Well it's quiet in here again, so I'm going to indulge a little: I'm not sure why, but recently I've been remembering two local characters with whom I had a passing acquaintance while I was growing up in the late 1970's. I wonder if anyone recognises them—or, better still, can name them!—from my descriptions.
The first was an old man who lived either in the north half of Albert Road, or perhaps in Florence Road near where Albert Road meets it. Every time I saw him he was wearing a blue blazer with an RAF breast-pocket badge. Being a young aviation buff, I suspect I initiated our acquaintance on noticing the badge, probably along the lines of "'Ere, Mister, you been in the RAF, then?". Being a tad portly, he didn't have a particularly military bearing, but he spoke rather like the Major from Fawlty Towers, and had the same sort of moustache. But he was convincingly ex-RAF (old enough to have served in WWII), and although I don't remember if he ever told me what his role in the RAF was, whenever we were passing each other (I only ever saw him in Albert Road) he would stop to explain to me things such as the utility of tracer bullets, and how "we" would definitely have won the war without the Americans' help. He never divulged to me so much as a name, rank or serial number.
I always saw the second old man fishing in the sectioned-off part of the duck pond... er, I mean "boating lake", in Finsbury Park. I never saw him arrive or leave, nor did I ever see him anywhere else; he was just either there at the lake or not. He would be sitting on a small fishing stool, always in exactly the same spot, on the bank nearest to the running track; a very still, dark, squat figure in a weatherproof jacket and hat, his face all grey whiskers and glasses, smoking a straight pipe (he could have passed for Jack Hargreaves, but I'm quite positive he wasn't!) I particularly remember that the pipe was straight, because sometimes, as it protruded from the corner of his mouth, it would point slightly upwards, causing a liquorice-black liquid to trickle back down the pipe and run out down his chin from the corner of his mouth; ever the still, calm fisherman, he never seemed to react to this, although it must have tasted horrible.
This old man had some pretty serious fishing equipment, including a multi-level tackle box full of all sorts hooks, floats, and paraphernalia beyond my fishing knowledge to identify (I too occasionally fished there, with the earnestness of uninformed youth and an Intrepid "Boy'O" fishing reel), but as anyone who ever fished in the "lake" in those days knew—or at least eventually realised from experience (it took me years!)—there were bugger-all fish in there! Still, one day I just happened to be passing on the same side of the lake as the fisherman, just in time to hear the swish and see the rare event of him casting out. As the baited hook flew towards the centre of the water it crossed the flight path of a duck who was coming in to land (the lake might never have had fish, but there has always been ducks a-plenty: "Ducks in the mornin', ducks in the evenin', ducks in...", as Dudley Moore once sang). Well, Ducky took the bait! The poor thing was caught by the bill, and flapped about hysterically while being reeled in by the ever-calm fisherman. After disgorging—during which Ducky probably thought his number was up—he was still sufficiently fit to fly away. It was the only time I ever saw anyone catch anything at all there.