London is having one of its mini-heatwaves. It's hot and humid, and everyone is out in the streets. On my way home last night, as the number 12 bus trundled down Bayswater Road
towards Notting Hill Gate and the stifling tube, I surrendered to a wild impulse, and got off.
If you don't know London, you may be surprised when I describe it as a green city. A network of parks in the West End give the city a tree-lined heart that zig zags its way from Notting Hill to the river, and then north towards Camden. Bayswater Road runs down the north side of the largest of these, the combination of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. There is a wide path that runs parallel to the road, under the shade of plane trees and alongside a meadow left to grow out, to enourage birds to return to the city.
The path lead on into the golden glow of a London evening, and the parks were full of people. It was an ideal time to people watch...
An old man in an immaulate blazer and a panama sat on a bench, cradling his shinining golden teak cane. As I approached he turned to look at me, and I suddenly realised he was only a few years older than me. Another man, with a wild mane of curly grey hair, was practising his four club throws. Each club reflected the golden sun for an instant as they reached their zeniths, before tumbling to the grass as he fumbled a catch. Laughing he picked them up to start again, the golden theme carried now by a pair of dogs, impatient for their owner to stop his conversation and to take them deeper into the green. Meanwhile a pair of japanese tourists sat on the grass, repairing the wheels of their suitcases.
Turning down Queensway, to pick up a tube at Bayswater station, I found myself in a bustling cosmopolitan street. Lebanese delicatessans sat next to Russian cyber cafes, while the street filled with tourists of all nationalities from the many hotels in the area, all looking for food. I plunged into the cool of the dark tube station, to wait out a signal failure with a copy of The Folk Of The Air
, and to finally head home.