Lunch At La Barca

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS WILL ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE SEEN FULL SIZE.

Standing train passengers

Jackie delivered me to New Milton Station this morning for me to catch the train to Waterloo for lunch with Norman. I didn’t get a seat until Southampton. I was lucky; many didn’t. The man in the foreground had recently received a replacement hip. At Southampton Central four more coaches were added, but they brought another load of cattle with them.

Norman and I met at La Barca, just around the corner from the side entrance to Waterloo Station on the Taxi Approach Road. The brief walk across this road, down the steps to Spur Road, and round to Lower Marsh is, on a sunny day, not a pretty one. Today wasn’t sunny.

Taxi Approach Road

The wall opposite the station offers a view containing the forest of cranes that is a fairly common view in the capital today.

Taxi Approach Road

Taxis ply their trade in both directions,

also queuing along Spur Road.

Spur Road

Baylis Road, opposite the end of this, runs past Westminster Millennium Green, featured a number of times since it was described by Steve White as ‘A Beautiful Setting’. The Italian flag flying on the right of this photograph shows how close the restaurant is to the station.

Protective cage

This protective cage may seem a little excessive, but it hasn’t escaped the graffiti merchants.

The lingering touch of autumn does its best to brighten Baylis Road where brickwork is receiving the attention of workers on a large telescopic platform.

Lower Marsh

The cheap and cheerful Chicken Valley rubs shoulders with the more upmarket La Barca doing its best with seasonal decorations. The snowflakes on the ground are in fact gobbets of chewing gum, found on many of our pavements and station platforms.

Man eating in street

This young gentleman dined alfresco.

Across the road the La Cubana’s stall was taking a delivery from an open van.

Veal cutlet

Norman and I preferred to eat in comfort. We each enjoyed a superb leek and potato soup followed by a splendid veal cutlet served with an asparagus sauce, truffles, and roast potatoes. Our shared bottle of wine was an excellent house red Montepulciano. I needed nothing more to eat later.

The outside temperature shown on the car dashboard when Jackie collected me from the return train at Brockenhurst was 13 degrees. No wonder I felt overdressed.

Lunch On The Green

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

Before we leave for New Milton for my London lunch trips, Jackie always asks me if I’ve got ‘all (my) bits’ with me. One was missing this morning. It was my mobile phone. A search among all the usual places revealed nothing. Jackie rang the number several times. Silence ensued. We then tried the car. A muffled ring-tone suggested that the device was under one of the seats. It wasn’t. Eventually I spotted it lodged between the front seats. On its side. Barely visible, and needing great dexterity to remove it from its hiding place.

I set back the meeting time with Norman at Tas in The Cut, and caught a later train.

Waterloo Millennium Green 1

This still gave me time to investigate Waterloo Millennium Green, where people enjoyed a lunch break in the sun and,

Waterloo Millennium Green 2

Waterloo Millenium Green 3Waterloo Millenium Green 4

a month earlier, I had seen scaffolding being erected. The huge temporary Old Vic stage had been completely dismantled and removed, leaving the dried grass to members of the basking public

PigeonPigeons

Waterloo Millenium Green 5Waterloo Millenium Green 5

and pigeons.

It was after I took this last shot that a woman, whom I had not photographed, screamed at me and called me a pervert, and I decided to show a little discretion and walk away.

Norman and I enjoyed good conversation and lunch. My choice of main course was the best battered halibut I have ever tasted, followed by a excellent cold rice pudding, the name of which escapes me. As usual, we shared a bottle of the house red wine, served at the perfect temperature.

Especially when I take the slightly later train home, I tend to sit in the quiet carriage and avoid groups of businessmen. For those who are unaware, this carriage is one where passengers are not permitted to use mobile phones and must quieten other electronic quiet carriage, devices. This doesn’t deter everyone from talking at the tops of their voices.

Shortly before we were due to depart a gentleman rushed into the seat opposite me, spreading various items of luggage across the table. He then proceeded to have, interspersed with mouthfuls of salad-spilling burger, a work conversation at the top of his voice.

I gave him five minutes, which, in the circumstances I thought rather generous, and certainly more than some of the protagonists in the Dick Francis novel I was trying to read would have allowed. Not wishing actually to interrupt his flow, either of talk, or bits of burger, I tapped on the table and pointed to the signs, one of which was above his head. He shrugged and continued. An interruption became necessary. ‘You must comply with this’, I said, ‘that is why we sit in here’. So sotto voce as to be barely audible, he continued his conversation. When he had finished he apologised and politely called me sir.

Jackie collected me at New Milton and drove me home where, this evening, I needed no further sustenance.

The Old Vic On The Green

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

I made my usual journey by train to London Waterloo for a lunch date with Norman at Tas. Jackie drove me to New Milton for the outward trip, and collected me from Brockenhurst for the return.

