Wimbledon (Last Facebook Diary Entry)

Here is the last of my Facebook diary entries, from 8th May 2012. The following day I turned to WordPress:

Having broken not one but two cafetiere glasses last week I walked to Wimbledon and back in search of new ones. Wimbledon, land of Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. Wimbledon, where, in my childhood, you could smell coffee roasted and being ground in a shop along the broadway where I rode the last of the original trams to run in London in the early 50s. Wimbledon, where Centre Court is a modern shopping mall sporting, among other outlets, Whittards (of Chelsea) where I bought the replacement glasses. Centre Court is alongside the grand 30s Town Hall of my youth which is now a Tescos.

Nothing stands still, said Heraclitus.

On the way there, in Mostyn Road, I exchanged ‘good morning’s with a man who looked so like Stan Laurel that I half expected him to scratch his head in the comedian’s idiosyncratic way.

After a fry-up in the Mica Cafe (Wimbledon’s best , if you don’t go up the hill to Wimbledon Village where a fry-up is a full English breakfast) I returned by a circuitous route involving Dorset Road, Circle Gardens, and Mostyn Road.

This evening Jackie and I ate at the Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant on Morden Road.

Hot Pants


With improved internet connection, I am now just one day behind in my posts.

We began today with another enjoyable conversation with Mr Watts as he cooked our breakfast.

This process led me to tell him about the Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant in Morden. As indicated by its title, diners could, through a very large window, watch the cooks at work.

Our host and I found common ground in Lower Marsh, alongside Waterloo Station. Mr Watts ran a stall selling women’s clothes from 1964. Between 1963 and 1966 I lunched regularly in a café in that street. It is highly likely we were sometimes eating there at the same time.

The stall made a great deal of money during the hot pants craze.


Jackie explained how she had made her own, such as these in September 1972.

This afternoon, back at home, I spent far too long battling with internet connection problems in order to post yesterday’s tale.

We then dined on Jackie’s excellent egg fried rice with tempura prawns. I finished the Malbec.

Maureen Potter And Plasticine

This morning I took the Kindor Gardens route to South Wimbledon, turned left into Kingston Road, right into Russell Road, left into the Broadway, and back to Links Avenue by the Mostyn Road route.

From a balcony in a block of flats in Morden Road, a pair of foxes and their cubs were surveying the  traffic.  A little further on I passed Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant.

In Russell Road I paused outside St. Mary’s Primary School and pondered over my early years of education.  It being half-term, I was unable to gain access, which was a disappointment.  The school I knew, of much smaller proportions, of course, than I remembered it, has been extended and altered.  The playground area, scene of the greatest horror; the greatest deviousness; and the greatest triumph of my primary school years, was now a block of rooms.  To the right the main building had been extended and there was a new structure alongside it.  There is a modern main entrance, above which lies a bas-relief in memory of Father Rankin S.J., who was, in my day an influential Jesuit and possibly Auntie Gwen’s favourite priest.

My greatest primary school shame occured after Mrs Chapman’s lesson at the end of the day.  There had been a spate of lost coats.  These were suspected to have been stolen.  I went to my peg and found my coat missing.  Full of trepidation, I reported this to the rather frightening teacher.  I was told to sit down at my desk and wait.  Off she strode to fetch the caretaker..  Together they scoured the buildings for my clothing.  Whilst they were gone, and it was growing gloomy in the otherwise empty classroom, I had a terrifying thought that set me aquivering.  The clouds were darkening in Mrs Chapman’s face as she returned without the coat.  What I said next brought on the thunder.  Bottom lip trembling, ‘Please Miss’, I blurted.  All female teachers, married or not, were ‘Miss’ in those days, and Ms had not been coined.  ‘Please Miss’, I repeated, ‘I’ve just remembered.  I didn’t bring my coat today’……………  The calm after the storm was deadly.  Mrs. Chapman never bothered to send you to Miss Bryant for the cane, she administered a few hearty slaps herself.  At least they were on the palms of your hands.  Perhaps it hurt her more than it hurt me.  Then I had to go home and explain to my Mum why I was late.

