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. 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.