I am in Hyde Park. It’s a bright Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting under a tree all by myself. For company, I have the sounds of airplanes overhead, rustling leaves and lots of running feet. A cycle or two join in occasionally, but other than that, there is silence and peace.
There are hundreds of people around, of course. Tourists in groups, mothers with babies in strollers, kids romping about, families having a summer picnic on the grass, boys playing an impromptu game of cricket and tennis courts full of people with Wimbledon fever. But like elsewhere, people tend to talk softly. And you would hardly know that there were others around.
There is a girl kneeling on the grass under a tree across the path from me, a book on her lap, her brows furrowed with intense scrutiny. There are many women on their own here, in London’s parks and generally too. Some like me are whiling away the afternoon under an old tree, reading or writing in the shade. Others are running – there are a lot of runners at 1 pm today – perhaps they are practising for one of the many summer runs and races that are organised all over the place. Whatever the case, there are many women and men pounding the grass at this time. At the Diana Memorial Fountain I meet a young Japanese girl, a tourist, or perhaps a student, all by herself. She asks me to take a picture of her by the stream. That done, she takes off her shoes and soaks her feet in the cool water, like many of the other people around, some reading while they relax. Diana’s allure is still strong. Someone has left a bunch of red roses on the grass by the fountain in her memory, ignoring the sign that says ‘Please keep to the path. New turf.’
Earlier, I had walked around, following a path by the Serpentine – a 40 acre artificial lake. The lake is full of rowing boats, ducks and some swans. There is a dog cooling off in the lake, right under a sign that says ‘No swimming, fishing or dogs allowed in the lake’. The dog obviously can’t read English or more likely, doesn’t care.
Following the Serpentine takes you under the road into a grotto. For a moment, you wonder where you are and a few steps later, you realise you have crossed the road and have walked into Kensington Gardens. The Serpentine Gallery based in the gardens is closed for renovation until July, so I walk to my tree and take up my book and laze around watching the preparations for the Live8 concert this weekend. The most important things are already in place – rows and rows of porta-loos! Just imagine, in three days time, some of the world’s biggest performers are going to be here in this very space. It’s going to be an amazing event.
I’m in Hyde Park. On my own. And enjoying every minute of it.