Wild Animals

Thousands of pictures of New Forest ponies feature in my posts. Although they are owned by commoners with pasturing rights they are all wild animals and roam free throughout the year.

Here is a random selection for Denzil’s Nature challenge. Each image bears a title in the gallery.

The same applies to donkeys.

Deer are just wild, but more elusive,

as are squirrels.

These cane toads were pictured from our hotel window in Barbados in 2004,

as were these green monkeys.

Sampling A Dandelion

Early this morning Jackie hoovered the house and I swept the garden paths.

Barry and Karen visited us later, when we enjoyed coffee, cake, and convivial conversation.

“A wobble” has become Jackie’s term for a forest photo foray. It may have something to do with my gait. We went on one this afternoon.

As we turn off Roger Penny Way onto Cadnam Lane we cross a road bridge

over a stream which is very much drying out as a result of our recent paucity of precipitation.

I needed four photographs to cover the stretch of a huge recently fallen tree which, had it descended in the opposite direction would have damaged a nearby house,

seen beyond the evidence of an earlier toppled giant.

Older branches were now covered in bright green moss.

The bright sunshine of this warmer day cast shadows across last year’s autumn leaves and this year’s yellow celandines which also clung to the bank of the stream.

Further along Cadnam Lane we encountered a field full of recently yeaned ewes and their very young lambs.

A young man occupied himself with his mobile phone as he led his pony to its nearby paddock.

Tufts of wool bunting decorated the bramble hedges. Perhaps they had been shed by the mothers before confinement;

perhaps others on the road or in the neighbouring woodland.

Would anyone like to suggest a speech bubble for this squirrel, bearing in mind the creature has its mouth full?

It was another which dashed across the road.

Like all youngsters at this time this donkey foal sought new goodies to eat. We watched it sample a dandelion.

Maybe it was its Dad daring our Modus to come any closer.

This evening we dined on second helpings of yesterday’s casserole with boiled new potatoes; and a perfection of cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Red Blend.


Shadows on lawn
As the morning stretched out, so did the shadows cast on the lawn by the climbing sun whilst we pottered about inside prior to a trip to Christchurch.
After lunch we drove to Curry’s/PC World just outside Christchurch to investigate the possibilities of buying a new laptop and giving my old one a good clean up. Yesterday I had discovered that I can exchange my NatWest Your Points for vouchers to be used in this store. I have more than enough for a Windows laptop, but nowhere near sufficient for a Mac Book. The vouchers are in the post, so I have deliberation time. The old laptop has been left for the clean. The reason I want a new one is that the old Toshiba dates from the days before built-in card readers, and I’d like to be able to simply slip the card from my camera into the device when I am not near my iMac.
We then wandered around the town.Crocuses On this fine springlike day crocuses brightened the Priory car park, where we must have secured the last available parking spot.Christchurch priory As we left our car, the view of the Priory Church was blocked by a vehicle from which two women and a child were being decanted, so I waited until the man with them had driven off, no doubt in search of the advertised Mayors Mead, to photograph the people and the building.
On leaving the church precinct, my attention was drawn to an ancient ruin peering above the sloping red-tiled rooftops of the town. This Jackie knew to be the castle, so we walked round to have a look at it. Sunlight through archCastle ruinsDazzling direct sunlight striated the sward covering the mound on which this small relic stood, so I walked further into the grounds to view the castle with the sun on its back. Whilst I was doing so, my lady appeared from behind the pile, waving her arms in delight at having ascended the steep steps to her goal. The red-legged little girl who shares the shot must have raced up and down the two sets of steps at least a dozen times before settling into the stocks to have her photograph taken in them.
Jackie atop Castle ruinsrooftopsCastle arch
From the top of the mound, through the vestigial castle arches, we enjoyed interesting views of the town, in particular a fascinating display of roofing through the ages.
The New Forest PerfumeryThe town centre juxtaposes the old and the new, with many buildings, such as The New Forest Perfumery, having changed their use, no doubt on numerous occasions over the years. The Perfumery, still bearing its original sign in old script looks to be a building from the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It now houses tea rooms, as indicated by the more modern board outside. Perhaps because our house in Sigoules was built in the eighteenth century and because Patrick Suskind’s 1985 novel entitled ‘Perfume: The story of a Murderer’, is set in the France of that era, I speculated that maybe Suskind’s perfumier worked in a similar setting. The novel focusses on the sense of smell and its relationship with the emotional meaning that scents may carry. Even if the tea rooms serve a vast array of teas and coffees, I doubt that their aromas are likely to match the variety of fragrances that once permeated the fabric of the building.
Regent Centre facade
Jackie and I were immediately transported to our youth at the sight of the Regent Centre, this picture house from the brief heyday of the cinema, sandwiched between a Subway and a Poundshop. The old Regent still shows films, but is now a much broader entertainment centre. Originally opening in 1931 it operated as a cinema for just over forty years, after which it spent a decade housing Bingo. A partnership between volunteers and Christchurch Borough Council has turned it into a theatre, cinema, concert hall, studio and art gallery. Regent CentreThis afternoon there were a number of stalls inside, displaying jewellery, models, CDs and DVDs among other articles for sale. Tables and chairs for takers of tea lined the entrance hall. The building is well maintained, and retains its Art Deco style.
This evening we dined on mushroom omelette also containing onions, garlic, and a dash of Worcester sauce; baked gammon; fried potatoes, and baked beans. Lemon and lime jelly floating in evaporated milk was a suitable dessert. I finished the Lidl Bordeaux and Jackie saw off the zinfandel rose.

