On this sparkling autumn morning I bade farewell to Morden Park; to its squirrels, its magpies, its rooks, its parakeets; and the many passing acquaintances I have met there in the last eighteen months.

Jackie, during the next couple of days, will be engaged in much more difficult goodbyes, as she leaves Merton Social Services Department after more than thirty years employment during which she has undergone many changes.

Noticing one of the regular dog walkers trying to coax his reluctant labrador out of the park, I commented that it was usually the dog tugging the man. ‘E don’ wanna go ‘ome’, was the reply.  ‘E’s all right comin’ in, but now ‘e says: ‘c’mon Dad, let me play a bit longer’.  Further on I met a woman with two dogs, talking to a couple with another.  She was saying that the pulling dogs really hurt her arm.  I told the story of my earlier conversation.  They all laughed and she said: ‘If they ‘ad their way they’d stay ‘ere too’.  Later a man watching me vainly trying to capture with my Canon a bright green parakeet sunning itself on a oak branch said: ‘There’s loads of ’em round ‘ere’.  I guess I will become equally familiar with a rather different accent in The New Forest.Morden Park 11.12 (2)

Contemplating fruiting ivy surmounting a wire mesh fence took me back to autumns in Lindum House.  The grounds were surrounded by a lias limestone wall, the material of which was centuries old.  This had been scavenged by early builders from the ruins of Newark Castle which had, during the Civil War, been destroyed by the Royalists as they were about to be defeated, so that Cromwell’s men could not make use of it.  Clambering over this wall was much older ivy than Morden’s.  The stems were very thick and I had to prune it every year to prevent it from endangering passers-by.  It could poke your eye out.

As, in December 1987, we stood at the two-hundred-year-old cast iron gate watching the removal men depart, Jessica had said: ‘This is it, isn’t it?’, meaning this would be our last move.  Sadly, this was not to be, for nineteen years later, I was soon to be widowed for the second time, and to return to London.  There have been five changes of abode since then, not counting the holiday home in Sigoules.  Maybe Minstead will be the last.  It is certainly a very exciting prospect.

Sometimes happily, sometimes not so, I have therefore become quite accustomed to removal men, none so remarkable as the young Maltese who was on the team that moved us from Furzedown to Newark.  He was a huge man with massive, powerful, hands.  He carried a full tea chest of books on one shoulder, whilst one-handedly wielding an armchair in the other hand.  Time and again.  When it came to returning the tea chests to the van, he would, by the corners, grip four in each hand.  This charming character, full of smiles, could not speak English, but his colleagues, whose task he made much easier, told me his story.  He had come to England for what would be a life-saving operation on his pituitary gland.  He was suffering from gigantism and needed medical intervention to stop him growing.  I have often wondered how he is.

For this evening’s meal I made a lamb jalfrezi.  I have never before managed to make one from left over roast lamb, as opposed to balti pre-cooked meat, without it still tasting like an English roast.  This time I worked hard at it and succeeded.  Jackie drank her usual Hoegaarden with it, and, unusually, I drank Roc de Lussac St. Emilion 2010.

Kersall Telephone Box

This morning I let my feet do the directing.  They took me into Morden Park and along the wooded paths, having approached them along the cleared route between the backs of Hillcross Avenue gardens and the park itself.  An untended fenced section peters out into pleasant woodland in which I was confronted by a Rottweiler which was more surprised than me and turned tail to join its owner and spaniel companion.  The gentleman walking these pets greeted me with ‘no dog?’, and there followed an entertaining conversation about our mutual need for exercise.  While this was going on the elderly larger dog stood panting whilst the spaniel sat patiently.  I had first met a Rottweiler on one of my training runs around Newark in the 1990s.  I regularly ran twenty miles on a Sunday morning, often passing fairly isolated houses, animals belonging to the residents of which tended to get rather excited at my trotting past.  They were not always fenced in, so I would slow to a walk and hope for the best.  A snapping at the heels was the usual treatment.  One day an agile representative of the breed cleared the gate in its boundary wall, leapt to my side, frolicked around, and nipped my wrist.  Fortunately it seemed to be a playful puppy.  I’m sure that had it had evil intent I would have lost my arm.  I went into the yard, rang a bell, and politely informed the owner that her pet was a highjumper.  She was rather surprised.

