A Robotic Swivel

At New Milton station, where Jackie delivered me on this bright, cold, morning for the Silhouttes on bridgeLondon train, the strong sun silhouetted travellers crossing the bridge linking the two platforms.

Norman and I changed our venue today. We lunched at The Archduke on Concert Hall Approach Road opposite Waterloo Station. I had not been there since, when we both worked in London, Wolf and I frequented it up to about five years ago. It has changed ownership and now has a jazz theme. The food, wine, and service was as good as ever. My choice was Cumberland sausages, mashed potato and onion gravy followed by pecan pie with clotted cream. We shared an excellent bottle of Sicilian red wine.

Station Approach roadAs I was early for our rendezvous I took a walk along Lower Marsh  and back to Waterloo The Incredible Hulkvia Station Approach Road, where the graffiti constantly changes. In a tunnel behind a metal grill, perhaps fitted to keep him contained, The Incredible Hulk prepared for action.

By the time I left Norman and walked to Carol’s via South Bank and Westminster Bridge, the light had failed and the sky clouded over. Westminster Winter Festival was again South Bank and Big Beninstalled on the South Bank. A jolly little train was parked in the sidings in sight of Big Ben.

Living statueA metallic military living statue stood motionless beside the stalls. With my now customary comment: ‘If it’s worth a photograph……..’ I made a donation, in the process dropping an additional 5p piece which, because my lower back still has a knife stuck in it, I was unable to pick up. I told him this, and that he was welcome to it. He smiled, swivelled robotically, and raised his hand in acknowledgement.

Guantanamo demonstrationOn Parliament Square a demonstration urged the immediate cessation of Guantanamo torture.

Again early, I sat in Christchurch Gardens for a while before visiting Carol for our usual enjoyable conversation. Afterwards I returned home by the usual methods. Jackie, of course, was waiting at New Milton on time.

Losing Control

12th July 2014 Westminster BridgeCrowd on South BankI began the day by posting yesterday’s entry. This afternoon Jackie drove me to New Milton where I boarded the train to Waterloo for a trip to Shampers, Simon Pearson’s wine bar in Kingly Street, where Michael was holding his second 50th birthday celebration. To walk my normal route to Green Park, turn right along Piccadilly, cross this thoroughfare into Air St, turn left up Regent St, and right then left into Kingly St, on a Saturday afternoon in midsummer, is definitely not to be recommended unless you are intent on recording the experience. But I was. So I did. The walk along South Bank and up the steps onto and then across Westminster Bridge was like taking on the combined international rugby forwards of the Six Nations and those of the Southern Hemisphere.Motor boatCruise ship A packed speedboat sped under the bridge while cruise ships unloaded one herd of passengers and took on board another.Selfies Tourists were wielding every kind of device capable of taking photographs, a good number of them being selfies, two of the subjects of which claimed to be Absolutely Fabulous, and the other Knight Style.Crossing Closed sign No-one appeared to see the huge notices closing the crossings at Whitehall and Palace St instructing people to use the underpasses. But perhaps that was just for runners in the 10k run that featured in the small print.Crowds in St James's ParkLovers St James’s Park was a little easier, but still packed with people lovingly basking in the sunshine.Meadow and fountainHeron

Motionless herons kept an eye out for prey from the lake.Crowd in Regent Street

Sculpture and observerToy planesTable tennisPiccadilly and Regent St were almost as crowded as Westminster Bridge.

In Aire St a group were perched on the pavement sketching the view of Regent St through an arch. Having arrived at the venue 90 minutes early, I walked around the corner and sat for a while in Golden Square where two low-flying aircraft had come to grief; spectators communed with the sculpture; and table tennis was in progress.

The assembled company at Shampers were Michael, Heidi, Alice, Emily and her boyfriend Sam; Louisa and Errol; Mat and Tess; Eddie and his wife Rebecca; and two other friends whose names I can’t recall, but whose faces I know well.

Eddie is Michael’s lifelong friend who often stayed with us in Soho in the 1970s, as, of course, did Matthew and Becky. It was natural with that grouping to recount Soho stories. One I haven’t featured before is the tale of the mechanical digger. One afternoon I was horrified to peer out of our first floor window and see one of these clanking its steady way across the yard, its grabber reaching out like something from ‘War of the Worlds’. The cab was empty. Michael and Matthew were vainly attempting to bring it to a halt. I am not sure who reached up and turned it off. Perhaps it was me. This evening Mat revealed that this parked municipal vehicle had been started with the birthday boy’s front door key. Then things began to teeter out of control.

