Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Update: In the Doghouse

  An American friend saw my suggestion (see below) about the alligator sign and proposed something even more effective - namely importing a few live alligators from Florida to stock the Wimbledon Common ponds to keep dogs away from the nesting birds.

  Alas that might be counter-productive.
  This morning I risked walking down to my favourite pond.  I say "risked" in the same way that I risk sitting in the quiet carriage on the train. The risk is that I inevitably get frustrated with someone talking on their mobile. Better sit in an ordinary carriage and accept that I can't do anything. But this morning I was feeling up for a fight. At first things were deceptively peaceful. Moorhens paddled around the waterlilies, a swan family glided languidly across the water. But it didn't last. Along came the first dog walker.   "Can't you read?" I asked .  She pulled her earphone out,  "What?".
  "The signs",  I said, "the signs all round this pond telling you to keep your dog on a lead".
  "Oh he's fine," she said soothingly. "No he's not! " I yelled pathetically after her.
  The next were a group with several large dogs running around They expressed ignorance of the sign and told me not to be so rude. Then there was a smart lady all got up in designer country gear. I shouldn't really have taken her on.  Her dog was so tiny he was what we call alligator bait in Florida. The swans would have made short shrift of him. I should have taken a deep breath and turned away. But my blood was up. "Lead!" I said curtly, pointing to the sign. The word seemed to trigger something primaeval in her.  "Don't you shout  'lead' at me!"
  "The sign", I said, "right there!"
  "Shut up you stupid old  #*!@#$%!!",  she screeched. (It was the "old" that really rankled).
  As I walked up the path, I could hear her shrieking after me, "Lead! Lead! Lead!"
  Well I should have learned my lesson by now. I've had similar encounters on our beach in Florida. There are certain classes of people you don't mess with: the SAS, urban cyclists - and dog walkers.
  But there was a nice man. A lovely man with a lovely dog with a red bandanna. As he approached the pond, he clipped a lead on his dog. I could have hugged him, "Thank you so much for doing that!" He understood and smiled.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

In Defence of Prince George

My American friends just love the little lad, "Awwww that George is so cute!" so I feel justified in rushing to his defence over yesterday's drama on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The media have gone to town on how his cousin "stole the show",  "shushing" him by clapping her hand over his mouth during the National Anthem. Well, am I the only one who saw the whole thing in context?  George did not start it.  He was not the first to be horsing around, making silly faces when the Anthem began. Oh dear,  I am really becoming an old fogey but in my day, such disrespect would have merited instant retribution of the swift and clean sort.    Too bad the Royals are so nice and modern.  Such a gesture in front of the world's television cameras would have done wonders for the fightback against political correctness. But I'm clearly not in touch with the zeitgeist. Everyone else seems to think it was sweet. Who am I to judge?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Wimbledon Common: Home to Educationally Challenged Dog Walkers

 Dateline: South-West London

 Wimbledon Common is a glorious open space - nothing like a manicured park with rose gardens and mulched borders but a microcosm of the English countryside - hills and heathland and marsh and bog and forest, where muddy paths criss-cross among wild rosebushes, blackberries and brambles. If you walk far enough from the main road you can imagine yourself in the middle of nowhere and not in South-West London.

Fortunately back in the 1860s, it was saved for the hoi polloi from the rapacious clutches of the Lord of the Manor, Earl Spencer no less, who had tried to sneak in an Act of Parliament so he could put up a mansion for himself and flog off the rest for a building site. At the moment, it's safe and a paradise for walkers, runners, riders and dog-owners.

 It seems that every pooch in south London gets taken to the Common for its daily exercise.  Mostly I love seeing the dogs but there is a small problem with the owners. Blame it on the shortcomings of the local expensive private schools but they appear never to have learned to read. Or they are afflicted with short sight. At this time of year there are signs around the ponds, asking dog owners to keep their dogs out of the water to protect the baby birds. There are also signs to keep dogs on a lead around a small patch of heathland where they're trying to encourage nesting skylarks.    I've never seen a single dog owner take the slightest bit of notice of these signs. I met one on the bus with an extremely muddy dog, "Yes", she laughed to all and sundry, "he's been in the pond. He loves it!"  Another, this morning, strode merrily right through the skylark habitat.  When I've remonstrated with them, I've been put sharply in my place.  Once I went in despair to the Rangers' office and the nice girl there threw up her hands. It seems there is nothing they can do. The dog walkers are a powerful lobby with few natural predators.    They are convinced they are right and no measly sign is going to change that. (Never mind there are a thousand other acres for their dogs to run around in.)  Personally I think they should make the signs much bigger and include dire threats. They could take their cue from Florida.

But then it wouldn't be very British.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

On Strawberries and Wombles

Well hello again and the blog apologises for an absence even longer than Melania Trump's, still being occupied by pressing family matters.  Here in London, the Great English Summer is upon us and my goodness,  how good it is to get proper English strawberries that actually taste of something. I looked at the packet I bought in Waitrose yesterday and observed that it came from Sussex. Just down the road then. A whole lot better than getting them refrigerated from California. OK, western New York does grow its own strawberries but they don't taste anything like British ones.
  I have been enjoying some ambles on Wimbledon Common, which is the home of the Wombles.

