A WET WEDNESDAY

As I looked out of my window all I could see was the rain falling down and yet, I had promised myself that I would go and see a film as it was only going to cost me £1.75. The film was called, ‘The Best Things in Life are Free’ and starred Ernest Borgnine and oddly enough it clearly stated that the film was a musical. This for me was most peculiar as I’d only known him as a tough guy as in From Here to Eternity, where he plays a nasty sergeant and also when he appears in The Wild Bunch and I think, the title speaks for itself.

Eventually the rain left off a bit and so I wore a waterproof jacket which I’d had since I’d worked as a telephone engineer for BT and headed for the underground. Being a bit early I got off the tube at Bond Street thinking I might grab something to eat and a coffee, but everywhere seemed packed. Mind you, it was about lunch time when I arrived at Bond Street. Surfacing I walked along Oxford Street towards Oxford Circus and looked into all sorts of eateries but they all seemed to be packed.

Then I stumbled across a small place called, The Oasis. I went in and discovered that it belonged to the Salvation Army. There weren’t many people in there and so I bought a coffee and a slice of bread pudding. As I sat drinking my coffee and eating the bread pudding I read about a founder of the Salvation Army. If only more people used the place, after all the money goes to a good cause and unlike Starbucks they are not trying to be tax evaders. The staff were very pleasant and I left the Oasis and headed off to the cinema I’d discovered the other day.

I’d arrived a few minutes before the film started and bought a ticket. I chatted to a man who said, “Your first coffee is free, just tear off the white portion of your ticket.”

I was elated and as I went up the slope to the auditorium I was amazed. You see there was a man sat playing an organ and so many people were already seated. I went up to the back as the seats nearer to the screen were occupied. Whilst the organist was playing I chatted to the man next to me, who told me about a similar cinema in Kennington.

Once the organist finished, a large lady appeared on the stage and announced a man. The man walked onto the stage and told us a bit about the film, which was based on a true story about three songwriters in the 1920s.

Once the film began I was amazed, you see I thought as the film was made in 1956 that it would be in black and white, (well the clip of the film shown in the cinema programme was in black and white,) but no, the film was in colour. Plus I knew several of the songs.

The film documented the lives of the three song writers and was brilliant. As they say, they do not make films like that anymore.  Leaving the cinema it was still raining, but fortunately, there was a bus waiting at the stop, which was going my way. I boarded it and thought what a wonderful afternoon I’d had, even if it had been a very wet Wednesday.

Regent Street

It was the penultimate Sunday in July and the previous day had been very wet, hence I did not venture out, well apart from buying a newspaper. The weather looked fine on Sunday and so after doing a recce for a meeting on Tuesday, I had a quick lunch, then made my way to Oxford Street.

I travelled by bus and alighted at Selfridges, where a portly man, wearing a grey sweater asked the bus driver, “How do I get to Covent Garden.”

“Number 13 bus,” he replied.

“I’ll come and check it with you,” I said and sure enough the 13 bus didn’t go to Covent Garden. “What you need to do, is get a bus in Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road and from there, it’s only a short walk.” He wasn’t impressed and I said, “Where do you come from?”

“Liverpool,” he replied.

“I thought so, my mum came from Liverpool.”

“Whereabouts?”

“Aigburth Vale. Where do you come from?”

“Cheadle. It’s near Aigburth. I have to go as my friend’s got a cab.”

Walking along to Grosvenor Square, the man and his friend passed me in a cab.

Entering Grosvenor Square I noticed there were a few empty tents dotted about and there was a brass coat hanging up in the middle, on a square stand. Goodness only knows what that was for? Leaving the square I walked down to Berkeley Square and then along Piccadilly. At Piccadilly Circus some of the roads were blocked off and I looked up along Regent Street. There was no traffic on it and hence I walked along as I could hear some women singing.

There were five of them called Elle and the Belles and they were superb. Brilliant harmonies and they all did a solo spot. Elle was the tallest and stood in the middle but all the Belles hair was well coiffured and the Belles all dressed the same. They wore beige blouses, dark trousers and black stiletto shoes. Plus there were also a couple of men, one played trumpet and the other played trombone. I stood and watched until Elle and the Belles had finished.  

          Elle and the Belles had performed from a Stage Bus and as the name would imply, it was a bus converted into a stage. After their last song another woman appeared and announced that there were stalls further along the road selling food and drinks.

I then walked along Regent Street, and spotted the singing girl troupe, stood together chatting.

Looking up I saw banners flying saying, No Bus on Sundays, whereas parts of the road were covered in green, giving it a grass like appearance.

Further along there was a keep fit class, although nothing appeared to be happening, but as the woman had said there were stalls where one could buy food and drinks, plus there were seats and benches dotted along for people to sit, eat and drink.

