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.
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