On a very crowded train I sat with a mother and her three children. The eldest two had their own seats and a little girl sat on her mother’s lap. The woman decided to make room for one of the standing passengers. With great effort, and mild protestations from her small son, she placed the two youngest on her lap on the window seat, leaving the aisle one vacant. She then gesticulated to indicate that the seat was free. There were no takers. It was half an hour before the little girl slid off her mother’s knee into the seat.

I took the Millennium Green route to The Cut from Waterloo Station. This involves walking down steps to the street below.

Buddleias

Buddleias are known as the Butterfly plant because they attract those insects. I call them the Railway Line plant because they invade every aspect of our railways. Here they festoon the wall alongside the approach road.

Caggie

My reward for choosing to walk through the green was meeting Caggie

The Old Vic signScaffolding 1

who was posting signs explaining the scaffolding that was going on.

Thistle

Who’s that getting into shot? Ah! It’s Caggie.

Waterloo Millennium Green

Scaffolding 4

Scaffolding and London Eye 1

Normal life continued around the perimeter of the gardens,

Scaffolding 2

Scaffolding 3

while a team of strong young men set about erecting the frame for the temporary theatre.

Scaffolding and London Eye 2Scaffolding and London Eye 3

I wondered whether passengers on The London Eye would be able to see this activity.

Scaffolding 5

Caggie was certainly keeping a close eye on it.

Scaffoldin 6Scaffolding 7

The staff were positively bustling.

Scaffolding 8

There she is again,

Scaffolding 9

doing the tour.

This fun young woman gave me permission to photograph what I liked. Thank you, Caggie.

At Tas Turkish restaurant, Norman I enjoyed each other’s company as usual. My meal was haddock in a very tasty stew with salad, followed by a piquant cold rice pudding dish. We shared the house red wine, as is our custom.

I dozed away most of my return journey.

The Barbecue

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM. REPEAT IF REQUIRED

The human memory can be a notorious trickster. Recently, an excellent story from Bruce, himself a master of trickery, featured custard. This brought to mind the typically insightful and amusing Dennis Potter television drama ‘Blade on The Feather’, which had tickled me and Michael almost forty years ago. This contained five characters, three male, and two female. Having forgotten about the excellent Kika Markham and Phoebe Nicholls, and even the plot centring on revenge and the aftermath of a life of espionage during the Cold War era, I remembered only the three superb male actors, Donald Pleasence, Denholm Elliott, and Tom Conti. Only one scene, I thought, was burned into my brain.

This is the film I searched for on You Tube. We watched it last night. My one scene featured Elliott, Pleasence’s factotum, in the posh family dining room, serving lumpy, yet runny, custard from a pyrex jug, and Pleasance, for this insult, in the most progressively, calmly, abusive manner, calling Elliott a dollop of poodle diarrhoea. In fact this was two scenes I had fused together. You must admit, it made sense. My telling and retelling this story over the years produced a few exaggerations. I would act out the butler extracting a far more coagulated concoction from a saucepan, requiring several jerky shakes to slop it onto the baked jam roll awaiting its coating. I also added a few interpolations between the term ‘shit’ and ‘poodle diarrhoea’ during the early morning brandy deprivation scene. If you have witnessed my performance of this, please regard it as poetic licence, rather than a flawed recollection.

Today, Jackie drove me to New Milton and later collected me from Brockenhurst as I travelled to and from Waterloo to meet Norman for lunch at Tas in The Cut.

Emma Cons Gardens from Taxi Approach Road

Looking over the wall on the taxi approach road far over on the other side of Waterloo Station, I was surprised to see an unusual angle on Emma Cons Gardens, and even more surprised that my little Canon SX700 HS was able to record it. The woman in the distance on the corner of Cornwall Road was walking down The Cut, which I was soon to do.

Barbecue stall 1

At first, however, I was drawn by the charcoal smoke and enticing aromas emanating from the barbecue stall, with its usual queue of hungry workers.

Barbecue stall 2Barbecue stall 3Barbecue stall 4Barbecue stall 5Barbecue stall 6

Naturally, I had to approach the scene and soak up the busy, friendly, atmosphere.

Waterloo Millennium Green

Others had brought their own refreshments.

It was, however, the usual Turkish meal that Norman I and enjoyed at Tas. My selection was the best moussaka I have ever tasted, followed by a delicious dessert the name of which I cannot remember, that included in its ingredients shredded wheat and honey. We shared a bottle of the smooth house red wine.