Whilst still on the first path today I stopped to look at a red phone box in someone’s garden. (Click here for a large collection in the garden of Oak Tree Farm)  A man called out to me, wondering if I wanted anything.  He, too, had a vociferous dog.  Perhaps the sight of a white head peering over their high fence had somewhat purturbed them.  I explained what I was doing and I think the gentleman was satisfied his security was not about to be breached.  It was only after I had moved on that I remembered Kersall and the woman who had hosted a bed and breakfast holiday Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I had enjoyed in 1987 in that village outside Newark.  We had decided to stay up there for a fortnight and search for a house.  My discovery, with my friend Giles Darvill, of Lindum House advertised by Gascoigne’s estate agency in Southwell, was the result.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember our hostess’s name, which is a pity because she ran an excellent establishment, and was instrumental in a campaign to save her hamlet’s famous red telephone box from extinction.  She carpeted the box, and kept fresh flowers, a visitors book, pencil, and various telephone books inside it.  It was regularly cleaned and sweet-scented, and received many visitors.  Unfortunately it wasn’t profitable and whichever of our enlightened telephone operators was responsible for this treasure wished to close it.  The battle to keep it functional continued into 2008, later residents having kept up the continuing care.  I do not know the outcome.

Across the other side of the park today I met the man with the two dogs again.  We greeted each other warmly.  A very fit female runner also crossed my path several times.  With us both still on the move, I suggested that she might one day run a marathon.  She wasn’t convinced.

This evening Jackie and I dined on a sausage and pork casserole I had made some months earlier.  In case anyone is worried that it might have been off, it came out of the freezer.  I finished off the Maipo Merlot 2010 and began a rather fine Era Constana 2009 Rioja.  Jackie preferred a Wickham Limited reserve white of 2010.  She’d probably have drunk Hoegaarden had we any in, but we hadn’t.

We Get Lots Of Stick

En route to Morden by car from The Firs this morning Jackie and I were presented with incontrovertible evidence which solved the conundrum I posted on 23rd. June.  What little Flo once called ‘tree tunnels’ are definitely caused by large vans.

A motorcyclist who was driving rather precariously got me talking about my Uncle Bill who was a great favourite of Chris and me during the years he was engaged to Auntie Vic.  Bill Burdett was an immensely kind and generous man who lost his legs in a motor cycle accident, when, the story goes, rather than hit a pedestrian he swerved and went under a lorry.  Bill had been a keen cricketer, but could never play again.  In our teens, he obtained membership of Surrey County Cricket Club for my brother and me.  With or without him, we spent many happy hours at The Oval.  It was Bill who, when I was fifteen, taught me to solve The Times crossword, and to whom I dedicated my half of ‘Chambers Cryptic Crosswords and how to solve them’, which I co-wrote with Michael Kindred.  By this time he and Vic were married and had their four children, our cousins Barry, Susan, Neil, and Fenella.  It was their garden in Victory Avenue in Morden which, in the 1950s, was the first one not my own with which I helped out.  When we were very small Bill entertained us with ‘Silver’ or ‘Copper’ Fairies’.  This was a marvellous game in which invisible fairies hid silver or copper coins in various parts of the room and we excitedly searched them out.  We never saw any fairies but we found lots of silver sixpences. These were the equivalent of two and a half pence in modern money, but you could do a lot more with them.  The coppers were pennies and halfpennies which have no equivalent today.  They were just as welcome.

Clouds were louring over Morden Park, where I took a brief stroll before a brisk walk to Church Lane surgery to meet Jackie before returning to The Firs.  My lady has been signed off work for another week because of a chest infection.

The path alongside the railway has now been barred off.  The barrier which has, for the eighteen months we have been in Morden, been left open, thus allowing the parking of cars, is now chained up and padlocked.  The flytipping warning which it has carried for a month or two has been ineffective.  The consequence is that currently no-one has vehicular access.Barrier, Links Avenue 10.12  There was nothing beyond this obstacle but a tipped heap.  The small white van parked alongside the gate ensured that a cyclist was forced to dismount in order to manoeuvre her steed through the gap.

In the park two dog-walkers with ten charges between them were earning their money.  I spoke to the man, most of whose dogs were harmlessly off the lead.  He questioned my motives for wishing to photograph the group because, he said; ‘we get a lot of stick’.  I don’t think he was speaking of throwing sticks for the animals to fetch.  When I explained my purpose he said I could photograph the dogs, but not him.  I said that would miss the point, and put my camera away.  By this time the woman, tangled up with five leads, had moved on, so I added that the moment had gone.  This was all friendly enough, and he finished by saying: ‘another time, maybe’.  Further on, another man was training a sheepdog.  Why, in Morden, I wondered.

