A Professional Clean

Last night I began reading ‘Moonfleet’ by J. Meade Falkner.

On this fine June day I took the same walk, with amendments, as yesterday.  Following on from one of that day’s themes, I was only a few yards into Crown Lane when a cyclist rushed past me on the pavement, spurning the allocated cycle lane alongside her in the road.

This time I went through Morden Hall Park, turning right at Phipps Bridge tram stop and coming out onto Morden Road.  As I passed through the garden centre I saw a couple of notices proclaiming A RIVER RUNS THROUGH THIS SITE PLEASE SUPERVISE YOUR CHILDREN.  I gave some thought to little Kate Brown who is remembered in the eponymous post of 23rd. May.  Mowing was in progress in the park, creating that sweet smell which had originally alerted me to the presence of the water meadow at Colliers Wood on that same day.

Walking down Mitcham Park, in the Cricket Green preservation area, I stopped and spoke to a couple working in their garden.  The woman was fiercely protective of her home town’s reputation, whilst her husband expressed the view that it deserved its current negative one. He referred me to Google where I would find a site describing Mitcham’s chavs.  She said his glass was always half empty.

Having been guided by Becky, much more of the final stretch was through Mitcham Common.  On passing the lake I encountered a man, having discarded his bicycle, sitting on a wonderfully naturally smoothly moulded tree trunk.  I quipped: ‘If that were in a West End shop it would be very expensive.’  ‘I know,’ he replied, ‘that’s why I’m enjoying every minute of it.’  It is perhaps a measure of how bucolic a journey it is possible to make across 5 miles of S.W. London that I was carrying a letter to post and did not pass one pillar box en route.

Our daughter continues to do remarkably well.  Despite having just endured a major operation she expresses some embarrassment at the cleaning of the flat we have undertaken.  By ‘we’ I mean Jackie with some minor assistance from me, the sous-cleaner.  She does not know that her flat’s needs are nothing compared to the one we rented on The Ridgway in Wimbledon Village.

As a child, I had always dreamed of living in Wimbledon Village, so when Jackie and I sought a second time around home together it was natural that I should seek a flat there.  The estate agent had insisted on a professional clean of this furnished property.  The owner kept delaying occupation, saying she would clean it herself.  I once visited and found our landlady standing with a limp rag in her hand indicating black discolouration on the ceiling which she said had been caused by a previous tenant’s joss sticks.  On the morning of the moving day she phoned me saying that the professional cleaners had delayed and asking me yet again to defer taking up residence.  I refused.  That meant we (the same ‘we’ as mentioned above) had to knuckle down and fumigate the place.

The curtains were filthy and hanging unevenly from crooked curtain rails.  When Jackie washed these the colours were revealed.  The fridge contained mould in abundance, the ice cubes being full of indescribable matter including hair; the cooker was rusty, greasy, and rancid.  It took all Jackie’s considerable skills to make it usable.  At one point I dropped something down behind the cooker and had to move that to extract whatever it was.  I regretted it immediately, because there was a long-standing oily mass underneath, including a number of cigarette filters.  The elderly kitchen cabinet doors didn’t fit and were streaked with unpleasant looking matter.  The washing machine didn’t work but a new one was on order.  When the new one was delivered one of the men moaned all the way about having to cart it up three flights of stairs.  He did not get a tip, despite my having once been a furniture remover and knowing how important are these earnings supplements.

The dining table had a glass top laid into a groove glued tight by decaying food.  The unmatched chairs had cigarette burns in the seats.  All the carpets in the flat bore similar tell-tale round holes. An ashtray contained a couple of stubs, and underneath the sofa there were piles of rubbish, mostly cigarette filters.  The sofa covers had suffered at the claws of cats.

A reproduction chest of drawers in the bedroom did not close properly.  This was because, although each drawer was numbered, they had not been fitted in the correct order.  The antique brass bed had two missing corner post knobs.  The owner had assured me that they would be replaced.  They weren’t, so Jackie used tennis balls to fill the vacuum.  Stains on both sides of the mattress caused very unsavoury speculation.  The wardrobes were full of the owner’s own clothes which stank of cats, with whose hairs they were liberally threaded.  The doors would not close and the free-standing one threatened to fall apart.  Most of the apartment’s windows were insecure, but you’d have to be a very determined rock climber to scale the walls of this large Victorian building.  They were also caked in grime and no way was either of us going to sit on the crumbling cills at such a scary height to attempt to scrape that off.

