Monday and the morning traffic was like on a Sunday, so a trip to the golf course was a breeze. Few cars were heading east into town. A regular partner who had the morning free due to new COVID19-induced work arrangements was playing with me and four others at Caymanas Golf and Country Club.The petchary birds were having an early conference around some palm fruit.
London is known as a green city for good reasons, and one enduring memory of my youth is making good use of those open spaces. I don’t engage in discussions with people who try to tell me how wonderful New York City is with its Central Park. Most European cities I’ve visited have great squares or piazzas, often at their centre, but rarely a a large open space laid out for general use. I love village greens and commons in England, and it’s also pleasant to find the squares and communal gardens in central London boroughs that have now become major amenities and helped preserve some special character in lots city residential areas.
I was lucky to live near some of London’s best parks to the west and north of the city, so the boy living near the inner city had lots of opportunities to walk and play outdoors. That’s a huge benefit when you have no garden of your own.
I lived 10 minutes walk from Shepherd’s Bush Green and my friends and I used it for a football kick-about, to play a little baseball (thanks to some equipment from a friend’s uncle in the US Air Force), and just to hang about. It was a safe space, with buildings and activities close by and could be seen from all sides; it had trees not bushes.
Ravenscourt Park was where I played football at primary school, but it also had a playground so was a regular hangout on the swings and roundabouts, the rocking horse of the ‘witch’s hat’. Somehow, we coped without helmets and knee pads, back then 🙂
It was a bus ride to Kensington Gardens and the Round Pond when I was at primary school and friends and I would go netting to catch minnows (‘tiddlers’).
Holland Park still has a great adventure playground that I used to visit often when I was at primary school that was well worth the bus ride to try the zip line, rope swings, and other activities.
My grammar school was 10 minutes from Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park. We were allowed to go there and it was a nice spot in good weather to go for a chat or to feed the ducks. It was always pleasant welcome the spring with the daffodils and tulips.
I spent many afternoons at grammar school running around Mitcham Common, especially when the weather was horrible, and it’s associated with cross-country running in mud and ice in my mind.
But, parks in London are great resources for everyone and they are famously known for the sight of Britons enjoying what passes for ‘summer’, in deck chairs with their clothes on, including rain gear, sometimes.
When I visit London, nowadays, I love to take a stroll though one of the big parks, like Regents Park or Hyde Park, just for the mindless wander. I’m also a great fan of Hempstead Heath or Highgate Woods, especially for a Sunday walk and the many paths that can be taken, perhaps ending with a cup of tea. These were favourite haunts from my adult days living in north London.
Hard to beat a Sunday ramble on the Heath
Life in Jamaica doesn’t afford such open spaces as places of leisure and the heat works against them for rambling. Jamaicans are discovering our hills and mountains and natural spaces. But, I sometimes hanker for a park bench on which to plonk myself and just watch the world go by.