Mr. Hyde, on the other hand; actually both of them; wouldn’t hurt himself with his method.  He used the flat of a ruler on the backs of your fingers, whilst clasping them to keep them still.  With his dark hair and visage; his hairy nostrils and digits; and his fearsome eyes enlarged by thick lenses, he looked every bit the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll.

Miss Flaxman favoured a barrage of energetic open-handed blows on the backs of your legs.  A large red-haired amazon, I don’t think she ever took her coat off, for it always seemed to flap about when she stung your calves.  She had to bend down to reach small legs, which meant her head was a bit close so you had to try not to fart.  The strange thing about these latter two is that they would steam into you until they were exhausted.  His nostrils would flare and flare, and she would become redder and redder in the face.  Their breathing would reach a crescendo and eventually quieten, when they would stop.  Rumour had it that they were what we now call an item.  Perhaps these performances reflected a certain amount of sexual frustration.  They were Catholics, after all.

Corporal punishment takes me to my greatest deviousness.  Mrs. Braniff, unusually for her, had decided to send me to Miss Bryant to be caned.  Perhaps she had dished out her own quota for the day.  Well, I didn’t fancy the cane, so I nipped round into a corner of the playground and hid for what seemed a reasonable length of time, after which I returned to the classroom hugging my hands to my sides.  I suppose I thought that if I was sussed I’d only get the cane anyway.  Actually, to my great surprise, I got away with it.  In the words of the the song, ‘I disremember what’ my misdemeanour had been.

I don’t want to give the impression that all my teachers were vicious beasts.  Miss Downs deserved her own post on 25th May.

My greatest triumph was the heroic fight recorded on 10th July.

Now to my greatest horror.  This was my first day.  My grandfather had taken me to school, and, cock-a-hoop, I strode in, waving him goodbye.  I had a new set of clothes and was embarking upon a new adventure.  Then I turned the corner into the playground…………….  It was full of screaming children, including girls, and most of them were much bigger than me…….. I got home to Raynes Park before Grandpa.  There are no words to describe the absolute terror represented by these dotted lines.  I was off like a shot.  I suppose I must have got the bus, but I really don’t remember.  The next image I have is of bashing on the front door until Mum came down to me.

Naturally Mum calmed me down and returned me to the torture chamber.  She may have fed me, may have accompanied me on the bus.  It’s all a blank, not even a blur.

I was presented to Miss Mulvaney.  Miss Mulvaney smiled, took my hand, and led me into her classroom.  ‘We are having plasticine this afternoon, and here is Maureen Potter to look after you’, she said.  I was flabbergasted.  There, beaming in her half of our joint desk, sat the most angelic creature I had ever seen.  She had a lovely round face, the image of which I cannot conjure up, but the impression of which has remained deep in my heart.  As this motherly child took my hand my stomach leapt.  Not for the first time that day, but this time it was a wholly different sensation.  I was in love for the very first time.  Miss Mulvaney knew what she was about.

We enjoyed the plasticine too.  Why is it, incidentally, that however bright the original colours are, this material always turns brown?

After a massive Sainsbury’s North Cheam shop in preparation for the Thompson family Firs weekend, Jackie and I returned to Morden and had Moby Dicks at the Morden Superfish.  We couldn’t eat a sweet, Jackie in particular thinking that the Spotted Dick on offer would be one dick too many.  I drank a glass of Pinot Grigio and Jackie a Carlsberg.

Curry, A Biography

This morning, contemplating my lifelong relationship with curry, I took my usual route to Colliers Wood, turned right into Merton High Street, and continued to Tooting Bec Station where I boarded a tube train back to Morden.

Passing a hoarding on the road which forms a bridge dividing two sections of the Wandle Trail, I reflected that, as you know, Bacardi is not the nourishment with which I would choose to spice up my night.