Not far from Oxford Street there was a Bandstand where a jazz band was performing. There were people sat around on the fake grass, whilst some stood and took pictures on their mobile phones. The band played their last song and I spotted a small boy playing with a tiny yellow ball. He dropped it, not seeing where it went. I picked it up, and dropped it in front of him. As he picked it up I said to his mum, “They were very good. I bet you didn’t expect that today?”

“No we didn’t,” she replied as her husband arrived with a pushchair. I bid them farewell and noticed a keep fit class exercising to the song Freak Out, by Chic. I recalled dancing to that in my younger days and I think, my dance movements were far better than that of the keep fit class!

Leaving Regent Street, I wandered along to the north side of Oxford Street, and was on my way to Tottenham Court Road, when I saw a young Oriental woman in a blue dress, looking at a map on her mobile phone and she kept turning around.

“Where are you looking for?” I asked.

“Argyll.” She replied.

I looked at her mobile phone and said, “Judging by your map, it is down that way? As going that way, will lead to Tottenham Court Road.”

She thanked me and went on her way. It looked as if it might rain and then it occurred to me, had the Scouser I’d met earlier caught a bus a bit beyond Tottenham Court Road, he could have walked the short distance to Covent Garden.

I then boarded a bus for home and once home, checked out where the Argyll was. It’s not as I thought, an hotel but a pub or restaurant and either way, I’d sent her in the right direction. As for me, it had been a very enjoyable afternoon.

A Cold Dip on a Saturday Night

 

I’d already seen the midnight sun in Sweden, it was such a beautiful sight as the sky throughout the night, was an orangey yellow. I wondered at the time which was night and which was day and asked Bjorn, the Swedish boy I was staying with who replied, ‘You decide’.

Heading south through Norway, the nights were still light and I wondered if there would be any more spectacular sights to be seen. I thought back to Lillehammer in the north of Norway where I’d visited a living museum of farmhouses throughout the ages. Unfortunately my guide was new and consequently some of my fellow tourists, knew more about farming than the tour guide. Although what I enjoyed, was my first ever sight of dragonflies. They flitted across the many ponds and the sound of their wings was similar to a child’s aeroplane, driven by an elastic band.

I was trying to get to Oslo and by some quirk of fate found myself on a secondary road, travelling down the west of Norway. This is by far the most beautiful route to travel, as it traverses many fjords. The problem is the road surface, which is not very good, because ice and snow wear out the roads in winter, and in summer they are constantly under repair.

The reason I was on this minor road was because I was hitch hiking.  Now the beauty of hitch hiking is eventually, you will arrive at your destination, but until you do, you are like a yacht without a rudder. Which means the route taken will not necessarily be as direct as you’d like it to be, but because of that, you manage to see some fascinating sights, which otherwise would evade you.

I was idly ambling along the road and hadn’t had a lift for a while, but when I heard a car, I would stick up my thumb. This may sound ludicrous to you, but for me, there was no hurry and what’s more, I didn’t even have a watch. After all for me, time didn’t matter. I used to rise when I felt like it, which was very early in the day and go to bed when I felt tired.

A short distance ahead of me, I could see a spot where several cars had parked. Out of curiosity, and the thought that perhaps somebody would give me a lift, I sauntered over to see what the attraction was.

I was overwhelmed at what I saw. In front of me was an incredible waterfall, now it may not have had the magnificence of Victoria Falls, or the majesty of Angel Falls, but what I saw, was a truly awe inspiring sight.

For as you may, or may not know, this particular waterfall, which a sign said was the Varingfoss Waterfall, is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Norway. In front of me I could see not one, but two waterfalls. There was a large one which had a rainbow over it, and into it ran a second waterfall, which also had a rainbow over it, and then where the two falls met, was a third rainbow.

I could not believe how fortunate I’d been in seeing this particular sight, and how lucky I’d been in capturing it under perfect light. The sky was a deep blue, although it was now late in the evening, how late I had no idea. Contrary to what people had told me, I had hardly seen a drop of rain since I’d set foot in Norway. I would add here that the postcards do not do the waterfalls any justice, plus I’ve since met people who’ve visited the Varingfoss Waterfall, and it has been raining.

How long I’d been staring, mesmerised by the beauty of nature and the crashing of this waterfall, I could not say. Eventually I went on my way and wandered down the mountain road, where at the bottom was a hotel and nothing else apart from a landing stage for boats. Behind me was a small plot of land which was set aside for camping. I wandered onto the grassy area, removed my small backpack, unlashed my tent and erected it. Went inside unhooked my pack, rummaged through it and found my swimming trunks, which I rapidly changed into and grabbed my swimming goggles.

I wandered over to the landing stage and looked up at the mountainous grey terrain, which was splattered with greenery on its tapering sides and looked down to the crystal clear, azure blue water, of what I later discovered was, Eidfjord. It looked very deep and I was uncertain of how to enter the water, as I can’t dive. I stood on the landing jetty and pondered about how to enter the water. There were steps leading down and I made my decision.

