As I sat down in the London train to which Jackie had delivered me this morning I was greeted by a beaming smile, reminiscent of Tenniel’s Cheshire Cat, from the gentleman diagonally opposite. I knew immediately what I was in for. It only took a few seconds for me to learn that he was travelling to Winchester. I calculated that I could probably tolerate the open, friendly, naive, vulnerable chap’s conversation for the requisite seven minutes. He belonged to a local history society and was bound for an event at Winchester cathedral, the Dean of which he knew personally. He was able to tell me what he had eaten on the last such occasion two years ago. This congenial 73 year old fellow keeps himself active through his interests. As he fished inside his raincoat for his ticket I noticed the tell-tale collection of badges affixed to his jacket lapel.
Soon after my recent acquaintance’s departure, a sleepy bee dropped onto my lapel. I flicked it off. Straight into a blonde woman’s hair. Making an immediate bee-line for that I dashed the creature to the floor with the flat of my hand. The lady was a little surprised. The furry little insect landed beneath a family occupying the seats behind. The father scooped it up with a piece of card, and, with two of his young progeny, one sucking her thumb, in his wake, went off in search of a window. He wasn’t going to find one he could open. Indeed, he didn’t. As he returned he announced that the bee had just changed carriages. I said he had adopted the technique of someone I know, who shall be nameless, with snails which are chucked over the garden fence. This must be an acceptable activity because we saw Alan Titchmarsh do it on his latest garden creation television programme.
From Waterloo I took the tube to Queensway whence I walked to Sutherland Place for the next book-packing session. When this was finished I retraced this journey to Southampton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.
Queensway’s opening hours and its O2 shop stopped me panicking in 2007. During Jessica’s last months my mobile phone was indispensable. It suddenly packed up on me one evening. I hot-footed it to this shop where it was replaced and I was back in long-distance communication.
I can never pass Whiteley’s department store without thinking of Shirley and Edward. I often wonder whatever happened to them. Edward was the small son, contemporary with Michael, of the Whiteley heiress who was the partner of Ivan who was my friend forty five years ago. Jackie, Michael and I were invited to join them on holiday in Shanklin. On one of our days on the beach, complying with his request, Jackie buried her stepson up to his waist in the sand.
The differing child care practices of the two families proved rather stressful.
Deviating a little on my journey today, I was fortunate to be walking through Leinster Square when a brief storm struck. I was able to shelter on the steps of a grand colonnaded terrace and watch stair rods descend on a rack of Boris’s Bikes. When the rain abated somewhat I saw a swarthy gentleman emerge from a basement flat bearing an armful of new umbrellas packed in cellophane, no doubt intending to take advantage of the weather on some stall somewhere. By then the gutters were flowing with water and evasive action was required to avoid a supplementary shower thrown up by the wheels of buses along Westbourne Grove.
In my post ‘Curry, A Biography’ of 31st October last year I mentioned the reluctance of the proprietor of ‘Star of Bombay’ to alter the city’s name to Mumbai, which, to me, seemed appropriate. I see his mind remains unaltered.
On our way back from Southampton we stopped at Goodies in Netley Marsh for fish and chips. I drank tea and Jackie had diet coke.