Dinner with the Mayor

Setting off early this morning for coffee with my friend Carol, I took my usual route through Morden Hall Park and along the Wandle Trail to catch the tube at Colliers Wood.  This was a dull, humid and rather unpleasant walk.  Some of the fallen trees were being sliced up into large Swiss rolls.

By the time I left Carol’s, just before midday, the sun was out and we had a very fine day.  The whole of London seemed to be basking and sweating in the heat .  I decided to wander around the area of Victoria, which I know very well.  I thought I might stop and read in Grosvenor Gardens, alongside Buckingham Palace Road, and did indeed settle on a bench there. I didn’t read, however.  It seemed too much to struggle against the glare of the sun on the paper, and I was much more interested in what was going on around me.  There were many other readers squinting away.  It was then I noticed a young woman, shielding her eyes, lying reading from her Blackberry.  She managed, despite being in the full sun, to look remarkably fresh.  Seeing the potential for this day’s header, I photographed her.  Now, of course, no way could I publish this picture without her permission.  With trepidation I then approached her and sought her blessing, offering to delete the picture if she wasn’t happy.  She was happy, and took the details of my blog.  So, anonymous young lady with a Blackberry, I thank you.

Further along the side of Victoria Station I noticed another far less fortunate young woman.  She lay in a doorway surrounded by her bedding and her bags; her head lolling; her eyes shut; her mouth open; motionless, with a soggy, unlit and unsmoked roll-up adhering to her bottom lip.  Feeling rather guilty I moved on.  Unhappily this is not an unusual sight in central London and most of us prefer to leave such situations to those in authority.

As often when I visit Carol, I had taken the route past City Hall, which holds many memories of my time in the 70s and 80s as a Westminster Social Services Area Manager.  Some of this period was during the infamous Shirley Porter era.  Those memories are best kept to myself.

I can, however, take this opportunity to tell another footwear story.  For some 15 years or so I was Chairman of Beauchamp Lodge Settlement, a charity situated in Westminster.  Sometime in the 1980s Anne Mallinson, who served on this Committee, and was at one time or another Chair or Vice-Chair, was the Mayor of Westminster.  Anne was kind enough to invite Jessica and me to one of her mayoral dinners at City Hall.  In those days, as part of my marathon training, I ran everywhere, carrying my working clothes in a backpack and diving into any suitable public toilet to clean up and change.  Since there are very suitable facilities at City Hall, that was the plan on the evening of the function.  Now, my attire for the event was to be formal dress wear which would not have been appropriate for my working day.  Jessica was therefore delegated to drive to the City Council headquarters bringing my evening wear for me to change into and I was to meet her there.  I arrived in as hot and sticky a condition as almost everyone was in today, grabbed my box of clothes, and entered the gents in City Hall.

Having had a good wash I then began to dress.  Ah!  No shoes.  They must be in the car.  No such luck.  Jessica had forgotten them.  All I had were my best New Balance running shoes.  I wanted to go home.

Nevertheless I decided to brazen it out.  During the pre-dinner drinks, when circulating among the guests, I vainly hoped no-one would notice.  I found myself in a group with the rather important guest of honour.  When his eyes, having strayed to the floor, rapidly looked up and swiftly focussed elsewhere, I said: ‘Congratulations.  You’ve spotted the deliberate mistake.’  Of course I then had to tell the story, which turned out to be a most convenient ice-breaker.

Not to be outdone, Jessica managed to cap this.  She was placed between two eminent elderly gentlemen.  One of them, politely drew her chair back to help her into her place.  With her back to this courtesy, therefore being unaware that her seat was no longer where she thought it was, she promptly sat on the floor.

This evening we visited Becky and Flo and partook of a Deshi Spice takeaway accompanied by Cobra Beer.  Becky continues on good form and is wondering why she had  been warned that this would be the worst week.  Hopefully she will continue to wonder.

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