Since my previous posts are peppered with curry references, I will not point these out.  There will be some repetition as I put it all together.  I have written of the numerous closures of English pubs, which are often transformed into Asian restaurants.  Delhi Heights in Colliers Wood manages to flourish with its fusion approach.

The Sree Krishna restaurant, which I passed on the approach to Tooting Broadway, was discovered by Jessica and me during our time in Furzedown in the 1980s.  We were encouraged by the fact that this South Indian establishment was frequented by indigenous doctors from the nearby St. George’s hospital.  Its food remains excellent, but, good as it is, for family atmosphere and friendliness of service, it cannot match the marvellous Sri Lankan Watch Me on Morden Road.  Sri Lankans were not here in the 1980s.

The crush of crowds in Tooting Broadway rivalled Oxford Street at sales time.  A young boy, bending to pick up a coin, caused a log-jam.  ‘Walk properly’, cautioned his mother.  ‘Nah, it’s my pound’, replied the boy, trying to avoid passers-by as he straightened up.  Further on, a short man, speaking to a much taller one, was heard to utter: ‘I’ve often wished I was three inches taller, or it was three inches longer.  Everyone’s got something like that’.  An interesting philosophy, I thought.

I had run past Tooting Bec station on countless occasions on my regular journey to Harrow Road in those Furzedown years.

Today’s title is that of Lizzie Collingham’s book which Louisa had given me and which contains the recipe for Susan’s chicken.

As with so many of my life-changing directions (see post of 18th July), I have Jackie to thank for my love affair with this princess of preparations.  In 1965 she introduced me to dining out, especially on her favourite food.  Having married early, bought a house, and started a family, my sole experience of meals which were not home-cooked was cafe lunches funded by luncheon vouchers provided by my pre-social-work employers.  When we were wed Jackie would save up the cost of a restaurant meal  from her housekeeping money and we would walk up from Raynes Park to the Wimbledon Tandoori in Ridgway.  During our stay in Wimbledon Village in 2011 we returned to that venue to which we introduced Becky.  None of the current staff had been born in our Amity Grove years.  It is now a firm favourite with Becky, and where, to the delight of those who served them, she became engaged to Ian.

The dishes of the Indian sub-continent are colourful, flavoursome, and emit a wonderful aroma.  Jackie loves walking home from the Civic Centre inhaling the splendid variety of smells emanating from Morden homes.  Not everyone likes the heat of chillies, but to me it is manna.  It was therefore natural for me, when I began to stay overnight in my counselling room in Harrow Road, where I had my own kitchen, to learn to cook my own.  This area was full of Halal shops where I could buy all the ingredients, even late at night.  If the recipe called for something I didn’t have, I simply popped across the road and bought it.  The Morden Food Store has replaced those Harrow Road emporiums, and Tooting

Broadway now has such suppliers in abundance.  Balti cook book 10.12It was Jessica who bought the Balti cook book which is my curry bible, well spattered with various spices.

Once I grasped the basics I was able to experiment and produce my own variations.  The preparation of Curried Boxing Day turkey is now a tradition in which my grandson Oliver loves to join me.  Asian spices can also enhance the flavours of some traditional English dishes.  Green cardomoms I find particularly beneficial in adding aromatic flavouring to stews; and garlic, not always included in our recipes, is often helpful.  It was green cardomoms which upset five-year-old Oliver when I forgot to mention I had included them and he bit on one.  The Italian arrabbiata makes plentiful use of chillies.

Only once have I prepared a complete meal, including the breads and complicated rice accompanying meat and vegetable dishes.  I did this in Newark for our friends Jill Tattersall and Tim Cordy.  I began early in the morning and it must have been 9 p.m. by the time we sat down to eat with me all in a fluster.  I even made my own garlic and ginger pastes, clogging up the blender.  Now I take Jackie’s advice and buy the pastes, the breads, and the samosas.  ‘Why make work for yourself?’, she asks.  ‘The Indian housewives don’t’.  I cannot bring myself yet to use the popular sauces produced by Patak or Lloyd Grossman.