This narrative prompted Eddie, who had also stayed in many other places with us, to confess about the ride-on mower in Wootton Rivers. He had apparently gone for a ride on this sometime in that same decade, had approached the church, lost control, and crunched the stone wall. Eddie’s recollection is that the wall was undamaged, but that the mower was rather crumpled. It still worked, however, so the miscreant parked it in the garage and hoped that Jessica’s father would not notice.

Eddie’s optimism was not entirely misplaced, as was demonstrated by Matthew’s next story. The owner of the mower, you see, was not exactly in complete command of his vehicle. One day our son was playing in the garden with a group of Pearson cousins. Suddenly panic, and cries of ‘Clear the lawn, everything off the lawn’, set in. Small and medium sized children rushed to and fro, hither and thither, grabbing toys, balls, you name it. ‘And Louisa’, someone yelled, and scooped up the crawling infant. It was then that Matthew saw the mower hove into view. ‘The beach ball’, someone shouted.

Too late. The mower steamed over and flattened the large round beach ball. It is believed that the driver remained unaware of the tragedy.

These, and many other stories were enlivened by various excellent wines chosen by Eddie, the professional. I was particularly taken with the chilled Brouilly.

The food was superb, My starter was squid, followed by grilled sardines, chips, and salad, some of which Louisa snaffled. I had to desert the party before the cheese and dessert.Piccadilly Circus

I walked back to Piccadilly Circus and took the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo, and thence to New Milton and from there home by a Galleon taxi.

Sitting opposite me on the train from Waterloo were a young Chinese woman attempting to sleep, and an older Englishwoman attempting to talk. I returned the conversation for a while then indicated my desire to return to my book. Soon peace reigned as my companions slept. They departed at Southampton Central, but very soon afterwards I had to abandon the book, as the train filled up to capacity, and a drunken, acknowledgedly ‘chatty’ young man full of Jameson’s sought to entertain us all. Giving up, I closed ‘December’ by Elizabeth H. Winthrop.

The taxi firm is to be recommended. They operate from a shed outside New Milton station.

Latin Gave Me Up

Although not having got round its baffle, the crow is back trampling the petunias on the chimney pot. The squirrel, on the other hand, earned a meal this morning. It made a successful launch from the eucalyptus, crash landed on top of the corvine baffle, slipped underneath it, and scoffed away. Given that the rodent has now rivalled Eddie the Eagle, Jackie moved the feeder further from the tree. The next lift-off point will doubtless be the new arch. Google can supply further information both on our aforementioned Olympic skier and yesterday’s Greg Rutherford reference.

We returned, briefly, to Castle Malwood Lodge this morning to retrieve two garden recliners we had left behind; and for a chat with Mo. Jackie then drove us to Ringwood where I deposited two pairs of shoes for repair; back home for lunch; then on to New Milton for me to catch the London train to visit Carol.

MeadowThe corner around our old flat is well stocked with self-seeded blooms from Jackie’s temporary garden; and the little meadow alongside New Milton station has an abundance of wild flowers.

Today I finished reading Cicero’s ‘Pro Roscio Amerino’ (For Roscius of Ameria). This is an eloquent and subtle defence of a man facing a trumped-up charge of parricide, and is significant for its being the young advocate’s first speech in a criminal court, and for his courage in taking on powerful political elements. No doubt aided by D.H.Berry’s able translation, the writing flows, and is very readable and entertaining.

It is to be inferred from my last sentence that I did not read this in the original, which would have been far beyond me. I am no Latin scholar, as was proven by my first three years at Wimbledon College. My Grammar school was then notable for its emphasis on the classics. Keen to obtain as many OxBridge university places as possible, Latin and Greek were the school’s most valued subjects, for in those 1950s days, a Latin qualification was a requirement for entry into our two leading centres of learning.

I was never subjected to Greek, and my Latin was so abysmal that, long before the O level stage, I was transferred to Geography, not then considered of prime importance.

Being top of the class in French, it was always a mystery to me that I could not grasp Latin. At school, I thought maybe it was because it seemed to be all about wars that didn’t particularly interest me. Not very many years ago, I twigged the reason for the imbalance. It was partially about word order, but more significantly about ignorance of grammatical terms. Without understanding these, I could manage the modern language, not that dissimilar in construction to our own. Meeting concepts like ‘subjunctive’ which were not considered needing explanation for passers of the eleven plus exam, I didn’t just swim, I sank.