Geetha is another excellent blogger whom I follow. She was in my mind during my reading of ‘The Cream Of The Jest’ by James Branch Cabell which I finished today. This is because Geetha weaves her dreams into fascinating, powerful, poetry. Felix Kennaston, Cabell’s protagonist, goes further as he becomes so immersed in his dream world that ‘the jest’ is that the distinction between his own real life and the fictional world of his characters is considerably blurred. The sub-title of ‘A Comedy of Evasions’ suggests a secondary theme of Kennaston’s being so fixated on his dream woman that he is unable to sustain love for one of flesh and blood. Or is he suffering from a delusional mental illness?

This 1927 publication is illustrated by Frank C. Papé, a favourite of The Bodley Head at that time. The artist is very skilled at line drawing, and although these appear throughout the book, I have chosen to reproduce here just the endpapers.

The Cream of the Jest endpaper 001The Cream of the Jest endpaper 002

This is because they demonstrate the contrast between Felix’s  dream life and his reality.

11_buttery

Note the bookplate on the bottom right hand corner of the first of these two illustrations.

The website oxfordhistory.org.uk tells us that “No. 11 Broad Street, Oxford, was occupied by Thornton’s bookshop from 1870 to 2002. The building dates from about 1800, and is Grade II listed (ref. 1485/170).

The 1881 census shows Joseph Thornton, who was born in Billericay, as the employer of one man and three boys. Aged 72, he was living over this shop with his wife Clara and daughter Lydia (a governess), and one general servant. His son James was managing a bookshop of his own at 33 High Street at this time.

The business remained in the family until 1983, when it was about to go bankrupt. Wim & Scharlie Meeuws of Holdan Books bought it from John (known as “Young Jack”) Thornton, and altered the shop between 1983 and 1985 to meet fire regulations. The Thornton’s name survived on the shop until the business finally moved out on 1 January 2003.

Thornton’s Bookshop was based at Boars Hill until 2007 and is now at Faringdon, about twenty miles from Oxford.”

Knitting

CLICKING ON THE IMAGES, TWICE IF REQUIRED, WILL ENLARGE THEM.

Jackie drove me to New Milton this morning, for me to catch the train to Waterloo and lunch with Norman at Tas.

Pansies

The platform planter’s pansies sparkled with a sprinkling of early rain on this bright, sunny, day.

The train was packed, with many people standing. I homed in on the one seat unoccupied by a person. It bore a back-pack with a collection of papers on the table in front of it. I asked the man next to it if there was anyone sitting there. ‘No’, he said, got to his feet, removed the offending items, and placed them in the rack above. I ask you.

Shelly and Ron

On leaving the main entrance of Waterloo Station I stood contemplating the remaining tower that is the sole survivor of the Shell complex being replaced by residential apartments, when I felt a gentle pressure on my shoulder and turned to see Shelly and Ron, on their way home from a night in London.

City Tour bus

Watching a City Tour bus approach the circular IMAX cinema, I wondered how long such a ride would take.

Plane tree knit and new building

The construction alongside the Old Fire Station is rising faster than the new Shell complex. Anyone caring to enlarge the image of the passing scaffolders’ lorry will be treated to a certain dubious witticism.  In Emma Cons Gardens, opposite the Old Vic theatre, it appeared that the plane trees were being afforded protection against the recent unseasonal frosts. They bore arboreal versions of Hampshire horses’ rugs.

Plane tree knitsWe Knit WaterlooWe Knit Waterloo - Lower Marsh notice

Closer inspection revealed that their decoration is the inaugural part of a project designed to knit together some of our capital’s shopping streets., in this case Lower Marsh and The Cut.

Waterloo Millennium Green

Across the road in Lower Marsh, once described to me as ‘A Beautiful Setting’ Waterloo Millennium Green was beginning to attract basking visitors.

BT engineers

In The Cut itself, I enjoyed an entertaining conversation with a couple of burrowing BT engineers, who were intrigued to learn of our frequent contact with their country colleagues.

Norman and I enjoyed an excellent meal at Tas. My choice was slices of sirloin steak cooked in a tomato and almond sauce, followed by  a delicately flavoured cold rice pudding. We shared a bottle of the house red wine.

I travelled to Brockenhurst on my return from Waterloo. Jackie met me there and drove Godfrey Smith, who I had met on the train, to his Sway destination on our way home.

Palm Bed 1Palm Bed 2

As I thought she would, Jackie had almost completed the planting of the Palm Bed.

The Road To Little Dribbling

Why is it that writers of book blurbs and their jacket designers will often describe them as hilariously funny  at the expense of any other quality they may have? So it is with those of Bill Bryson, which is probably why I have not read one before ‘The Road To Little Dribbling’ that I finished today.

The book is humorous of course, but it is also a fond bitter-sweet ramble through the author’s adopted land. I haven’t read ‘Notes From a Small Island’, but the Daily Telegraph’s description of that would fit this sequel much more appropriately than those that follow. Our friend Barrie Haynes passed this one on to me because he thought my writing similar. I take that as a compliment.

