Thursday 13th October
I walked through Green Park yesterday – actually I carried on and went all the way back through St. James’ Park too, and ended up just to the South of Buckingham Palace, nearly where I started from.
It reminded me so much of the times I used to walk there, oh it must be forty years ago now, in nineteen seventy-one I suppose. I had lost my job at that small engineering firm in Putney; you know how it is, last in – first out, no redundancy pay back then either, just a quiet thank-you and a handwritten reference that I don’t think I have ever used. I searched the jobs vacant columns in the Evening News, desperately looking for something in the West End, the heart of the metropolis, and I was lucky; I found a job in a small but very posh hotel in St. James’ itself. After a few days I discovered St. James’ Park, and would deliberately get there about fifteen minutes before nine, and would slowly wander through the park; it has a lovely lake, much smaller than the Serpentine in Hyde Park and teeming with life, ducks and geese and moorhens all seem to have made their home there, and the lake itself is full of fish, probably because there is no fishing allowed, and the whole of the lake is fenced off the birds and fish all feel safe, despite the fact that they are surrounded by busy commuters and tourists all day long. It has changed quite a bit since then, it seems more colourful, or is it that we have a tendency to remember in black and white, or shades of grey, because I seem to remember London was all shades of grey when I was younger. Perhaps I was still comparing it all to the vibrancy of Cyprus, where colours leapt out at you, the blue of the Mediterranean is still quite amazing every time you see it, especially compared to the grey-green of the English Channel or the muddy browny-grey sludge of the North Sea, as it washes in over banks of sand and mud, or the Thames, always a broody black under-swell and sometimes quite devoid of any recognisable colour at all. And the buildings in London used to seem so drab too, and recently so many of them have had a facelift, with rows of pretty white Georgian town houses quite common all over the place where all I could remember were the wretched grey of London brick terraces; gentrification indeed.
I really enjoyed Green Park, with its’ clumps of trees and wide walkways, and little undulations hiding and then revealing the vista ahead, the arch at Hyde Park Corner and the statue of Boadicea peeping in and out of view. Squirrels were scampering and a few leaves falling in the gentle breeze, the sun trying to make itself felt under a blanket of pale grey and white clouds. It was quite warm too, not at all autumnal, except that the days drawing in so sharply at about half past six reminded me that it wasn’t late summer at all.
Sometimes I just get on a bus in London, and sitting on the top deck, search out avidly for a park I haven’t visited; but actually the four central parks are wonderful; Regents Park with its’ air of formality, Hyde Park stretching into Kensington Gardens, and of course St. James’ and Green Park itself.