A slight change to an autumn walk

Before I lived in Paris, I was one of the staunchest indoor people ever. And then, to stave off the effects of croissants, patisserie and driving everywhere, I started running up and down the Seine towpath a few times every week. You really start to notice the ever-changing beauty of the things around you and Autumn is such a wonderful time to be walking dogs.

We haven’t yet had a frost here. It’s expected any day soon but in the meantime there’s a chance to view the wonderful fungal structures that have popped up all over the place. I caught sight of the bouquet on my run this morning and came back with my camera on the dog walk. Dogs often don’t appreciate the local flora to the same extent as me. One stray set of paws and the ephemera have had their brief time on earth.

There was an added frisson today, though, because Lewisham Council shut the golf course yesterday and Raffles was allowed to run around off the leash for the very first time without fear of him being hit by or, more likely, picking up a ball in play and running away with it.

Our gain is very much the Lewisham Golfers’ loss, though. This was the last remaining public golf course in Inner London. The council no longer wish to finance the upkeep of what they consider an elitist sport. What a pity. And it means that these beautiful, mature trees between the links are set to be bulldozed to make way for a lake and…new trees. Which doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense. There are rumours of other shenanigans too but, as a resident of neighbouring Bromley, I don’t know enough to make any accusations here.

Walking up the hill to the mansion at the top, we came upon a load of protestors, who are staging a sleep-out Occupy-style protest to try and remind Lewisham of its duty to keep the cafe and lavatories open as an amenity to park users. They told me that the bulldozers’ action is being challenged in court and that they’d be there until the outcome of the case is known. They are asking for volunteers to spend a couple of hours with them this week. I might just go, public protest being a thing of mine.

In the meantime, do enjoy the photos of a foggy, smoggy London morning walk.

The Irksomes #4: stingy nettles

You’ll have to excuse the quality of this photo. The wind was blustering up fifteen to the dozen in my garden when I took it, and the damn nettle wouldn’t stand still and pose for the camera. You can, however, see the specific item of my distaste, completely in focus: those horrid stinging hairs on the nettle plant that cause so much havoc.

“In your garden?” you might exclaim. “How can someone with as orderly and fabulous a life as you possibly have stinging nettles in your garden?” The answer, dear Reader is that our garden is currently in stasis: having recovered from the WW1 trench-like condition in which it found itself after our extension building work, funds are rather too short currently to enable the proposed planting to be done. For the curious, it’s a research exercise into which plants will seed themselves in a promising patch of London clay with several tonnes of rich topsoil added. Oh yes, we’ve had the joy of poppies and evening primroses as well as nettles this year.

Now all you tree-hugging conservationists out there will be on your way to condemning my anti-ecological stance vis-à-vis how wonderful nettles are for the encouragement of bees and butterflies into the garden. More creative cooks than I will urge me to make nutritious soup: I don’t doubt that they are part of Nature’s bounty. I know that the nettle makes a valuable contribution to the ecosystem, I just wish that it would not do so within brushing distance of my bare leg.

We regularly walk our dogs in Beckenham Place Park (now under threat from developers) and there’s a little path by the Ravensbourne river where Oscar and Raffles like to avail themselves of a drink and a paddle while I try to ignore the inevitable shopping trolley or other unsuitable domestic object that someone has thoughtfully dumped, thus damming the river with a toxic and often stinking pool akin to a beaver’s elaborate home, but not as nice. This path is lined in the summer months with nettles in various stages of growth.

The path is great it you have covered your legs but if you dare to bare, you’ll be assaulted by these stingy little hairs which will automatically place themselves in the path of your fleshiest regions. I know that dock leaves are supposed to alleviate the pain but no dock grows here and you’re more or less stuck with the itchy blisters until you stop scratching them because something else more irritating – the Labour Party leadership contest, for example, or the legion of crowing Brexiters – has caught your attention.

My OH has always disregarded the annoyance caused by damn stingy nettles. Picnic excursions  – don’t even get me started on the plague on social life that is the picnic – have inevitably entailed running the gauntlet of a nettle bush – embellished bridleway. A floaty cotton dress or little shorts are no help whatsoever on these occasions, which rapidly lose any semblance of bucolic romance, and the horrid angry rash formed on exposed arms or legs is not as lightly dismissed as all that, actually. Stinging nettles generate only misery as far as I’m concerned and would be in the first group of things up against the wall when I become Queen of the World.

