Sunday, 8 February 2009

Parks and Patience.

There is an art to waiting for something that one wants. An art to handling the tract of time that lies between an idea and the actuality. As a child I remember being so excited about impending Christmases that the expenditure of nervous energy would render me exhausted when the day finally came. In this case of course the day may not come, my application and interview may not result in appointment. But yes, there is an art to waiting. I do not possess it.

To quell my mind I’ve taken to punctuating the work I have by walking around the parks local to the house I’m looking after, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Holland Park. Of the three it is Holland Park that I’m drawn to.

Despite its pocket-handkerchief size it manages to constantly surprise with it’s various domains, its differing habitats for the local flora and fauna. Its showpiece area is The Kyoto Garden, a perfectly formed and beautifully managed Japanese garden, its carp-filled small lake with its waterfall making a fine sanctuary for reflection and contemplation, at least when there are no children running around it, or tourists disregarding the “Do Not Walk On The Grass” signs. How Richard, the gardener responsible for tending it, copes with the daily destruction of his diligent work, heaven only knows. There are the playing fields, which slope down towards the striking architecture of the Commonwealth Institute, which happens to be the same age as me, but is, these days, looking less than it’s best. There is the rose garden, the woodland walks, the statuary old and new that both enhances the parks’ natural beauty and provokes the eye and the mind.

There are other, no less wonderful, areas where secluded benches allow for quiet reading under an avenue of beech and horse chestnut trees, where a statue of Lord Holland stands in a pond that last year quivered with a mass of frogspawn and then turned black with the sheer number of tadpoles. It boasts an icehouse in which occasional exhibitions are held, an orangery that in the summer hosts wedding receptions which look like a garden of hats. There are formal gardens planted for summer colour and glorious scent, lawns that Londoners bring picnic and papers to for summer Sunday sunbathing. It is one of West London’s jewels and if the number of benches bearing dedications to those who have wandered its walkways in the past is any sign, it has given pleasure to so many.

I know that it is no competition for the real countryside, the countryside without the background radiation of traffic noise and exhaust fumes. It lacks the majesty and huge sky of Hay Bluff near Hay on Wye, one of my favourite places in the world, the wild-ness of the Western Isles, the vastness of Africa's plains or the clear air of Europe's mountains, but for us poor metropolitans, it does offer a small reminder of our place in nature. It is a place to find peace, a place to ease an over-agitated mind. 

It may not actually teach me the art of waiting, but it does help me step towards a greater understanding of the art of patience. Even still, I can't help but feel that rather than moving towards a destination, I am currently parked. There are worse places than Holland Park in which to be so.



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