After a two hour congested drive we arrived at Eastern Nights where we had the usual excellent meal, Bangla, and Kingfisher.  Elizabeth was heating up yesterday’s boeuf bourgignon for herself when we returned to her home.


Just before this dull, humid, noon, whilst Jackie was out shopping for our trip to The Firs, I took a brief stroll through Morden Park.  Apart from two friendly couples, one gay and one heterosexual, walking their terriers, I had only magpies and rooks for company.  The birds, scratting about among the stubble, didn’t much fancy mine. 

An absent couple seemed to have discarded their wardrobe in a hurry.  Hopefully they had something to change into.

So enamoured of the window boxes adorning the railings at the front of No. 7 Garth Road was Jackie, that she had to drive the long way round to the A3 to show me the display.  The nasturtiums were grown from seed.

On the A31, Jackie skillfully avoided squashing a vole scampering across the road in front of us.

Arriving at The Firs in the early evening, we were able to enjoy the effects of the lowering sun on the garden before it sank slowly behind the elderly corrugated iron Free Church building next door.  The images above are of abutilon, lobelia cardinals, and prunus pisardii. Whilst Jackie and I were sitting with Elizabeth in the garden, contemplating our next  projects, we were joined by her friend Lynne.  We spotted our little friend, the robin, whose absence had been alarmingly noted last week.  All is well.  The work done on the new bed has exposed the compost heaps of the Tardis, the home of Geoff and Jackie at the bottom of the garden.  We saw a rat emerging from the heap and scuttling away.  Apparently the heap does harbour rats.  This led to a discussion about these rodents.  We were generally agreed that wild ones were not the same as the tame variety.  Tame rats make incredibly good pets, the only problem being that they don’t live very long, so ownership of one is bound to end in tears.  Matthew and Sam, each in their turn, have owned pet rats.  Mat built a whole network of cages which housed up to 70 at one time.  His own particular favourite was kept in an unlocked cage.  At six o’clock every morning his little friend would trot up and sit outside Mat’s bedroom waiting for him to get up.  It was he who introduced his brother Sam to these pets.  Some time in the late 1980s, Jessica was featured in an ITV programme, part of a series about people working at night.  This was in fact the first one, the subject being Social Work.  In one scene Sam is seen seated on the sitting room floor with his white rat crawling up his clothes and nestling in the crook of his shoulder.  Jessica is on the phone to a client.  Rats, therefore, can be friendly and loyal pets.  This is not necessarily the case.  When we lived in Soho’s Chinatown the story was rather different.  In London you are said to be never more that a few metres from a rat.  In this area, where the sun never sets on restaurants, it was more likely centimetres.  We had very thick window frames and one very stout window box.  We wondered what could be gnawing its way through this seasoned timber.  Our friend Carole Littlechild, one night provided the answer.  Asleep on the floor in the sitting room she had been disturbed by the patter of tiny footsteps.  Across her face.  It was indeed a rat.

Remy, a wild rat who became a great friend of the main human character is the star of the Pixar computer-animated comedy film of 2007, ‘Ratatouille’.  This is a wonderful story, beautifully filmed.  If I say any more it will spoil the experience of those of you who accept my recommendation and see the production, even if it means buying the DVD.

After a month struggling with a virus, Elizabeth was able to join us at Eastern Nights in Thornhill.  Thornhill is not the most salubrious Southampton suburb, but it is home to the best Bangladeshi restaurant we have found in the area.  And our research has been extensive.

The Jubilee Sports Hall

This beautiful late summer day completely dispelled yesterday’s mood.  With no particular goal in mind, I walked the length of Hillcross Avenue and into Lower Morden Lane.  Turning right alongside the cemetery I took a footpath to Worcester Park, backtracked to another pointing to Trafalgar Avenue, which brought me into Cheam, and travelled left along the A24.  I Slipped into Morden Park at the first opportunity and returned home to Links Avenue.

Whenever she drives along Hillcross Avenue, Jackie points out the confusion created by the speed limits in that road, which are constantly alternating between 20 and 30 mph.  The changes are often obscured by trees.  The proud owner of a tree in Matthew’s (not!) favourite type of garden informed me that the features displayed are obtainable in any good garden centre.