Most of what we think of as Indian restaurants are in fact Bangladeshi, almost all the staff of which originate in the Sylhet city district.  I am told the influx began with sailors jumping ship in the UK.  My all-time favourite is the Akash in Edgware Road, at which I have been a regular, often attending weekly, since the early 1980s.  Majid outside akashMajid, the manager, and Shafiq, the chef have been there since its opening some forty years ago.  Shafiq came third in a Westminster-wide competition, beating such famous opposition as Veereswami’s in Regent Street.  It must be fifteen years since I actually placed an order, for, as soon as he sees me, Shafiq begins cooking a meal they have tailor-made for me.  This is a spiced-up naga strength Haldi.  A Bangladeshi restaurant in Westbourne Grove, whose full title, which I cannot remember, contains Bombay, did not change it when that Indian city reverted to its name Mumbai.  When I asked the proprietor why, he replied that he was not interested in an alteration.  His customers would not understand.

Veereswami’s was the first Indian restaurant in London, having been established for the benefit of officers of the Raj on leave in their home country, yet missing the culinary delights of their adopted one.  It now has a modern ambience and decor, with trendy design and staffed by waiters and managers in fashionable dress.  Others who have rejected the traditional famous flock wallpaper are the Tandoori in Woolston in Hampshire, and the Shaan in Churchgate, Newark.  These latter two are notable for their modern artwork and the Shaan, in particular, for the vibrant washes on its walls.  The Shaan is unique in my experience in that white English waiting staff outnumber those from Bangladesh.  The owner was born and brought up in Newark although he still employs native immigrants.  His family run another, long established, restaurant, which survives, in my view, on reputation alone.

With certain exceptions, such as some, but by no means all, in the West End of London, these Asian restaurants present excellent value for money.  Service is usually attentive, professional, and comfortable, offering napkins and finger wipes, with mints accompanying the bill.  This does not apply to Mitcham’s Raj, although if you can wait several hours; bring your own napkins; ask for a drink for which the waiter can dash out to the next-door shop; try not to tear the soiled paper tablecloths; and help yourself to cutlery; you will find the food exemplary.  Like Eastern Nights in Thornhill, they are dependent on takeaway meals for survival.  The Akash, also has a steady takeaway trade which keeps one dedicated member of staff rushing in and out all night.  This method of obtaining an evening meal has its place, for example if you have young children in bed asleep, or, as once in my case, you are suffering from a fever which only an Akash special can assuage.  I prefer to sit down and be served dishes which have come straight from the kitchen.

And let us not forget that Chicken Tikka Masala has now overtaken fish and chips or roast beef as the English national dish.  This has been specially adapted for us because we like our gravy.

This evening we collected our friend Sheila from her home in Tooting to eat in the Sree Krishna.  It being Hallowe’en they had candlelit pumpkins on the bar, which reminded me that Majeed at the Akash always erects a Christmas Tree.  Sheila drank sparkling water whilst Jackie and I had Kingfisher.  The meal was first rate and the coffee was particularly good.

Yes, We Do Have Toys

This dull and gloomy morning I travelled by my usual route to Carol’s in SW1.  Yesterday I described a bizarre passenger on the tube, and on 26th September an extraordinary coincidence.  Today I will focus on a typical sample of travellers on London’s underground.  In common with the overground railways London Underground Ltd. no longer term their clientele ‘passengers’.  Now we are all ‘customers’; such is the consequence of our nation’s all-consuming business ethic.  The snapshots which follow are representative of an everyday journey.  On the Northern Line from Colliers Wood to Stockwell, a number of races and both sexes were present.  An Asian man was studying a hefty tome, his document holder, until removed to make way for a paying customer, lying on the seat beside him; another probably originating from a different part of that  vast continent, was either working or playing on a mobile device; a Caucasian woman was reading a novel, and various others were reading Metro.  All were silent except a couple drinking takeaway coffee; the man of oriental appearance with a Scots accent.  I do not wish to indicate that they were slurping their coffee, simply that they were talking to each other.  As the carriage filled up newcomers had to stand.