Could someone please enlighten me on the purpose of the stingy hairs, hidden away on the underside of the leaf, just waiting to pounce? It’s not even as if there aren’t other types of nettle from which to choose. I wouldn’t want to eliminate white or purple deadnettles. So why do stinging nettles even exist?

Dear Mrs Bulldog,


She heard you from a way off,  ranting in the park, repeating the tired tropes about “immigrants coming over here and claiming benefits.” You and your companion in his twenties, who nodded and shrugged, and so facilitated the stream of racist, anti-immigrant filth that spewed from your mouth.

My beautiful, olive-skinned 16 year old daughter was walking her beloved flatcoated retriever in the sunshine, something she only ever gets to do in the school holidays, her waist length dark auburn hair blowing gently in the wind. Oscar the dog fished a stick out of the river and carried on walking with his darling Puppy. And as you approached my daughter with your English Bulldog and she turned her head to locate the source of the invective, you raised your voice to a deliberate stage whisper: “You Pakis get out of the country too. Blowing up Europe.”

Eliza has never had to face racial abuse before, thank goodness. She has been largely insulated from it, with her nice, liberal, middle class upbringing and education. She was momentarily shocked that someone would use this sort of language against her but you did not make her crumble. You thought you could use your vileness to bully and cow a seemingly vulnerable teenager but you reckoned without her inner strength and confidence. That’s the difference between the two of you, you see. You are a crusty old has-been and she represents the future that you have difficulty comprehending, and I imagine that this is why you saw fit to abuse her.

I thought I’d let you know, out of courtesy, what we did next. We didn’t slink back into our cocoon and hide, like I would have done in the past, expected to take the daily racial abuse on the chin; expected to turn the other cheek and behave twice as well in the face of disgustingness. No. We reported the incident to the Metropolitan Police on the 101 number. Yes, we had to wait a little while to be connected but, once put through, the call handler treated our complaint with the utmost seriousness. They took a statement from Eliza over the phone and then sent two officers around to our house within the hour to take a more detailed statement and description of you.

Why did we report it? Well people still believe that this sort of thing just doesn’t happen in nice, leafy Beckenham. No matter how much I have related my past racist encounters they have always chosen not to believe me. I believe this is what is called white privilege: you choose to discount the experience of someone of colour just because it has never happened to you. As an example of this, I noticed yesterday on Twitter among all the lovely messages of horror and shock and support for my child and her experiences, one or two, who call themselves Christians, preferred to remain silent yet chose to retweet my subsequent tweet about the theft of a valuable violin from the musician mother of two of my children’s schoolmates.

We reported the incident so that it will be recorded in the racial; abuse crime statistics. Apparently, post-Brexit, these are on the increase as people feel empowered to say the vile things that they have kept locked away in their minds all these years, their dirty little secret. Now that people are seeing fit to vilify Poles and Romanians and other EU settlers, (who come here, work and contribute their taxes to the UK economy and pay for your benefits and pension, you ingrate) the media are suddenly taking notice. But most people of colour will tell you that the nastiness has always been there, barely hidden below the skin, this contempt for the Other.

The police officers interviewing Eliza were keen that we reported the crime: if we do not, then there will not be an acknowledged problem with racial abuse and violence in this area. If there is no acknowledged problem, there will be no funding allocated to tackling the issue. So the next time this happens, the police will be short of officers to come out and investigate. And well-meaning white liberals will be able to continue thinking that no such thing could happen here, of all places. The officers told us that there has been a rise in these incidents, EVEN HERE, since the Referendum.

We reported the incident because, as articulate, well-educated, confident people, we have a duty and a responsibility to help those who aren’t as insulated as us from this vileness. We are acting on behalf of the hijabi mothers of young children who have their veils ripped away in the street; who are asked continually to apologise for someone else’s unspeakable terrorist acts; who are just trying to get on with making a better life for themselves. We are checking our privilege.