The Bird Feeder

The squirrel has won the latest battle in the baffle wars.  What he managed to do this morning was to shin up the pole until level with the edge of the concave dome.  He now realises that climbing any further up the pole is counter-productive and anyway gives him a sore head.  Whilst clinging to the pole by his back legs he one-handedly grasped the baffle’s rim, then reached out and grabbed the bottom of the green suet ball holder with his other arm, using which he pulled himself onto the table.  A raging tigress shooed him away and chased him across the lawn.  She then raised the bottom of the suet feeder in an attempt to place it out of reach of this creature who is able change his shape and extend it like a Disney cartoon character. Great tits For simplicity this tale is being told as if there were only one bushy-tailed invader.  Our suspicions that there are two were confirmed later when there was a face-off on the lawn.  The jury is out on which has the brains.

Oblivious of the frustrating conflict for the rodents, the birds, such as the great tits, carry on regardless, and one unusual duck, surely out of its element, alighted in the dish as Jackie was preparing dinner.Potato bird

As the day began to brighten after a morning’s steady, heavy, rain, I walked the Bull Lane/Trusty Servant loop.  The more pampered relatives of the sturdy forest ponies, who are left to their own devices, throughout the long cold wet months of winter have, as my readers will know, been covered with warm jackets.  Although they neither read books nor inhabit tents, these more delicate creatures are given further protection in warmer weather in the form of fly sheets worn to repel winged pests.  Fly sheetsOn the fence surrounding a paddock in the village, a pair was hanging out to dry.

Heuchera etc

Sunshine and rain vied with each other for ascendancy throughout the afternoon.

Our great friend Don, having spent five and a half hours driving from Bungay, arrived this evening and shared our meal of roast pork smeared with mustard and topped off with roasted almonds accompanied by perfectly timed vegetables followed by bread and butter pudding.  Don and I drank Chateauneuf diu Pape with this, while Jackie had her Hoegaarden.  We talked about a lot, reminisced a lot, and drank a little more.  I’m past elaborating.

The London Eye

This morning Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway railway station where I boarded a train to Waterloo for lunch with Norman and late afternoon coffee with Carol.  From Waterloo I walked along the Embankment to Westminster Bridge which I crossed, continuing into Birdcage Walk, and taking the route to Green Park underground station detailed on 25th September.

Passing The London Eye on the Embankment I thought of my trip on this modern landmark, erected to celebrate the second millennium.  I gazed on it  from Westminster Bridge, on which a bagpiper was in full flow.