Metro is a free newspaper widely distributed, and is, I believe, available in other editions in different cities.  Most are found discarded later in the day.  This despite notices in the trains asking people to take them home or place them in receptacles positioned outside stations for the purpose.  In terminal stations like Morden, staff traverse the carriages collecting the unwanted newspapers and dropping them into large transparent plastic bags.

From Stockwell to Victoria the crowd had thinned out.  Metro was still being read; one man’s choice was The Times; and another, plugged into earphones, was attempting The Telegraph crossword.  A young woman wrote in her diary.  A small baby, nestling in a buggy, was crying as his parents vainly tried to comfort him.

The platform and escalators at Victoria were swarming with hazardous wheelie bags.

Boris Bikes 10.12Boris Bikes (see August 29th) awaiting takers were lined up alongside Westminster Cathedral, facing a young man whose smart racing cycle rested against a wall as he consulted a map.  Mansion flats nearby were undergoing splendid maintenance; railings surrounding one block in Carlisle Place receiving a facelift; and brass fittings in the many entrances to Ashley Gardens glistening gold in the gloom.

As I left Carol’s the rain began and lethal umbrellas were brandished in their multitudes.

Knowing that Sam was planning a visit with Malachi this afternoon, when I returned to Morden I popped into Lidl to see if they had any toys on offer.  You never quite know what you will find in the central aisles bazaar.  As I didn’t think a drum kit would be appreciated by the parents of a new baby, or, for that matter, my neighbours, I left there disappointed; which is just as well because at one point later Malachi said he wanted to play with his drum.  I did, however, have a result in the Poundshop which stocked enough cars and farm animals to satisfy this lad who had asked for toys when visiting The Firs.  Danni had set an example when she bought some to produce at Mum’s party.  Taking a leaf out of Bill Burdett’s book (see 4th October), I hid them conspicuously around the flat.

When my grandson arrived he dragged me to a chair, got out his Leappad, which is a junior type of i-pad, and proceeded to show me how to play games on it.  ‘Oh, dear’, I thought, ‘I have been superceded by technology’.  I needn’t have worried, however, because he soon asked me why I hadn’t got any toys and I was able to send him on his treasure hunt.

This evening we raided the freezer for a medley meal consisting of Jackie’ bolognese sauce with freshly cooked pasta; and my chicken jalfrezi with Watch Me pilau rice, chapatis, and egg godamba roti.  Racking our brains we decided the Watch me contributions must have come from a doggie bag gleaned from an outing we had there with Jacqueline and Elizabeth.  Jackie finished the Wickham white wine and I began a bottle of Maipo Merlot 2010

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.

Back to Normality

After three weeks in the idyllic village atmosphere of Sigoules I returned to Morden today.  Having spent the morning continuing ‘the big tidy up’, the rest of the day was spent travelling. Flybe plane 8.12 By Lydie’s taxi to Bergerac airport; by plane to Southampton; train to Waterloo; and finally tube to Morden.

Having started it last night, my reading on the journey was almost the rest of Hammond Innes’ ‘The Land God Gave to Cain’.  Whilst standing in the queue at the departure gate at Bergerac, I noticed a wallet underneath a still occupied seat in the lounge.  Leaving my bag to mark my place, I walked over, picked up the wallet and asked the man sitting above it if it was his.  It was.  He was most grateful.  He turned out to be seated across the aisle from me in the plane, and continued his thanks there.  Whilst waiting for the call to board I got in conversation with a family of four.  The youngest little boy had a toy rabbit called ‘ra-ra’ which was clearly his transitional object.  It was dropped under the seat so often that his mother decided to put it in her bag for safe keeping.  As we were queueing to present our passports at Southampton I jokingly asked if she’d got the rabbit.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure and had to rifle through her bag to satisfy herself it was still there.  Oh dear.  Perhaps that was an unnecessary anxiety.