The footpath runs alongside the Merton cemetery where Vivien (see 17th. July) is buried.  I contemplated her grave, which I could see through the railings.  In fact I had veered towards the cemetery, but realised I would be able to see what I wanted from the path.

Other footpaths are signposted along this main one, providing a veritable network linking numerous streets.  At point 58 in the system, I was tempted to turn off and follow one.  Being unable to choose between the two streets indicated on either side of this, I continued in a straight line.  Turning round at Worcester Park, I retraced my steps and took the path to Trafalgar Avenue.

Accompanied by her mother, a ten-year old girl was leading a large horse.  No doubt they had come from Green Lane Riding Stables which lie on the main path.  The Trafalgar Avenue route is bounded on the right by a very long wall built of concrete slabs.  This is completely covered in graffiti, sprayed with varying degrees of skill.  A boy on a bike, dragging a panting Boxer dog behind him was being very impatient with his labouring and inquisitive pet.  His cries of ‘leave it’ reminded me of my experience on 18th. June.

Trafalgar Avenue consists of a row of pleasant bungalows on the right, opposite a flowing stream alongside the screened backs of other houses.  As always when in Cheam, I thought of Don (see posts of 1st. to 8th. August).

A wedding had taken place in the Registry Office in the park, in much more conducive circumstances than the one I wrote about on 29th. June.

The facility provided by the Great Outdoor Gym Company was being put to good use by a young man.  Waiting until he was taking a pause between circuits I conversed with him about the relative merits of the modern equipment and the barbells I had used in my twenties and again in my thirties and forties.  He invited me to have a go on the bench press.  I pleaded age and infirmity.  In my twenties I had used the earlier YMCA building in Wimbledon.  When Matthew and Becky were small and visited us in Soho, I would take them to the Jubilee Sports Hall in Covent Garden for them to have fun on the trampoline.  Seeking an activity for myself, I chose to pick up weights again.  The hall’s availabilty as a sporting venue was under threat, and, as part of the campaign to preserve it, a Chinese photographer produced a superb set of blown up illustrations which lined the entrance staircase.  I featured in one, pushing up a bench press.  Michael’s friend Eddie, was playing football in another.  It was in this hall that I played my first game of Badminton.  An ungainly pit-a-pat performance.  I happened, rashly, to mention this to Carol Elstub, my deputy at the time.  She told Ken Coleman, one of the Assistant Directors of Social Services.  Ken, she said, played Badminton.  She told Ken I played Badminton.  She flattered me.  A game was arranged.  Ken turned out to be a Middlesex County Coach.  Never mind, he taught me the game.  We played regularly for some years.  I would never beat him, but I did often manage to make him angry with himself.  Our games took place in Queen’s Park Jubilee Hall, a short walk from my office.  This particular venue is bound to be mentioned again.

Illustrating his sparkling wit, Matthew tells a great story about his adult days in the gym.  One of the other users, rather full of himself, proudly flexing his pecs, boasted: ‘look at these.  Himalayas’.  Quick as a flash, Mat crossed his forearms above his knees, one of which he grasped in each hand, and asked: ‘what are these’.  His companion had no answer, so my son provided it. ‘Pyrenees’.

I made a sausage and bacon casserole for this evening’s meal.  This was consumed with the aid of three glasses of Terres de Galets Cotes du Rhone 2011, bottle number 71041, in my case; and, you’ve guessed it, a glass of Hoegaarden in Jackie’s.  The bacon was Sainsbury’s cooking bacon which we can thoroughly recommend.  All other ingredients, including the vegetables, courtesy of the excellent Lidl’s.  This store is, incidentally, introducing Polski Smaki, or the taste of Poland, from 6th. September.  If anyone has any ideas of how to avoid continually dropping the nutmeg, whilst grating it, into the mashed potato, I would be pleased to hear from them.

Council Housing

Along the footpath to the mosque this morning a heap of building waste demonstrated that the flytipping (2nd. July) warnings have been ignored.  When I returned from my walk, it was still there, and a man was standing at the entrance holding up a board which announced that the Eid (15th. August) carpark was full.  There was a queue of hopeful drivers in their cars stretching out into Hillcross Avenue.  At the head was a vehicle full of Muslim women.  I moved some of the rubble, hoping it wasn’t asbestos, so the driver could park there.  A young Muslim man who had just parked alongside it declined to help.  After that the other, male, drivers were on their own.  Chivalry extends only so far.

