Two young men, early thirties – probably Tories, in Camclegg chic suiting sans tie and hair by Geo.F.Trumper, walked by as I was having a glass of wine and an espresso at the Riviera cafe in Battersea Square at lunch today. I was at Table 14 – where I often sit. It gives me a good view of the comings and goings should The Times or The Sun not have sufficient to hold my interest. One of the men went into the cafe bar. The other stood outside. The glass at the cafe bar is reflective and this young man made good use of its properties. As David Blunkett said of Lord Mandelson today – “He fell in love with himself at an early age” would be a most apt aphorism to describe the young man’s admiration of himself. I have seen more preening from the young women who stride by in their dance leotards from The Royal Academy of Dance but 100 yards up the road.
I moved to Battersea in February. I am right on the river. In fact, I could almost ‘tombstone’ into the Thames if I was as spirited as the 75 year old Major whose antics I read about in The Sun this morning. The ex-Major, at the age of 75, decided to jump off a 40ft cliff into the sea for amusement. Unfortunately he ‘hurt his bits’ after a bellyflop and had to be rescued and flown to hospital. A spokesman for HM Coastguard remarked “You’d think he would have known better”. Full marks, Major – you get my vote. Bravo!
I digress, as I often do. I like Battersea - rather more colourful and eclectic than Chelsea where I lived on a boat near Battersea bridge for five months before escaping to the Medway last year. Battersea Square is a bit of a misnomer: It is more of a triangle. A dry cleaner, a Lebanese cafe, a hairdresser (Metamorphosis by name) a cool bar and an Indian restaurant, wonderfully named The Battersea Rickshaw, make up one part of the triangle. The Riviera cafe and a road leading down to a private school makes up another and the third side of the triangle is a road leading to a place called Wandsworth and the territories of the middle class professionals in Putney, if one walks far enough and the Thames footpath. In summer the Square is packed with a mix of people. Trees are many and the stylish lampposts are festooned with flowers in various shades of pink in brown baskets. Thomas’s school is down the cobbled lane. 4x4s proceed one after the other – mostly Audis, Range Rover, Lexus, with the occasional Porsche 4×4 – otherwise it is estate Audis and Mercs. Few normal cars seem to be deployed to deliver the sometimes precocious children to their lessons.
On some mornings, the Mothers, having delivered their children, meet for a Latte or Cappucino. If you are into ‘Yummy Mummies or MILFS (and I am not) – you would get neck ache. I have excellent hearing, developed over 25+ years of teaching law and trying to discern the signals of intelligent life in tutorials where sometimes, it has to be said, the students were a bit like Ingerland in the Worldcup – not very good and underprepared, hungover or simply not up to it. No… I am joking. I had a great deal of pleasure teaching law students who were all pretty good and some particularly talented. I just fancied a curmudgeonly digression.
I was having coffee the other morning when a group of women met at a nearby table, having delivered their little darlings to the care of the teaching staff. They obviously knew each other through the school. They didn’t come across as a group of old friends. I didn’t detect any Sex and The City frisson either. It surprised me how competitive they all were – and much of it done with a rictus smile. Without generalising overly – there is a big difference in the style of conversations where men meet other men and women met women. The women tend to listen more and wait their turn. The bollocks quotient is also rather lower, I have found, with groups of women. Nevertheless, on this particular morning – the blood was running, the competition was GAME ON as they vied to outdo each other on their forthcoming holidays – abroad, naturally – and I discovered that ‘James‘ had both an iPhone and a new iPad and ‘simply couldn’t live without it’. There was a very brief discussion on local ‘hice’ prices – ineluctably. When the conversation of the women turned to politics – Cameron will be relieved to note that newly Tory Battersea is firm. I’m afraid to say that the conversation was fairly ‘right wing’ – much talk of asylum seekers, ‘prison should be harsh’, public servants have had it too good for too long, Labour is a ‘disgrace for spending all our (husband’s) money and hanging of chavs should be brought back as a recreational activity . OK… I exaggerate on the latter. They did not say that. I was, however, expecting Paul D’Acre, Editor of The Daily Mail to pitch up as the guest speaker at the gathering.
The days are varied in The Square – but there are some constants. A group of businessmen – who are extremely amusing – meet regularly for coffee – each with their iPads or laptops and talk. Sometimes one of them does most of the talking. I know who he is, but do not know him – a friendly guy and he can be very funny. It is a bit difficult to not hear, given the proximity of tables. It is a great place – not achingly trendy, not achingly pleased with itself – quite the opposite – it is a very friendly welcoming place. I shall stay until Christmas. Then I shall escape and go somewhere else.
Well… there we are… just fancied writing a few observations on another part of London I like. Man cannot live by Law alone.