By the time I arrived at Waterloo I was pretty drowsy.  There’s nothing like trying to cross that Underground station to wake you up.  Everyone is rushing.  Most people keep their eyes fixed on the direction in which they are going, often dragging their wheelie-bags behind them.  Here was a reminder of what life is like for those still in work and an abrupt reintroduction to the big city after the more relaxed atmosphere of the countryside.  This is not just a question of different countries.  It is the contrast between less populated rural and congested city lives.  It was something that struck me when we moved to Newark from Streatham in 1987.  Suddenly people spoke to you in the street.  They were prepared to give way when driving.  They didn’t push past you in a crowd.  Somehow they all had more time.

Today at Waterloo I had just come from an environment where people all said good morning to you whether they knew you or not, and had plenty of time for each other.  Being fortunate enough to find a seat on the tube, I joined the rest of commuting London.  Each individual was isolated behind their newspaper, book, or thoughts.  Hammond Innes made sure I was just the same as everyone else.  Anonymity is possible in a crowded environment, impossible in a sparsely populated area.  In a day or two, no doubt, I will be a Londoner again.  Just now I’m a country boy.  At least I know which country.

After a while spent catching up with each other, Jackie and I had a meal at ‘Watch Me’, our favourite Morden restaurant.  Our absence whilst I have been in France was noted, but it didn’t stop the waiter, knowing what we like, to suggest what we would wish to eat.  We followed his accurate choices and drank Kingfisher.


Mrs. Reynard is looking most uncomfortable lately.  Perched on her pile of sticks this morning, she was gnawing away at her rear end, which is now on one side completely devoid of fur.  The patch the magpie was pecking on 26th. May (see post) is now rather raw.

On my normal route to Colliers Wood to catch the tube for lunch with Norman, in Morden Hall Park, I met Benjamin and his mother.  This eloquent and cheerful little chap was on a dinosaur hunt.  He was taking his task very seriously and wanted to know if I’d seen one, especially ‘a big one’.  He declined to produce his hunting roar for the photograph.  Perhaps because I am not a dinosaur, although some people may quibble with that.  Well, Benjy, I didn’t see a dinosaur, but I did find a very big slug.  His picture is at the top of this page.

One of the most amusing regular announcements on the Underground was given out at Green Park.  A long list of severe or minor delays is intoned.  This is always followed by: ‘There is a good service on all other lines.’  ‘Which are they?’, I ask myself.

Seated reading on a bench near the mainly Somali area of Harlesden, I picked up one cent of an euro, thinking it might come in handy in the Sigoules supermarket.  I hoped it wasn’t a Greek one.  It was fortunate that I wasn’t on my feet, for these days I wouldn’t bend down for anything less than a tenner.  I remembered once diving for a ten-bob note at a bus stop in Worple Road in case Chris got there first.  For anyone too young to remember, that’s 50p in today’s money.  But, then, you could do a great deal more with it.

A middle-aged woman came and talked to me.  She began by saying I looked so peaceful that if she had a camera she would photograph me.  I hoped she wouldn’t notice the one hanging round my neck.  She went on to eulogise about the beauty of the thousand year old church that lay behind me.  She spoke of recent renovations, and I realised that the graveyard is looking much better kept these days.  It is a sad reflection of our times that the building was not open for my inspection.  She was on her way to visit her father, now suffering from dementia, in a care home.  On her regular visits she does a lot of the feeding and caring herself.  This woman was not complaining and initially spoke appreciatively of her father’s carers.  She did, however, say it would be nice if they thanked her, because they were paying the full ‘feeding rate’.  According to her this former Southern Cross establishment has been taken over by a Methodist organisation.  It has a new manager who is trying to improve things.  From the sound of it she has her work cut out.  Once this daughter learned that I had been in Social Work she told me about some of the attitudes and systems she found problematic, asking me what I thought.  For example, did I think it unreasonable that he was not allowed to ‘poo’ until 11 a.m?  I most certainly did.  Apparently the staff would rather he ‘pooed in his pad’, which they could clean up afterwards, than disrupt other morning routines.  She felt that his personal dignity was suffering.  My beard didn’t put her off expressing her conviction that it was normal to want to shave every day.  Presumably there are days when her father can and cannot shave.