Cicero OrationsLatin gave me up. And Geography teaching was hit and miss, so I failed that too.

So. In English. I went on to read ‘In Verrem 1’ (Against Verres). This was a necessarily short piece used as a device to circumvent the delaying tactics of the defence of a patently guilty man. It was so successful that Verres withdrew and further prepared speeches were not required.

Each of the Orations in my Folio Society edition is preceded by a helpful introduction by the translator. I began Berry’s piece on ‘The Catilinarian Conspiracy’.

From Waterloo I walked across Westminster Bridge to Carol’s in Rochester Row. South BankI have seen this route even more crowded than today, but it was still a struggle to reach and walk across the bridge and past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

At the junction of Great Smith Street and Victoria Street a woman struggled with a chain of keys that would have done credit to Dickens’s Jacob Marley from ‘A Christmas Carol’, to free her bicycle from its fixture on a set of railings.Woman unlocking bike Having succeeded, she dropped the cluster on the pavement and loaded her steed. Given her apparel and the content of her baskets, I wondered how she would manage to ride off. She didn’t. She donned her furry hat over the straw one, pushed the bike across the road, and continued down the street.

I took the 507 bus from Carol’s back to Waterloo and boarded the train to New Milton where my chauffeuse was waiting to drive me home; show me her planting and tidying of the garden; and feed me on fresh vegetables with beef casserole, the method of cooking of which is given in yesterday’s post. She drank Hoegaarden, and I abstained.

The Hat

We had a remarkably smooth drive to Southampton Parkway where Jackie delivered me for the Waterloo train this morning.  The weather was unseasonably mild and the transport on time.

From Waterloo I walked the St James’s Park route to Green Park, and took the Jubilee Line tube to Neasden for lunch with Norman.

'Policeman' on stilts

Stealing Charlie Chaplin‘s audience on South Bank, a very tall policeman entertained the children and their carers.

London Eye maintenance

London Eye reflection 2The struts of the London Eye were receiving routine maintenance on high.  Pools of water on the pavement that was spattered with the ubiquitous white spots of chewing gum, offered a different perspective on the capsules overhead.

It was, as usual, blustery on Westminster Bridge where, summoning all my natural, lithe, flexibility, I recovered a grey hat that was bowling along like a rugby ball propelled by the boot of a crafty fly-half.  When, in my youth and early middle-age chasing such an oval shaped inflated leather object, I would pray that the bounce would be kind and propel the missile into my hands instead of sending it in the opposite direction.  Momentarily, as I grasped today’s quarry, I reflected on my erstwhile playing days.  Mind you, even then there was a limit to how low I could stoop on the move.

Hat on lamppostHaving retrieved today’s target, I turned to a group who had just passed me and accosted them with the hat.  It belonged to none of them.  Applying my recently acquired expertise in hanging Christmas decorations I fixed my find to one of the lamp stands on the parapet of the bridge, hoping it would not soon be seen floating down the Thames on its way to the open sea.

Some minutes afterwards as I neared Boudicca in her chariot, the clicking of heels on the surface of the thoroughfare and the panting of a young woman preceded a tap on my back and a cry of: ‘I’ve lost my hat’.  Young woman in hatThe earlier group must have pointed her in my direction.  Either she had not seen her headgear as she passed the post or it was, indeed, in the river.  From our standpoint the hat was not visible, having been lodged on the far side of its cast iron stanchion.  With some trepidation I led her to it.  As we approached, I could see the bow peeping from its hiding place, and hoped it would remain in position for at least a few more minutes.  It did. I was rewarded with delighted squeals, an expression of rapture, and a ravishing smile.

A group of horse guards riding at a walk along The Mall made it politic to ignore the green pedestrian traffic light which would have allowed me to walk into their path.

Horse guards

Norman served an excellent pork ragout lunch followed by bread and butter pudding with which we shared a splendid Douro.

There was some delay in starting this meal because I had just received an e-mail purporting to come from a friend in France. This was brief, and in French, stating that he needed my help in an emergency and asking me to reply by mail.  I thought it strange, but replied asking him to phone me.  I then received a far more extensive message, again in his language, detailing that he was stranded abroad having been beaten up and robbed and needing a large sum of money to be transferred immediately.  This I now recognised as what I call an e-mail scam, by which means the crooks hi-jack an address so that even if you do reply the holder does not receive your response.  I telephoned another friend asking him to alert the victim.  He did so.

