In the environs of Vauxhall yesterday evening, I noticed two of the local gentlemen of the road, settling down for a picnic on a random street corner near Tescos. And why not enjoy these lengthening evenings, I thought, even if it is still a bit chilly for me to contemplate an al-fresco affair. They had a Tesco bag with them and as I passed I noticed among the usual cans some little round tubs. They weren’t, were they? They were…
Yep, one of them had brought dips. Tesco value, mind you, rather than Tesco’s Finest, but dips all the same. It’s good to know they’re not spending all of it on booze. I’ve always thought that Vauxhall’s tramp population had a certain style…
More signs of spring. Not the clocks changing – although it was nice to cycle home in daylight today, even if it did mean getting up at I-don’t-care-what-the-clock-says-it’s-still-five-fifteen in the morning. No, it’s the foxes. In the streets around us, there’s always a faint whiff of fox, but come the spring the smell gets worse, and they particularly seem to like our front garden. Apparently the only way to deter them is to have a bloke pee there, but despite London’s army of al fresco urinators, none of them has graced our front step yet and the other half for some reason is reluctant to oblige. So this morning, as I stumbled blearily out of the door, I was blasted with the rank stink of fox pee that was all over the railings, all over my bike, all over my bike lock and consequently, as I discovered when I got to Vauxhall, all over my hands. And it’s tricky stuff to get off. When a dog fox marks something, it stays marked, which meant even after repeated handwashings I could still detect a faint scent of animal urine with top notes of randy fox (I believe Jade’s latest fragrance was something similar).
Of course, when I got to the station this evening, I found that someone had liberally applied some fox deterrent to the Vauxhall underpass so my bike smelled even worse. Whether it will, as advertised, stop the foxes, I’ll have to wait and see. But I’ve a feeling it will only encourage them…
Round the back of the Elephant and Castle, on our way home, there is a little car park next to the leisure centre. This car park had a barrier, a jaunty red and white one, that could be raised and lowered to stop the cars from leaving before their owners had paid. This barrier had, as things do around the Elephant, suffered a little over the years. It seems the local residents had taken a scunner to it, and had taken matters into their own hands.
When we moved here, it had already been bent upwards at the end by main force leaving just enough of a gap that a car could be driven out without paying. The barrier rested permanently upwards, or did, until it was broken again, and then removed, leaving just a pillar and a vestigial stump of arm where the barrier had been. That was when the pillar itself started to suffer. They really didn’t like that car park barrier down at the Elephant and Castle, they really didn’t like it at all.
All this we saw and noted as we passed it on our occasional journeys to and from the station. But it was only yesterday, coming back from King’s Cross that I noticed this sign, at the other entrance to the car park:
I’m wondering – should that not be the other way around?
Egads it’s cold out there. Probably not as cold in terms of the temperature as last Thursday – although the geese this morning were standing on the pond outside my office, instead of bobbing about in it – but taking into account the wind chill plenty cold enough. Especially on a bike. In fact, you don’t really know the meaning of the word wind chill until you’ve felt it flowing over your gloved hands and up the sleeves of your jacket. I try and tell myself it would be colder if I wasn’t on my bike and walked instead, but I’m not so sure. When the wind rounds a corner and buffets you sideways with an icy blast, pretty much anything would feel like an improvement.
But it’s not the east wind that’s massacring the bird population round here. Heading up to Lambeth North Tube the other day we noticed not one but three pigeons squashed on the junction with the Kennington Road. Three! How stupid do pigeons have to be that the second and third don’t get out of the way when they see the first one get it? Or do you think the later two were simply feasting on their fallen comrade when the second blow fell? In which case, why did it stop at three?
It’s nice to see that Lambeth Police – while not letting up for an instant in their battle to terrify the entire borough out of its collective wits – are getting into the Christmas spirit. I particularly like the balloon – it’s those little touches that turn your every day crime scene into something special.
What better way to spend one’s day off than on the top deck of a number 3 bus, inching very slowly past the Home Office? Well, I could think of plenty, so I went downstairs and pleaded with the bus driver to let me off. I know, I know, they’re not supposed to but he looked at me and looked at the traffic and decided the purely theoretical risk of letting me get out of a stationary bus in stationary traffic outweighed the very real and present danger of me bursting a blood vessel if he didn’t.
I was taking the remains of my cold off to Trafalgar Square partly to see the latest installation on the fourth plinth – the one originally called ‘Hotel for the birds’ but renamed Model for a Hotel now that pigeons are enemy number one in London, pipping Osama Bin Laden and even Boris Johnson into second place. When I got there, no pigeons seemed to have checked in yet; indeed, apart from a few rather restless groups of them wheeling round the surrounding buildings, there weren’t any pigeons there at all.
The reason for that soon became apparent. I have often wondered – as I steer my bike around them – just what exactly pigeons are afraid of. Not me, obviously, and my feeble bell. Not – from the evidence of the squashed remains on the road – cars, not even on some occasions speeding express trains. But there is one fear hard-wired into their little pigeon brains and it’s this.
And I’d rather see that than a whole barrel load of pigeons, any day. Don’t tell Brian, though.
I’ve a nice ride on my bike to Battersea these days – through Pimlico and over the Chelsea bridge, catching the glory of the sun just rising over the glittering buildings of the City. There are nice cycle lanes and not too many pot-holes which make up for the slightly higher than average proportion of entitled arseholes who feel they can park and or cross the road anywhere they damn well choose. But there’s one drawback to the leafier areas that you don’t get down the rest of London’s mean streets: horse poo in the bike lane. And I don’t know what they’re feeding them, but boy that stuff can smell. Especially once it’s had a chance to ripen a bit, been smeared all over the road and coated itself on my tyres. I’m almost hoping my bike gets pinched over the weekend. Thank goodness for mudguards, eh?