Norman served up a dish of delicious Catalan chicken accompanied by a fine rioja, and followed by apple strudel.  Perhaps not entirely by coincidence we discussed the writing of Iris Murdoch.  I have not read her philosophy, but have most of her novels, except the last.  This was so badly reviewed by critics who could not make any sense of it that I decided to give it a miss.  Some time later we learned that she was suffering from the same condition as my conversationalist’s father.  For anyone working with dementia the biopic ‘Iris’, starring Jim Broadbent as the long-suffering and somewhat bewildered husband, and Judi Dench as Iris, is essential viewing.  No-one living with the condition would need, or probably wish, to watch this fine portrayal of the slow realisation that all is not well and the gradual decline into frustrated helplessness.

This evening Jacqueline came over for meal, and, given that she had recommended the Watch Me to us, we just had to take her there.  The food was as good and reasonably priced as always.  As I don’t normally eat another meal after a Norman lunch, this was stretching it a bit for me.

Miss Downs

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather I walked up to Wimbledon common just before midday with a couple of books and sat reading by the pond in which I’d sailed my boat as a child.  The bench I had chosen was inscribed IN MEMORY OF DOUGLAS WARD CAMPBELL.

As always when passing Wimbledon Library, situated adjacent to St. Mark’s Place, where Jack (see post of 13th. May) stood awaiting his next charge, my thoughts turn to Miss Downs.  Miss Downs was a teacher at St. Mary’s Russell Rd. Roman Catholic school which I and all my siblings attended.  Miss Downs was adamant that we should read three books a week.  Consequently, dutifully, if not religiously, Mum took us on a regular weekly trip to the library where these treasure troves were to be found.  Was anyone else out there nurtured on Patricia Lynch’s Brogeen stories?

Every Sunday morning my brother Chris and I would attend Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart on Edge Hill and go on for breakfast at Auntie Gwen’s in Latimer Road.  Auntie Gwen was my godmother, not the proprietor of yet another greasy spoon.  Mum was not a Catholic and Dad, at that time, was not practising.  In our case ‘attend Mass’ was a loose description.  When we discovered that it was only if you missed the crucial parts of the ceremony each Sabbath that you were condemned to Hell, we started stretching it a bit.  We would sneak in just before the Gospel and slide out just after Communion.  What we didn’t know was that Miss Downs was part of the congregation.  It was therefore something of a shock when we were summoned to her room at school to be asked to explain our behaviour and to be given what for.  This seemed pretty bad luck to us, and a bit out of order.  The long arm of the school was everywhere.

So…… for a lifetime’s pleasure from reading, Miss Downs and Mum, I thank you.  I still read every day.  For a sharp lesson in the wisdom of sussing out every possible drawback when contemplating manipulating the rules, Miss Downs, I, er, thank you.

I took the 93 bus back today, walking the long way round from Morden Station and stopping for an excellent shish kebab with a first rate salad at Morden Best Kebabs on London Road.  I have not been able to eat a doner since Becky told me what went into them.

This evening Jackie and I ate at the Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant on Morden Road.  Presumably it gets its name from the fact that, if you feel so inclined, you can watch the team of chefs performing behind a long window.  The food is wonderful, especially for me as hot comes as standard.  The staff are all very friendly young men, one of whom plays cricket.  The atmosphere is of a family gathering.  Alomost all the other customers are Sri Lankan families, the women wearing gorgeous saris, especially if there is, as often, a party going on; and really very small children running about.  The fathers are very hands-on Dads.  Waiters are adept at weaving in and out of darting infants whilst balancing plates of food.  You are not expected to order your ‘mains’ until you have eaten your starters, and you are never approached with the bill.  As far as they are concerned you are there for the evening.  We are indebted to my sister Jacqueline for the introduction to this establishment.