Ten years ago, after a river trip celebrating Norman’s 70th birthday, Jessica and I took a flight on the Eye, for which numerous people were queueing today.  It was a very cold, cloudless day in March, and the view, for those who could look at it, of the serpentine River Thames and its world-famous cityscape, would have been stupendous.  It was with much trepidation that I bought the tickets along with more film for my camera so I could photograph the scene from a great height.  This was one of my many unsuccessful attempts to cure my acrophobia.  At that time I had not yet conquered my fear of flying either.

The Eye is a vast wheel on the circumference of which, at regular intervals, are fixed ovoid glass people-containers.  This construction rotates excruciatingly slowly transporting passengers from ground level to the skies and back down the other side.  I understand that most people subject themselves to this ‘flight’ for fun.

Entering the transparent pod in which I was to endure the next forty five minutes of my life, I made an immediate beeline for the central seat and remained there throughout the ordeal.  So paralysed was I that I was unable even to load the camera, let alone look at the view.  What made the experience even more terrifying was the two small children clambering on and swinging precariously from the handrail which circled the glass walls of the capsule.  My brain simply computed an unprotected rail suspended in mid-air, from which they were bound to fall.  As with all phobias, there was no point in applying logical thought to the situation.  When perched at the very top of the wheel you are looking down on the Shell building, which is pretty tall itself, and it takes ten minutes even to start the descent.  Not an experience I have any intention of repeating.

On the Embankment wall opposite the Aquarium, once the headquarters of the Greater London Council, a vociferous seagull was holding forth.

There was a film crew on Westminster Bridge, their equipment trained on a group of Japanese.  The forceful wind tearing along the Thames was so strong as to blow a very slight young woman off balance and into my arms.

St. James’ Park was still full of tourists with their cameras.  Squirrels were queueing up to have their photographs taken, especially if the photographers’ assistants held tasty morsels of food in their outstretched fingers.  Later, I was to read in A.L.Rowse’s history of Elizabethan England that John Norden’s map of Westminster in his book ‘Middlesex’, published in the 1590s, contains illustrations of ‘deer leaping in’ this very park.

As I walked along Piccadilly I became aware that I was approaching the source of a repetitive chant which turned out to be a chorus of ‘Barclay Brothers, pay your taxes’ outside the side entrance of the Ritz, one of London’s most salubrious hotels.  Presumably these two men, residents of Sark, are having a holiday in London and someone has got wind of it.  They have been accused of forging a fortune and ferreting it away in offshore accounts to avoid paying their dues.

I took the Jubilee Line to Neasden and walked to Norman’s  where I was fed on lamb shank followed by jam rolypoly accompanied by a very good red Bordeaux.  Norman gave us a housewarming present of a dish made for him by Alvin Betteridge at Chandlers Ford in the late 1960s.  Alvin turns out to be a friend of our friend Margery Clarke.

After this it was by tube to Carol’s, then to Waterloo where I caught a commuter train back to Southampton to be collected by Jackie.  Looking around me on board this transport in which I had been fortunate to find a seat, I was relieved that my commuting years are over.

As I felt Jackie struggling to keep her steering level whilst being buffeted by winds on the M27 I had some idea of what that slender young woman on Westminster Bridge had been up against.

Harvest Mice

Seated in the arbour this morning, Jackie and I contemplated the wildlife around us.  A squirrel scampering across the lawn was no doubt seeking store-cupboards for winter supplies.  Underneath a thin covering of the grass lie ancient gravel footpaths.  These are always the first sections to turn brown in a drought.  A scuffed up part of one of these suggested that even a squirrel could not get through it to bury its spoils.  Squirrels had, however, turfed out small potted seedlings from their containers; rather like cuckoos placing their eggs in foster parents’ nests.   The bird-feeders had been refilled yesterday.  Small birds were feasting from them, whilst the larger, ungainly, pigeons, hyena-like, scavenged for spillage on the ground.  Jackie had emptied the bird-bath yesterday, with the intention of cleaning and refilling it today.  This was because it had been fouled by the pigeons.  A number of tits were flitting down, expecting a drink after their breakfast, only to be disappointed.  So she refilled it and I am sure the birds expressed their gratitude.

