Last night I began reading ‘Moonfleet’ by J. Meade Falkner.
On this fine June day I took the same walk, with amendments, as yesterday. Following on from one of that day’s themes, I was only a few yards into Crown Lane when a cyclist rushed past me on the pavement, spurning the allocated cycle lane alongside her in the road.
This time I went through Morden Hall Park, turning right at Phipps Bridge tram stop and coming out onto Morden Road. As I passed through the garden centre I saw a couple of notices proclaiming A RIVER RUNS THROUGH THIS SITE PLEASE SUPERVISE YOUR CHILDREN. I gave some thought to little Kate Brown who is remembered in the eponymous post of 23rd. May. Mowing was in progress in the park, creating that sweet smell which had originally alerted me to the presence of the water meadow at Colliers Wood on that same day.
Walking down Mitcham Park, in the Cricket Green preservation area, I stopped and spoke to a couple working in their garden. The woman was fiercely protective of her home town’s reputation, whilst her husband expressed the view that it deserved its current negative one. He referred me to Google where I would find a site describing Mitcham’s chavs. She said his glass was always half empty.
Having been guided by Becky, much more of the final stretch was through Mitcham Common. On passing the lake I encountered a man, having discarded his bicycle, sitting on a wonderfully naturally smoothly moulded tree trunk. I quipped: ‘If that were in a West End shop it would be very expensive.’ ‘I know,’ he replied, ‘that’s why I’m enjoying every minute of it.’ It is perhaps a measure of how bucolic a journey it is possible to make across 5 miles of S.W. London that I was carrying a letter to post and did not pass one pillar box en route.
Our daughter continues to do remarkably well. Despite having just endured a major operation she expresses some embarrassment at the cleaning of the flat we have undertaken. By ‘we’ I mean Jackie with some minor assistance from me, the sous-cleaner. She does not know that her flat’s needs are nothing compared to the one we rented on The Ridgway in Wimbledon Village.
As a child, I had always dreamed of living in Wimbledon Village, so when Jackie and I sought a second time around home together it was natural that I should seek a flat there. The estate agent had insisted on a professional clean of this furnished property. The owner kept delaying occupation, saying she would clean it herself. I once visited and found our landlady standing with a limp rag in her hand indicating black discolouration on the ceiling which she said had been caused by a previous tenant’s joss sticks. On the morning of the moving day she phoned me saying that the professional cleaners had delayed and asking me yet again to defer taking up residence. I refused. That meant we (the same ‘we’ as mentioned above) had to knuckle down and fumigate the place.
The curtains were filthy and hanging unevenly from crooked curtain rails. When Jackie washed these the colours were revealed. The fridge contained mould in abundance, the ice cubes being full of indescribable matter including hair; the cooker was rusty, greasy, and rancid. It took all Jackie’s considerable skills to make it usable. At one point I dropped something down behind the cooker and had to move that to extract whatever it was. I regretted it immediately, because there was a long-standing oily mass underneath, including a number of cigarette filters. The elderly kitchen cabinet doors didn’t fit and were streaked with unpleasant looking matter. The washing machine didn’t work but a new one was on order. When the new one was delivered one of the men moaned all the way about having to cart it up three flights of stairs. He did not get a tip, despite my having once been a furniture remover and knowing how important are these earnings supplements.
The dining table had a glass top laid into a groove glued tight by decaying food. The unmatched chairs had cigarette burns in the seats. All the carpets in the flat bore similar tell-tale round holes. An ashtray contained a couple of stubs, and underneath the sofa there were piles of rubbish, mostly cigarette filters. The sofa covers had suffered at the claws of cats.
A reproduction chest of drawers in the bedroom did not close properly. This was because, although each drawer was numbered, they had not been fitted in the correct order. The antique brass bed had two missing corner post knobs. The owner had assured me that they would be replaced. They weren’t, so Jackie used tennis balls to fill the vacuum. Stains on both sides of the mattress caused very unsavoury speculation. The wardrobes were full of the owner’s own clothes which stank of cats, with whose hairs they were liberally threaded. The doors would not close and the free-standing one threatened to fall apart. Most of the apartment’s windows were insecure, but you’d have to be a very determined rock climber to scale the walls of this large Victorian building. They were also caked in grime and no way was either of us going to sit on the crumbling cills at such a scary height to attempt to scrape that off.
We did manage to get our landlady to remove her clothing (from the wardrobes, not herself), but she left some of her belongings in the loft and in a well on the approach to the flat. This meant that she would want to visit to collect stuff. She would make appointments and not turn up, or arrive unannounced. After a while the lavatory seat split and provision of a replacement was delayed because the owner wanted to inspect the break before authorising the purchase of a new one. She failed three appointments to do that before the agent advised us to buy own own and submit the bill to him for reimbursement. On a cold winter’s day we duly went off to buy an undamaged loo seat. Returning with our purchase who did we find sitting, wrapped in furs and wearing a scarf and boots, surrounded by shopping bags and cigarette ends, smoking a fag on the broad steps up to the front door, but our landlady. Having made and not kept an appointment to collect them from the loft, she had come for her ski boots. I asked her where she was going skiing. She told me that she wasn’t, implying that the question was rather stupid. She hadn’t been able to get into the loft because she hadn’t got a ladder. When I offered to help she said she didn’t want them now. I think you’d say she was somewhat eccentric.
Who cares? I had arrived in Wimbledon Village.
After one of Jackie’s tender lamb casseroles we drove home and disturbed the peace of Mother Fox in the front garden.