We did manage to get our landlady to remove her clothing (from the wardrobes, not herself), but she left some of her belongings in the loft and in a well on the approach to the flat.  This meant that she would want to visit to collect stuff.  She would make appointments and not turn up, or arrive unannounced.  After a while the lavatory seat split and provision of a replacement was delayed because the owner wanted to inspect the break before authorising the purchase of a new one.  She failed three appointments to do that before the agent advised us to buy own own and submit the bill to him for reimbursement.  On a cold winter’s day we duly went off to buy an undamaged loo seat.  Returning with our purchase who did we find sitting, wrapped in furs and wearing a scarf and boots, surrounded by shopping bags and cigarette ends, smoking a fag on the broad steps up to the front door, but our landlady. Having made and not kept an appointment to collect them from the loft, she had come for her ski boots.  I asked her where she was going skiing.  She told me that she wasn’t, implying that the question was rather stupid. She hadn’t been able to get into the loft because she hadn’t got a ladder.  When I offered to help she said she didn’t want them now.   I think you’d say she was somewhat eccentric.

Who cares?  I had arrived in Wimbledon Village.

After one of Jackie’s tender lamb casseroles we drove home and disturbed the peace of Mother Fox in the front garden.

Cyclists, Geese, Ducks, And Tourists

This morning I walked to Becky’s home, meeting Jackie who had driven there.  The route took me via the Mitcham cricket green and across the common.  Walking along Cricket Green on one side of the eponymous conservation area, with the flamboyant clubhouse alongside Mary Tate’s almshouses across the road, one is reminded of how beautiful Mitcham was in days gone by.

Along one stretch of Morden Hall Road half the pavement has been designated for cyclists.  I have never seen a cyclist using it.  London has many such stretches of pavement reducing the width of pedestrian footpaths.  The only one I have ever seen used is actually the first one I experienced.  That is on a stretch of road between Balderton and Newark in Nottinghamshire.  Cyclists may have availed themselves of this, but the ratepayers were less than happy about the expense.  Bicycles ridden on the undesignated pavement can, however, be a menace on the busier inner London roads.  They often speed along, weaving in and out among pedestrians, and steaming around corners with frightening disregard for their or other people’s safety.  I was once clipped on the arm by one on the pavement in The Strand.  As this was in my running days I set off after him and caught him up at traffic lights.  He was rather surprised.  Perhaps not only because I didn’t hit him.  I just had a quiet word.

The roads, of course are unsafe for cyclists, choked as they are with drivers of varying ability.  I don’t really know what the answer is, but surely it can’t be Boris’s Bikes which add more riders to already densely occupied streets. Interestingly, the only pavement- encroaching cyclist I’ve ever seen challenged by a policeman was a man mounting the kerb to replace a Boris Bike in a rack alongside Westminster Cathedral.

Having rounded the cricket green and on approaching the A236 roundabout on the wide pavement I was overtaken by a cyclist who wobbled past me on the inside and teetered across my path into and across this major road weaving his way through the cars approaching the junction before continuing his journey along the opposite footpath.  I swear I had my earlier thoughts before this happened.

Much of my continuing  journey involved crossing Mitcham Common.  Only ever having driven and, I admit it, albeit 45 years ago, cycled along the major roads through the common, I had not realised what a pleasant amenity this is.  The path I took between Commonside West and Windmill Road has at some time in the not too distant past been planted with an avenue of oaks.  A lake in the middle of the common was home to large number of Canada Geese including a mother shepherding her troop of goslings and hissing at me.  These large birds which are now rife in our public parks and canalsides were introduced into this country as long ago as the end of the 17th. century.  It was about the middle of the 19th. century that fortunes were made in Peruvian guano, that is sea-bird droppings, which was highly valued as a fertiliser.  Maybe there is an opportunity for an entrepeneurial individual prepared to collect the masses of Canada Geese excretia, just as Mr. Figg, one of my childhood neighbours, collected horse droppings left by the rag-and-bone man’s steed to spread on his garden.

My path across the common was twice crossed by a skein of what I took to be tourists under the direction of a guide.  They would occasionally stop for a lecture or explanation.  As I watched them file after their leader I was reminded of the duck that had once taken over the pond in our garden at Lindum House.  She came in off the road and trotted down the drive followed by a string of her babies; inspected all the walls and fences bordering the garden, the ducklings following in single file; and when satisfied finally settled her family on the small pond which I had dug myself.  Perhaps the goslings also influenced this memory.

I met a postman when nearing Becky’s flat, and we had a laugh about the chaotic street layout and house numbering in the area, Westmorland Way being the most confusing.

After a day with Becky Jackie fed us all on an excellent chicken casserole after which she and I returned to Morden, both by car.