Yaw

Having just passed through London Minstead this morning on the way to Southampton for my usual journey to Waterloo, we learned the true meaning of New Forest animals having no road sense, and a contributory factor to so many fatalities.

Fortunately Jackie, as usual, was driving slowly down this winding lane. In a flash, almost alongside the car, two ponies burst through the wayside gorse, scrambled awkwardly up a ditch, and staggered forward. As my driver, crying the warning, ‘No, no’, made an emergency stop, one of these creatures swerved and continued along the side of the vehicle. The other, practically touching the bonnet, without a sideways glance, tottered across the road in front of us. Anyone travelling a bit faster and not anticipating the reckless progress of the animal would most certainly have hit it.

This incident put me in mind of Gerhard, known as Garry, a temporary colleague in Mobil Shipping Company where I worked in a building appropriately named The Pill Box from 1963 -1966. Linking the central island on which this stood with the rear entrance of Waterloo Station was a zebra crossing. From my office window I once watched this high flying international management trainee, without warning, march across this pedestrian access bringing an approaching vehicle to a skidding halt. When I suggested to him that this might not be the most sensible way to use the crossing and that he might end up in the nearby St Thomas’s hospital, he replied: ‘Well, it would be his fault’. There wasn’t really any answer to that.

Tube trainFrom Waterloo I took the same tube journey as last time to Preston Road, where the underground trains get to come up for air. John Billam Sports GroundFrom there I walked to Norman’s new home. This took me through the John Billam Sports Ground, which could have graced many a London suburb of its period.

AllotmentsOne corner contains well-tended allotments which bore evidence of recent rotavation. A Yawsolitary jogger ran several laps of the perimeter, and I had a pleasant conversation with a young man who was honing his football skills in what I took to be a five-a-side enclosure. This was Yaw. It was good to meet him and shake his hand. He seemed to have tireless energy, but perhaps he appreciated the brief interlude my interruption had afforded him.

Norman fed us on shoulder of pork with flavoursome savoury rice, kale, and green beans, followed by blackberry and apple latticed flan. We shared a bottle of 2010 Chianti riserva.

I then travelled by Metropolitan, Jubilee, and Victoria lines to Victoria for a visit to Carol.

As I slid my left palm along a metal handrail in Victoria station my fingers momentarily adhered to a glutinous gobbet of gum on its underside.

After my normal journey back to Southampton Jackie met me and drove me home.

In case anyone, having read my last two posts, is wondering, I am still waiting for Penyards’ manager to ‘get back to me’.

A Beautiful Setting

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.  Park Plaza HotelThe 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. Station Approach Road Graffiti now decorates the lower approach. Lower MarshFrom 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.  Lower Marsh MarketMany 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 White in Millennium Green 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.

The Scent Of A Squirrel

Churchill lying in state004Last night I finished reading the National Trust guide to Chartwell which, as they say, is synonymous with Churchill.  Reading of the country’s reaction to his death took me back to 1965 when I was working for Mobil Shipping Company in a building nicknamed The Pill Box, situated outside Waterloo Station near the end of Westminster Bridge. Close to where St. Thomas’ hospital is now. Churchill lying in state002 From there it was possible to see the growing queues snaking along The Embankment waiting for some hours to pay their respects at his lying in state.Churchill lying in state001Churchill lying in state003Churchill lying in state005

I still have the colour slides I took of these people in their ’60s coats.

The Pill Box was so named because of its hexagonal shape.  Highly modern then, today it no longer exists, having been far too small and therefore insufficient investment for such a profitable site.

Such a warm, cloudless day as this demanded a walk in Morden Hall Park.  This it got, not just by me, but also by mothers and toddlers, some of whom were settling themselves on the grass, in anticipation of spending some time there on the first such day we have had since that freak one week spring in March.  A group of schoolchildren were having an alfresco lesson.  No longer was the park the sole province of hardy dog-walkers and intrepid old men.

The coot family has arrived.  This morning there were some chicks squeaking in the nest with their mouths open waiting to be fed, while two were trailing their parents and being given the first of the goodies that were being fished out of the water.  These two were not so daft.  By far the most plentiful birds at the moment, both in the park and Morden’s gardens, are magpies.  At one point I saw six together.  If, like me, you can’t get beyond two in the nursery rhyme, Google it to find out what I’m in for.  This, of course, is bad news for this year’s avian parents.  They can be heard in the gardens attempting to scare off the predators who are certain to reduce this summer’s dawn choruses.

The stream bore masses of yellow irises, and clover had arrived to join the now really profuse buttercups.

Those of you who may be puzzled by Louisa’s response to the squirrels in the loft are entitled to an explanation.  Some years ago, when Louisa and I were still living in Lindum House, and I was down in London working for a couple of days, she telephoned me to say there was something wrong with the shower water.  It had an horrible smell.  I said I would sort it out when I got home.  Thinking that Louisa (although that was never her wont) may have been being a bit fussy, I climbed into the shower cubicle to sample it……   No way was I going to shower in that!  I instantly recognised the most unsavoury stench as that of a dead rodent.  Before Louisa had existed we’d had a dead rat in Soho and that smell, once experienced, is never forgotten.

I ventured into the loft and, sure enough, floating in the albeit securely covered water tank, were the putrid remains of an adventurous squirrel.  How it got in there is a mystery.  Removal of the corpse was an extremely delicate task.  Imagine trying to scoop up a furry  jelly which hasn’t properly set.  Having drained the tank several times the water was still nauseous.  Knowing that Matthew would be able to advise on the problem I telephoned him.  He suggested a trip to the local swimming baths – not for a shower, but for a solution.  I just had time to get there before they closed, and a very kind young man, at some risk, he assured me, to his job, provided me with a bag of stuff.  This was to be applied to the water and subsequently drained off.  I had to do this three times before either of us dared contemplate a shower.  I hope the young man has risen up the ranks.

Our evening meal today consisted of fish and chips courtesy of Messrs. Young and McCain, Sainsbury’s Basic Mushy Peas and Hayward’s pickled onions washed down with a Shepherd Neame brew from Lidl at £1 a bottle.