Clutching my goggles I jumped into the water. It was as if I’d jumped into liquid ice, you see, I’d forgotten, or else I was brain dead, because the water that fed into this fjord came from melting glaciers. Once I was over the initial shock I put on my goggles and started to swim out to a buoy, which didn’t seem to be too far away.

Whether or not I reached the buoy now eludes me. For as I swam breaststroke out to the buoy, I noticed in the distance heading towards me in the fjord, was a huge ocean liner. I swam like the clappers and beat the liner to the landing stage.  I felt cold and clambered up the steps. The whole length of my skinny body (well it was then) was covered in goose bumps. I reached my tent, dried myself with my towel and lay on the grass shivering and using the midnight sun to dry myself.

When a man arrived from the hotel to collect my camping fee, I inquired about the time, and was told, “It is nine o’clock”.

I just lay there on the grass shivering, and yes, by the time I went to sleep, I had warmed up. I have since had some excellent Saturday nights, but none of them can compare with that particular one.

A Very Good Day

 

It was Tuesday 28th February and the previous two days had been very wet but then Tuesday morning got off to an odd start, well it was for me.

I hadn’t long finished my breakfast when my phone rang. It was Zoe, she was an old Buddhist friend of my late brother’s “Hi Phil, I’m having some people over tonight as we’re going to chant for your brother, as it was a year since he died.”

“Ok fine,” I replied, “I’m off out tonight to Brixton for a meeting on how to price my photographs.”

“Good luck, we’ll also chant for you and Giulia (she’s my sister in law).

“Oh thanks.”

“So how are you getting on with the doctor about your cancer?”

As my brother died of cancer of the prostate I decided to get checked out and they found a bit of cancer in my prostate, then I was informed this year that the cancer had gone from three to seven in my prostate. My cousin Pam told me to ask questions and write everything down. Zoe also went on about it, but as I explained to them both I was taken by surprise when I was informed of this, but now, I have lots of questions to ask the cancer specialist. Like why not treat me now rather than wait until the cancer has grown? In the meantime I am eating brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, apricots and whatever natural food I can that is supposed to erase cancer.

I said to Zoe, “You missed my birthday; it was on the 16th, you told me it’s the same day as one of your leaders.”

“Oh yes, but you missed mine.”

“When was it then?”

“The twenty eighth of January.”

“I’ll remember next year. Do you fancy meeting for a drink?”

“I’m busy for the next few weeks.”

“Fine Zoe, I’ll see you in April.”

I then went out to pay some bills and post a card to my cousin on the Wirral as it’s her birthday on Sunday. On the way back I wandered through the park and it started to rain. An elderly woman was coming towards me carrying an umbrella.

She stopped by me and said, “It’s the first day of spring today.”

“Oh, not very spring like weather is it?” I replied and scurried off to the warmth of my flat thinking, ‘Isn’t the first of March the first day of spring?’

I had some soup to warm myself and didn’t do much apart from read a book until it was time for me to go to Brixton. I had a bite to eat, showered put on clean clothes and left for the station. I changed at Wembley Park onto the Metropolitan line and was seated with three young women, who were moaning about their job. I was glad to leave them and change back onto the Jubilee line at Finchley Road. I then changed at Green Park onto the Victoria Line.

The tube train came into the station and was crowded but a station assistant asked people to clear a way for an elderly man with a walking stick. I boarded the train and stood up until the old man with a walking stick left the train and I took his seat.

There was a young man and a podgy young woman stood in the doorway talking about work, but when the man with a walking stick left the tube the young woman said, “I will worry about that man. He looks lost, he should not be out on his own.”

Arriving at Brixton, which is the end of the line I left the train and got on the escalators and felt the cold once more. Passing through the exit I looked up the stairs to the dark night and saw a room over a shop at the top lit up. I don’t think I would like to live there.

I left the station and noted that I was about ten minutes early for the meeting, I was so pleased. Also most of the market stalls had been taken down, there were two women who still had bits of their stall to remove and they were chatting away. The shops were still open and some had fish on display on ice. On the corner was a shop selling joss sticks and two young women were sniffing them.

I turned right and at the door of Photofusion was stood a bearded, grey haired, bespectacled, portly man. He let me in first and there were a few youngsters at the bottom of the stairs. I ascended the stairs and upon entering the room was asked my name, it was ticked off and I chose a seat about three rows from the front.

Kim, the thin, dark haired woman who runs Photofusion said.

“There are bottles of Heineken for you if you like, or else there is water.”

I went over and someone opened a bottle for me. I took it and went back to my seat. The room was filling up and Kim announced.

“There should be about forty people and so I will wait a bit until Jane begins her talk.”

I sat down had a swig of beer and looked at Jane, a portly, blonde woman, who wore a white top and tight trousers. Her hair was pinned up and she wore a large hoop earring upside down on her right ear whilst her left ear had a red stud in it and her makeup was most peculiar. She had a dash of red eye shadow on her left eyelid whilst her right eyelid was unblemished. In fact it was as if she’d grabbed a small paint brush and just painted a dash of red over her left eye. Perhaps she thought it was arty, but to me it looked as if she’d got up late and wasn’t sure what to put on.