These scammers have now become more sophisticated, because they clearly soften up the recipient with a brief initial message.  Only when a reply to this has been received do they send the cock and bull story and the request for money.  The first message this time hoped I was well and had had a good Christmas.

My friend would not have used this method of asking for my help and he would have had much more suitable sources.  Neither would this English speaker have written to me entirely in French, the language in which I fortunately sent my own brief reply.

From Norman’s I took my usual route to Carol’s and on to Southampton where my carriage awaited.

‘If It’s Worth A Photograph……’

Regent Street lights001Today’s advent picture is similar to the first, but has a different coloured central star.  This seems to me to offer far more variation than one would see today.  It is worthy of note that there are very few pedestrians admiring the window display and the vehicles on Regent Street in December 1963 are all taxis or buses.

As we set off for Southampton Parkway this morning, foraging ponies loomed out of a heavy mist weakly penetrated by a myopic sun resembling a haloed full moon shrouded by thick clouds.  Visibility on the A31 was most meagre.  There were some clear patches on the M27 giving layered views of the bordering forest trees.  Foreground silhouettes would give way to a barely visible row followed by bright golden ones.  The pattern would be repeated into the distance.

By the time my train had reached Waterloo the sun’s warmth had drawn most of the mist up into the ether. Westminster BridgeHouses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge That which lingered over the Thames presented dreamy views of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.  London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Houses of ParliamentAn oriental gentleman resting a super-long lens on the parapet of the Golden Jubilee Bridge told me what stunning sights he had just seen from the top of the London Eye.  I apprised him of the reason I was unable to emulate him.

Bangles stall

The Christmas fair on South Bank flourished.  One of the stalls sold its own version of festive lighting. Christmas decorations stall Like Catherine wheels they spun, expanded, and contracted.  The timing of this photograph was a delicate matter of trial and error.

Blue CockerelCrossing The Strand and walking through Trafalgar Square I was afforded a clearer view of the blue cockerel poised either to drink from the fountain or to peck at Nelson’s other eye.  I now understand that the sculpture is not French after all.  It is the work of German artist Katharina Fritsch who describes it as ‘feminist’.

Pirate living statueOn the piazza before the National Gallery a diminutive, motionless pirate perched on his own plinth.  Dropping £1 into his hat I said: ‘If it’s worth a photograph, it’s worth a donation’.  Silently, without moving any other, even facial, muscle, like a jointed puppet, he raised his glass in acknowledgement.  I don’t know whether he had been aware I’d shot him.

From the square I walked up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus and along Piccadilly itself to Green Park where I boarded a Jubilee Line train to Neasden and thence to Norman’s. Eros in a bubble Eros, presumably in preparation for the revelries to come, is now encased in a bubble.

Bagman

A bagman I had seen over the years in numerous parts of London adjusted his load after having effected bicycle repairs.

Fortnum & Mason WindowFortnum & Mason Window (1)

Fortnum and Mason’s windows reflected the seasonal mood.

At Green Park I was to regret parting with my last coin.  I needed a pee, which can now only be obtained by inserting 30p into a machine.  So I had to ask the man at the ticket office to change a £10 note.  The smallest coin he gave me was 50p.  The machines don’t give change, so what once cost one old penny was subject to 120x inflation.

Norman fed us on a roast turkey and Christmas pudding lunch with which we shared an excellent bottle of Vacqueras 2011, after which I took my usual route to Carol’s and then on to Waterloo.  Jackie collected me from Southampton.

A Double Six

Our High Streets are dying.  Those in the smaller towns seem to have more Charity Shops than any other single outlet.  Even Bournemouth’s Castlepoint yesterday failed to produce a particular present about which I must, at the moment, be discreet, for fear of the intended recipient sussing.

Before Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway for my London trip we therefore did some research on the Internet.  Carrying this information and my memory, I sought suitable shops once I arrived at Waterloo.  This involved walking the length of Lower Marsh; back to South Bank; across the Golden Jubilee Bridge to Charing Cross; along The Strand; and finally up St Martin’s Lane.  All to no avail.  Both the Lower Marsh and South Bank establishments were now Japanese restaurants, and the other two had become coffee shops. In the words of the song ‘Fings ain’t what they used to be’.  The Internet information had been posted in March, and I had seen the South Bank and Strand stores thriving within the last eighteen months.  Were I to reveal what I was looking for I imagine my readers would speculate that on-line shopping has done for these businesses.  I may let you know my quarry after 25th December.