The pigeon photographed on 13th. September drinking from the bath could not have been a soiling culprit.  It had been ailing, and eventually succumbed to a marauding cat.  We think a cat, rather than a fox, because it’s clawed body had not been eaten.

Having lunch at the kitchen table I admired the sweet peas which usually adorn it.  Constantly cutting the flowers ensures frequent replenishment of the stock.  Some of these will have come from the cosy arbour mentioned above.  Another container of flowers regularly being filled is the ‘accident pot’.  This sits on the patio between the kitchen door and that of the workroom/garage/potting shed; and is a receptacle for flowers which have been broken off inadvertently during the gardening activities.

Jackie explained the production of the sourdough bread we were eating.  It is apparently the extra length of time in the yeast box which produces the strong flavour.  She spoke of how she had enjoyed making bread for the harvest festivals with Matthew and Becky.  The children used to love making little mice with which to decorate the sheaves of dough.  They had a very special effect, since, by the time they were applied, they were always grey.

Later, we finished putting the pages for the project for Mum into the display albums; then worked on developing ideas for the logo for Elizabeth’s new company, Psychologists for Autism.  Jackie came up with our favourite idea which we played around with to send to the professionals.  Elizabeth has received a draft of a different idea which really isn’t suitable.

This evening Roc des Chevaliers 2010 and, for Jackie, Hoegaarden 2012 helped down her roast pork dinner followed by apple crumble and custard or cream depending on taste.  A few strawberries found at the back of the fridge, although a bit crusty, were still edible.

The London Marathon

The London Eye from St. James's Park 9.12

It being a much brighter day, I set off for Green Park, travelling by underground.  As I left the flat, it began to rain.  This proved to be nothing more than a shower.  I thought I would walk around this public open space which, when we lived in Soho, was a local haunt.  The station has been improved, now offering an exit straight into the park.  For some reason which escapes me, I walked out into Piccadilly, turned right into St. James’s Street, down into The Mall, and across into St. James’s Park.  This was where, nearly fifty years ago, I had first fallen in love with Jackie, when, seated on a bench, we had, in unison, both exclaimed ‘cannibal’ on seeing a pigeon pecking at the discarded shell of someone’s boiled egg.  She may not agree, but to me that meant we at least shared a sense of humour.  Runners in the London Marathon must run down The Mall, around the corner facing Buckingham Palace, and along Birdcage Walk to the finish, just out of sight, on Westminster Bridge.  Entering the park, I witnessed a scramble of pigeons, in the demarcated feeding area, being fed by tourists.  In fact, everywhere, especially in the fenced off designated wildlife section, people were photographing and feeding the livestock.  I missed a wonderful photo opportunity when a young woman straightened up, having shot a squirrel.  I asked her to repeat the photograph so that I could take a picture of her taking her picture.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortuitously, she didn’t understand English.  For which she and her male companion were most apologetic.

Crossing the Blue Bridge into Birdcage Walk I remembered my nephew, Peter Darby-Knight, bravely struggling to walk to the finish, having injured his knee, many years after my own London runs.  I had also watched my granddaughter Emily, on two occasions, representing Croydon in the mini-marathon which takes place on the morning of the major event.  From the bridge I reprised a photograph I had first taken in the early 1960s.  The scene is now dominated by The London Eye.

The pigeons mentioned earlier put me in mind of the mass start to the marathon in Greenwich.  It takes ten minutes walking to reach the line, and quite a bit longer to find room to get into your stride.  On one occasion I was tripped by a man who tried to pass me in this melee.  I ran the race with blood trickling from my grazed knee.  He also fell.  I didn’t help him up.

In the first London race in 1981, Michael and I had watched the two leading men finish hand-in-hand as they crossed the line.  Then, the taking part was all.  Like the Olympics, that spirit has evaporated.  Winning is all.

