that was and put it behind me.  I still have the watch.