Christmas Fair

Merry Go Round

Christmas Fair (1)On South Bank there was an extensive and thriving Christmas fair.

Charlie ChaplinOn 19th July I had seen Charlie Chaplin striding along to his performance venue.  Today, at his pitch, he was receiving significant gleefully embarrassed attention.

On the way to Charing Cross underground station to take the Bakerloo line to Baker Street where I changed to the Jubilee line for Neasden, I passed a crowded Trafalgar Square, in which the French seem to have acquired a stake.  Their emblem was in temporary residence on the otherwise empty plinth.

Trafalgar Square

Norman’s lunch consisted of tender, meaty, roast duck; red cabbage; carrots; and a tasty vegetable and potato bake with which we shared an excellent Italian red wine.  A latticed plum flan was to follow.

Afterwards I took the Jubilee line to Bond Street where I alighted for Oxford Street and the last throw of the dice in the game of ‘Find the Present’.  I threw a double six, so I won’t have to give up and buy it on line.

Oxford Street

I continued along Oxford Street, where it was snowing Christmas lights,to Oxford Circus to catch the Victoria line to Carol’s. Regent Street Regent Street was equally spectacular.

Later, I took my usual route back home from Rochester Row.  Jackie was, as always, on time to meet me at Southampton Parkway.

Back To The Akash

18.7.13

For the third heat-wave day in succession, Jackie drove me to and from Southampton for a London trip.  First port of call was Carol’s, to whose home I struggled over Westminster Bridge and down Victoria Street.  This time it was mid-afternoon in 30+ degrees.

The international teeming throng offered neither let-up nor pavement space. London Eye concourse Wherever possible, leaders of groups held up all kinds of devices for their followers to keep in their sights.  The journey from Waterloo to the comparative freedom of Victoria Street probably took twice as long as normal.  I considered myself fortunate that I wasn’t a tourist or a sightseer intent on visiting places of interest.

JesterOn South Bank various entertainers, such as the jester exchanging high fives with little boys, set up pitches.  Before reaching the concourse Charlie Chaplin strode by on his way to his performance venue.  The artists must have been sweltering under their costumes.

The Thames is, of course, a tidal river.  As I fought my way through the pulsating populace I wondered about descending to join the gulls clambering on the rocks and silt below. Low tideThere was no way down, which was probably a blessing.

After I had finally made it up the steps to Westminster Bridge it was a male hand that thrust the camera into mine. Steps to Westminster Bridge In vain did I attempt to explain to the three young Italians that, because of the height and angle of the sun, they would be backlit in their determination to have the famous clock face featured in their group portrait.  I had a go in French which was just as alien to them as was English. Three Italian lads They did understand my comment that my Italian was non-existent, but pointing at the sun and swivelling myself around didn’t cut much ice.

Shut Guantanamo demo

At Parliament Square a silent demonstration pleaded for the closure of Guantanamo detention centre.

There were several ice-cream vendors about.  Two men in their thirties were debating where they could find shade to sit and eat the treats.  I suggested a park a short way down Victoria Street.  This didn’t interest them as they had to attend a meeting at Guildhall.  Mind you, the cooling delicacy would probably have run all the way down their forearms and dripped off their elbows onto their trousers long before they reached the oasis.  They wouldn’t then have cut very impressive figures at the discussion.

Brolley man

Quite a few people, risking poking others in the face, were using umbrellas as parasols.  One gentleman used his as a beacon for his followers.

From Carol’s I walked along Broadway to St. James’s Park underground station where I boarded the Circle Line tube to Edgware Road, along which I walked to the Akash (see post of 31st October last year) for a meal with Jessie.  There is no air-conditioning on the packed tube trains.  On the Circle Line the temperature was 34.2 degrees.

I enjoyed the usual delightful meal with my very good friend Jessie.  Majid, Zaman, and Shafiq gave me their customary warm welcome and once again produced my favourite repast without my having to order.  It was as if I’d never been away.

We took our coffee outside, where Majid was happy to serve it.  As he placed the pot on the table, I asked him to return to the doorway for a photo.  He had his back to the Akash. Majid outside akash The Christmas tree alongside him is probably one of those he always sets up for the Christian festive season.

Jessie drove me to King’s Cross whence I took the underground to Waterloo and thence to home.