My son, who the following year would be eighteen, and therefore eligible to run, suggested we do it together.  Taking up the suggestion in earnest, I trained for it.  Thinking that, as a rugby-playing fast bowler, I was fit enough, my first session was a five mile run from Croyon College to our home in Furzedown.  When I’d finished I could barely walk.  I tottered stiffly down to the box at the bottom of Gracedale Road to post a letter.  As I turned the corner on my return, who should be striding down the road but John Bussell.  John was a neighbour who had said I was completely mad to contemplate the venture.  Quick as a flash, I straightened up, denied my pain, and lengthened my step, to greet him.

Michael had more sense, so I ran the race alone.  Despite the strenuous competition at the elite level, there are still many thousands of people for whom just taking part is a magnificent experience.  I was fortunate enough to participate three times.  Then, the Canary Wharf business complex was a heap of rubble.  We wondered what was going to be built.  The elation of running this race with the streets all lined with row upon row of cheering spectators can only be imagined by non-participants.  Jazz bands are playing, and the world is watching on television.  If you are thinking of trying it, do not accept one of the many pints of beer which will be proffered outside the pubs alongside.  Rather, enjoy the hoses which may be played on you in hot weather.

Coming along The Embankment you will have your first sight of Big Ben.  Your heart may sink when you realise you still have four more miles to go.  Do not be tempted, as many are, to walk along the underpass where you cannot be seen.  If you do, you are unlikely to start running again.

In 1982, Matthew and Becky ran along the footpath beside me towards the finish.  That would not be possible now.

Today, entering the park opposite Buckingham Palace, a jogger, attempting to leap the low railings which form a border, tripped and went sprawling.  Fortunately on the grass.  Some years ago, en route to Victoria where I was to board a train to visit Wolf and Luci in Dulwich, I did something similar.  Running there from Harrow Road, in the darkness, off Edgware Road, I tripped on a chain closing off a church car park. I had thought I was still on the footpath.  Back-pack in harness, my feet still attached to the chain, I came a right cropper.  My hands firmly on the tarmac, I was unable to prevent myself from pivoting, head first onto the unyielding surface.  The priest took me in, administered first aid, and called an ambulance; and Wolf and Luci visited me instead.  In hospital, where I was being stitched up.  I bear the scar to this day.  Our meal was a little late that night.

These days, I walk.  It’s safer.  As I did this afternoon, along Buckingham Palace Road to Victoria, where I boarded a tube train to begin my return to Morden.  A blustery shower greeted me as I emerged from the underground and walked back to Links Avenue, listening to the rythmic sound of an empty Carlsberg can playing chicken amongst the traffic.

This evening, I served up a roast chicken meal.  Jackie finished yesterday’s Kingfisher and I drank the last of the chianti.

Continuing Themes

This morning I strolled into the footpath leading up to the mosque; skirted the London Road edge of Morden Park; crossed this road into Central Road; bore right into Green Lane; wandered through the Haig Homes estate; travelled back to London Road; and returned to Links Avenue via the park.

Overflow carpark 8.12

Cars were streaming down Links Avenue and into the path by the side of the railway.  People were pouring into the mosque in their thousands.  Jackie tells me that the view of this sea of people from the eleventh floor of the civic centre was amazing.  At the entrance to the worshippers footpath, another young man was standing with a board announcing that the Eid (15th. August) car park was full.  A very well organised and friendly group of young men, many using mobile phones, were directing the swarming traffic to the meadow I had seen being mown on Friday.  The reason for the mowing was now clear.  It was a vast overflow carpark.  The marquee I had seen being erected was in fact three.  These were filling up fast.  As in the mosque itself (see post of 18th. May), there was separate accommodation for men and boys and for women and girls.  I thought I’d best not photograph the women’s tent.  This is a pity, because they were all wearing splendid attire. Until lunchtime I could hear singing and speeches from our flat.

I spoke to two Community Support officers who were counting the cars coming into the arena.  Like me, they were disgusted at the flytipping which continued.  The pile I had seen on Friday was still there, and had been supplemented by another huge heap which had been dumped in what seemed to be an attempt to block the route to the temporary additional parking area.  We speculated that anyone caught tipping would probably save money by paying the fine incurred, rather than covering the expense of legitimate disposal.  One of the officers pointed out that general rubbish was also strewn among the brambles which were providing one the ingredients, being collected by two women, for blackberry and apple pie.

