Yesterday, I took my usual route into work with my guide dog, Trigger. The route to my local station entails passing the Queens Hotel, on Church Road in London SE19. On reaching the hotel, Trigger stopped dead in his tracks due to a large crowd of tourists blocking the pavement. The word ”Achtung!” (meaning attention or take care) rang out and a section of the crowd moved to allow Trigger and I through. I did, however have to say “excuse me” several times as others in the crowd had apparently, not heard their tour guide’s “Achtung!”.
On such occasions I try not to let my frustration show, as I know that we British block walkways when abroad and while meandering our way around this sceptered isle. Nonetheless its frustrating when people block pavements, particularly when they can see a visually impaired person approaching with a guide dog or white cane.
My irritation soon subsided when I remembered that the French author, Emile Zola had stayed at the Queens Hotel during its glory days, https://insidecroydon.com/2015/01/08/zolas-exile-in-upper-norwood-and-case-for-two-blue-plaques/
Zola bravely wrote an articl accusing the French authorities of antisemitism for imprisoning a French officer, Dreyfus, (who was of Jewish descent) for providing secret information to Germany. Dreyfus was, in point of fact innocent and was later pardoned by the authorities. However Zola’s criticism lead to the imposition of a fine and a prison sentence. Rather than submit to French “justice” Zola fled to Upper Norwood. (Anyone interested in the “Dreyfus Affair” can read about it here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair).
On reaching my local station, I took the train into London Victoria. On arrival in Victoria I was faced by a number of busy roads and was grateful to a lady who helped me to cross 2 of the busiest ones. We chatted briefly and I learned that her name was Marianne, which made me think of Leonard Cohen’s song “So Long Marianne” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZI6EdnvH-8, but, not knowing my helper well I decided not to mention either Cohen or his song!
As I walked along Victoria Street, Trigger suddenly made a dive for the food being eaten by a person who was (I assume) homeless, as they where crouched down by one of the pillars which support the canopy that overhangs a number of the shops. All I could do was apologise! I did, of course feel incredibly guilty as I continued on my way. Trigger should not have taken the food. However whatever was being eaten was at his level and its extremely tempting for any dog (even a guide dog) to help himself in such situations. Also, to be fair to Trigger, given that the food was at his level he may have thought that it was being offered to him.
So, all in all an eventful trip into central London!