Jackie provided her usual chauffeuse driven service to and from Southampton for today’s journey for lunch with Norman. Why should I have been surprised that, after last night, the train was only five coaches long, with seats at a premium? In fact I only obtained one by tapping on the shoulder of a young woman, plugged into earphones and thumbing her way through pictures in her mobile phone, and point to her bag which occupied the only available space. My expression probably helped get the message across. She wouldn’t have heard anything I said. The price paid by those too tactful to interrupt such self-absorbed multitasking was to stand all the way to Waterloo.
From the London terminal I took my Westminster Bridge route to the Jubilee Line at Green Park. The concourse leading to The London Eye is now densely populated. As I weaved my way through the crowd my path began diagonally to converge with that of a man pushing a Henry hoover on a hand truck. What little room there was between us was suddenly bisected by a cyclist. As he shot through I asked him, in less than dulcet tones, ‘What the Hell are you doing?’. Having proceeded to a safe distance, he turned, smiled superciliously, and said: ‘Relax’. I didn’t. He sped away as I got as far as: ‘You…’
As the unpleasant velocipedist vanished into the throng, Henry’s bearer apologised to me. I told him it wasn’t his fault. That relaxed me.
Long queues stretched and swelled outside every South Bank attraction, none larger than that for The London Eye. When told how many hours she would have to wait for admission, a woman remonstrated with her polite young informant, complaining that the little boy she was pushing in a buggy was only three years old. There was quite a bit of food for thought there, it seemed to me. As I walked away from this, I overheard Dan’s quip. He amused me more than he did his companion with: ‘That’s the I.Q.’. I told him I loved it. He was ‘more than somewhat’ pleased. He was happy to be photographed for the blog. His friend declined to share the honours.
When he was very young Sam once delighted Matthew with his phrase for an unwonted involuntary activity. ‘I’ve been and gone and done it’, he said. Well, now I have. I’ve been and gone and photographed a smiling group against the backdrop of Big Ben. As I fought my way across Westminster Bridge a mobile phone and a small camera were thrust into my hands by slender feminine ones. I was asked, in attractive Iberian accents, to photograph a quintet of beautiful women. Big Ben had to be in the shot. Once I got the hang of the i-Pod it was no hardship really.
On Birdcage Walk the tinkling of old-fashioned bicycle bells scattered other pedestrians. A pair of Boris’s Bikers (see post of 19th June last year), seemed to think they enjoyed the priority of New Forest ponies. I don’t suppose my glower enlightened them much.
The air-conditioning of the M & S shop by Green Park station where I bought Norman’s wine was a welcome relief from the sauna outside.
At the bottom of the Jubilee Line escalator, facing the descending mechanism, head down; arms flailing; left foot frantically sliding across the toothed grill of the track disappearing into the nether regions; balancing precariously on his other leg, struggled a young man. He was attempting to release a silver coin that repeatedly bounced on the teeth and fell back. As it finally flew up onto firm ground and he bent, red-faced, to retrieve his 5p piece, I said: ‘Well done. That was worth fighting for.’ He enjoyed the joke. The redness was brought about by effort, not embarrassment.
Pouring sweat, I walked back to Neasden to board the Jubilee Line to Waterloo, after Norman’s cooling salad lunch followed by summer pudding accompanied by an excellent Georges Dubeuf beaujolais. Noticing a lost dog in Roundwood Road, prostrate and gasping for water, I knew just how he felt.
There was a faint smell of vomit flavouring the air-conditioned atmosphere in the train to Southampton. I did my best not to imagine it emanated from the late lunch a man opposite me was eating. Perhaps it was released by the tattooed gentleman in the row behind who chewed gum, picked his nose, and pressed the bogies into what he was masticating.
Not deterred by this experience I enjoyed Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi this evening. The beverage was sparkling water.