On another crisp, clear, morning I took my usual route to Colliers Wood on the way to Carol’s.
The pools on the footpaths that had not yet been penetrated by the sun’s rays were frozen over, and grasses and benches were coated with frost which sparkled when the light filtering through the trees caught their drops.
Two women with their children snugly cocooned approached me, having just passed another elderly gent. One was explaining to her little boy that he shouldn’t comment on people’s ages because some didn’t like to be reminded they were getting old. ‘Some people don’t mind it’, I called out to them. This earned me a chorus of ‘excellent’ and a couple of thumbs up.
My previous acquaintance with the magnificent comb-over carried his Sainsbury’s bags.
Time Out was being distributed at the Underground stations and outside Victoria overground. This, which until very recently cost two or three pounds, is now free. It carries a listing of all local and national events and entertainment on offer during the coming week, together with reviews and other articles. Other free publications include the previously mentioned Metro (11th October) and the Evening Standard, the last of London’s nightly newspapers we once paid for. Most of these freebies, if not left on the tube, end up on the deck, often juxtaposed with dog-ends discarded by smokers no longer allowed to indulge their addiction inside public places. In this morning’s Northern Line, those of my fellow-passengers not reading Metro were plugged into mobile devices whilst I scribbled my notes.
The street newsvendors of my boyhood stood with stacks of the Star, the News, and the Standard. Would-be purchasers eagerly queued to grab one or all of these journals from outstretched hands as they deposited their predecimalisation pennies and ambled away, heads disappearing behind open pages, devouring information about what had happened in the capital whilst they had been beavering away at their employment. Street scenes in films set in the war years would lack authenticity without shots of kiosks bearing banner headlines about the latest triumphs and disasters. As fast as sellers handed over a copy they snatched another from their pile. This was before the era of breaking news on television, which most people did not possess; or the unimagined mobile devices calling up information from around the world at the touch of a button. Now the distributors often have to exercise all their arts of persuasion to relieve themselves of their heaps of paper.
‘Starnoozenstanna’ was the familiar cry of usually elderly men or young boys wearing, at this time of year, short sleeved fairisle jumpers beneath overcoats, scarves, and Andy Capp flat hats; and open-fingered woollen gloves, as they peddled their wares. For those who haven’t worked it out, the shout was a vernacular version of Star, News, and Standard. Andy Capp was a strip cartoon character created by Reg Smythe for the Daily Mirror, a newspaper still costing money. An endearing, disreputable working class symbol, who never actually worked, wore a flat cap, always had a fag hanging out of his mouth, and had a wife called Flo, he remains a great favourite.
This afternoon I sent my next Independent offering to the crossword editor. I also received an e-mail from one of the Times Listener editors asking for the solution grid and notes to one I sent them in 2006. It is very unusual for it to take such a long time for one of these puzzles to be processed, but a backlog developed after the sudden, untimely, death of Derek Arthur, who was the lead editor, and the items requested were not given to Roger Philips who now carries out that task. He has, nevertheless, solved the puzzle and I await the verdict. If the puzzle has reached Roger, that means Shane Shabankareh, his co-editor, is happy with it, so I am cautiously optimistic. This submission was prepared on the Apple which is in The Firs, so there will be a brief delay in my providing the relevant material.
Jackie had had a very emotional time at work, when the last hour and a half of the day had been occupied by a farewell party attended by present and former colleagues, each one of whom stepped forward to say something. She had hoped for a very minor, low, key send-off, but got the opposite. I would have been very disappointed had this much-loved woman who has given her working life to the people of Merton received anything less. Mind you, I had starved myself all day in order to do justice to the meal I had prepared, only to be told that spicy foods from around the world had been provided, so she wasn’t that hungry. She was, however, later on, able to help me eat yesterday’s leftovers and a rogan josh fresh from the freezer. Yesterday’s wine was also finished off.