Prior to Jane starting her talk an attractive blonde lady sat a seat or two away from me and placed her bag on the seat in between us.

Once Jane started to talk she said, “This may take an hour and a half to two hours, but I do not expect to do all the talking. I would like you to ask questions as we progress.”

Jane explained the two ways of selling photographs one was merely retail but the another was the arty route of finishing college, getting noticed as a photographer and ending up in a museum, although some of the people had stated that some students gave up photography. Whereas I just did photography as a hobby, and decided to make a living out of it. This was quite a while ago in the late 1980s, needless to say, I didn’t make any money at it, but I did enjoy it.

Now I would like to make some money from the sale of some of the pictures I took all those years ago. In fact on the first Saturday of February, Photofusion had a meeting where members may show their pictures, I turned up late but still managed to show some of my pictures.

I put up my black & white pictures of models, famous people and rock stars. I was told to put all my work onto jpegs and in that way I could send them to people. Plus two ladies handed me bits of paper, one said, “My friend has a gallery in Hastings she would like your work as it is what she sells.”

But back to the meeting and at one point I said to Jane, “I gave a gallery in Islington some of my pictures to sell, but over a period of time, I heard nothing. Then I discovered that the gallery had gone. I tracked it down to Liverpool Street and went to the headquarters and retrieved my large black and white pictures.”

Kim said, “A gallery in New York is interested in my work, but they want me to pay for hanging my work.”

“Yes a lot of galleries do that,” Jane said, “but on the other hand the USA pay a lot more for photographs than the UK.”

I mentioned earlier about meetings on a Saturday where people may show their work, these are held on the first Saturday morning of the month, but Kim said, “There will be no meeting this Saturday, it will be on the following Saturday.”

As she said that she was going to New York, presumably it is to take her pictures to the gallery she mentioned. (How the other half live!)

As the meeting drew to a close the attractive blonde lady who sat near to me said, “Did you contact my friend about your photos?”

“No, not yet as I need to get them into jpegs.” I paused then added, “see you next Saturday.”

I went across to a grey haired, portly man who wore a white shirt and said, “I heard you say that you had a picture in Burgh House, Hampstead, so where is Burgh House?”

“Go up Flask Walk, past the pub, onto what used to be the Public Baths.”

“I know it well, my dad used to use those baths and further on is The Duke of Hamilton.”

“Yes and also The White Bear, which is now closed. You’ll find Burgh House by the baths. Would you like to see the picture?”

“Yes please.”

He showed me a picture of the Shard through what looked to me like a grill. I wasn’t impressed and yet he wanted £1200 for it. He showed me other pictures one was the classic sea breaker going out to sea. He took it in winter; mind you it would have looked better if there was a sun and clouds in it.

I then asked another chap about an exhibition he’d seen at the Tate Modern and then left. Jane was on the stairs chatting to people, I thanked her and left. As for the youngsters that were on the stairs earlier, they had left prior to Jane starting her talk with another group of youngsters. I recollected from my days of using the darkroom on a Tuesday that youngsters used the facilities on a Tuesday.

At the tube station I noted the time, it was about nine and I boarded the tube going north. I then wondered if I should go home or drop off at Camden for a beer. I decided upon the latter and changed tubes at Euston.

Fortunately there was a Northern line tube in the station, I boarded it and a young man in dark blue suit looked at me and said, “Would you like a seat?”

“No thanks, I’m getting off at the next stop.”

I emerged from the station and headed for the Elephants Head, the bouncer smiled and said hello and the pub was quite empty. I bought a beer and was going to sit down on a seat near to the door but I thought it would be cold whenever the door was opened. I looked up at the DJ, he was bald, has dark brown hair, mutton chop whiskers, wore a red skinhead type of jacket, with a chequered shirt underneath it, Levi jeans and brown shoes. I sat on a bench nearby and occasionally went across to ask him what the record was, I thought he was only playing until 11pm but he said, “No Bill will be here at tenish, he relieves me for a bit them I am on til one.”

When Bill arrived, I recognised him; he’s tall, thin, has short grey hair, and wears metal framed spectacles. He got his bag of records, went over to the bar, bought a drink, sat down and chatted to someone. When Bill started to play his records, the other DJ sat near to me and so I chatted to him, his name is Sean and I told him I used to be a mod.

He replied, “I don’t like the clothes they wear these days. I was a latter day mod.”

“I know a bloke who was an original Teddy Boy and he liked some of the clothes that mods wore, he wore a drape and a slim Jim tie, this was before bootlace ties. In fact mods and rockers were so alike. I saw a documentary on them, they were both rebels and both had their own way of dressing.”

Sean went back to playing records and Bill sat next to me, he said, “I hear you used to be a mod?”

“Yes I used to live near to Southend. I used to go to coffee bars.”

