Conversations on the South Bank.
I see that there is still a sport called distance walking. There are even walking events in the Olympics. I remember seeing people practicing it years ago, but it seems to have lost popularity. It is not the sort of walking, which I enjoy and if I had a preferred method of moving on foot at speed, it would be running. Walking, as a sport involved, keeping your arms bent and pushing one elbow back, with each step. A fixed and pained expression on the face seemed also to be important. It strikes me as ungainly and rather funny to watch. Today, I am reminded of distance walking, as I pass two women wearing trainers and apparently engaged in it. Their elbows are certainly moving like pistons, but the effect is spoilt because they seem to be enjoying a natter as they go.
In the Grove, some men equipped with a long ladder are fixing what looks like a metal box in the branches of a horse chestnut tree. "Is that to do with birds or squirrels?" I ask the man in charge. " Squirrels", he says. I am surprised. "What are they for? Are they nesting boxes? "Yes," he says, with a cautious note in his voice. "But, "I say, "they build there own dreys, don't they? They don't need help." "Right," he says. "What's inside there?" I say. "Poison ," he says, deciding to come clean.
I like the grey squirrels, which swarm in the Grove but I don't love them, as I might love red squirrels, if they hadn't all died out in these parts, persecuted by their grey cousins. The fact is that grey squirrels are spilling out of the overcrowded park and invading people's lofts and gardens. So I suppose they have to be culled. Later, walking home, as I approach my front gate, I see a squirrel coming towards me on the pavement, and notice that, like a character in a childrens' story about to make a formal visit, he is turning into the gate ahead of me.