Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Went today to Paddington Rec, where I can let my bouncy dog off the lead in areas dedicated to such madness.  Fine, though took an age to park.  Once there two unusual things happened.  First I was accosted by an incredibly old man who said that he lost his dog during the war.  "Oh", said I, with my eyebrows raised.  "Yes, we lived on the Wirral peninsula, and since we were close to Ireland, which was neutral, there was a fear that the Nazis would invade from there, so the beaches were mined.  My dog was blown up by one.  About thirty yards from where I was walking."  What do you say?  Fatuously, I said, "well, that's not an experience you can have shared with many people".  He then told me about giving some Americans tea.  I didn't understand.  He repeated the story.  I still didn't understand.  It didn't matter.  He shuffled off.  Very very slowly.

I wandered down by the tennis courts.  Suddenly I felt a warmth on my ankles.  I turned and investigated.  Flames were licking delicately out of the bottom of a modern plastic rubbish bin that was festooned with instructions surrounding holes for various kinds of rubbish.  I stood stupidly staring.  Soon I noticed flames at the top of the thing (it was about 5 feet tall, and self-contained).  I wondered, still stupidly, whether this was some kind of modern rubbish disposal device.  Only for a moment, mind you.  It so happened that my phone was showing a map of the Rec, with a phone number attached.  The phone rang for a while before a lackadaisical voice answered.  I told her what the problem was, trying to load my words with the urgency i thought the situation warranted.  The flames were now licking out a good deal less delicately.  Savagely, I reckoned.   The lackadaisical quality of the woman's voice did not waver or crack.  She'd send someone over.  I wasn't convinced, so I began to make for 'administration', wherever that may be, but I passed a chap looking concerned with a walkie talkie, wearing a high-vis, striding across the green swards towards the smoke, which was beginning to billow.  Another followed. About five minutes later another chap turned up, strolling, nattering on his phone, carrying a fire extinguisher.  I was pretty sure that wasn't going to do the job.  I had visions of a conflagration, Randolph Avenue being evacuated and so on.  As it happens, as I left the park a Fire Engine turned up.  I felt relieved, but also oddly dispossessed.  It had been my discovery after all.  And all I have for it is this piece of prose.

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