Tuesday 29 October 2013

Rules for travelling on the London Underground

Travelling on the Underground is probably the most efficient way to move around London. It is not a pleasant experience: there is no scenery to watch and fascination with the woman opposite doing a full make up including three layers of mascara soon palls. If you will heed these very simple rules you will make my journey more bearable.

1.           Remove your backpack – every time you turn around you hit someone and you are the idiot whose backpack gets stuck in the closing door and delays the train.
2.           When you are leaving the carriage, as the doors open, step briskly onto the platform and walk across before looking to left and right to see which way you need to go. In this way it is less likely that you will be pushed on your face by everyone trying to escape while you stand poised in the doorway looking confusedly up and down the platform.
3.           I know the logic of this is difficult to follow but if you want to board the train the quicker people can get off and make space for you the better – stand to the side and let them off.
4.           If you are younger than me it is not cool to race me for the only empty seat and fling yourself in before I get there.
5.           When you are in that seat put your bag on your knees and keep your feet to yourself – you have a seat so don’t block the aisle for everyone else.  I may well trip over your foot or even step on it.
6.           Your toddler does not need their own seat – put them on your lap.
7.           Lucky you to sit next to me.  You have your seat and I have mine – keep to your seat – I will sacrifice the armrest to you but I don’t need you to overlap into my space. If you are reading the Financial Times you sort out how to do it without putting your hand across my face – tabloids are designed for a reason.
8.           It must be very blokey and butch to sit with your knees wide apart – it must be as so many younger guys do this.  Again you are invading my space – point your knees forward (feet tucked under of course).
9.           Your phone conversation is not fascinating enough for us all to want to listen – keep it short or I might track you down at work and tell your boss all the things you said.

Thank you to all those people who who have given me their seat; have smiled (but not tried to engage in conversation); passed me their newspaper or generally been pleasant – you made my day!

Monday 21 October 2013

Cosmos – the flowers not the universe

Shades of my mother today: I went into the garden, picked some flowers and arranged them in a vase. Arranged is probably an exaggeration – my mother arranged flowers, I rather plonk them in. Gardening is not my thing but thanks to Number One Husband (NOH) there are some dahlias to pick and it seems a pity not to enjoy them in the house.

If you can get over the hump that this was during the 1950s in Johannesburg, South Africa, perhaps just take this at face value without the political connotations. My mother had three acres of garden to choose from and three gardeners to do all the work. The garden was a blaze of colour most of the year, even in winter when the grass went yellow and stayed yellow until the spring rains. I was very surprised when I arrived in London in the mid-sixties to see how green everything was. Of course once I thought about it and experienced the rain I realised why – it was just that winter was synonymous with yellow grass.

So walking into the garden with a pair of scissors brought back all sorts of memories. These were reinforced by the presence of pink and white Cosmos planted by NOH. When my father drove the 1,000 miles home from Muizenberg in the Cape at the end of the summer holidays the Highveld would be covered with these flowers – the pink and white carpet told me we were not that far from home and also signified the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. According to wiki Cosmos are native to Mexico and were introduced to South Africa via contaminated horse feed imported from Mexico during the Boer War!

The train of thought continues with the fact that my paternal grandfather, then a recent immigrant to Johannesburg from the Baltic States, fought in the Boer War (1899 – 1902) against the British.  He died before my parents married but my father told me he lost the use of an arm in the conflict ...... and here am I soon to go to Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE. I am relieved I didn’t have to go to war to prove my loyalty to my adopted country!