“You don’t look old enough.”

“I’m sixty nine,” I replied.

“I’m sixty five.”

We shook hands and he left to have a drink at the bar and I chatted to the two blokes next to me, they were Italian, one was a waiter and the other a barman, they both worked at the Sheraton Hotel for a pittance. The one who was a waiter said, “It’s taken us three years to learn English.”

“Now you’ve learned it, you should try and get a better job, after all what you earn hardly covers your rent.”

“I know, we seldom have a chance to come out.”

It was about midnight when I left the pub and walked along under the railway bridge to the bus stop and noted the next bus would arrive in a quarter of an hour. I just hoped the tubes would still be running.

I was in luck, at Swiss Cottage station the indicator board showed the next tube would be arriving in two minutes and was going to Stanmore, but when it emerged from the tunnel it said Willesden Green on the front. There were a few tubes on the board after it and I wondered if I should get on the tube as I’d done this before and had to get off at Willesden and I really didn’t want that to happen as it would be cold standing on the platform.

I decided to board the tube and although it was held up on the way, it did go to Stanmore. A young man who had a scarf over his head chatted to me at the foot of the stairs at Stanmore Station.

“I hate foreigners,” he exclaimed a young Asian man.

“So why do you hate foreigners?”

“I work in a pub.”

“Have you tried Wetherspoons, or is that where you work?”

“Wetherpsoons turned me down.”

“You’re probably too good. In my old local, whenever it got busy the staff would disappear for a cigarette.”

Some workmen came along and told us to leave as the station was closing. We walked up the stairs and went our separate ways. I got home at about 1.30am and it had been a really enjoyable night out.

 

 

A New Year

It was the 2nd of January 2017 and having finished my household chores I looked out of the window and noticed what a glorious day it was. Up until then there had been rain or fog. I made up my mind to enjoy the sunny day, put on a coat and walked down to the launderette. There I met Sal, the portly Indian who owns the launderette.

“Happy New Year, Sal.”

“Happy New Year, Phil.”

“How was your New Year?”

“I went with my wife and kids to the Harvester.” Sal replied. “We were allowed drinks but my wife was driving and the kids had soft drinks and so I ended up with four glasses of wine. The meal was fine but when we got home I went upstairs, stripped off, fell asleep and woke up at six in the morning.”

“So much for seeing the New Year in. Look you work too hard and obviously needed the rest.”

“I had a go at my wife and kids saying they should.’ve woken me up. Then they showed me videos of what they had done to try and wake me up.”

“You obviously needed the rest.”

“I’m finishing at two today.”

As Sal spoke someone entered who wanted their washing done by Sal, they handed him some money and left.

“I thought you were going home? It’s almost two now.”

“They’re good customers,” he replied.

“I’m off to Hampstead Heath, I’ll catch you another day.”

I walked off towards Canons Park station, bought a sandwich to eat and then boarded the tube to Finchley Road where I alighted from the tube and caught a bus to the Royal Free Hospital. I got off the bus opposite the hospital and walked down Pond Street to South End Green where on one side of the road there are still cobblestones and it is here, many years ago, that trams used to turn round.

I crossed the road, walked past the pub and Hampstead Heath station and having crossed another road I was on the path which leads to Hampstead Heath. It was so crowded, there were adults, children and dogs, some were leaving the heath whilst others like me, were going onto it.

I took my usual route and passing the first pond looked across it to the flats on the far side, wondering how much they would cost? I walked between the swimming pond and normal pond, which had a few dogs swimming in it, but neither pond had any green algae upon it. I noticed that the swimming pond now has a new path around it.

I then went under the trees and a large dog jumped over a fence and brushed against my leg. There were so many people leaving the heath but at last I could see Parliament Hill and started to climb up it. At the top there were so many people clustered around looking over London. I stopped and looked out over the awful concrete and glass buildings and St Pauls was almost hidden by a crane, but it was so clear that I could all the way to Crystal Palace and beyond.

My way down to more ponds looked very wet but I managed to get down the hill without getting my shoes too muddy. There were so many people, but then it was a bank holiday and also a lovely sunny day. At the bottom of the hill I turned left, walked along a path and then turned right to go between the men’s bathing pond on my right and the boating lake on my left. I paused to look over the men’s bathing pond, it was squared off and there were ripples across the otherwise still water. There were birds sat upon the markers and one I think was a cormorant as it had its wings spread out and resembled pictures I have seen of cormorants.

Turning left by the boating lake I was shocked! For months there has been work being carried out on the boating lake and all that appears to have been done, is more paths and yet, it cost a small fortune to do.

Walking along I almost tripped over a small dog. But as I progressed the sun was setting and walking up the hill near to the ladies bathing pond, the branches of the trees had an orange glow about them. I wondered how many people who walk over the Heath actually see all this as they just seem to be chatting to one another, although I did see one child wearing wellington boots, walking in a puddle. But then I have met previously, people who do take in their surroundings.