Blackberries 8.12

Blackberries were ripening, to the delight of foragers.  Bindweed was rampant.  This menace was the curse of our tiny garden in Stanton Road.  I spent many hours as a child chipping away at the sun-hardened soil with a small garden fork, endeavouring to remove the last vestiges of trailing white roots.  The Forth bridge wasn’t in it.

Turning right onto London Road, I passed an old milestone.  This is a relic of the days of horse-drawn coaches.  I walked up to the crossroads and turned left, rounding into Green Lane which runs parallel to it.  This wide thoroughfare, with a tree-lined path running down the centre of it, begins in the Upper Morden Conservation Area.  It is part of the 1950s St. Helier Estate.  This vast post-war housing project contains beautifully built and spaciously laid out properties.  I think this was the last period of well-made council housing.  Like many other local authority homes, some are now privately owned.  It was Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policies that made this possible.  Undoubtedly this did enable a great number of people who would be unable to do so to become owner-occupiers.  It also reduced the amount of housing stock to accommodate those who could not afford to buy.  I have mentioned before (28th. June) that I worked in Westminster during the Shirley Porter era.  Looking out of my office window, or those of Beauchamp Lodge Settlement,  I wondered at the fact that Council owned residential flats were being tarted up and otherwise embellished, for example, with sloping roofs.  Some of these, no more than ugly boxes built in the ’60s, could certainly have done with it.  Other Council Housing Department properties were being boarded up.  Since there were numerous homeless families in the City of Westminster, this was another mystery.  What I had not been aware of was the scandalous gerrymandering that was going on.  My naive nature had imagined that money was being spent on improving the environment of Council tenants.  It was nothing of the kind.  Their homes were being prepared for sale to potential Tory voters.  Fortunately the worst of this abuse was not implemented until after I had, in 1986, left the Authority’s employment.  I would not have been able to stomach the enforced transportation of Westminster’s homeless families to hotel accommodation in other parts of London, to which the borough’s hapless people were being decanted.

Coming to the end of Green Lane, at the Rose Hill roundabout I turned right, eventually reaching Sutton Common Road, where I took another right turn which brought me to Epsom Road.  Right again and I was soon able to enter Morden Park and make for home.  Along the road from Rose Hill I came across another roadside memorial (see 12th. August) fixed to the common railings.

In Morden Park I discovered a fully equipped Cricket ground in a bucolic setting which I had not noticed before.  There is more to this open space than I had imagined; and much to be discovered on one’s own doorstep.

Later, Jackie and I drove to The Firs.  We had curries and beer at Eastern Nights.


On this dull and humid morning I had intended to follow Jackie’s suggestion that I take a bus somewhere and walk around there.  As I reached Morden bus station, a few drops of rain suggested I should pay attention to the weather forecast, and stay closer to home.  I therefore backtracked and made a tour of the derelict school sportsground and Morden Park.  I had received an e-mail from Mike Kindred telling me it was even hotter in the village I had just left.

As often, before 10 a.m. when they open, there was a queue outside Merton Citizen’s Advice Bureau.  These offices, now found all over London, are charities where people in need may obtain information, and at certain dedicated times, free legal advice.  Relying on various sources of funding, their opening hours are restricted.  This put me in mind of Charles and Betty Wegg-Prosser.  By the time I joined the Beauchamp Lodge Settlement Committee in 1974, Charles was no longer actively involved, although Betty was in the chair, where she remained for some years until I took over the position.  She was still a lively and influential member.  Settlements are charitable community organisations which either run or house activities, such as Adult Literacy schemes and various projects for young, disabled, or elderly people.  There are also facilities for minority groups, often accommodating them until they are established enough to obtain their own premises.  As a leading Labour Lawyer, Charles had founded the Paddington Citizen’s Advice Bureau.  This was a couple who gave a great deal to the poor and underpriveleged of Paddington.