Another two women, in Green Lane, asked me if I knew St. Anne’s school.  I had to acknowledge that I didn’t.  There are Haig Homes on either side of Green Lane.  Haig Place lies alongside a very well kept estate provided by this organisation.  These little houses all have beautifully tended gardens.  I chatted with an elderly woman who lived in one.  She identified a screeching coming from the trees as the call of squirrels.  I had not knowingly heard a squirrel before.  She said they are at their noisiest at night.  She enjoyed the sound.  More so than the cranking of magpies.

On 13th. August, I had confessed my own vagueness about Douglas Haig.  I had therefore been amused at the response to a question I had put to a small boy on 17th. August.  In fact the street sign ‘Haig Place’ was right outside his house.  There was a terra cotta plaque on the wall between two semi-detatched houses, one presumably his own.  Not even sure myself, I asked him if he knew who the man depicted was.  He shrugged and silently indicated that he didn’t know.  I’ve since used Google to confirm my supposition.  There are Douglas Haig Memorial Homes throughout the UK.

Watch Me curries and Kingfisher completed the day.  As usual, this excellent restaurant on Morden Road was also catering for several happy, celebrating, Sri Lankan families, the women in colourful clothing, and the children running about gleefully.

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.

Rabbits On The Roof

Listening to the squirrels scampering on our roof this morning reminded me of those in the loft of Lindum House in Newark who sounded as if they were wearing hob-nailed boots.  It is amazing how much noise they make.  This also gives me an excuse to tell a Soho story.

During the middle years of the 1970s we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard in Soho.  Between Gerrard Street and Shaftsbury Avenue, this was a little-known mews where we had a flat in a Westminster City Council property.  Michael, in his early teens decided to keep and breed rabbits.  Now, there isn’t much room in Chinatown, so there was nothing for it but a rooftop farm.  Michael, always inventive, built a runway across the roofs in the Yard, using ladders to circumvent the different heights of the various roofs he had to pass before reaching his chosen site.  This was the flat roof of a music publisher’s offices. The staff there, incredibly, had no problem with what was happening. In those days produce for the myriad of chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street came in wooden boxes which were discarded and left for the binmen.  These boxes made good firewood, but Michael had other uses for them.  He used them to build rabbit hutches and to make a safety barrier for his pets around the perimeter of the roof.

An elderly woman in an upper floor of a block of flats overlooking the area got so much pleasure  from watching the rabbits frolicking in the sunlight that she took to leaving vegetable scraps on our doorstep to supplement their diet.

One of the ladders reaching from our roof to the next one spanned a skylight which was so begrimed as to be invisible.  That is why, when one of Michael’s friends decided to jump instead of using the ladder which Michael had carefully placed to avoid such an eventuality, he went clean through it.  I was summoned, peered through the window, and saw Simon in the clutches of a gentleman who had no intention of letting him go.  I rushed round into Gerrard Street, managed to work out in which building the boy was being held, searched through the warren of rooms until I came to the right one, and persuaded the man to release him.

I kid you not.  Every word of this is true.

Later in the morning, getting back in good time for a supervision session at midday, I made a long tour of Morden Hall Park.  In one of the areas where the heady scent of cow parsley is all pervading I stopped and chatted to a National Trust volunteer, armed with a grabber and a black bag, ‘litter-picking’.  He told me that there is a team of ‘litter-pickers each allocated a different area of the park.  We were standing in The North Meadow.  This explains why there is a marked difference litter-wise once one crosses the tramline into the local authority managed area of The Wandle Trail.  He suggested I needed a little dog for my daily walks.  I said I was quite satisfied with the Jack Russells belonging to my son and daughter.  Further on I met one of his colleagues.

The aroma in the rose garden was of horse shit.

This evening we had a wonderful steak pie by The Real Pie Shop of Crawley, bought at The Greens Farm Shop in Ockley.  As one of the vegetables I made my first ever braised red cabbage.  As Delia’s recipes are sometimes rather bland for me I may have been a bit heavy handed with the spices.  This might explain why Jackie said it tasted more like apple pie than red cabbage.