Arriving at the Red Arches I paused to look out across the water and once again there was no algae and like the boating pond it now has areas near to the shore wired off. Is this perhaps for ducks to nest?

I carried on walking to the top of the Heath and saw someone taking a picture over London, although it now looked like the mist or is it fog, was closing in. I chatted to the man who had taken the picture and he shrugged his shoulders saying, “Not a good picture.”

I emerged from the Heath by Jack Straws Castle, which many years ago, was a coaching inn. In fact it is now no longer even a public house, but a gymnasium!

Walking past Whitestone Pond up in the clear blue sky was the moon with a star by it but looking over the pond I saw two airliners whose paths crossed  and as they did their jet streams formed a cross in the sky, it was as if they were blowing me a kiss and wishing me a happy new year.

I then headed for my usual haunt, The Duke of Hamilton, where I walked up the steps into the pub and bought a pint of Pride, it is probably the cheapest pint of Pride in Hampstead. I noticed Steve, the guvnor wiping the tables and he looked slimmer. Once he was back behind the bar, he looked across to me saying, “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year, Steve.” I replied.

I sat down next to a couple who were from Finland, they were in London for a few days and doing a pub crawl. I told them a few places to visit and they left to go in the Flask as it was also in their pub guide.

Later on Steve sat down and played the piano, I didn’t even know there was a piano in the pub. Afterwards I chatted to Steve saying “You look slimmer.”

“You need to go to Specsavers,” he replied.

Steve did add that he was working out. Prior to leaving the pub, he bought me a pint. I had a few more and left as the pub was almost empty.

It had been an enjoyable day.

Looking for a Painting

 

A woman I’d met at a green group told me that she’d taken up painting and at another meeting of the green group she showed me one of her drawings. I was impressed and said, “I’ve taken some photographs of famous people, if I may have your email I can send them to you.”

We were supposed to be talking about green matters, wildlife, green areas and so on but as we were away from the main conversation, we chatted about other things. At the end of the meeting she gave me and the woman who organises the group a lift home.

It was several meetings later, (the meetings are held once a month) when once again the lady gave me a lift home and said, “I have a painting in an exhibition, would you like to see it?”

“Yes of course, where is it?”

“It is in the Mall Gallery, which is next to the ICA and near to Trafalgar Square.”

“I look forward to seeing it.”

I sent her an email to find out when the exhibition was on and made my way to The Mall by an obscure route. I alighted from the bus by Selfridges, I prefer going into the West End by bus, crossed Oxford Street and into North Audley Street.

I passed a few shops, a fish and chip shop and a restaurant, then walked under scaffolding until I arrived at Grosvenor Square. Crossed the road and walked through the grassy area of Grosvenor Square, there were people sitting out enjoying the sun and in the centre there is a statue of a horse which has two people wearing masks facing each other.

Leaving Grosvenor Square I walked under more scaffolding in Carlos Place then turned left by a water thing, it has water flowing over it and I can only suppose that it is used for air conditioning for the hotel nearby.

Turning left I entered Mount Street, where there used to be a photographer but it is now a shop which sells cases and the butchers also closed earlier this year. On the corner is a fashion shop this used to belong to a well known hairdresser.

There were two people taking pictures of a white Lamborghini which was being driven along with no hood. The car had foreign number plates, drove around Berkley Square and then disappeared. There were two men in it, probably just posing.

Waking along the pavement I noticed a Rolls Royce parked and it had a blue badge in the windscreen. Oh dear, surely if the owner can afford a Rolls Royce they can afford to pay the parking charges. I suppose some people are never happy unless they can get away with something.

Eventually I entered Piccadilly and stopped to look at a map to see where I was going to. I entered St James Street and on the corner building perched up high is a statue which resembles the lady who stands guard over the Old Bailey, she has a sword, is blindfolded and scales in her other hand. I can only presume that at one time the building used to house lawyers.

Walking down the street I passed an old wine shop and a pipe or is it a tobacco shop? At the bottom of the road, where I turned left, stands St James Palace, behind which is Clarence House where the Queen Mother used to live. Nowadays it is the home of Prince Charles and Camilla.

Walking along Pall Mall, I found a gallery but it was not the one I wanted and so I looked at another map. For The Mall I had to turn back to Waterloo Place where I walked past a statue of Scott of the Antarctic and on the opposite side of the street is a statue of an air force chap. Passing a statue of the Duke of York I walked down steps, looked over to Horse Guards Parade and turned left where I saw the ICA building.

The Mall Gallery is quite a walk from the ICA and it occurred to me that if they were your neighbours it would not be too bad, after all either of you could play the tv loudly or play loud music, without the neighbours complaining.

At last I was at The Mall Gallery and next to it was a statue of Royal Marines. Entering the gallery the grey haired man behind the counter pointed to his right saying, “No entry to that section today.”

