Scorched Royal Parks

Sunday 7 August 2022 – London.

‘Imagine your favourite city as a wasteland’ opens the final chapter; ‘Coda’ of ‘Shadowlands’, Matthew Green’s excellent book about disappeared UK villages and towns. I finished the book this afternoon (Friday 12 August) accompanied by a glass of red wine after a busy week of work, a decent way to unwind.

Looking back at the photos I took on Sunday, it is quite easy to imagine London as a wasteland. The green spaces are bone dry and there have been a number of grass and scrub fires around the fringes of the city already. It’s been over a month since there was any substantial rain and we are a small number of days away from a drought being declared in large parts of England and a hosepipe ban in London. The use of hoses is already prohibited in St Leonards, where we are now which is a shame as the car is in desperate need of a wash.

After a sustained period of no rain a few days ago and a drought now predicted to last at least until the end of October, the UK recorded the highest day time temperature; in excess of 40 degrees. It’s hard to believe that some among us deny there is any sort of climate emergency.

After Eleanor and I walked through Kensington Gardens a few weeks back we arranged with some friends to come back for a picnic lunch and take an afternoon stroll through the park. At the time we were not expect this ongoing heat-wave, nor expecting to see the parks looking so dry.

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We found some shade from one of the many wonderful of trees in Kensington Gardens and unloaded the bubbles and food we had carried with us from home. It was a very enjoyable lunch.

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The walk was not as long as we would have liked, it was too hot to be out for long. We stuck to the shady paths were we could, but that was not always possible.

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I had brought the camera along, though I wasn’t really feeling it that much, which has been reflected further as I write this very short post. I’m going through a very demotivated period at the moment, possibly due to my pending 60th. 

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There were the occasional, heavily watered oasies,

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and some of those bloody parakeets.

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We walked through Hyde Park, then onto Green Park to get the tube home. Hyde Park was almost desert like in places. 

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I’ve not seen the parks as dry as they are now, and with no end in sight, I hope they get a chance to recover. Much as I hate the royal family the royal parks are a wonderful part of London.

Back on the Tube.

Monday 10 August 2020 – London.

It has finally happened. The inevitability we were going to face one day; the dreaded journey into the belly of the beast, into the hell heat depths of London; AKA the Tube, the underground. We have not been on the Tube or any other public transport in London since early March, and I cannot believe that that was five months ago. Naturally it is over 30 degrees today and the Tube is even more terrible than normal in this heat. However we are not living in normal times and we did not have to travel during, what makes up, the rush hour in these early post lockdown days. That was at least one small mercy.

Eleanor has to complete a medical as part of the New Zealand partner visa application process and the only place in London that the embassy recognises is in Knightsbridge. Naturally.

I have taken three days off work so we could come up to London, and then we could go to the medical together. Tomorrow we will be attending an online funeral service to farewell a good friend of ours. Sadly this is not a holiday trip. I will drive back down on Wednesday and Eleanor will follow later in the week.  It is brutally hot at the moment, day three of a heat wave, that have temperatures in the mid 30s, it was much nicer by the sea than in London. Even the flat was pretty warm on Friday night, last night in London was awful, and tonight is going to be even hotter.

It is now mandatory to wear a mask on public transport and in stations, so we made sure we had those packed before we left to take the underground from Walthamstow to Knightsbridge. As is the norm we left far too early, or were cautious, depending on your point of view. Walthamstow Central was pretty quiet, a good start.

Not everyone was wearing a face covering on the train, as expected I guess, and we did move seats when someone sat down opposite us with no mask on. These are not normal times. Changing trains at Finsbury Park we got on the Piccadilly Line which was a lot quieter.

With so few tourists around the big stations like Leicester Square and Hyde Park were almost deserted, it is quite eerie, though less people around is not unpleasant in this heat.

We stopped for lunch in a small cafe near the doctors rooms in Knightsbridge, a small Italian, and I am guessing, family run for a long time type of place. I really liked it and the coffee and meatball sandwich I had were great. It is my type of cafe.

The doctors rooms in Knightsbridge was slightly different to the doctors room in Walthamstow.

I left Eleanor to her appointment and went out for a walk, I was advised to give it an hour, though Eleanor called me after thirty minutes to say it was done, and all good so far. I am glad it was not the whole hour as it was so hot outside and naturally I had not used sun block and my hats were at the flat, I could feel the skin on my face shriveling under the intense gaze of the sun.

Even the hoardings around the building sites are of a different class to what I am used to…

I crossed the road outside Harvey Nichols and was surprised/not surprised at the lack of people, and particularly the lack of traffic. It is always hideously busy through here and the pollution is awful. But not today, long may this remain!

I was very close to Hyde Park so decided to take my walk there, I have not visited much since that period at the end of 2012 and start of 2013 when I was house sitting Phil’s flat in She Bu and frequently walked the royal parks. I don’t recall seeing it this dry, or empty. I kind of liked it like this, even I was better prepared for the sun I think it would have been more enjoyable.

I stopped to take some photos of the one flower bed I found, though it was very much in need of some water, me too, though I had had the foresight to bring some.

I walked around the Serpentine and was just enjoying a very refreshing ice cream when Eleanor rang to advise her appointment was done. The ice cream started melting, running over my fingers as we spoke, though we only talked for a few short seconds.

We met back in the Tube station and had a very hot, but uneventful journey back to Walthamstow. Hopefully that will be the last Tube ride for a while…

When we back up in Walthamstow ten days ago we had drinks for Eleanor’s birthday at Orford Road Social Club, which we had joined in February. A number of our friends are members and it is a cheap place to go for a drink, they also have a bowling club which seems to be the new thing for our social group. Some of us a had a bowl while we were there, which I very much enjoyed, and surprisingly I was not too bad.

As we were having one for the road back inside the building we heard the terrible news that Doug, one of our group, had succumbed to a virulent cancer he had been fighting for a few short months. Doug was our age and leaves a wife and two university aged children. He was a lovely man, with a great sense of humour and great taste in music and will be missed very much.

His funeral is tomorrow and because of covid related restrictions we are all going to be watching a live stream of the funeral at a friends house, followed by a drink or two in Doug’s honour. It is terribly sad.

Rest in Rock n Roll Dave ‘Doug’ Douglas.  (Kingsdown Beach 2019)