What will happen now? Well, if Eliza ever comes across you on a dog walk again, she has been instructed by the police to call 999. They will prioritise officers to come and tell you in no uncertain terms that it is unacceptable to spout racist filth and hatred.

I’m pretty sure I know who you are too. You are memorable because of your pitiable choice of dog breed and the way you scowl at me when we cross paths on our walk. In your ignorance, you are probably completely unaware of this, but the English Bulldog has been inbred to disgusting depths of ill-health through idiotic adherence to a completely grotesque breed standard. Pregnant English Bulldogs must give birth by C-section because of the abnormally large size of their puppies’ heads; as brachycephalic dogs, they have difficulty breathing and can overheat at the gentlest exercise. We had one in our dog class once: its owner had to follow it around with a baby muslin over her shoulder to mop up the pools of of yellow and white phlegm that it snorted out continually and left all over the floor. Just like the filth that was expelled from your mouth yesterday, there is no place for such skank in the modern world.

Humdrum Tuesday

I haven’t done much of interest today.

I came back from the gym and walked the dogs. It was such a lovely sunny day but with a bitingly chilly breeze. May is the prettiest month, isn’t it?

I managed to do a decent singing practice as well. I’m working on the Duparc songs, L’Invitation au Voyage and Le Manoir de Rosemonde at the moment, which have complicated time signature changes and rhythms not to mention long phrases that should be done in one breath.

I wanted to cook ratatouille for supper tonight. Normally I use Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s recipe for oven baked ratatouille but, as I discovered both last week and today, my oven dishes will not fit in my temporary oven so I was back to the Nigella (I think) method of ratatouille, pan-cooking the vegetables first individually then folding them together so the flavours just mingle at the end. I really can’t wait for my new kitchen.

At about 7 o clock, Raffles came into the kitchen and rootled around in the bag that holds the recycling ready for it to be sorted outside. He found an empty scone container and pushed it around for a while, me ignoring him. Seeing my lack of response he then picked it up and dropped it onto the floor with as resounding and deliberate a crash as it is possible to make with a small piece of cardboard on a lino floor. He then went and sat with his back to the washing machine as if to say, “Erm…mum. It’s my dinner time. See to it, will you?” Oscar would never have the temerity to do that.


Supper time reminder from Raffles.


Here’s is Hugh Fearnley’s Whittingstall’s recipe:

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille



We are waiting. Waiting for Godot.

That’s how it feels.

I’m waiting for this virus to clear so I can sing again and go to the gym  again. I feel guilty that I’m not rushed off my feet today.

We are waiting for an important letter. We have been trying to arrange a mortgage with FirstDirect, with whom I have joyfully banked since 1989. After an 90 minute telephone interview, preceded by a long call to John, we were told that an application form would be in the post.

Since the we have waited and called. And waiting and called. And tweeted. The very thing we most need has been “lost in the post.” Why is the most important letter ALWAYS lost in the post?  A replacement is supposedly on its way. We need the application form to arrange a survey of our house and the final go-ahead to borrow a shedload of money.

So far, the application form has been in the post for over two weeks. And we can’t make much progress on the house project at all. Our proposed joint birthday party on is now under threat, as is the portion of time put aside by Pat the builder for this project.

I’d have thought that, given the state of their parent bank HSBC, Firstdirect would be a little more reluctant to wave goodbye to this amount of potential business. Perhaps I’m wrong.

We are waiting for two contractors’ quotes. They are also not forthcoming, despite a couple of sharp emails and texts. Oh dear oh dear. It’s most stressful.


This is Raffles' favourite place: on the shaggy mat by the kitchen door. In the sunshine.

This is Raffles’ favourite place: on the shaggy mat by the kitchen door. In the sunshine.

Today was the first real day of spring, I think. The mud has almost all dried up and, as the sun was almost warm at times, I took the boys for their walk without wearing my coat. I was wearing standard middle-aged, middle class dog owners’ uniform of fleece and gilet. But I changed into a cashmere cardi before I picked up MsDD from school.

There were people out in shorts and T shorts. People: just because the sun is finally shining, IT’S NOT THAT WARM! It’s only about 11 degrees but I suppose we’re had such rotten weather for the last couple of years that seeing the sun is enough to make anyone celebrate.

I took some photos too:


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