“Thanks,” I replied walking down the steps to the gallery. Initially I was not impressed as the vast majority of paintings looked like drawings of male and female nudes and they looked rather amateurish. I looked for my friend’s painting but could not see it, although one painting did catch my eye and it was for sale at the princely sum of £1000. This, could not be my friends’ painting as she said it was for sale for £500 and the gallery took a hefty fee.

On another wall was a painting of a girl in a pink T-shirt who had a pigtail, this painting was for sale at £1800 and on the next wall there was a painting of a man in a hat with a portion of his guitar. The fourth wall merely had drawings of nudes. I was perplexed where was my friends’ painting?

I went around the gallery again and looked at the painting which had first caught my eye, it was of a grey haired bearded man, in fact his hair was almost white and the sweater he was wearing was wrinkled and so I looked at the name. It was my friends’ painting. I wandered over to the other side of the gallery and looked at the picture of the man and for me it was the best painting in the gallery.

I then departed from the gallery and turning left could see a statue on the other side of the street of a sailor in a three cornered hat, at last I could see his name, Captain Cook, probably our greatest sailor. Then it hit me, of course the large archway is, Admiralty Arch.

Passing the Royal Marines statue I walked up the steps and along the path, passed the Admiralty pub and entered Trafalgar Square where our greatest hero Nelson, stands up high on a column.

I wandered round Trafalgar Square and watched as people photographed themselves or their children sat by the paws of the lions guarding Nelson’s Column.

Arriving at The National Portrait Gallery I entered the building and noticed that the BP Portrait Exhibition was on and it was free. I walked past pictures of Prince Charles and Camilla, looked around a few galleries and entered the exhibition, it was so crowded, in fact there was a little girl sat down near the entrance drawing and talking.

Initially I thought the paintings were ok but when I saw one of a lady looking in a mirror, which for me was the best. Later on I saw a young girl who had been painted by her grandfather and she had a lot of tinfoil over her. As for the judges choice of 1st, 2nd and 3rd, err no thanks. I will go back another day and vote for my favourite.

On my way out I paused to look at the pictures of Charles and Camilla. For me the picture of Camilla is superb and makes her look attractive as for Charles, it is a head shot and upon closer inspection I noticed grey stubble. His picture made him look severe and somewhat pompous. I wondered if that was the idea of Charles, or the photographer?

Leaving the Gallery I thought about my next move and decided to go, if possible, by bus to Ealing Broadway. Walking past the statue of horses which have a water spray, people were taking photographs and next I arrived at Piccadilly Circus where I checked out the buses.

Boarding a 94 bus I knew I was on my way as it ended its journey at Acton Green where I thought I would be able to catch another bus to Ealing Broadway.

I sat on the top deck looking out of the window and as the bus went along Oxford Street it got rather crowded and three Arab girls and their mother boarded the bus and one of them sat next to me. They were dressed in jeans, tops and headscarves, their mother wore a hijab.

At Notting Hill Gate the girl next to me turned and said, “Shepherds Bush?”

“It’s further along. I’ll tell you when we get there.”

She returned to tapping out messages in Arabic on her mobile phone. I looked out of the window and noted that at least not all pubs had disappeared but we were approaching the roundabout at Shepherds Bush and I said to the girl next to me, “Next stop is Shepherds Bush.”

She said nothing and as the bus got to the other side and was pulling up at Shepherds Bush Green I said to her, “This is your stop. Aren’t you getting off?”

She rang the bell, which was a bit of waste of time because the bus was at its stop so the girl and her sisters and mother alighted from the bus. Gradually the bus was emptying out and along Goldhawk Road I looked out of my window to see a building encased in scaffolding, on the building were the words, ‘Goldhawk Road,’ I thought, Another building pulled down with merely the facade remaining.

The bus went along a really nice route, there was a large pub on one corner after which the buildings were old but in very good order in fact one house stood alone and had been built out of large stones in different shades of brown and the cement was pure white.

Finally the bus arrived at its journey’s end, I disembarked and walked along looking at the houses and a park, where a young woman was pushing a pushchair and a child was walking along by her side.

I could not find another bus route out of there to Ealing Broadway but there was a sign pointing to a tube station and I could see tubes running along up high on a bank. I walked under the railway bridge and found, to my delight, a tube station. It was Chiswick Park, I studied the map and saw that I was but a few stops from Ealing Broadway.

Entering the station I walked upstairs and was amazed at what I saw. I was looking over four railway tracks. My curiosity was soon answered as a Piccadilly Line train ran along one of the centre rails. It would appear that the Piccadilly Line uses the two centre lines and does not stop.

Along the platform from me was a windowed area, the windows had green edging and did not reach the roof. This I discovered was the waiting room. At last the large tired looking District train could be seen approaching soon I would be in Ealing Broadway.

At Ealing Broadway I wandered around looking for a place to eat, they all seemed to be cafes, chain food places or foreign food. Across the road I could see a place called Bill’s and there were a few people sat outside it. I crossed the road and looked at the menu, all they appeared to have were sandwiches.

