Sunday, 23 June 2013

Rolling down to Richmond, big hearts, beer bellies, smiles and tears......

The wind and rain are back again, which is a shame, as we are rolling down to Richmond, heading for the river and a garden party, and to see some of the life on London's Riviera - a Riviera of rain and cowering under canvas in the riverside bars and cafes.

Richmond is posh, pale and under permanent occupation by the British propertied class and their retainers: their servants, shopkeepers, accountants and nannies. There are occasional forays by small platoons of  the sporting class, mostly big beer bellied rugby men and their biggish suicide blond (they dyed by their own hands) girls. They love a rugger bugger on a wet afternoon.

But life everywhere has the same currents carrying it along, some sad, some happy and many in between. We were to be caught up and propelled along on these when we finally trundled into Richmond on the train from Waterloo, which had bounced and clanked past the bizarre and weird architecture of south London.

Architects must have been given south London as a playground and told to have fun. They put up their living machines and workplace spaces and retired to their traditional georgian townhouses and country cottages, rolling in cash from a clientele too timid to say No! We will not live or work in this monstrosity!

In The White Cross, a beautiful pub on the river down Water Lane, untouched by a modern architect, we are served by Abbi, bright and cheerful, all the way from Redcar in the north-east of England. She has a smile as wide as London and a heart that seems as big and open as the open cast mines of her native town (but much prettier, of course).

Some people radiate warmth and uncomplicated happiness, no matter what turbulence churns away in the depths, and Abbi seems to be lovely in this important way.

Standing by the bar, struggling to be seen because she looks a little like a lost child, is Nadja.

She is from Brazil, via Huddersfield and Halifax. Her accent is Portuguese and Yorkshire, which is arresting until you get used to it, then it is always prompting a happy surprise from an unexpected northern vowel in the otherwise sonorous latin melody.

Nadjia was unhappy that night.

She was alone, stood up unavoidably by friends, and had been unlucky in love.

Strange, because she is very attractive, has the sensuality of the  warm south, and a deep Christian loyalty that yearns to be married and have children.

We hope and believe she will find her man, and that the young cad who dumped her will get his desert.

Chivalrous London men, where are you?

The wind blew harder and the rain spat down, but we had to head off for the ill fated, by the weather,  garden party across the river.

On our way, we encountered a craftsman at work in one of the boathouses.

He was carefully lacquering a traditional clinker built rowing boat and we could breathe the loving care and attention he was devoting to the work.

Mark Baragwanath is his name, and the boathouse is owned by Mark Edwards, MBE, the man who built the Queen's barge Gloriana for the Thames Diamond Jubilee last year. How it rained and blew that day too!

Britain is safe when men like these are hard at work in our boathouses.

We got to our garden party in the end, and when we did, man, that joint was jumpin' and jivin' and so were we!

The propertied classes have one thing in common with the underclasses - they know how to throw a bloody good party!

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