Passing the concrete slabs, on which I sometimes sit and read in the sunshine, at the opening to the former ILEA sportsground, I noticed three vans parked on the grass.  A gang of men were laying something out beside them.  Naturally I wandered over to investigate.  They were in the process of erecting a marquee which was to house the expected overflow from the mosque which would be celebrating Eid at the weekend. Eid celebrates the end of Ramadin.  It is an end to fasting.Cameo event hire 8.12  Although the mosque itself, a tour of which I described on 18th. May, has a great deal of accommodation, it was not expected to cope with the many thousands of people who would be converging on this small suburb at the weekend.   Perhaps in preparation for this, the meadows were being mown by two enormous vehicles.  This was much more sophisticated machinery than the scythe with which I had romantically cut down our orchard meadow in Lindum House every autumn, taking care not to slaughter that year’s young frogs which frantically leapt out of my way.  For a different reason, I also carefully avoided disturbing bees’ nests when I applied the mower to it.

The windows and doors to the derelict building, posted on 29th. June, have now been cemented over, but someone has determinedly broken into two of them and placed an access board against one.  The inside is still a complete shambles.  The unofficial car parking area has had Flytipping (see 2nd. July) notices attached.

Graffiti artists had remembered the Queen’s Jubilee earlier in the year.  The Olympic torch also puts in an appearance.

On a wooded footpath I came across a squirrel burying his nuts.  When he had no trouble scampering away, I was reminded of the hoary old jocular definition of a macho man, being one who runs home from his vasectomy.  The owner of an interested Alsatian made his dog sit down and watch me walk by.  I thanked him.  When I arrived back at Links Avenue, the rain was falling in earnest.  Probably on Ernest as well, since he was going shopping.

Our repast this evening was a varied salad accompaned by Wickham Celebration rose, 2010

37 Rougemont Avenue

On this much calmer day, with a significant diversion, I made a tour of Morden Park.  The white cloud in evidence today was perhaps fulfilling the promise we have that the jet stream mentioned two days ago has finally exhausted itself.  Grey cloud, heavy rain, and the disappearance of the patches of blue later belied this. Postman 7. 12A postman was cycling along one of the postpersons’ regular routes through to Hillcross Avenue. I walked up the footpath to the London Road side of the park and along to the registry office where a wedding was in progress.   Shirtsleeves and skimpy dresses were on display among the guests.  I stopped and told them about the goose-pimpled bride I had seen in the pouring rain happily enduring the photographer’s attention on 29th. June (see post).  They clearly felt they were fortunate.  At this point I left the park, crossed London Road and continued on to Rougemont Avenue, where, at number 37, my parents had enjoyed their last London home.

As I stood outside the house, a very attractive and elegant young woman opened the front door, locked it, and came down the steps making for her car.  I told her what I was doing there and said what a shame it was that she was on her way out because I had hoped to photograph the back garden.  She told me she had only moved in a week ago and that the previous owners had landscaped the garden beautifully.  I mentioned that my parents had, in retirement in the 1980s, created the terracing, having mixed their own concrete.  That was it.  I got a result.  She smilingly invited me inside, unlocked the door and took me through to the back of the house.  The first thing I noticed was that there was no formica on the banisters.  I ran my hand along the carved struts and told her about Dad’s obsession.

When he retired Dad got seriously into DIY.  He was also seriously into the laminated surfacing which he was convinced would make everything easier to clean.  And I do mean everything.  Anything made of wood was carefully covered in beige and brown formica.  Even those struts were sheathed in two-tone carefully applied laminate.  As the new owner unlocked the back door I pointed to the picture window to the side and told her of my quip during one of our Sunday lunches.  Gazing through the window I had said: ‘Dad, it’s a pity you can’t get transparent formica.’  Puzzled, he asked me why.  ‘Well, then you could cover the windows’, I replied.  Guffaws all round, including, of course, from Dad.

We stood in the garden and I took this photograph for Mum.  As we left the house and the young woman finally got to her car, the last thing she said to me was: ‘Tell your Mum I will look after her memories’.  Elizabeth will make sure she reads this.

The Sunday lunches were a feature of our elder children’s lives.  On most of these days we would turn up, unannounced, for a veritable feast.  Oval plates, which the proprietors of The Martin Cafe (14th. May post) would have envied,  were piled with roast meat, usually lamb, Yorkshire pudding, and all the trimmings; always followed by apple pie and custard, with, if you had room for it, jam tart made with the surplus pastry.  Matthew still calls white pepper Grandma pepper.  Although now I don’t know how we managed it, there was a plentiful salad tea before we went home fully satisfied, not to say stuffed.