Despondently I went along to the North Star pub, I had often used it when I used to work for Ealing Council, but the menu was not very impressive.  I walked along towards Ealing Common where I would catch my train home. The first pub I came across did not look good, but nearby was a pub where people were seated outside.

I wandered in and made my way to the bar, they had a good selection of real ales and I noticed in a reflection the name, Wetherspoons. I ordered a pint and looked around the pub. There were pictures taken from old Ealing films and featured, Sir Alec Guinness, a very young Joan Collins and many others. I found a seat on a leather bench, but as it was beneath an air conditioning unit it was too cold and hence I walked up a few stairs to a smaller table and eventually ordered a mixed grill which came with a beer and so I ordered different ale.

The food was good and the egg was almost cooked properly but then for £7.75, who am I to complain?

Having eaten I left the Sir Michael Balcon pub and  walked along to Ealing Common tube station but on the green by the traffic lights I noticed a few caravans parked, does this mean a fairground is due or were they gypsies?

What did I care, a young woman passed me carrying two large bags of shopping and every so often she would haul the bags up alternately presumably to strengthen her arms.

Once I boarded the tube I knew it would not be long before I’d be home and have a nice cup of tea. Yes it had been a very nice day out.

 

 

 

Shortstories

Southend
I went shopping and soon returned without having bought anything as it was too hot.

I returned home dropped off the shopping bag, picked up my travel pass and headed off to Fenchurch Street station where I purchased a return ticket for Southend. I then bought a roll and soft drink, boarded the train which I’d noticed was due to leave at 2.20pm. I was surprised at how crowded the train was, it was mainly builders going home from work.

I found a seat next to a window started eating my roll until the train left the station. As the train travelled on more people boarded it and a builder sat next to me. I heard him say on his mobile, “I haven’t eaten all day.”

That did not sound good to me and when the train pulled in to Southend Central the driver announced “This train will pull in to platform three and the doors on the right hand side are the ones to use.” Leaving the train I noticed there were quite a few people also getting off and there were lots of people waiting to board a train, probably going home.

Walking out of the station I ambled down the High Street and when I arrived at the end of it I looked out over the sea to Kent. I could not believe my eyes, I was unable to see Kent as it was lost behind a haze.

I wandered down to the pier and said to the lady “I’d like to walk to the end of the pier and get the train back.”

“Unfortunately the train is not running today.”

“Oh in that case I’ll go to the pub as it is too hot to walk there and back.”

I looked out to sea and stared at the haze, in all my years I had never seen anything like it, was it a heat haze? I then wandered off to the Chinnery pub, bought a pint and sat under the awning.

I chatted to a young man who was sat at the next table without a shirt on, he had no tattoos, a pot belly and had just returned from a holiday in Turkey and his friend, who also had no shirt on had just returned from Crete he said, “I was on a part of Crete where they were mainly Dutch, I had a great time.”

They left and an elderly lady sat at my table, she was with her daughter in law and grandchildren who were all from Australia. “My son came over for business and also sold his house.” The lady said but her and her family didn’t stay long as they had their car on a meter which was due to expire.

Then a black guy sat at my table he wore a hat over his dreadlocks and wore shorts, his wife joined him and we chatted for a while. He lives at Chelmsford and works on the underground of a night, in fact he works at Ruislip station. His daughter is a teacher, he bought me a drink and so I retaliated.

It was about 9pm when I left to catch my train. I walked up the slope to the high street and paused to look out over the sea. I could not believe what I saw, there was a red haze along the Kent coast. I stood a while just enjoying the spectacular view. Finally I arrived at the station and returned home. I had enjoyed another day at Southend.

 

Canons Park
I like walking in a small park near me called Canons Park, to enter it I leave the main road and walk along a pathway which has trees on either side. I take my time looking to see what birds there are and at the end of the path I cross the road, open a gate and close it and then enter Canons Park.

I walk along a path and over a bridge which goes over the tube line. Then I veer right and sometimes there are butterflies dotted about fluttering from plant to plant.
Recently the council has built a sort of keep fit thing but I’ve seldom seen anybody on the apparatus. Then there is a small hut where I buy an ice cream, usually a double header. On a warm day there are people seated out enjoying an ice cream, sandwich or drink.

Then I walk further along the path, there may be children riding bicycles and next there is a playground area.

I then turn left on the path and walk towards the tennis courts. Along the path there are benches and there is usually someone seated upon them. Past the tennis courts the path and park end but recently I have found a new diversion. Instead of walking on the grass, there is now another path which wanders through a wooded area.

On this particular day there was a man with his child on his shoulders running along. I stopped and looked into the woods and was delighted at what I saw. It was two tiny wrens which were no bigger than my thumbnail. I didn’t linger too long in case someone came along as I would not like too many people finding my little treasure and disturbing them.

Once out of the wooded path it was back along the road and re-entering the park and going home.

I told a few people about seeing the wrens as it was such a delight to see.