After my lunch, a slice of pizza was ample sustenance this evening.

 

A Beautiful Setting

Jackie drove me to the station a little later this morning for a trip to London to see Carol.  Posting my last of these train journeys on 23rd of this month I had expressed the intention of using the Quiet zone carriage.  Today there was a nerve-wracking queue for tickets.  I obtained mine just in time, but some didn’t.  Ahead of us all were two women with three five-year olds and one younger child.  While those in charge debated their optimum ticket option the four infants, voices emitted at maximum decibels, dashed about doing their utmost to trip everyone up. As I settled into the Quiet zone, who should come tripping and tumbling up the aisle?  You’ve guessed it.  Oh joy!  Winchester, the first stop, is only seven minutes away from Southampton Parkway.  That is when ‘are we at London?’ began.  Maybe in order to make themselves heard, the mothers’ utterances were often loudest.  Everyone was very excited by a game of Scissors Paper Stone initiated by one of the adults, who, incredibly turned out to be the quieter.  When the other parent began a simultaneous game of I Spy I began to be a bit confused.  Was ‘something beginning with S’ sky, scissors, or stone?  And would stone represented by a fist qualify? A detailed description by the louder Mum of an Indian train journey complete with a graphic picture of the toilet that was a hole in the floor around which everyone had pooed was particularly savoury.  Have I mentioned that all this was going on a good few seats behind me?  Clear as a bell.  But not a mobile phone ring tone, so presumably legal. I didn’t even start on my reading.  No way could the book have competed with the amplified audio version of this well-travelled voice.  Why, oh why, had she not fallen off that mountain?  And why did she have to open that parachute? On a whim, having plenty of time, I wandered around the Kennington side of Waterloo station, as far as Lambeth North underground.  Station Approach Road which brings taxis and buses to the side entrance of the London terminal was my route from The Pill Box, a small, then modern, building when, from 1963 to 1966 I had worked there for Mobil Shipping Company’s insurance subsidiary.  Park Plaza HotelThe Park Plaza Hotel now stands on the site of a pub named after the building’s shape, above which were Mobil’s offices.  In those days I commuted to there from Raynes Park. Station Approach Road Graffiti now decorates the lower approach. Lower MarshFrom Kennington Road I back-tracked for a nostalgic walk along Lower Marsh.  The London Eye, then not even a proverbial twinkle, is just visible from this street where I regularly lunched with my great friend Terry Taylor in a cafe that served shepherd’s pie that tasted like moussaka, and rice pudding and custard.  The thoroughfare is now so completely changed that I was unable to find this establishment. Passing a stall that sold antique glass and brass, I heard the vendor’s neighbour asking him what he thought of Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.  I told him of an occasional commuting companion on the Newark to King’s Cross train who had, in the late ’90s, predicted Boris for ‘the next Tory Prime Minister’.  This led to a somewhat awkward discussion about the state of the country and the self-seeking nature of politicians.  I changed the subject and asked about my cafe.  He didn’t know it, and, anyway, he hadn’t himself been a twinkle in 1963. I sat for a while in Waterloo Millennium Green which wasn’t there then either.  Lower Marsh MarketMany people sat here to consume foods from the mult-ethnic preparations on offer at the stalls now strung along what was once part of Lambeth Marsh.  Here I conversed with Steve White, who, like me, was in search of ‘remembrance of things past’.  A really nice man, a builder whom I will recommend to Michael, although twenty years younger, he shared many of my own memories.  Ten years after I had watched flats being demolished behind The Pill Box, as a child living in another block, he watched further buldings making way for St. Thomas’s Hospital.  When grown up, he had drunk in that pub. Steve White in Millennium Green Steve remembered this piece of land when it was ‘all concrete’, and was delighted to be photographed in what he thought was now a beautiful setting.  He was rather chuffed at the thought that his image would travel around the world this evening.  One of the strings to his bow is gardening, which is clearly why the Green appealed to him. After this, vowing never to venture on it again until the tourists had all left, I fought my way across a jam-packed Westminster Bridge and into Victoria Street.  It was a relief to stagger into Great Smith Street and through to Carol’s home in Rochester Row, stopping on my way to enjoy a hearty all day breakfast in The Laughing Halibut on the corner of Strutton Ground. Knackered commuters are, if you discount snoring, much less noisy than exuberant excited children and their guardians.  I was therefore able to finish Ralph A. Griffiths’ contribution to the Oxford History, ‘The Later Middle Ages’, and make a start on John Guy’s ‘The Tudor Age’, on my return journey. My chauffeuse was there to greet me at Southampton; to drive me home in comfort; and to feed me on chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice followed by an Aldi choc-ice.  She drank Hoegaarden whilst I consumed Kingfisher.