Mum, Louisa, Derrick, Uncle Norman 12.85(In January 2014, I discovered a photograph taken in December 1985 at the famous meal table. Mum and Louisa are having a discussion about an apparently questionable item hidden from view. I sit on the other side of our daughter. Uncle Norman is opposite, and we see the backs of Joseph and his girlfriend, who obscures Sam from view. Dad’s initial formica efforts can be seen. Jessica must have taken the picture.)

Returning to the park I continued my circumperambulation, passing the car park where my parents left their car before taking their own walks in this ancient landscape.  One day Mum had gone walking on her own.  Dad must have been at work.  When she returned for the car, it was gone.  She walked home, thinking that Dad had perhaps come and collected it.  He hadn’t.  Some young men were caught engaged in a burglary.  The car was to be their getaway vehicle.  Their misfortune was my parents’ good luck.

In the early evening Jackie and I drove to The Firs, stopping for a meal at The Farmer’s Home, a pub in Durley. Until we arrived in deepest Hampshire the evening was clear and bright.  The nearer we got to our destination the darker the sky became.  Eventually we met more heavy rain.  The meal was very good, but, as you have already been treated to Mum’s Sunday lunch I will not describe it.

When we left the pub mist was rising from all the fields around.

Merton In Bloom


After a night of rainfall which seemed to have abated, I decided to tramp the sodden terrain of Morden Park.  I didn’t have much company and, as I had just washed my hair,  when the rain came down again, it didn’t much matter that it got wet.  Saturday’s Mud Island came to mind.  Flies were savouring the evidence that someone had recently been taken short.  I’m pretty sure it was human excreta because I don’t know any dogs who use toilet paper.  But then, it was yet another foul day.  Flashes of orange moving along the distant tree line were two postpersons cycling through to Hillcross Avenue from London Road.  A solitary jogger was taking advantage of recent mowing.

On my return, having parked by the side of the path from Links Avenue, a police dog handler was about to exercise his charge.  We spoke about flytipping (posted 2nd. July).

This evening we visited the Sree Krishna restaurant in Tooting with our old friend Sheila Knight (unrelated).  The Sree, at forty years old, claims to be the oldest South Indian restaurant in South London.  It is an excellent establishment which tonight gave the lie to my conviction that the quality of the poppadoms is a good indication of the standard of what is to follow.  Tonight’s poppadoms were a bit tired and I didn’t like the pickles.  The rest of the food was very good, although Sheila’s masala dosai couldn’t match those served at the Watch Me in Morden Road.  I patronised the Sree Krishna once or twice when living in Furzedown in the 1980s.  I remember that in those days a strong recommendation was that the Indian medics from nearby St. George’s Hospital frequented it.  There were none in evidence this evening, but then there were only about half a dozen other diners.  It was a Monday night.

Sheila and I had met on our Social Work training course in 1969.  It was she, as Mayor of Merton, who had presented Jackie with one of her certificates as the winner of Merton In Bloom competition for the best front garden of a certain size sometime in the 1990s.  Jackie won this title for the seven successive years she submitted the tiny plot attached to the house in Amity Grove that I had bought in 1968.  The header photograph was actually taken at The Firs yesterday, but reflects the planting experience Jackie had gained in packing her small London garden with such profusion.  She filled every inch of the ground, and then began hanging baskets from anything and everything that didn’t move.  An elaborate watering system extended from a tap outside the kitchen door, which not only irrigated the garden itself, but also drip-fed window boxes on the first floor.  Heath Robinson would have been proud of it.  When she arrived home from work today she brought masses more plants destined for Elizabeth’s ‘hot bed’.  This had involved a trip to the garden centre at Morden Hall Park.  Whilst there she had visited the National Trust shop where she noticed several copies of ‘The Magnificent Seven’, by John Turpin and Derrick Knight.  Published by Amberley Press, this is a book about London’s seven Victorian landscaped cemeteries, for which John wrote the text and I took most of the photographs.

On our return home we noted that The Raj (26th. June) was full.


Derelict house, Morden Park 6.12

My attention today was turned to Morden Park.  Although it brightened up later, the morning was a good ten degrees colder than yesterday, blowing a gale, overcast, and occasionally drizzling.

Instead of circumperambulating (I just coined that) the park, I decided to ramble across it.  This proved beneficial, although on what I thought was my return journey a discarded sweatshirt I had seen earlier alerted me to the fact that I was going in quite the wrong direction.  I did an about turn and soon had the mosque (see post of 18th. May) in my sight, telling me I was on the right track.