For the benefit of my American friends, these chaps live underground on the Common and only come out at night, when they pick up rubbish left behind by slobby picnickers. Their services are more needed than ever. Sad that the other day I spoke to a small child who had never heard of the Wombles, which were big in the 1970s, generating a TV series, films, songs and so on. The original books were by Elisabeth Beresford. The Wombles had names like Orinoco and Uncle Bulgaria. I recently walked past an Orinoco Street in Wimbledon.  Presumably future generations will puzzle over the name. I think it's high time for a Womble revival.

More on the fabled Common coming up. Watch this space.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bring on the Bridesmaids

My American friends all sent me off back to Blighty with some variation on, "Don't forget your hat for the wedding!"  Sadly I could only retort with the lame old chestnut, "Oh yes, that wedding. We did get invited but we don't really feel like going." 
I'm not going to add to the vast array of comment, except on one thing. I had been concerned, that, unlike with previous Royal weddings,  we hadn't had an announcement about who the bridesmaids and pages were going to be. As I remember, that would normally come some weeks before the event, throwing a bone to the avid Royal-watchers waiting impatiently for the Big Day. But this time, nothing. It got me worried. I was very alarmed that the American connection would prevail and there would be an American-style wedding, with adult bridesmaids in grotesque, skimpy dresses, sashaying up the aisle, smirking, one by one in advance of the bride like a fashion parade and then lining up beside the couple with the same number of "groomsmen" on the other side. Not just one happy couple but six or eight, or even more. But now, at last, the news is out and I'm vastly relieved to see that they are doing it British-style, with a lot of small bridesmaids and pages.

That's the proper British way and kinder to less-than-svelte girlfriends of the bride, who would otherwise have to be crammed into glorified corsets and individually gawped at by the congregation as they pass. You can't go wrong with small children, who look sweet no matter what they're wearing. Speaking of which,  I've noticed, in some uneducated quarters of the British media,  the creeping Americanism of calling child bridesmaids "flower girls". They are not. They are bridesmaids, OK? American weddings might have one little girl scattering rose petals and a little boy in a suit carrying the ring on a cushion. They are the flower girl and ring bearer and they should stay where they are - in America.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Pleasures of Modern London Part One

Include Morris dancing on the green

or rather the concrete outside Wimbledon station in the London suburbs. That's what I love about London - you never know what you might see next. But it seems many things have changed since I went away. Every time I come back to London, I feel more and more like a foreigner. For example,  I have nothing against bus drivers, except the ones that drive off just as you puff up to the stop.  But suddenly, now,  everyone getting off the bus is thanking the driver. Which is a nice development except that now, as well as lugging your shopping, dinging the bell, etc, you have to remember to shout, "Thank you driver!" That didn't tend to happen back in the day. But you have to do it in case the drivers keep a blacklist of ungrateful passengers,  smart enough to identify them as they puff up to the bus stop.
Another thing. Why is everyone suddenly saying "Oh Bless!" This is bad enough when I mention my dear old mother. I only have to say that she did something perfectly normal, like having a cup of tea,  to get an "Oh Bless her!" from all and sundry. Well I know people are trying to be kind. With the emphasis on the trying. But the other day I was on the phone to an office about some mundane bureaucratic thing. I mentioned to the receptionist that I had been trying to get hold of one of her colleagues without any response.   "Oh Bless!" she said.  Oh !@#$% more like. Enough of this fad, thank you!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

McDonalds? Not Today Thank You

  And speaking of McDonalds, the other day I bought a newspaper at the station and the newsagent thrust into my hand a block of vouchers for money off at the fabled Golden Arches gourmet eateries.  I'm not one to turn down a free lunch and I have to confess to enjoying the occasional Big Mac but I couldn't imagine getting through all of it. So, I thought to myself, I'll do a good deed. I'll pass the vouchers on to someone else. On the station platform, I approached likely looking people - mostly those with children in tow - and offered them the vouchers. Well you'd think I was offering a controlled substance. "Oh no, thank you!" said the first mum. And the next. So, I said to myself, I'll go for the granddads. They like giving the kids treats. "We don't eat that sort of thing", said the granddad sitting on the bench. There was one more mother to try. She had two little boys. They must, I thought, love McDonalds. She looked at me pityingly, "Sorry but we try to eat healthy food."  And far from looking upset at her reaction, the little boy sided with her. "You could always", he confided to me, "Throw it in the bin". Which is what, sadly, I ended up doing. Nice try McDonalds. And another sign that this isn't the Britain I grew up in. I wonder what the reaction would be in America. I suppose it would depend on where you were.

OK the tulips, from a week or two back, are nothing to do with the story but they are in McDonalds colours.