I was to have a series of meetings.  The first was with a scantily clad couple sitting on the grass attempting to have a picnic.  Especially as the woman was wearing a strapless sundress I told them they were stalwarts.  They were already regretting their decision and said they wouldn’t be staying long.  Although the young lady declined to be photographed she did say I was welcome to write that I had ‘seen the mad couple’.  On the far side of the park, at Morden Park House, a beautiful building which is now the Registry Office, a wedding had just taken place.  The bride, also in a strapless dress, was, despite the danger of goosepimples, looking very happy and very lovely.  The photographer, much more suitably clad in a warm coat, periodically dived into her bag to change lenses, advising her subject not to get cold.  Some chance, I thought.  I didn’t ask if I could take a picture.

Abutting the park itself is a now derelict former GLC (Greater London Council, an earlier governing body) sports ground containing disused tennis courts and cricket nets which are still used by young Asian men.  Apparently there had been a long-running battle between the Council, who wanted to sell the land for a golf driving range, and the residents of Hillcross Avenue who opposed the plan.  I was therefore amused to see a man with a golf club with which he was driving a tennis ball for his dog to chase.  As  I caught up with him and began to chat we realised we had met back in the real winter in Morden Hall Park.  Then he had been smoking a pipe which he has recently given up after 40 years.  His moustache was still nicotine stained.  Further on I discovered that there is a Council-maintained nine-hole golfing range in the park.  The man practising his putting whom I engaged in conversation told me that the masses of parked cars on a roped off section of the grass were occupying a supplementary carpark for Wimbledon tennis.

Seated on a wooded path cuddling her pet dog was an elderly woman I had met before.  I asked her where were the treats she was usually feeding to Woody.  She had forgotten them.  This tiny animal is a Chihuahua/Jack Russell cross.  (My attempts at spelling Chihuahua were so abysmal that I had to resort to Googling dog breeds beginning with C.)   She had had 5 rescue dogs before, but was not allowed to adopt another because of her age.  Given that she is in her eighties, this was clearly reasonable.  However, this elderly person manages a fairly brisk daily walk with a rather fortunate little companion, the only substitute she would tolerate for her late husband of 60 years.   As I shook hands with her on departing, I realised she was quite arthritic.  Answering a private advertisement she had had to travel to Wales to obtain Woody.  It wasn’t only Woody who was to be disappointed this morning.  The woman’s grandson attended Hatfeild Primary school which lies alongside the path.  At playtime he likes her to wait by the wire fence so he can see the dog.  On this day she was late.  (My spelling of Hatfeild is correct.  It is the name of a landowning family who once occupied the area.  I am grateful to Jackie for this information as she often has to tell her work colleagues that a number of streets have not been similarly named in error.)

Enclosed within an overgrown copse at the entrance to the former schools sportsground is a derelict house.  This once attractive building, for as long as we have been in Morden has been seemingly securely boarded up and covered in graffiti.  I have often wondered what it looked like inside; whether it was GLC staff accommodation; and whether it might be for sale.  Today the thick plywood coverings had been removed from the ground floor windows and doors. It is now full of rubble, some of which someone has used to smash their way in.

As I left the area a cheerfully optimistic young Asian came through the broken down fence, through which I always gain access, wielding a much-used cricket bat.  Other, traditionally attired couples were quietly making their way along the path for their regular trips to the mosque.

For ‘us tea’ I made a sausage and gammon casserole.  It went down well with an excellent Cotes du Rhone – Terres de Galets 2011.  The wine was from Sainsbury’s; the meat from Lidl, equally as good as anyone else’s finest.

As a footnote I might add that when it became defunct the GLC handed over its property to local Councils.  The burden of maintenance then fell on the recipients.  In that manner Beauchamp Lodge Settlement, the charity mentioned in yesterday’s post, received it’s eighteenth century building from Westminster City Council at a peppercorn rent of £1.00 per annum.  Eventually, being unable to afford the considerable maintenance, the Committee, through the intervention of Anne Mallinson, was able to purchase the building, sell it on, and move elsewhere.  This did prevent the building from becoming like the house in the former sportsground.

P.S. On 17th March 2015 the derelict building was to feature in the T.V. programme ‘Homes Under the Hammer’